The first day of Ultra Music Festival presented the best live performances and DJs — and the worst exit plan
. The perfect night of EDM quickly took a turn when more than 80,000 attendees were left stranded on Virginia Key with no hopes of catching a shuttle back to the mainland. Many were reluctant to return to the fest the next day and voiced their complaints on Twitter, but others saw an opportunity to keep the party going and create memes for Ultra’s 5K
. Yesterday the brave and willing were back, pouring in through the gates in even more colorful rave outfits and ready to enjoy performances by Zedd, Anna, deadmau5, and others.
The walk between the Mainstage and Resistance Island is almost unbearable. The only thing worth it on the other side were the hammocks and the Reflector Stage that housed Anna for her set. She took the stage wearing a comfortable black T-shirt stamped with “love” in the center. Her long black hair was tousled under her headphones as she began an entirely instrumental techno set.
Fans began to dance, offbeat, as the music continued to blare through the speakers. The pulse felt like a heartbeat on molly, and the crowd seemed to relate. Ravers began to pull out their paper fans and flick them offbeat to Anna’s set as she waved her hands in the air, causing the crowd to cheer. Her set continued into a spooky techno sound, luring every single goth in attendance. Many took the opportunity to rave to the beat, while others used the shaded area to rest. Regardless, as one of the few female acts on Ultra’s lineup, Anna delivered. — Cristina Jerome
Hot Since 82.
As the sun set over Virginia Key Beach Park, crowds began pouring into the Carl Cox Megastructure to catch Hot Since 82 at work. It may not have been one of the English DJ/producer’s well-known marathon sets, but he was more than able to get the party started with an hour-and-a-half performance. Hot Since 82 tends to trade in the pervasive brand of tech-house that seems so popular these days, and his set fit the bill: With tracks including “EFB” by longtime electronic producer Mark Broom, the set reached a comfortable 128 bpm that never let up. “Spin” by Floorplan — the duo of techno legend Robert Hood and his daughter, Lyric Hood — was a strong highlight that had the front of the tent throwing down. One reveler took off his shirt and spun it around as if he were on South Beach in the early 2000s. With the wind coolly swirling through the tent, Hot Since 82 was an ideal way to kick off Ultra’s second evening following the festival’s rough start. — Zach Schlein
Ultranauts, where were you? On paper, those brave enough to make the trek to Virginia Key for a second go-round ought to have been flocking to catch Marcel Dettmann. The Berghain resident and prolific producer has
become synonymous with dance music’s darker side by consistently smacking listeners upside the head with disorienting techno tunes. For whatever reason, the German selector’s set at the Resistance Reflector tent was sparsely attended. Fortunately, Dettmann did not disappoint for those who turned up: Even with the scenic beauty of Virginia Key surrounding him, Dettmann was able to conjure the feeling of the industrial warehouses where his sound works best. It was enough to make you wish — just this once — you were choking on cigarette smoke,
if only to attain that authentic techno feeling. — Zach Schlein
The Mainstage has been oozing hundreds of thousands of watts since yesterday. Today its massive screens and glowing "U" logo welcomed Zedd to the stage. The crowd stretched from the front to well past the VIP section, full of eager fans who were pissed he wasn’t on last year’s lineup and had waited for this exact moment since 2017. If you’ve never been to Ultra, looking at the fest's massive musical bill might seem overwhelming, but Zedd is a familiar name to everyone. The German DJ/producer took the stage, thanking Miami for having him, then jumped into his set.
For those not truly into EDM or experiencing it live for the first time, Zedd’s set was one of the most digestible. He teetered between head-knocking instrumentals and crowd favorites, including Ariana Grande’s “Break Free,” Panic! At the Disco’s “I Write Sins Not Tragedies,” and Daft Punk’s “One More Time.” He wiped the sweat from his forehead to yell into the mike: “Miami, are you’re having a good time? Let’s go!” He then continued into a handful of his tracks, including his collaboration with Selena Gomez on “I Want You to Know,” Elly Duhé on “Happy Now,” and Maren Morris and Grey on “The Middle.” Zedd’s set left ravers fulfilled. — Cristina Jerome
Deadmau5’s set was highly anticipated — not because we’re all fans of his glowing mouse helmet, but because he introduced a new set: the cubev3
. Ravers forced themselves into the Live Arena stage. “Why isn’t he at the Mainstage — this shit is too packed,” one festival-goer said to her boyfriend. The stage was set with a structure that looked like a hexagon at one angle but, through manipulation of the visuals, formed the floating cube everyone was dying to see. ”Mind asleep. Mind awake” flashed on the glowing neon green, black, and white visuals as deadmau5 powered through a techno set. For those not into techno, the alluring visuals made it all worth it.
Deadmau5 continued through his set, showing tastefully curated visuals. He suddenly revealed his face — well, helmet — for a brief minute before jumping back into his coded light show. Ravers watched various depictions of his signature logo racing down the street, jumping through a cityscape, and gears turning as the techno set seemed to grow louder. The structure turned to reveal a sitting deadmau5, and the crowd completely lost it. He played for the audience before allowing the structure to turn back around and form into the hypnotizing visual curation.
But shit went left when the cubev3 malfunctioned, killing the vibe. Deadmau5 tested the cube with a quick rotation but couldn’t get it to function for the remaining duration of his set. “It still works,” he said over the mike as the crowd cheered. “Thank you, guys
! Thank you for the finger-licking good time. Drive safe, walk safe, do what you got to do. Sorry about the generator.” — Cristina Jerome