With Armin Van Buuren and Boys Noize blasting the grounds with unrelenting four-four, local act Afrobeta's early-evening set at the UMF Radio Stage provided some soothing audio balm.
The mostly-local stage was practically hidden in a back corner of the park near the bay. But from the beginning, the band's sweet chords managed to amass a small crowd of people who wanted to hear something a little different for a while.
If you're confused ... Yes, Afrobeta is also playing again tonight at Ultra, this time as the last performer on the festival's huge Live Stage. But it's a short 20-minute set, and yesterday was something closer to a full show, despite the smaller physical quarters.
Still, Tony Smurphio and Cuci Amador attacked it like consummate pros. There might as well have been 3000 people out there instead of 300. The show was, well, a nonstop party -- appropriate for a band whose debut EP was called, um, Do You Party?
True to form, they again donned strange costumes. For Smurphio, that meant a kind of gold Austin Powers-style, baroque-mod getup. And for Cuci, it was a practically indescribable three-piece concoction that can sort of be described as "fetish fairy tale."
Smurphio handled synth and keyboard duties as always. But Cuci impressed with her own finger-tapping contributions, managing to sing and twiddle knobs at the same time. And the music never stopped, with Cuci pumping up the crowd over extended outros and ad-libbing Ultra-specific song lyrics to massive cheers from the candy ravers. It was refreshing to hear a human voice attempting a dialogue with the crowd, even shouting out the poor schmucks waiting in line at the nearby port-a-potties.
The setlist included a selection of fan favorites, like "Two Different Worlds" and "Do You Party?" But some newer material was aired out as well, like "That Thing" and "Just a Little Touch," which went down well with its electro freestyle thump.
Of course, the band was on its home turf. So the show really lit up when Cuci and Smurphio invited their friends along onstage to sing backup and even rap, turning the show into a kind of communal, feel-good getdown.