Ultra Music Festival is about to kick off its six-day marathon of EDM madness, including a slew of musicians, some of whom you can catch pretty regularly at Miami-area nightclubs and others who rarely, if ever, make Magic City cameos.
We were really hoping for certain acts to make an Ultra 2013 appearance (OMFG, will the Knife just come to Miami already?), but UMF definitely still packs enough blips, bass, and breaks to make any dance music fan squeal with excitement.
So fluff up your furry boots and break out the plush animal hats 'cause you're going raving this weekend! Here are the ten acts you'd be stupid to miss.
Ten Most Exciting Acts at Ultra Music Festival 2013
Azealia Banks. If Ms. Banks's music sounds familiar, it's probably because you grew up listening to hip-house circa 1990. This 21-year-old rapper and singer owes as much to Madonna's "Vogue" as she does to contemporaries like Beyoncé. And cuts such as "1991" and "212" have all the gay boys dancing hard these days, which means it's only a matter of time until the straight masses follow.
Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs. Bad news: This is just a DJ set. Good news: It's still TEED (AKA Orlando Higginbottom) in the flesh. Last year, the British musician made his major-label debut with Trouble, delivering a wide-ranging collection of complex and beautiful sonic landscapes. When we caught Higginbottom at the Electric Pickle, it was remarkable to see how much energy he puts into his live performances. And yes, this appearance is only a DJ set, but it's worth checking out to see TEED in person.
Sleigh Bells. Bro, if you are going to Ultra for sick sets by Swedish House Mafia and Avicii, we're warning you, steer clear of Sleigh Bells' performance or risk having your house music vibes annihilated by this New York-by-way-of-Florida duo. Part metal, part dance-rock, Sleigh Bells create catchy melodies from chaos. If there's a chance that a mosh pit will break out at Ultra, it'll be during this set. And frankly, we can't wait to see the look on everyone's faces when all that PLUR-ality disappears for 45 minutes. This might be Ultra's riskiest booking yet.
Yeasayer. On the other end of the spectrum, if you need a break from all the hard beats and rumbling bass, Yeasayer will be there to keep the festival vibes going without completely rattling your brain. The band might be a better fit for festivals like Coachella or Bonnaroo, but with Passion Pit and Empire of the Sun having played Ultra in the past, we expect festivalgoers to appreciate taking a moment to put their dancing shoes away and bliss out.
Crystal Castles. Even after nine years of chip tunes and noisy breakdowns, Crystal Castles don't show any signs of slowing down. You either love them or hate them. But this pair has released three amazing albums and left us with a multitude of killer tracks like "Crimewave," "Courtship Dating," "Baptism," "Empathy," and "Affection." And this year, Crystal Castles are making their third trip to Ultra, having performed at the festival every single time they have dropped a new LP.
Major Lazer. In case you hadn't heard, Major Lazer cofounder Switch has left the project. But Diplo hasn't skipped a beat, replacing him with Miami-based DJ-producers Jillionaire and Walshy Fire. (We'll give you a moment to bask in the hometown pride. Are you finished? Great, let's continue.) Last year saw the release of Major Lazer's best track to date, "Get Free," a jarring departure from the dancehall riddim of earlier hits like "Pon de Floor." Yet Diplo still had us at "hello."
Booka Shade. This German duo is sex on vinyl, which is surprising because German-produced EDM is usually so cold and steely. That's not to say there isn't plenty of Deutschländer traits to be found — absolute perfectionism, calculated hooks, well-timed breaks — but Booka Shade somehow makes it all feel warm and fuzzy. If you're trying to recall whether you've ever heard a Booka Shade track, Google "Body Language." Oh yeah, that's them.
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Richie Hawtin. Every year at Ultra Music Festival, Richie Hawtin kills it. He'd probably take this list's number one spot if it weren't for the fact that he's always at Ultra. But don't hold that against the man. The level of talent and precision he brings to the decks is simply outstanding. So when Hawtin's set time comes up at the festival, drop whatever it is you are doing and run. You'll thank us later.
Hot Chip. LCD Soundsystem and Hot Chip are arguably the two biggest dance-punk acts of the '00s. But because James Murphy has retired the LCD moniker, it's up to Alexis Taylor and company to keep the genre going strong. And with the release of 2012's In Our Heads, one thing is certain: Hot Chip only gets better with age.
Deadmau5. We really don't care what Deadmau5 does behind the decks; we're interested only in what he has to say while on Ultra's main stage. In fact, Joel Zimmerman hasn't released a good track in ages. But if there's gonna be a "Have you seen Molly?" moment at Ultra 2013, it will probably be during Deadmau5's set. In the past, he's criticized the festival for being overpriced, boring, and repetitive. So if Ultra organizers are smart, they won't hand him a microphone. Then again, if they're smart, they probably will. No such thing as bad press.