Three days, seven stages, and 78 DJs is a daunting task, but it’s a challenge that dance music fans joyously accept at Ultra Music Festival.
Yes, the old favorites are there, like Tiësto, Steve Aoki, and Skrillex. But if you're catching only the biggest names, then you're merely scratching the surface of the Ultra experience.
One of the things that makes UMF special is the sheer number of scheduled sets. It’s impossible to see every DJ, band, or solo artist on every stage for every hour of every day. Your Ultra will inevitably be totally different from the Ultra of the person standing next to you. It's kinda like a real-life Choose Your Own Adventure with less clothes and better special effects.
With so many options and so little time, New Times figured you could use some tips. So here are Ultra 2015's ten most exciting acts, from Martin Garrix and Porter Robinson to Die Antwoord.
This Norwegian has been creating some of your favorite tunes, co-writing tracks with the likes of Robbie Williams and Franz Ferdinand, since 1999. But it wasn't until 2012 that the whole world learned to say his funny name, following the release of smash hit “Inspector Norse.” Two years later, that track would appear again on the producer’s critically acclaimed debut, It’s Album Time, a 12-track journey of space-lounge electro funk that will have even the most jaded hipster begging for a vinyl pressing. So if you’re looking for something fresh and retro-futuristic, don’t miss his Friday set on Ultra's live stage.
Seattle can be a gloomy city. But Odesza’s lush soundscapes could brighten any rainy day. Or week. Or year. The duo’s debut album, 2012's Summer’s Gone, was a gem. Whether you like hip-hop beats, hippie jams, shoegaze-y introspection, or stoner-friendly vibes, Odesza had it covered. And last year’s follow-up, In Return, built on the band’s affinity for strong hooks with a healthy dose of danceable energy. It will be hard not to shuffle your feet or fall in love with a stranger when when this twosome lets loose for its Friday set on Ultra's live stage.
Last year, the baby-faced Garrix made his Ultra debut with his mom in tow. After suddenly becoming a sensation following the release of megahit “Animals,” he was joined on stage by fellow Dutch DJs Tiësto and Afrojack, who effectively passed the crown to this latest young showstopper from the Netherlands. Since becoming dance music's latest legit pop star, the 18 year old has taken a lot of flack from haters. (Remember Deadmau5's "Animals" versus "Old MacDonald Had a Farm" mash-up at Ultra last year?) But he just keeps himself busy working on new music. He’s been locked in the studio since January. And he recently revealed in an interview with New Times that a bunch of new Martin Garrix tracks are gonna drop during his Saturday set on Ultra's main stage.
Mixtapes are no longer actually tapes. And much like that term, this D.C.-based duo is a beloved remnant of an older, simpler time when it was all about the music. To call Deep Dish a supergroup might be a bit disingenuous. Sure, Dubfire and Sharam are decorated artists on their own, but they began their careers together in 1992. They split in 2006 to go solo, and though they found success, fans all around the world freaked out when they heard the old band was getting back together for Winter Music Conference 2014 in Miami. A year later, Deep Dish remains something special to behold, and this time around, the pair will hit the Ultra Japan stage for some Saturday fun.
Eats Everything vs. Cassy
She is an Englishwoman. But she has traveled all over the globe. She has lived in Australia, Berlin, and London, three of the international dance-music scene’s major hubs, giving her a rich and worldly perspective that seeps deep into her mixes. For the Carl Cox & Friends arena, she will be paired with fellow British favorite Eats Everything. This will be a rare rump-shaker that even a true house head can count on. Don't miss her Saturday set.
Yep, South Africa’s wildest music crew is coming to UMF. This electronic hip-hop outfit rarely tours the United States and has never even played Miami. And it's unlikely you’ve ever seen anything so weird or wholly original in your life. Ninja, Yolandi, and DJ Hi-Tek represent Zef Side. Their band name translates to The Answer. And the question? As they'd snarl: “Whatever, man." Over the years, they've collaborated with Diplo and Aphex Twin. But they turned down the chance to tour with Lady Gaga, because they don't give a shit about being pop stars. See them in theaters today by buying movie tix for Chappie, the sci-fi thriller directed by District 9’s Neill Blomkamp, then catch their Saturday set on Ultra's live stage.
There’s just something about this Swedish electropop duo that makes life seem a little rosier. The pair's debut album, Melody A.M., dropped in 2001, but it remains a classic for any true, trend-ignoring electronica enthusiast. In 2009, Junior was one of the hottest records out, with collabs from the Knife’s Karin Dreijer, Lykke Li, George Clinton, and Robyn, just to name a few. Last year, Röyksopp dropped The Inevitable End, its self-proclaimed final studio album, which means the group's farewell performance in Miami just might be this Saturday on Ultra's live stage. It is absolutely not to be missed.
Claude VonStroke and Green Velvet (AKA Cajmere) are two men who tower over the entire world of house music. The former is the booty master behind Dirtybird Records' ghetto-funk sound. And the latter is simply one of the most legendary Chicago beatmakers of all time. Now there is Get Real, the sudden, brilliant superduo that combines VonStroke's knack for shaking asses and Mr. Velvet's suave sonic sensibilities. It’s like Skrillex and Diplo's Jack Ü for people who know what they’re doing when it comes to getting freaky on the dance floor. Get down for this Sunday headlining set on the Resistance stage.
As cofounder of tastemaking house label Hot Creations, Jamie Jones is an important player on the dance-music scene. Add his success as a member of electro outfit Hot Natured, and you’re messing with a big baller. But even as a solo DJ, Jones has clout. He may not win the DJ Mag Top 100, but he was selected as Resident Advisor’s best DJ of 2011, which is a significant nod from discerning dance critics. Catch his Sunday set on the Resistance stage, where he’ll be serving dank slices of cutting-edge deep house.
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Dance music's biggest winner of 2014 was 22-year-old Porter Robinson. A wunderkind when he hit the scene in 2010 at the age of 17 with the dubstep-y anthem “Say My Name,” it only took a couple of years before the lack of creative diversity in the EDM world inspired him to break out of his comfort zone and make something in defiance of what dance music had become. His debut full-length effort, last year's Worlds, is a storybook album celebrating fantasy on all levels, and the live tour that accompanied the release was triumphant. Catch a glimpse of Robinson's greatness during his Sunday set on Ultra’s live stage.
Ultra Music Fesival 2015. Friday to Sunday, March 27 to 29, at Bayfront Park, 301 Biscayne Blvd., Miami. Tickets cost $299.95 to $449.95. Ages 18 and up. Visit ultramusicfestival.com.