On day one of Ultra Music Festival 2013, the main-stage DJ surprisingly played Red Hot Chili Peppers' "By the Way." It's not one of the Cali crew's early songs, but it's a hit that came out when about 60 percent of the crowd (now dancing in tutus, "Show Me Your Tits" tees, and beaded masks slathered in Vicks) was still in elementary school. And all of them were singing along. They knew every single word.
This means one of two things. Either the Red Hot Chili Peppers are the most universally beloved band of all time. Or -- the more likely explanation -- before these kids donned Deadmau5 heads, they were keen on the rock 'n' roll, or something like it. Music that involves more pedals, less knobs.
Neither of the two non-trad live acts playing UMF this year -- Matt & Kim and Yeasayer -- drew a shamefully small audience. But they had polar opposite approaches to those standing before them. While Matt & Kim used all of their energy to make the ravers adore them, Yeasayer frontman Chris Keating made some snotty indie snob remarks about the crowd's fashion sense. Like, really ... While on the Ultra live stage, he made fun of how people were dressed. This actually happened.
For instance, Matt & Kim actually Googled what Ultra was before attending. They mixed their own pop sound with bass drops and buildups. They played
Alice DeeJay's "Better Off Alone," with Kim banging on the drums, then standing on the drums, and Matt acting as hype man. The crowd bounced to each squeak and uhntz.
But when Yeasayer took the stage, Keating said nervously -- and not the nice kind of nervous: "This is more of an electronic kinda music festival, I just realized." Adding something about DJs. Another band member was like, "I thought we were electronic." And there was an awkward joke about how their bass was electric, that they were "taking advantage of electricity." Har, har.
Meanwhile, Matt & Kim were working hard for their EDM money. Kim announced to the young girls in silk flower headbands and dudes in neon tanks that they had a box of balloons. She threw them into the crowd, asked them to blow them up, and hold on to them. They started playing and then announced instructions: Throw the balloons in the air. Suddenly, a fun show became a memorable one.
Sure, Matt said, "I'm not used to seeing this much skin," but then Kim announced they were competing "to see the most side-boob today," adding she'd seen "32, and it's only, like, fucking 4:30." Then she pulled the side of her tank back to show her own side-knocker, saying, "It's really tiny, and it might not count as a side-boob, but give it to me!" And one of them shouted excitedly to cheers: "This girl's got her titties straight out!" Ah, Ultra at its finest and most fun.
Then the keyboard broke. But no one gave a shit, because Kim was walking with a "medical boot" on a twisted ankle over the crowd.
Yes, on the crowd, in their hands, and shaking her ass over them.
Matt & Kim closed with "It's Alright." The lovely lady drummer mentioned that the video for the song was instructive, teaching some "freaky shit." She said we'd be tweeting "thank yous" at her tomorrow. And yes, thank you, Matt & Kim, for a fantastically enthusiastic performance.
Now, on to Yeasayer. The Brooklyn band has this very inviting, watery sound that naturally, and fittingly, floated over downtown Miami's Biscayne Bay. It was a nice recess from all of the brain-shattering bass pounding around us. When smoke blew toward the sky from the live stage, it was like a signal, calling to the people, "come, relax, enjoy." And tutu after rainbow tutu floated down the aisles. At the end of the show, Keating and the rest were playing for an almost full arena.
Then the frontman announced, after singing "2080," that, "I've seen a lot of weird shit today." And again, his tone wasn't fun or friendly. Maybe it's a personality thing, but it just felt rude. He complained about all the short shorts with "asses" hanging out, calling them "too short."
Too short?! Do you know where you are, sir? It's an electronic dance music festival in the middle of downtown Miami, steps from the beach. Booties will hang, and they will hang low! Cheek leak rules here.
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He also thanked people for wearing headbands? "This is more florescent green than I've ever seen in my life." It's as if he couldn't stop himself from insulting every single person in the crowd. Hey, skinny man, no one came here to be judged by you.
Then, perhaps to fit in, he got someone in the audience to give him a Brazilian flag, which he wore like a cape for the final song, "Ambling Alp," of which he commented, not desperately, but with contempt, "This is kind of electronic."
We get it, you didn't know what you were in for. But there's still next week. Talk to Matt & Kim, get some ideas, or just keep your ideas on rave fashion to yourself. Raver memory is long -- those kids still remember Alice DeeJay and Red Hot Chili Peppers lyrics -- so tread with caution. Coochie cutters rule these parts. And bring some balloons, we liked that.