Ultra closed out 2012 by announcing its dates for 2013: March 22-24. More, Yes, Now... was definitely the vibe of the three-day festival, which featured hour-long sets heavy on the schmaltz and the drops from hundreds of the world's top EDM artists. After three days of raving in the hot sun, a lot more attendees chose to lounge in the grass throughout the day, livening up only for the headliners: David Guetta, Armin van Buuren and Kaskade, very different DJs who nonetheless brought a similar level of energy to Bayfront Park.
Day 3: Ultra Music Festival
Armin van Buuren
1. "You go to Paris for the Eiffel Tower, to Venice for the canals, and you go to Miami for Ultra," said Armin van Buuren, whose "A State of Trance 550" tent celebrated 550 episodes of Armin's hugely popular radio show. Armin played twice on Sunday at Ultra -- once at the A State of Trance tent, and once on the Main Stage, where he closed out the night, and the festival.
2. Bassnectar, aka Lorin Ashton, closed the Live Stage with a set full of his signature rock and hip hop-infused dubstep sound. The man's wild mane rocked back and forth with the crowd as he played tracks off his new album, "Vava Voom." The title track, a bass-banging (but not drop-focused) collaboration with Lupe Fiasco, hit iTunes the next day.
3. Insistent high-heel clicks on concrete, repeated doorbell buzzes, unanswered iPhone rings, a crash of glass, then that icy British voice: "You blocked me on Facebook / And now you're going to die." Cue "Psycho" string stabs and the biggest bass riff/drop of the year. Knife Party -- or a side project of Rob Swire and Gareth McGrillen from rave band Pendulum -- had the track of Miami Music Week with "Internet Friends," a cut from debut EP "100% No Modern Talking" on their own Earstorm. Played by all manner of DJ -- from house-focused Kaskade's party to Skrillex's Owsla label shindig, where it was dropped by both Kill The Noise and Porter Robinson - the track is pure dance floor dynamite. The duo themselves dropped it during their Main Stage set, amidst a sea of dubstep and heavy bass.
4. DJ/force of nature David Guetta brought the sounds of his hit album "Nothing But The Beat" to the Main Stage, along with appearances by Afrojack and Lil Jon (who seems to be the Diddy of 2012, popping all over Miami).
5. Madonna's appearance with Avicii to close out Ultra Day 2 was the talk of the town - but not for everyone. One middle-aged couple lounging poolside at The Loews hotel was surprised to hear that the Material Girl had shown her face. Their 18-year-old son, whose desire to attend Ultra had prompted their trip, hadn't even mentioned the pop diva, gushing instead over his favorite DJ, Avicii.
6. The crowd was somewhat surprised when Ultra ended at 11. Many attendees thought the festival ran until midnight on Sunday, leaving around 50,000 ravers scrambling through the downtown Miami streets to find a cab, or an after-party.
7. The ever-popular Kaskade brought thousands of his adoring fans to the Main Stage to hear the California DJ's emotive, melodic originals, including new favorite "Eyes." Unfamiliar fans may have been surprised at his more intense, electro-heavy set, but it was certainly the tone needed to keep the crowd at the Main Stage moving.
8. Before sneaking onto the decks for a surprise set at The National's pool party, Afrojack revealed that he's currently in the studio with Shakira, working on new dance-focused material. The in-demand artist produced Pitbull's massive "I Know You Want Me" and worked with David Guetta on several tracks off his "Nothing But The Beat." But despite his pop production potential, he said he's most focused on his upcoming "Jacked" tour of America, which is, somewhat surprisingly, his first ever.
9. Over 40,000 wistful ravers watched the livecast of Ultra's last moments on YouTube, thanks to streaming care of Google Play. The Android app store - which also had a branded lounge on the festival site, and supports Ultra Records' unrelated Ultra Live initiative (streaming performances from acts like Deadmau5 and Steve Aoki) - seems to be making a serious play for music event content, and its potential viewers.
10. Sunday night is usually quiet in Miami, and over at South Beach's small Dream nightclub, New York-based Nervous Records celebrated its 20th anniversary with a fittingly intimate party. Just a few years ago, the dance music industry was dominated by labels like Nervous: Close-to-the-underground, small shops inspired by the house music past of cities like New York and Chicago. Founder and president Michael Weiss played host while DJs Oscar G and Ralph Falcon (of seminal production duo Murk), and classic house-loving Brits Nic Fanciulli and Steve Lawler played gradual, build-focused sets of slinky dark house, which at around 128 BPMs seemed positively snail-like next to the super-speedy style of the jocks over at Ultra.
Video Interviews From Miami:
(Additional reporting: lessthan3.com)