Ultra Miami 2016, Day Two: Deadmau5 Struggles, and Some Unkind Words for Donald Trump

Ultra day two didn't exactly get off to a good start. Much of Miami awoke to sporadic showers and threatening dark clouds in the sky. Then, still groggy from the previous day's events, thousands of Ultra attendees cracked open their laptops to learn that the Prodigy, Saturday's Live Stage headliners, were forced to cancel due to medical reasons. 

The dance gods were not smiling upon Ultra.

But the clouds eventually cleared — both figuratively and literally. Around 5 p.m., we learned that Deadmau5 would be stepping in to cover for the Prodigy. And day two ended up giving us enough amazing music to temporarily forget about our musical loss. Andrew W.K. even stopped by MAKJ's set to show the ravers of Ultra how to party. MAKJ also, in what has been perhaps our favorite moment of Ultra thus far, got the crowd at the Main Stage to chant in glorious unison: "Fuck Donald Trump." 
We couldn't agree more. Now let's discuss some of the day's highlights. 
The Prodigy promised to be one of the major highlights of this year’s Live Stage. It's a manic, high-energy band full of piss and vinegar. But unfortunately, because of a medical emergency with Prodigy vocalist Maxim, the group had to cancel its headlining set at the last minute. Their replacement was, well, the anti-Prodigy: Deadmau5. It must be said that regardless of who filled the vacancy, Ultra organizers were going to have a tough time finding an appropriate act that would both be a name worthy of the slot and also able to match the live experience the Prodigy is known for. And props to Deadmau5 for stepping up to the plate at the eleventh hour — it's not an easy thing to do. Even he admitted on Twitter that there's really no one who could have filled in for the Prodigy. Although he was once lauded purely for his production talent, at this point in his career, Joel Zimmerman, the man inside the mouse head, is a lot like a certain Republican presidential candidate. As a professional troll and perpetual ranter and raver on Twitter, he’s more famous — notorious really — for what he says than what he does. And if your thing is going to be talking elephant-sized amounts of shit to everyone under the sun, you better be sure you can back it up. But what Deadmau5 did last night was put the absolutely massive crowd that came to see him into a zombie-like trance with a dull house set (to be fair, putting Deadmau5 on a live stage is always going to be a bad idea; that’s just not his bag.) Of course, the sheer number of people at the show is a credit to his popularity, but again, he’s become a brand name, a known quantity. Sure, he dropped a remix of the Prodigy’s “Smack My Bitch Up,” but giving a nod to the absent legends was the least he needed to do, and that was exactly what Ultra got from Deadmau5: the bare minimum. He'll be performing again today at 6:10 p.m. Hopefully he can show us something as interesting as his Twitter feed. — by Angel Melendez
Crystal Castles 
I hate to make this review a comparison of Alice Glass versus the band’s new frontwoman, Edith Frances, but it would be hard not to. Under Glass’ command, Crystal Castles made every live performance a battle between her and the audience. In their 2009 Ultra debut, Glass stumbled around the stage while chugging a bottle of Belvedere and screaming into the microphone. Frances is more polished and composed while performing — and depending on what you thought of Glass, that could either be a good thing or a bad thing. The duo, along with a live drummer, kicked off their set with “Enth,” an unreleased demo. Except for cuts like “Baptism,” “Crimewave,” “Celestica,” and the closer, “Not in Love,” the set included mostly new material. For the most part, it was pretty on brand with the Crystal Castles canon, but I was really thrown for a loop by two EDM breaks that did get Ultra’s crowd pumped up but veered into techno-pop territory that would have never happened during Glass’ tenure. Maybe Ethan Kath feels like a new singer means he can experiment with new sounds — and he’s definitely entitled to do so. But it didn’t feel like a Crystal Castles song. However, Frances handles the vocal duties effortlessly, and thanks to the band’s use of heavy distortion, it would be pretty difficult to tell Glass and Frances apart. That being said, Frances doesn’t have the menacing quality onstage that was Glass’ signature. — by Jose D. Duran
For its late-afternoon gig on the Live Stage, Aluna Francis, the songbird half of British electro-R&B duo AlunaGeorge, came out wearing a sports bra, a sheer cheerleader skirt, and tennis shoes with a matching visor. It was a perfectly sporty outfit befitting a performance that found her springing back and forth across stage, her ponytail bouncing and swaying as much as the crowd. AlunaGeorge set the tone early with two of the group's most popular tracks, “Attracting Flies” and “White Noise.” It wasn’t a huge crowd at the perennially underappreciated Live Stage, but that mattered not. Everyone there was feeling the silky grooves, especially the two kids in matching tie-dye outfits who damned near broke the chairs they were dancing on. Songs like “Best Be Believing” and the new reggae-flavored Popcaan collaboration, “I’m in Control” — a track off of their upcoming sophomore record, I Remember — had both couples and strangers dancing in the aisles. Francis has a lot of the same body rhythms and sensuality of her R&B ancestors, namely En Vogue and Janet Jackson, and at five-foot-11, her long, smooth movements are a visual treat. However, if you were to cast aside her physical presence, she’d still dominate any stage lucky enough to have her delicately shimmy across it. AlunaGeorge gave Ultra fans the best of both worlds: a stellar vocalist paired with George Reid’s world-class production. — by Angel Melendez
Richie Hawtin
Walking into Richie Hawtin’s performance at the Carl Cox stage, I wracked my head as to what I’d be writing about afterward. Short of a particularly awful audience or catching an artist on the other end of a regrettable narcotic impropriety, it can be difficult to generate a story out of a DJ set. Fortunately, Richie Hawtin did the job for me, providing one of — if not the — best techno shows of the weekend. With a mix better-suited to a dark club than an outdoor stage before sunset, Hawtin got the people to move as one, a feat easier said than done — even at a dance festival. With not an Ultra logo in sight (for a change), Hawtin’s visuals were kept minimalistic, initially comprising solely of white geometric shapes against a contrasting black background. As the set went on and straight lines morphed into 3D shapes, the (now colorful) visuals underlined the sense of progression that characterized Hawtin’s set. Without offering a single line of hype, Hawtin let his work speak for itself, and his work kicked our collective ass. — by Zach Schlein 
Beyond Arcadia Spectacular’s Spider sculpture, the Resistance stage’s best quality is the intimate atmosphere it provides. In a sprawling festival like Ultra, intimacy between a DJ and his or her audience is a pretty rare thing, but a winding entrance path really encloses the area. That environment provided the perfect backdrop for Sasha’s set. His sets are the perfect example of a slow burner — it’s not about the race but the journey. At dusk, Sasha had everyone shaking their sweaty bodies, and it felt like the show was taking place at an intimate venue like Electric Pickle or Treehouse. I’m not sure if a Sasha set would work on the Main Stage or even the Carl Cox Tent, but that’s sort of the point. — by Jose D. Duran
Ultra, y’all fucked up. That is the only rational explanation as to why there was a low attendance for KiNK’s midafternoon set at the Resistance Stage yesterday. Miamians who attended Jamie xx’s show at Mana last December were treated to a taste of KiNK’s brand of "bouncy house" when the U.K. artist slipped “Diversion” into his set list. Although “Diversion” was not a part of the Bulgaria-based DJ’s mix yesterday, KiNK's set, like his original material, satisfied those who like their house to be of a bigger, poppier disposition. Hot though the weather may have been, KiNK's performance was even hotter. — by Zach Schlein 
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Jose D. Duran is the associate editor of Miami New Times. He's the strategist behind the publication's eyebrow-raising Facebook and Twitter feeds. He has also been reporting on Miami's cultural scene since 2006. He has a BS in journalism and will live in Miami as long as climate change permits.
Contact: Jose D. Duran
Angel Melendez is an unabashed geek and a massive music nerd. A graduate of Florida Atlantic University and an accomplished failure at two other universities, Angel is a lush and an insufferable know-it-all, and has way better taste in music than you.
Contact: Angel Melendez
Ryan Pfeffer is a contributor and former Miami New Times music editor. After earning a BS from Florida State University, Ryan joined the New Times staff in November 2013 as a web editor.
Contact: Ryan Pfeffer
Zach Schlein is the former arts and music editor for Miami New Times. Originally from Montville, New Jersey, he holds a BA in political science from the University of Florida and writes primarily about music, culture, and clubbing, with a healthy dose of politics whenever possible. He has been published in The Hill, Mixmag, Time Out Miami, and City Gazettes.
Contact: Zach Schlein