Ultra Music Festival 2023 Review: Eric Prydz, Martin Garrix, Zedd, Charlotte de Witte | Miami New Times

Ultra Music Festival

Ultra 2023 Day One Brought Techno to the Main Stage and a Cameo by Ice Spice

Clear skies and heavy beats could be found on the first day of Ultra Music Festival.
Ultra Music Festival kicked off its first day at Bayfront Park on March 24, 2023. Check out more photos from Ultra 2023 Day One here.
Ultra Music Festival kicked off its first day at Bayfront Park on March 24, 2023. Check out more photos from Ultra 2023 Day One here. Photo by Michele Eve Sandberg
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Clear skies and heavy beats could be found on the first day of Ultra Music Festival as Bayfront Park once again hosted a cavalcade of dance-music acts, with a few surprises mixed in.

Synth-pop act Grimes continued to eschew performing live, instead opting to DJ as she's been doing ever since she served as the opener for Swedish House Mafia's North American tour. Charlotte de Witte was finally upgraded to the Main Stage, delivering the first non-EDM set that stage has heard in years. (While the crowd seemed a bit perplexed by it, de Witte stayed true to her sound.) And finally, Zedd brought out Bronx rapper Ice Spice, who, despite her many detractors, is probably the most buzzed-about act in 2023.

Here's what else we spotted on the first day of Ultra 2023:
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Photo by Michele Eve Sandberg

Charlotte de Witte

Ten years ago, it would have been a cold day in EDM hell to hear the trance opus "Age of Love" play out of the speakers — yet, here we are. Main Stage host Damian Pinto forewarned the bubbly, neon-lit crowd that the next guest would be a little different and to give her a shot — hey, you may even like her. This, of course, was Belgium's Charlotte de Witte, a definitive leader in the resurgence of speedy, dark techno. De Witte took the plunge and brought the Main Stage into a lair of fast techno, the likes of which it had not seen before. For the first half of the set, the EDM-craving crowd left in droves, confused about exactly what to do with their hands. Finally, however, the crowd caught the techno bug as de Witte kept force-feeding no-holds-barred techno: pulsating bass, vocal snippets, and her aforementioned remix of "Age of Love." De Witte never once sacrificed her signature sound and had nothing to prove. Grant Albert


On the Live Stage, Grimes danced lightly and rhythmically while encircled by mesh fabric as she spun. The AI-generated visuals rotated between multiple versions of herself in hundreds of different scenarios and a message aptly saying, "This is a transmission from the future." With neon-yellow hair and a red full-body suit, she dropped tracks like i_o's "Low," which had a bit of Britney Spear's "Toxic" mixed in as fire exploded during every bass-dropped beat. During "Violence," her AI became sentient, with the visuals displaying a conversation where she pleads with it, "Am I not enough of a Grimes?" Mary Gibson

Nicole Moudaber B2B Chris Liebing

Lebanese/British producer Nicole Moudaber marked nearly a decade of her label Mood Records by christening the namesake stage at Ultra right when doors opened at 4 p.m. The Queen of Techno started the festivities with light, groove-inducing music with powerful bass — a soupçon of what everyone could expect when she returned later that evening alongside Chris Liebing. "What else than techno?" Moudaber told New Times at the festival about what to expect. "Very dark, tough techno, which I love. I have done many back-to-backs with Chris, and I have to say, we have to check who's playing the record because sometimes we just get lost — it's so seamless and flawless." Moudaber did not embellish. She and her German counterpart fidgeted with effects until the tension snapped into unabashed bass. Whenever there was a breath of fresh air, the two countervailed the relaxation with faster and faster techno as blood-red lights poured onto the captivated attendees. As brutal as the music was, there was love and appreciation between Moudaber and Liebing. The two hugged, laughed, patted each other on the back, and returned to mixing. Grant Albert


Having been a part of Ultra for nine years, Zedd is an after-dark set veteran. The Grammy-winning producer had a typical set that ran through his hits, including "Stay," featuring Alessia Cara; "Break Free," featuring Ariana Grande; and the 2012 mega-hit "Clarity." "Sing it out!" he yelled to the crowd at the Main Stage — and they did. "'Cause you are a piece of me/I wish I didn't need," several thousand voices hit back. Later during his set, he welcomed up-and-coming rapper Ice Spice to the stage, who sang "In Ha Mood." It was an interesting choice for Zedd, but it might have had something to do with Ice's sampling of "Clarity" on her 2021 hit "No Clarity" — which she sang too. A mix of hits, dubstep remixes, and fireworks, Zedd's set was nothing new, but his pop hits can't stop you from dancing and enjoying yourself all the same. Mary Gibson
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Photo by Michele Eve Sandberg

Maceo Plex B2B Michael Bibi

The newly minted back-to-back pairing of Britain's Michael Bibi and the U.S.'s Maceo Plex (AKA Eric Estornel) took the crowd on a mystical history tour of electronic music. The two started with melodic, bouncy tracks to warm up the crowd — utilizing delays and filters as they scaled from major to minor. The second half of the set, however, was when the two flexed their muscle by dropping remixes of "Age of Love" (point taken, Charlotte de Witte) and Fatboy Slim's "Star 69" with a Vice City-like synth-wave kick that felt like a speedboat gliding across the water en route to the festival. However, the proverbial roof was blown off when the two kicked in a drum 'n' bass track — not a sample or vocal snippet — but bona fide drum 'n' bass. The crowd went wild. Grant Albert

Martin Garrix

"We're going to have a religious experience," shouted the emcee as he introduced Friday's Main Stage closer, Dutch producer Martin Garrix. Prefaced by an elaborate drone show, Garrix came to the stage with fireworks, screams, and a large cross as his background with dramatic violins leading to a sick beat drop. A prelude to the rest of his show, which included a pounding mix of techno beats that both surprised and delighted the audience. Garrix introduced the long-awaited collaboration with Alesso, who joined him onstage, titled "Look Inside Our Hearts" — an encouraging and uplifting anthem. Garrix followed it up with numerous mystery tracks, with the official titles hopefully to be revealed later. He closed out his monstrous set with "Starlight (Keep Me Afloat)," asking the crowd to please keep him afloat even though he had to go. Mary Gibson
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Photo by Michele Eve Sandberg

Eric Prydz

At some point during his set, Martin Garrix must have wondered where everyone went. The crowd was apparently drawn over to the Megastructure tent, which was packed to the gills for Eric Prydz and his visual showcase, HOLO. The Swedish producer's show was a massive array of LEDs as an ambient interlude rang out for a few minutes. Then, out of nowhere, a cyborg's arm holding an iPhone protruded out of the lighting rig — the irony not lost on anyone. During the two hours, the dazzled crowd saw cyborgs walking up from their slumber, a Beluga whale, a Chinook helicopter landing, and an astronaut coming close enough to your face that it forced you to step back. Sonically, Prydz's track selection was a journey — every drop and melody was painstakingly in sync with the visuals. The music was fluid. The crowd didn't seem to mind if it took a minute or two longer for a drop. At times, the visuals would be toned down to focus more on the lighting and bring the crowd back to the beat. It was a sea of cellphones from start to finish, but a small price to pay to have Prydz turn music into light. Grant Albert
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