Another year, another Ultra Music Festival.
We here at Crossfade always make the annual pilgrimage to Ultra land. And from one UMF to the next, there is a lot of stuff that's not-so-shockingly new. Or as Deadmau5 might screech: "It's the same fucking thing every year!"
Inevitably, though, there's also a lot of stuff that make the shenanigans worth it. And these were Ultra 2014's ten best moments.
See also: Ultra 2014's Ten Worst Moments
The 305 Reppin'
As usual, Ultra 2014 was stacked with superfamous DJs, rappers, and dance-y indie bands like Tiësto, Deadmau5, Hardwell, M.I.A., Chance the Rapper, Pusha T, Empire of the Sun, and MGMT.
This year, though, there was a larger than average contingent of acts reppin' the 305 at UMF. There were promotion crews Link and Miami Rebels, with South Beach's Story nightclub, who got their very own Underground Story arena, which showcased residents Hardline, Danyelino, Hugo Bianco, Ms. Mada, and Thunderpony alongside big bold names such as Jamie Jones, Art Department, Claude VonStroke, Tale of Us, and Solomun.
Meanwhile, three-time DMC World champion Craze, Grammy winner Cedric Gervais, and Diplo-approved party boys GTA, as well as Sluggers, Afrobeta, and Eons showed out for their hometown.
Big ups to the locals. S. Pajot
See also: Miami's 25 Best Electronic Music Acts
One Weekend Only Is the Way to Go
Last year, the head honchos of Ultra Music Festival got the really smart idea that they should sell out not one extremely long, over-stuffed weekend, but two. From personal experience, we know that two weekends, with a really long four days packed with Winter Music Conference parties in between, make for a very angry, sad raver and a very impatient city.
Not that people were coming for both weekends necessarily, but they were staying for parties in between. And, man, the whole of Miami felt the tension arising from lacking sleep and too much bass. It was just too much pressure to party! Thankfully, this year, organizers cut back to one weekend and stopped allowing sales of single-day tickets, and they got (eventually) a full, but not too full, three-day festival going strong at Bayfront Park. Liz Tracy
Deadmau5 Getting Drafted as the Replacement Headliner
Whether you think Deadmau5 is a douche or a genius, there's no denying that he often makes things more interesting.
Constantly talking uncensored shit, usually via Twitter, ripping on EDM, Ultra, DJing itself, and almost any other subject that might cross his social media feed, the Mau5 either likes to piss people off or lacks any degree of social tact. In either case, he's got real talent for making mischief.
So when we heard the always controversial King Rat would be replacing the ailing, big-room, Billboard-topping crowd-pleaser Avicii as Ultra 2014's headliner, it seemed to be only a matter of time before a highly entertaining outbreak of Mau5-y mischieviousness seized Ultra Music Festival.
And we weren't wrong. S. Pajot
Basement Jaxx: Day Makers
All the elements came together at the Basement Jaxx show. The winds collided and something like thunder burst forth beautifully unto the enthusiastic yet modestly sized crowd. And though a ton of what impressed us was the performance, much of it came from the fantastically fun costumes donned by the multiple players that brought the act's sound to Ultra Music Festival's live stage.
The singing women were dressed like rainbows, like clouds, like stars, and they shone brighter than the sun (which, oddly, no one was dressed up as for the gig). It was the realest set of the fest and one of the most engaging. Empire of the Sun also brought a fully impressive, visual stage performance under the cover of night. But Basement Jaxx played their set in the daytime, when many Ultra-goers were still home putting the final touches on their costumes. Even so, they fully stimulated with sound and sights that got everyone asking frantically where their heads were at. Liz Tracy
See also: Ultra 2014: M.I.A., MGMT, Basement Jaxx
M.I.A.'s Girl Mob and "Support the Middle Finger" Campaign
She loves to shove her middle finger in the air. The Brit fancies it so much that she tainted the live air of the Super Bowl with the gesture. This simple digit landed her a $16 million lawsuit. But that didn't stop M.I.A. from giving the screaming crowd at Ultra the finger again. That's right -- girl's on a campaign to support this subversive hand motion. And the crowd reveled in it, returning it back at the stage. And not only that, M.I.A. fully rallied girl power at Ultra. She invited a slew of female partiers from the crowd to mob the stage during her song "Y.A.L.A." The ladies crawled frantically over the heads of their fellow ravers to land up there like wildcats. They backed up their hero in song. And who knew Ultra ravers could dance so provocatively? Just check out the video of the memorable affair. Liz Tracy
See also: Ultra 2014: M.I.A., MGMT, Basement Jaxx
If you can't rave through the rain, then are you really a raver?
When intermittent storms broke out on Saturday evening at Ultra Music Festival, there were many who fled like sopping, neon crybabies, sprinting down Biscayne Boulevard for the comfort of their hotel rooms and homes.
But the bulk of the Ultra crowd stuck it out, just like this couple of peak-hour performers. They simply unfolded their clear plastic rain ponchos (that way, we could all still see their amazing athletic apparel-clad bods) and kept fuckin' raging.
Who knew a little water could separate the posers from the real party people? S. Pajot
See also: Ultra 2014's Top 20 Raver Looks
Empire of the Sun's Dedication to Showmanship
In this world of pre-recorded sets and flashy light shows, it's unusual to be treated to the level of musical talent and showmanship exhibited by Australian electro-rockers Empire of the Sun.
Despite a 30-minute delay due to the rain (see also Ultra 2014's worst moments), the duo enchanted us with a vibrant, high-energy performance, squeezing in multiple costume changes and all the biggest hits for an action-packed, never-boring set that we'd easily praise as one of the weekend's best.
Even Ultra's official go-go dancers didn't bring it quite as hard as EOTS' talented performers, and we've never seen a guitar player shred so hard or a drummer go in with such strength while dressed in such overwhelming headgear as these two. Don't ever miss your chance to see them again. Kat Bein
2manydjs Closing With Motörhead's "Ace of Spades"
We've always suspected that much of modern EDM culture serves the same popular purpose as the '70s and '80s metal scene. Enormous arena-sized spectacles delivered at incredible decibel levels amid movie-quality special effects, inspiring wasted party animals to "Get Fucking Wild 'n' Weird," as one raver t-shirt from Ultra 2014 put it.
So it was entirely fitting that 2manydjs' Stephen and David Dewaele (a pair of brothers who've made a career of presenting stripped-down, intelligent, and playfully experimental dance music) would choose to end their set by playing "Ace of Spades" by Motörhead, a metal band that also didn't give a fuck about trends and pageantry.
Not to mention, it takes balls to end your set at a major electronic music festival with a thrashing hard rock song that's ten to 15 years older than today's average raver.
Dizzee Rascal: No Gimmicks, Just Real Hip-Hop
People love Riff Raff, because he has crazy dancers and giant cardboard cut-outs of his own bizarrely-styled head, but London's grimey rap god Dizzee Rascal wants no part in that game. Just like Nas, all he needs is one mic, but it didn't hurt when he was joined on the Ultra live stage by a brilliant singer, a truly talented hypeman, and one hella worthy turntablist/DJ. The sun was still shining that Sunday afternoon, but the crowd was going ham like it was last call. He played an equal amount of foundational classics and new-school anthems so as to appease both the old fans and the newer. Of course "Bonkers" was a big hit, but even without the dubby realness, it was just refreshing to see hip-hop done right. Kat Bein
It Happened in Miami
It's loud. The traffic sucks. The streets become dumping grounds for club flyers. The Metromover is overrun with giddy ravers. And there's no ignoring the sex, drugs, and EDM. Those are among the complaints.
More seriously, there have been two Ultra 2014 tragedies that reignited calls from prominent politicians like Marc Sarnoff and Mayor Tomás Regalado for the festival to leave Miami. On Friday, a female security guard was trampled beneath a fence by gatecrashers, leaving her hospitalized in critical condition. And the next night, a 21-year-old attendee died under mysterious circumstances in a car, just blocks from Bayfront Park, after leaving UMF.
Still, chasing Ultra Music Festival from our city would be a mistake. Punish those responsible, review security protocol, work to prevent the incidence of overdoses. But we shouldn't force a homegrown international cultural phenomenon to leave.
As anyone who's attended multiple Ultras will say, there are problems. But for most, three days at Bayfront Park is an overwhelmingly positive experience.
And we here at Crossfade hope this won't be the last time Ultra happens in Miami. S. Pajot
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