We knew we were in for something special after speaking with Swedish progressive house DJ-producer Eric Prydz about Ultra Music Festival 2013.
Shit, just having the aerophobic house master on this side of the pond is enough an occasion to plant your ass at UMF's main stage at 7:50 p.m. sharp on a Friday night.
But which of Prydz's many personas would he unleash for Ultra?
We heard his hit-making Eric Prydz stuff as he remixed several big-room smashes. He also played tracks from his only commercial album as Pryda, closing with "2Night" and the catchy sing along jam "Allein."
"Because my taste in music is so broad, having aliases like this is the perfect setup for me," the DJ-prodcuer recently told us. And the crowd definitely didn't mind a little variation, easily adapting from hit-heavy house to progressive bass.
The Swedish-born 36-year-old came in to a primed crowd that had just enjoyed an entertaining pop-heavy hour-long set by Martin Solveig. To keep the vibe going, Prydz opened with his remix of Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus." (Fun fact: Ultra Music Festival was actually named after the band's 1997 album Ultra.) He stretched the "reach out and touch faith" sample for a good 15 minutes before going progressive underground with "Satelite" by Mark Broom and "Late Starter" by Ben Businovski.
"I was disappointed he didn't play his biggest hits," said concertgoer Justin Cohen, who has been attending house heaven for one weekend a year for the past seven years. "But he still really hyped up the crowd."
Prydz didn't play his biggest hit "Call on Me," which broke him into the mainstream back in 2004. Nor did he drop "Proper Education," the 2006 hit that sampled Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall" and got heavy play all over the globe. The crowd seemed to have expected one or the other. Still, the mob seemed satisfied by the beat break of Pryda's "Power Drive" and the Eric Prydz remix of "Not Going Home" by Faithless.
The Swede himself was totally stoked. "Wow Ultra!" he tweeted following the 58-minute set. "Thank you for letting do my thing on the main stage. Love you guys
The main stage had already been last night's most mobbed scene. But even more and more beat freaks showed up, anxiously rushing to catch a 9 p.m. set by Avicii, the young EDM megastar who actually lists Prydz as one of his biggest influences.
Also Swedish, Avicii is widely ranked among the Top 10 DJs of the moment. And last year at UMF, he made headlines by bringing out Madonna, who screechily asked all the Ultra kids, "How many people in this crowd have seen Molly?," AKA pure MDMA.
Though nothing that dramatic, the Ultra regular shocked the crowd by injecting some country music into last night's show and even bringing out a live country band. Surprise! And thousands of EDM fans could not appreciate the cross-genre mashup, scratching their heads, confused why a house DJ would do such a thing.
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"I respect Avicii for trying to branch out. I would have maybe released those live acts instead of premiering them at Ultra? Just left field," said concertgoer Dee Jay Flight.
Others didn't give Avicii much benefit of the doubt. "Heard Avicii killed his career at Ultra last night by playing country music at an EDM festival, hope it's not as bad as everyone says," tweeted Jake Rads. "All I saw was a band, some old dude belting out something and a violinist, along with Avicii. Then I turned it off," tweeted Trance In Vancouver watching the performance on Ultra Live.
We did sorta appreciate the effort. And in between long spans of country, Avicii actually did rock out and drop some serious breaks. But this is definitely not how you follow up bringing out Madonna -- by bringing out the honky tonk.