The Ten Best Acts at Ultra 2018

This weekend, Ultra Music Festival will kick off a three-day exercise in all forms of dance music. House, techno, bass, EDM, dubstep, trance, and other styles will be well represented by acts from all over the world. It's something Ultra has been able to do extraordinarily well for the past 20 years.

With so much on the bill, attendees will have many choices. For the most part, if you love a certain style of music, some stages are ready to deliver. For techno and tech house, park yourself in front of either of the Resistance stages. Is EDM your thing? Don't move from the main stage. For bass-heavy genres such as trap and dubstep, the UMF Radio stage will be your oasis. The Live and Ultra Worldwide stages can be more mixed. The Live Stage has particularly suffered an identity crisis in recent years.

But if you love all things electronic, you'll want to bounce from stage to stage, which thanks to Bayfront Park's compact size, is possible. So here's a guide on where to start if you are looking to take in some of the best acts.

Oh, and make sure to leave room for the "secret surprise guests" Ultra is promising. (A Swedish House Mafia reunion seems likely, but rumors that Daft Punk will make an appearance are, well, wishful thinking.)

Fischerspooner's Casey Spooner
Fischerspooner's Casey Spooner
Photo by Matthew Attard Navarro

Fischerspooner. Kids today don't know what they missed in the early 2000s. When dance music was still bubbling up from the underground, electroclash took over the dance floors of cities like New York, London, and Miami. New York duo Fischerspooner was one of the pioneers of genre, exploding on the scene with "Emerge" in 2001. However, like most of the electroclash acts that remain relevant today — Peaches, Felix da Housecat, Miss Kittin — the band has been able to incorporate newer synthpop elements while not completely shedding its past sound. Never mind that Fischerspooner is one of the few — if not the only — unabashedly queer acts in the Ultra lineup. 8 p.m. Friday, March 23, at the Live Stage.

Adam Beyer
Adam Beyer
Courtesy photo

Adam Beyer. While techno has been enjoying its moment in the spotlight the past couple of years thanks to subgenres such as tech house that have made it a bit more palatable to the masses, Adam Beyer has been delivering the stuff uncut since the '90s. The Drumcode founder is still hitting those techno flourishes today, which is evident in the release with Pig & Dan, "Capsule," which is as dark and cerebral as the genre gets but somehow doesn't come off as too full of itself — unlike the techno fuckbois who seem to materialize during Ultra and act as if they were the first to discover the genre. 8:30 p.m. Friday, March 23, at the Carl Cox Megastructure.

Empire of the Sun
Empire of the Sun
Courtesy of Universal Music Group

Empire of the Sun. The Australian duo first performed at Ultra in 2011, and it was perhaps one of the most memorable sets in the festival's history. It was brightly colored, full of theatrics, and included plenty of costume changes. The band wowed crowds again with another visually stunning performance in 2014. Empire of the Sun's live performances do not disappoint. The band released its third album, Two Vines, in 2016, and though it hasn't matched the success and impact of the first album, Walking on a Dream, it still delivers plenty of glossy future-pop. 9:30 p.m. Friday, March 23, on the Live Stage.

Rezz
Rezz
Photo by Will Selviz

Rezz. The Ukrainian-born Canadian DJ Rezz seems to have blown up overnight. She definitely received a boost in notoriety after signing to Deadmau5's label, mau5trap, in 2016, but she had already begun to gain a following as soon as her debut EP, Insurrection, dropped. With a post-dubstep foundation, Rezz has been able to strip away the worst traits of the genre while slowing the tempo a bit in a way that seems to hark back to dubstep's U.K. roots. Unlike brostep, Rezz's music is listenable, and there's no crazy but totally expected drop to be found. 10 p.m. Friday, March 23, at Ultra Worldwide.

Porter Robinson
Porter Robinson
Photo by Jasmine Safaeian

Virtual Self. At 25, Porter Robinson has had an envious career. He's risen to the top of the EDM game to become one of those acts that can pretty much guarantee a sold-out show regardless of venue size. But unlike most EDM heavyweights, Robinson has consistently shown he's looking to establish a legacy beyond his popularity. That's led to plenty of experimentation from the young producer, which has evolved into the side project Virtual Self. The sound is rooted in '90s rave and a departure from his more polished, radio-friendly work under his given name. 11 p.m. Friday, March 23, on the Live Stage.

Nastia
Nastia
Courtesy photo

Nastia. The Ukrainian DJ/producer's popularity rose in 2016 when her set from the Caprices Festival in Switzerland was broadcast over Facebook Live. Trolls flooded the comments section, accusing her of faking it, in a very sexist attack. Instead of letting the misogyny slide, Nastia fired back at her critics: "Some of you might not understand how I can mix with the 'turned off cd's', but this is pure bullshit." Though she still has plenty of haters who say she got ahead because of her "beauty," Nastia continues to prove them wrong. She'll get behind the decks at the Megastructure because she's crazy talented and has more than earned the respect of her peers. 3 p.m. Saturday, March 24, at the Carl Cox Megastructure.

Matador
Matador
Courtesy photo

Matador. When New Times spoke with Matador earlier this year, he described Miami as "the kind of place where you go for a walk, you stumble across some things, end up in a fine-art gallery, then a fancy restaurant, and you come home three days later, bankrupt.” Well, he's not wrong. Let's hope he left his credit cards at home, because the techno heavyweight is scheduled to spin all over the city this week, culminating with a performance at Ultra. It's billed as a live set, which is sort of his speciality. In 2016, he won the Electronic Live Performer title at the DJ Awards thanks to his consistently involving live shows. 7:25 p.m. Saturday, March 24, at the Arcadia Spider.

San Holo
San Holo
Courtesy photo

San Holo. To some, trap and future bass are the worst dance music of recent years. But Dutch DJ/producer San Holo will be at Ultra to prove them wrong. Without leaning too hard on the genres' most annoying characteristics, San Holo has created tracks that give melodies room to breathe even though the heavy bass and squelching synths are still there. He's also behind the label Bitbird, which has released cuts by acts such as Droeloe, Taska Black, and Ilivehere. If you're over the age of 35, San Holo might not make you a believer, but it's what the kids are listening to these days, and it doesn't show any sign of slowing. 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 24, on the Live Stage.

Jackmaster
Jackmaster
Photo by Nicolas Schopfer

J.E.S.u.S. Everyone can use a little J.E.S.u.S. in their lives, especially when it consists of Jackmaster, Eats Everything, Skream, and Seth Troxler. These underground powerhouses will unite at Ultra for an extended set at the Arcadia Spider. The supergroup made its debut in 2014 in Ibiza with a party-ready Boiler Room set that kept the crowds moving, with tracks ranging from disco and Hi-NRG to tech house and electro. Basically, expect it to sound like the party-mix playlist you wish you had stored on your computer. 6:55 p.m. Sunday, March 25, at the Arcadia Spider.

Eric Prydz
Eric Prydz
Photo by Rick Guest

Eric Prydz. He really doesn't need an introduction. Just make sure your ass is there early if you want to dance under the light show; otherwise, you'll be stuck at least a couple hundred feet outside of the tent, wishing you wouldn't have wasted your time at whatever mess was on the main stage. 8 p.m. Sunday, March 25, at A State of Trance.

Ultra Music Festival 2018. Friday, March 23, through Sunday, March 25, at Bayfront Park, 301 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 305-358-7550; bayfrontparkmiami.com. Tickets cost $1,499.95 via ultramusicfestival.com.

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