Should the show always go on? The world of electronic music stood still Friday, March 6, when Miami Mayor Francis Suarez announced Ultra Music Festival's 22nd edition had been nixed in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19. Ultra's cancelation — along with similar postponements and pauses by Winter Music Conference, Miami Music Week, and clubbing institutions such as Club Space, LIV, and Story — has left the Magic City's dance-music faithful with little hope of a proper party anytime in the near future.
Despite the comfort and solidarity of live-streamed DJ sets, some would-be festivalgoers have remained restless. The spread of pestilence and the possibility of a recession looming overhead haven't been enough to stop a sliver of audacious Ultra mourners from doing their best to let the show live on in spirit: Several makeshift open-invite events have cropped up on Facebook in recent days inviting attendees to swing by the festival's planned location at Bayfront Park this weekend. As of publication, Storm Ultra 2020, They Can't Quarantine All Of Us has garnered more than 300 RSVPs, with another 700 people expressing interest despite public recommendations of social distancing.
The event — if you can call it that — is set to take place on Ultra's original planned dates of Friday, March 20, through Sunday, March 22, between 1 p.m. and midnight. Presumably, festivities would include people dicking around and playing, in all of their unsynchronized glory, their favorite EDM tracks on portable Bluetooth speakers in Bayfront Park.
“Ultra 2020 may be canceled due to corona virus [sic] fears, but don't let that stop you from raging,” the event description reads. "Bring your wireless speakers, friends, hydration packs, kandi, flags and PLUR vibes to Bayfront park and shuffle, headbang and party to your heart's content. Facemasks [sic] encouraged.”
Commenters on the page are a mix of rowdy, tongue-in-cheek party people and others who seem intent on actually making it happen: “Fuck the system, let’s rave!” one comment reads. “If someone brings a generator, I’ll bring my CDJs,” another says, demonstrating a degree of ambition beyond simply blasting songs from wireless speakers. Other comments show that might be enough for some people right now: “Everyone needs to get the JBL line of Bluetooth speakers [and] link them all up.”
There's even an “official” two-track Storm Ultra playlist on Spotify: “Virus" by Excision and “Virus” by Martin Garrix. The listed organizer for the event — Abraham Schonfeld, who claims on Facebook to reside in New York and work as a senior software engineer for Spotify — could not be reached for comment.
Storm Ultra 2020 isn't the only Facebook event looking to liberate would-be ravers from their quarantine: Ultra for the People is a similar event purportedly taking place Saturday, March 21, at 3 p.m. One of the event's organizers, U.K. resident James Baker, tells New Times that despite his best intentions, he will not be able to make it to Miami in light of the recently enacted travel restrictions. However, if the situation were different, he says, he would have loved to have danced in defiance with fellow EDM aficionados.
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“The event was just about showing the unity of the music community and making the most of a bad situation with Ultra being canceled,” he says.
Even the supposedly traditional Ultra meetup, a pregame of sorts where attendees meet before the festival to grab a drink and some food at Mojitobar in Bayside Marketplace, has been postponed until March 26; the paradox of meeting up for a festival that isn’t happening doesn't seem to have been lost on organizers.
There's an understandable degree of skepticism as to whether these events will go down. “Is this actually happening? Because I’ll definitely be there if so,” one interested person wrote on the Storm Ultra 2020 page. The viability of such events looks increasingly grim following recent measures the City of Miami has taken, including the announcement that all nonessential businesses are to close by 11 p.m. Compounding matters, the White House recently issued guidelines that recommend against groups of more than ten from assembling.
As people gather en masse in Clearwater Beach in the midst of a pandemic, it seems impossible to determine whether these events are sincere declarations of intent or simply playful tributes to last year's viral phenomenon about storming Area 51. No matter what the truth is, all that's clear is that you can take the kid out of the rave, but you can't take the rave out of the kid.