From radio mainstays to rappers to bass bumpers, Ultra Music Festival was an all-encompassing event when it kicked off on Friday (March 28) in Miami’s Bayfront Park, with an array of genres within electronic dance music (and beyond) all united by an appreciative, loving crowd. With almost 60 artists — including EDM master Zedd, psychedelic rockers MGMT, DJ legend Carl Cox, viral hitmakers The Chainsmokers and many more — performing on Ultra’s 7 stages, it was impossible to catch every hand-waving set… but we sure tried. Here are our highlights from day one.
— Most artists would be content to premiere a new collaboration with Matthew Koma during their headlining set and call it a night. But Tiësto is not most artists. The consummate showman upped the volume on Friday night when he brought the ladies of Icona Pop on stage to perform their song “Let’s Go.” It was a moment that could only happen during the week when the entire dance music world is in the same city (the DJ reportedly invited the popstars to join him only 24 hour before his set time).
— Jumping on the decks, barefoot with his hand in the air, Kaskade was at the top of his game Friday night, presiding over the dancing crowd as he played recent tracks like “Last Chance.” It was only a year ago that Kaskade premiered the title-track of his Grammy-nominated album “Atmosphere” at Ultra, and in a way, this night was a full-circle moment for the west coast house DJ. The same could be said for Eric Prydz, who returned to Miami victorious after a harried performance in 2013. With holograms and LED screens on a stage that was said to have been designed around Prydz’s own groundbreaking visuals, he proved definitively that he’s one of the world’s top DJ talents.
— Nestled beneath a hillside grove of palm trees lies this year’s UMF Radio stage, and Friday’s lineup of bass-music artists had the fronds vibrating. In the afternoon, Crizzly drew a small but devoted set of ravers, who twerked to a dubstep remix of Rihanna’s “Birthday Cake.” By the evening, 12th Planet had the packed area dubstepping and swaying in unison. As a sub-genre, bass music is not for everyone, but for those who in the know, the stage provided glorious Magic City moments.
— After a late afternoon performance on the Live Stage, rapper Waka Flocka Flame stayed on the festival grounds and surprised the entire crowd by jumping on stage with Carnage at the Ultra Worldwide stage Friday night. The two explosive artists combined to provide the already energetic crowd with the extra boost of adrenaline they needed to wrap up day one of Ultra and carry on to the afterparties.
— It’s been 10 years since U.K. post-breakbeat outfit Basement Jaxx enjoyed their wave of Stateside success, so the shamefully small crowd at the start of their set at the Live Stage must be forgiven. With five vocalists (adorned in celestial-themed, brightly colored attire and feather headdresses), a trumpeter, drummer, a ballerina, and two men in gorilla suits, the Jaxx won over a younger generation of fans who filled in the crowd by the end of a set that included favorites “Where’s Your Head At?” and “Jump n’ Shout.”
Additional reporting by Allegra Hanlon