I’m just going to start off by saying that Ultra was rad. Period. It’s pretty much a gigantic H2O but I would easily go again, without any semblance of a doubt. Sure there is the fact that if I hear another big room house track in the next month, I’m going to purposefully give myself 3rd degree burns. But it’s Ultra, it’s terribly mainstream so it is to be expected.
The Ultra Music festival, if one is not familiar, is one of the largest and most prestigious names in electronic music and it shares the limelight with Electric Daisy Carnival and Tomorrowland as being one of the biggest electronic music festivals on the planet. Starting off in its native city of Miami it has now spread to other parts of the world, and as such we are, as always, the lucky chunk of Africa, we were given the chance to host our own iteration in both Cape Town and Johannesburg. I have to say the organizers pulled it off splendidly. All the stages were rad and the sound was awesome all around. Such an event truly benefits from being hosted at Nasrec, a space much larger than Wild Waters, which alleviates the cramped-ness which is a major drawback of H2O; even with (as I was told by an interesting Israeli gentleman) 25000 people in attendance there was still room to breathe and a greater ease to get to concession stands, bathrooms and stages. However the same most probably can’t be said for the people who were deep in the pit, I think certain super-human feats of endurance were achieved by the people in the front. Likewise there were super-human feats of alcohol intake and Ultra had its fair share of ambulance calls and people being carried via makeshift stretcher to the med tent as early as 17h00.
With that said, let me talk about the acts. Ultra had a pretty killer line-up – Tiesto, Afrojack, Alesso, Krewella, Martin Garrix, Blasterjaxx and Nicky Romero. The only drawback to such a line-up is if you aren’t really a fan of mainstream dance music… and I’m not a fan. There was so much big room! So much! I heard the same songs played numerous times over the night, namely a certain Nirvana remix which I heard 5 times at least. I guess it was to be expected as this happens at all the big festivals. It’s kind of a prerogative of the huge-name DJs to play the crowd, and most of the Ultra crowd are disciples of the mainstream, ‘What’s hot right now,’ Beatport top 10 lists. I really can’t complain but that didn’t stop me from wanting some reprieve, and I got it, in the form of a trio from Chicago named Krewella.
I can’t describe how hard they killed it. I really can’t. The dropped one of the hardest, most adventurous sets I have been privy to witness. Everything was on display – dubstep, progressive, hardstyle, electro, drum and bass and some sort of dubstep/trap hybrid which utterly slayed, all with accompanying live vocals by the sisters Jahan and Yasmine Yousaf. Their energy is crazy, full of headbanging, running, jumping and general rock-influenced provocations. I would no doubt spend an entire pot of gold to see them again, even if it’s just them.
On the other hand I was disappointed by Tiesto, the other act I was most looking forward to. His set seemed like it just didn’t have much energy. It was just your typical progressive house with some big room thrown into the mix. It seemed like he too was just playing the usual hits and didn’t really display his unique style of trance electro. Thus I left early to catch Haezer’s set.
Haezer is the man. He threw down a set full of his trademark trash-lectro. It was super hard and I believe it got me to jam out harder than I have in a long time. He played to a group of about 50 people on a stage out to the side of everything, but of course that didn’t stop him from putting tonnes of energy into it. Everyone jammed hard and it was great.
In closing, Ultra was a proper success – I urge you to attend the next one even if you are wary of the chance that it might be a gigantic H2O. Rest your pretty heads because it’s much better organized, with more space and the presence of various human fluids is minimised for such a big event (you will know what I’m talking about if you have attended any H2O). South Africa is on the main stage now, and I can’t be more content with how we’re pulling things off. The days of us creating ZA-rate experiences and considering it enough are waning.