Ultra took place from March 24th to March 26th at Bayfront Park in Miami. The 23rd edition consisted of seven stages, art installations, surprise performances, and breath-taking visuals. The festival drew more 150,000 attendees from more than 100 countries around the world.
Amy Melissa Farina
We arrived at Ultra each day via car share apps as we were staying close to the airport (about a 20-minute drive from the venue). Transportation to the festival was easy, however as we approached the festival grounds there was heavy traffic, but that was to be expected. Our rides dropped us off each day close by to the venue and then we were able to walk the remainder of the way. We followed the same process for leaving the festival.
Getting around the festival was comparatively simple. The majority of the stages were clearly distinguishable. There were bars and food stands in close proximity to each stage.
Food & Drinks
There was a plethora of options for food at Ultra. From global cuisine to your traditional festival munchies, there was something for everyone. From yakisoba to empanadas, to turkey legs, and even lobster! The costs of food and drinks at the festival were comparable to other major American festivals I’ve attended in the past year. Due to inflation and the long-term financial consequences that COVID-19 had on the electronic music scene the prices of everything did not surprise me. For example, a beer was $14, pizza was $12, and hot dogs were $12.
Bayfront Park is set right on the water overlooking the Miami skyline. Between the tall buildings, yachts, Ferris Wheel, and festival lights it was truly a picturesque scene. Miami has always been a hub for house music in the United States and Bayfront Park was a quintessential location.
The mainstage hosted some of the biggest names in the electronic music scene such as Tiesto, Hardwell, Marshmello, Martin Garrix, and Swedish House Mafia to name a few. Recognizable by the large “U” and vibrant lights, the main stage was literally a beacon of light throughout the festival.
The Live stage was the home to the majority of the dubstep and bass music artists. In front of the stage was stadium style seating and behind that was large hill where ravers could watch the show from a view.
The Resistance Megastructure is world renowned for some of the biggest names in the techno and tech house scene. On Friday night the Megastructure overflowed with fans for the mind-altering experience of Eric Prydz presents HOLO.
The line up of the Worldwide Stage varied depending on the day. On Friday the stage was for trance lovers (ie. Armin van Buuren and Gareth Emery). By contrast, on Saturday and Sunday the vibes were more wompy should we say with bass music heavy hitters such as Subtronics and Ganja White Night.
The UMF Radio Stage was where I spent the majority of my weekend. This stage nestled in the corner hosted major labels in the electronic music scene such as Revealed (on Friday), Jacked (on Saturday), and Dirty Workz (on Sunday).
As this is a hard dance publication we spent the majority of our time on Sunday at this stage.
The Resistance Cove was where you could find more underground vibes in an intimate outdoor setting. On Friday the stage was hosted by Mood, on Saturday by Spectrum, and Dirty Bird on Sunday.
Last but certainly not least, the Oasis Stage. The Oasis Stage was for the new and up and coming talent in the electronic music scene.
Now let’s dive in to the music. As this is Hardstyle Mag and our hearts beat at 150 BPM (and higher), this review is predominantly focused on the Hard Dance artists. That being said however, we did visit each of the stages and got down and dirty to a myriad of genres over the weekend.
To kick off the weekend our first stop was Dutch Hardstyle DJ Tony Junior. Tony Junior set the mood for the entire weekend. His rock meets hardstyle vibe had the crowd raging to remixes of Linkin Park, Mr Brightside, Nobody Said it was Easy, and 4 Non Blondes What’s Up. It felt like being at an early 2000s punk concert for ravers, and we were here for it.
We couldn’t write about Ultra without mentioning Hardwell. Since his return to the electronic music scene at Ultra last year, all eyes were on the Dutch superstar at the Main Stage this year.
With classics such as Rhythm of the Night, Turn Up the Speakers, Watcha Say, and Spaceman it was nostalgic banger after banger as fireworks lit up the sky. Since his return to the electronic music scene Hardwell has also been experimenting with more techno rather his traditional big room sound. His set was an assorted mix of nostalgic bangers coupled with his new style which can bet be described as ominous techno.
One of the most anticipated sets of the weekend for many was Marshmello. My favorite moment of the set was when he dropped his hit track Alone and had everyone do a sit-down and I somehow ended up on someone’s shoulders with the best seat in the house. Dangerous? Probably. Worth it? Absolutely.
One other noteworthy moment of Marshmello’s set was a surprise performance from Puerto Rican singer and rapper Farruko to premiere their brand new collaboration Esta Vida coming soon in April.
You can check ou the live performance debut of Esta Vida: https://youtu.be/deDFAmOPYkQ?t=3857
Esta Vida will arrive alongside Marshmello’s current smash collaboration El Merengue with Manuel Turizo that’s currently riding in Spotify’s Top Global 50 and Today’s Top Hits and Apple Music’s Latin Top 50 in 144 territories. The single made two firsts for Marshmello with debuts on #14 on Billboard’s Latin Airplay chart and #4 on Billboard’s Tropical Airplay chart.
Also in case you missed it – El Merengue @ Ultra: https://youtu.be/deDFAmOPYkQ?t=3568
Those who know me know I’ve been following Timmy Trumpet since his Melbourne Bounce days. When this Australian powerhouse is on the line up, I’m there.
Adorned with his signature trumpet, Timmy Trumpet threw down remixes of In da Getto and everyone’s favorite Zombie Nation. He even dropped his new track with Hardwell Revolution. One of my favorite moments was when he brought on Sub Zero Project, hardstyle on the mainstage at Ultra is something we love to see.
Sunday was the ultimate day for hardstyle. Starting with Rebelion the mood was set for the remainder of the day. Nothing like a little Rawstyle afternoon. Their track City Lights was very apropos as they dropped bombs with the Miami skyline in the background. The crowd went wild to Rock Tha Party and my personal favorite raw track at the moment Too Cold. Despite it being early in the day people went insanely hard.
Next up, one of the founders of Dirty Workz, Belgian Hardstyle DJ Coone took things to the next level. The crowd went insane singing and screaming to All of the Lights and Starfuckers. Coone brought the energy dancing on the stage and getting everyone hype for Hardstyle. He closed the set with a message to fans that this is just the beginning for Hardstyle and next year his eyes are on the mainstage (ours too!).
Coone’s set proved that Ultra is not only ready for more Hardstyle but it’s essential. This is hopefully just the beginning, because we’re taking over!
Read our interview with Coone on Ultra 2023 HERE.
UK hard dance legend Darren Styles brought down the house with Quiver and Switch. Then with Da Tweekaz, everyone’s favorite Disney classic from Moana How Far I’ll Go.
Last up for the weekend was Lil Texas. For those who don’t know this Hardcore cowboy is a must see for anyone who’s heart beats above 200 BPM. Lil Texas is leading the force in bringing Uptempo to a mainstream audience and Ultra was no exception. For example, taking Ke$ha’s 2012 hit Die Young with a Uptempo twist had the crowd begging for more. This was by far for me one of the best sets of the weekend and as someone who loves Uptempo and the harder side of hard dance. This was the perfect end to the perfect weekend.
Visuals & Sound System
Each stage had unique visuals that synchronized with the music. The most notable of the weekend of course was Eric Prydz presents HOLO. The prodigious holographic show was so packed with people that the crowd overflowed into other stages. The utilization of revolutionary holographic images paired with electronic music demonstrates the direction in which the scene is headed when it comes to technology.
The sound system throughout the weekend was generally good. The weekend was filled with drone shows, pyrotechnics, fireworks, it was really sensory overload. Everywhere you looked whether it was at a stage or in the sky was a spectacle for the eyes.
Ultra exceeded my expectations at every level. The production quality was extremely high, amazing visuals, and the festival was easy to navigate. The festival also had a commitment to sustainability with plenty of places to recycle, an eco-village and leave no trace signs.
There were plenty of facilities including even trailer toilets. My one critique however was that there were not many water refill stations. Throughout the festival I was only able to identify two water refill stations. There were hand washing areas however there were signs that said the water was not potable (even though many people were drinking it). My feedback for next year would be to add more water refill stations as it was extremely hot (especially on Sunday).
There were also some hidden gems around the festival like a kandi making station, a chill area, and plenty of Instragram worthy photo spots. All in all, I would describe last weekend as a once in a lifetime experience that I hope to experience again!
Tickets are now on sale for next year
Ticket link: https://ultramusicfestival.com/tickets/miami/