Ultra 2016's Most Interesting Headliner Is a 50-Ton Spider That Shoots Fire From Its Butt

If you ask most people to list three things the world needs less of, they'll likely say war, disease, and spiders. In fact, arachnophobia is one of the most common fears in America. It's practically stamped into our psyche. At some point in mankind's evolutionary past, getting caught in an inescapable spider's web was just a realistic possibility of any morning commute. Giant, fanged, eight-legged, thousand-eyed creatures must've once munched on our apelike ancestors from the inside out. Yet when the folks at Arcadia Spectacular looked upon a heap of scrapped industrial hardware, they felt compelled to create the monster of our nightmares — a 50-ton arachnid that lures us with music and shoots flames from its thorax and — from the right perspective — what looks like its rear end.

"We did it just for fun, really," says Pip Rush, one of the masterminds — or maniacs — behind the performance-art collective Arcadia Spectacular. "We were just a bunch of lads trying to have a bit of a laugh." Rush and his lads have been throwing warehouse parties in the English countryside for years. At some point, they thought the quaint and rolling hills were in need of structures more extreme. Rush teamed up with Bert Cole and other sculptors, architects, and engineers to create "sculptures that were also structures in which events could be held around it."

One day, they headed to a scrap yard to collect the raw material for what would be the first embodiment of their crazy dreams. "We just dragged some old bits of airplanes and things from a scrap yard, put it together into a structure, and called it the Afterburner." The 360-degree, elevated stage first appeared at Glastonbury Festival in the UK but was resurrected for Ultra last year.

"We did it just for fun, really."

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As their projects evolved, Rush says, they "became more confident in the scale of the scrap metal [they] were pulling out of scrap yards." And as they acquired more scrap hardware, the Spider slowly began to take form. "The design came both out of functions and our imagination," he says. "We'd been working at music festivals for years and felt that the standard setup was quite creatively limited. We wanted to start using the space above people a lot more." Recycled jet engines, scanning units, and turbines formed the arachnid's eyes, head, and thorax. Old fishing boat cranes stretched out to become its legs.

As the creature grew, so did Arcadia's team. They brought puppeteers, aerialists, and pyrotechnicians onboard. For Ultra 2016, they're flying 60 crew members to Miami to help with setup and maintenance. "Watching the show, it looks like we're a wild and mental crew," Rush says, "but backstage, we're actually pretty calm."

The colossal Spider, which also shoots lasers and fireworks, may look unsteady, but Pip assures us the structure adheres to British health and safety standards, which he calls some of the world's most rigid. He insists no shortage of structural calculations went into keeping the contraption upright. In fact, he says, it can withstand suspending another ten tons.

After a brief visit to Bangkok, Thailand, the Spider will arrive in Miami to serve as Ultra's Resistance Stage. The Spider will also take part in a 30-minute show that sees aerial acrobats navigate around 50-foot fireballs and a massive crowd. It's more than just another stage, though. "It's kind of an environment," Rush says. "We've aimed to think about absolutely everything — all the different scenes that are present at a rave and how to ignite them. There's a lot of heat. There's a lot of physical vibrations that come off the bass canons."

So if the Spider doesn't make you piss your pants, there will be plenty else to.

Ultra Music Festival with Martin Garrix, Afrojack, Armin van Buuren, Avicii, Carl Cox, David Guetta, Dubfire, Eric Prydz, Hardwell, Jamie Jones, Kaskade, and more. Noon Friday, March 18, to Sunday, March 20, at Bayfront Park, 301 Biscayne Blvd., Miami. Tickets cost $324.95 to $1,249.95 plus fees via

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Dyllan Furness is Miami New Times' "foreign" correspondent. After earning a degree in philosophy from the University of Florida, he crossed the pond and dove into music, science, and technology from Berlin.
Contact: Dyllan Furness