Once a humble beach party, Miami's mega-hip Ultra Music Festival is expanding to Asia and Australia after a sellout, three-day rave this past weekend that left revelers nursing a nasty hangover on Monday.
Around 150,000 sun-baked party-goers were whipped into a frenzy in downtown Miami by the Chemical Brothers, Underworld, Armin van Buuren, Tiesto and Moby, among other major international music acts.
Rocks bands such as Duran Duran were added to the traditionally electronica line-up for the 13th Ultra, and organizers unveiled plans for spin-off events in Sydney, Australia and Seoul, South Korea to festivals already taking place in Sao Paulo, Brazil and Ibiza, Spain.
"Ultra has become very international," award-winning singer-songwriter Moby told Reuters. "I love the bombastic spectacle of 20,000 people jumping up and down.
"There's a huge sound system, huge video screen, a huge lighting thing, and I'm just like the little, middle-aged bald guy playing records," added the bespectacled Moby who, on stage at the giant gathering, became a wild-eyed musical dictator to the sweat-drenched, dancing crowd.
The three-day event featured some 200 acts playing a mix of music to outlandishly dressed fans who blew whistles and pumped fists to throbbing electronic beats. Even the on-site fire trucks honked their horns in tune with headline acts.
Founder Russell Faibisch expressed amazement at Ultra's evolution from what began as little more than a small party of friends in Miami to the U.S. music festival season's big kickoff that can attract almost any artist in the world.
"Yeah, it started on the beach," he said with a sheepish grin. "Right now we're booking for 2012. We have the chance to get pretty much anyone. I'm amazed everyday.
"Duran Duran were touring, they've got a new album out...and it was just a good fit."
TREND TOWARD LIVE ACTS
Adam Russakoff, Faibisch's business partner, added that electronica festivals are moving toward more live performances, so it seemed natural to have acts such as Duran Duran, Pendulum, Royksopp, Erasure, Holy Ghost! and others perform.
Duran Duran, who had a string of smash hits such as "Rio" and "Hungry Like the Wolf" in the 1980s, brought the house down on opening night with a set including tracks off their latest release "All You Need is Now."
"Although it's ostensibly a dance festival we've always tried to keep one foot on the dance floor," Duran Duran keyboard player Nick Rhodes told Reuters. "You're never going to have an insane reaction with 50,000 people half of whom probably don't know many of your songs. But we definitely connected with this mob on some level!"
Bassist John Taylor agreed that the band's new material was widely well received by the young. "It is quite empowering the new stuff," he said. "It has like a slightly retro tinge to it, which takes everybody back a few years."
British synthpop duo Erasure confessed to stage fright before playing what was their first show in four years.
"We're a bit nervous," said frontman Andy Bell, ahead of a set consisting exclusively of old hits which received a mixed reception before sun fell over the eight-stage venue.
"When we got here the music was really, really loud and really banging and I was thinking how we were going to fit in with this violence? Also, the audience is very young."
Dutch trance king van Buuren, billed at the Ultra Music Festival as the "world's biggest DJ", conjured a crescendo of sound which triggered crowd hysteria in the huge moshpit.
"Ultra is one of those things that is magical with kids and the younger clubbing crowd," said van Buuren, who also hosted a 12-hour radio show live from Ultra.
"They all know about Ultra. Everybody in the States and abroad wants to go to Ultra. The sound is ridiculous. We could hear it in Miami Beach yesterday all the way from downtown!
"You have to be there if you're a DJ. It's top five in the world for sure. It's legendary. It's kind of a mystical thing."