Upon entering the festival grounds, you are instantly greeted with the Worldwide Stage. It’s an inverted parabola that has effects and visuals all the way through that meets with giant posters showcasing the numerous countries that Ultra has festivals in. Nora En Pure served as a break from the typical trap, dubstep and EDM sounds of the Worldwide Stage. She delivered a funky and deep house set that captivated the audience through and through.
Speaking of dubstep, there was plenty of it over at the UMF Radio Stage showcasing sounds of new and old as it overlooked the mega yacht that housed the artists. The sun was setting once again and before making my way back to the Megastructure, I stopped at the Live Stage to check out Holland’s San Holo bring a heavy dose of hip-hop inspired trap that took over the world back in 2013. The Live Stage is your best bet if you are not into the heavy beats. The lineup always offers something for everyone, whether it be hip-hop, indie, rock, psychedelic, and now reggae thanks to the likes of Julian Marley.
Maceo Plex was leading the megastructure into the night with an outstanding sunset time slot. New and old. Light yet heavy. Melodic but still furious. Keeping with the theme, Eric Estornel, aka Maceo Plex, dropped the vocal sample of Aquatherium’s “Bonny Doon (Keoki Mix)” and an instrumental remix of the utter classic “Sky and Sand” by Paul Kalkbrenner. Maceo delivered a true one-of-a-kind set that is hard to replicate and was my personal favorite.
The always cool and collective Jamie Jones took the decks next. As a staunch techno lover, it pains me to say that I have never actually seen Jamie Jones before. I thought I had an idea of what to expect and yet, Jamie completely warped all my exceptions and delivered one of the best sets I have ever heard. His basslines seemed to roll over the speakers in a groovy fashion. You can expect to hear hard-to-mix tech house during his sets. It is almost guaranteed that you will never hear transitions smoother than by the likes of Jamie who didn’t break a sweat. His ability to go from track to track, no matter the genre, is utterly flawless. The crowd was now in a locked groove. The only worry in that tent was making sure everyone had enough water.
The crowd has been dancing for 10 hours but that did not stop anyone from witnessing Carl Cox lay down sheer carnage in his stage. The speakers were again maxed out and the lasers were flaring. Carl left no time for any watered down tracks and instantly went into his Balearic, stadium techno we all craved. Accompanying him were curtain dancers that twirled and contorted their bodies from above. The benevolent Carl knew no one would be leaving and went darker every minute that passed. This was his house and he led his guests on a wondrous journey of thumping bass and self-discovery. He continued mixing with aplomb, sampling an awesome remix of Goldie’s “Innercity Life.” Carl played his darkest track of the entire set before officially ending the show with his signature boat-horn effect as confetti rained down on the bloodshot and energetic crowd. If there is one person who can symbolize Ultra’s 20th anniversary, it is Carl Cox. He is essentially a gateway to people who want to explore a new sound that the more EDM-oriented DJs cannot tap into. With 14 years of Ultra under his belt, we can firmly put any rumors of retirement to rest. Carl Cox is not going anywhere, except to Ibiza in the summer and Miami in the spring.
Speaking of Miami and Ibiza … this article would be incomplete if it did not talk about the coveted reunion that took place on the final day. Rumors from Skrillex to Deadmau5 to Daft Punk were all being sprayed throughout social media. However, it seemed expected that this would be the perfect time and place for a Swedish House Mafia reunion. Having played their final show during the 15th anniversary of Ultra back in 2013, there was an anticipation that this would be it. And yet, we all had our jaws to the floor as they took the MainStage at 10 p.m. The audience was in a cathartic state as they were witnessing electronic music history as the trio played track after track of their classics, like a remix of “Leave the World Behind” and “Don’t You Worry Child,” all before closing the main stage with perhaps their most famous song, “One.” They closed out the festival by uttering “Swedish House Mafia. This time it’s for life.” Maybe a bit ambiguous, but it seemed that the Swedish House Mafia is back, at least for the short term.
The same cliche sentence is uttered every year: “I don’t know how Ultra will outdo themselves next year,” but they always do. However, I honestly have no clue how they will outperform themselves next year and yet, next year’s dates are already confirmed: March 29-31, 2019. All we can do is simply wait and reflect. In many ways, Ultra completely redefined how music festivals operate. There are a handful of festivals, such as Ultra, that can last 20+ years. Most don’t even make it out of planning. Ultra has inspired and awed millions as well as showed that electronic music is not some laughable genre. While we cannot predict if Ultra will be here come 2038, we can predict that if it is, it will continue to push the limits and shift our paradigms of how music festivals are supposed to run. Here’s to the golden jubilee and every year to come.
See our review of day one here.