Ultra Music Festival Is Evil

Ultra Music Festival 13

Sigh. I don’t even know where to begin.

I guess I’ll start with the good stuff. With very rare exception, every DJ and band I saw totally kicked ass. If an act was playing for 50 people or 50,000, it didn’t matter, they played like they were rock stars, and their energy was always contagious. Also, when it all came together, and 75,000-150,000 were dancing to the same beat, it was truly a sight to behold and unlike anything I’ve ever been a part of. Moments like that almost made me forget about all the problems with the festival.


I’ll start with the layout of the venue. Simply put, it’s a fucking mess. There were EIGHT stages at Ultra this year. EIGHT. This overabundance of stages created many problems, the most notable of which was noise bleed. Many of the stages were all right next to each other. So unless you were right up on the stage, you got to hear noise from the stage(s) next to you. Also, putting the stages so close to each other created crazy traffic and gridlock problems, especially later in the evening when people were rushing to get from stage to stage to catch big name acts.

This wouldn’t have been as big a problem if the all the stages were actually needed, but they weren’t. Many times the artists at the smaller stages were literally playing to no one. What’s the point? All they were doing was creating noise that hindered other nearby performances.

Then there were the grounds themselves. Most of the ground in front of the main stage was pavement. And yeah, that’s hot and not very comfortable, but it’s not that uncommon. Meanwhile, the ground in front of the live stage was mostly grass, and that’s nice, but right in front of the stage was nothing but dirt. When people dance in dirt, they cause miniature dust storms that get in your eyes, in your hair and if you’re really unlucky, in your drink. Ugh. It doesn’t take much to sod a field a few weeks before a concert. But it obviously took more than the Ultra organizers were willing to give. A common theme.

Two of the side stages had it even worse, instead of pavement or even dirt, they had gravel. GRAVEL. Have you ever tried dancing on gravel? Here’s a protip: Don’t. It fucking hurts! The little stones repeatedly got in my shoes and cut up my feet. Even worse, sometimes some asshat would run to the stage and start thrashing about like a madman, kicking little stones up into my face. That hurts. A lot.

The gravel pit dance floors were just one example that showcased the utter contempt Ultra organizers had for the audience. The restrooms were a fucking mess, just a smattering of porta-pottys off in a (very) dark corner. Getting to them was a nightmare, and if it was after dark you couldn’t see shit. Not only is this annoying, (and kind of gross) but it’s really dangerous. If I was a woman, I sure as hell wouldn’t want to wander into this poorly lit, at times sparsely populated, area – not with all the drugged out and drunken idiots milling about. I hate to think about what horrible acts probably went down around those porta-pottys.

But the biggest “fuck you” from the concert organizers to the concert goers was the water. A half-liter bottle of water was five bucks -and there were no refill stations anywhere in the park. That meant that if you wanted to stay properly hydrated during the 12 hour outdoor concert, you were looking at plucking down 20 bucks a day for water. I don’t even understand how that’s legal. The organizers of Utlra should be ashamed of themselves.

But onus for this dance-crazed clusterfuck can’t all be placed on the organizers, the assholes in attendance have to be partially to blame as well.

Truth be told, most of the people attending this festival didn’t really give a fuck about electronic music, especially any electonic music that was more than five years old. The majority of the audience talked over acts like Underworld and Duran Duran, while legends like Goldie, Ed Rush & Optical, and Hybrid played to half-empty fields and arenas. No respect for the history of electronic music was given by the audience here. They wanted to hear Top 40 club hits and nothing else. If it didn’t have a constant beat, more often than not the DJ or band might as well fuck off in their eyes.

Even worse was the treatment Erasure got. If the audience wasn’t ignoring the synthpop legends then they were actively heckling them. I heard many yells of “you suck!” and “get off the stage!” Even worse, I heard at least one drunken fucker yell “fags!”  I nearly cried.

But even responsibility for this can be partially blamed on the concert organizers. A band like Erasure, who has a cult following at best in America, should not be playing the main stage at 7:30 at night. They should be on the live stage, playing after a group like Empire Of the Sun or Royksopp. Sticking them on the main stage, between Benny Benassi and Pendulum, was just asking for trouble. Ditto for putting Underworld before Deadmau5. The jerks there to see mouseboy didn’t know who Underworld was, and they were all too high on cocaine or E (I saw more drugs here than any other place in my entire life, by the way) to be considerate to those around them. A pair of shirtless fucktards actually laughed at me for liking “Born Slippy .NUXX.” What’s it to them if I like Underworld? I just didn’t get it.

At the end of each night of the festival I came back to my hotel dejected and depressed. Sad over the fact that what should have been a great event was nearly ruined by poor planning and greed. By the last day, I had to listen to electronic music in my hotel for an hour just to work up the energy to brave the horribleness I knew I was going to endure.

Ultra is a fuck you to music fans. So here’ my fuck you back to Ultra.

Hey Ultra organizers. Fuck you. Fuck your five dollar water. Fuck your lax security. Fuck your shitty, foot-tearing gravel. Fuck your shitty stages. Fuck your poor scheduling. Fuck your horrible fucking website. Fuck your inflated ticket prices. Fuck your eyesore VIP section. Fuck your dangerous, poorly lit bathrooms. Fuck your useless sidestages. Fuck your shitty house emcee. And fuck your overpriced shitty merch.

But most of all, fuck your greed. I have never before been to a concert so obviously motivated by the bottom line. Ultra is an event designed solely to jam 150,000 people into a confined space and suck as much money out of them as possible. The people who put on Ultra don’t fucking care if the concert goers live or die. Once you give them your money you can fuck off for all they care.

So yeah, fuck Ultra Music Festival. Unless they address these problems, there is no way in hell I am ever going back to that disco shithole.

Airless (DJ Stephen & Jim’s Raw Traderz Mix)
Airless (DJ Tiësto’s Magikal Remake)
Even though Ultra was kind of a disaster, I still took away a lot of great memories from the festival. For example, I got to see Hybrid perform live! Hearing “Finished Symphony” live was one of the most transcendent musical experiences of my life. I will never forget it.

These three tracks by the legendary progressive trance act are from a 12″ I got in Miami. And yeah, I know that’s not a lot of music. But did you see how much I wrote? I’m tired! I’ll have more next week I promise!

13 Responses to “Ultra Music Festival Is Evil”

  1. Hedmekanik says:

    Wow, sorry to hear that your Ultra experience was so shitty. Glad you got to hear so many great bands & DJ’s.

    As for sound bleed on that scale, I saw something done at the Sonar festival in Barcelona a couple years back, which amazed me. The organisers had like 6 stages, all in one huuge concrete warehouse/mall environment. But they were clever about it – they set up stacks of 18″ subs in the corridors that put loops of randomised bass pulses. Took my freinds and I a while to figure out what the fuck the ‘other’ noise was, and then we twigged: they were working as bass curtains, placing a thick wall between each stage’s system. Worked really well, when you were in one arena, you could barely hear the other systems.

    Suffice to say, doesn’t sound like the Ultra crew gave a flying fuck about that kinda thing.

    Thanks for the music – please don’t ever stop with this blog, it’s top fucking class!

  2. Snood says:

    Uuuuuuuugh, I live in Orlando and I can’t imagine how freaking hot it was in Miami. Glad ya got back safe and at least have some koo memories from the event.

    Orlando is having a Music Festival event this weekend and there was one band that I was interested in seeing…………ya just talked me out of it. Urrrrgh

    I know Orlando events are set up even worse.

    BTW, thanks for the awesome blog. I will admit I do not subscribe to the same exact taste in music as you, find myself listening to about 30 percent of your uploads, but this is one of the few blogs I come back to, time and time again because of the humor involved and just the “no veneer point of view” writing.

    Thanks again, Snood

  3. Matt says:

    Well I’ve never heard of Ultra, but from the sound of it not my kind of gig… Ever thought of coming across to Europe for a summer season of festivals, electronic music seems to be much better respected here.

    But I totally agree, Hybrid doing Finished Symphony is a sight to behold – caught them by accident (supporting Faithless & Groove Armada if memory is right) a few years back, and was totally blown away.

  4. Drain says:

    i know when going to a show or a festival not everyone is going to dig all the acts on the bill, but it’d be cool if instead of heckling acts or teasing those who do like the acts playing at the time…they could have the decency to shut the fuck up and let the other people who do enjoy them enjoy the show. sadly i doubt this will ever happen, but one can hope.

  5. JT says:

    Sorry to hear that you had such a bad experience- looking at the line-up it seemed very solid. And Erasure is a great band.
    In terms of your comment “No respect for the history of electronic music was given by the audience here”- I have no doubt that is the truest statement of this generation. Everything I hear these days sounds derivative of the the 80’s and 90’s.
    Speaking of the 90’s any chance you got any mixes on the Sneaker Pimps 6 underground? I have heard that there is a Nelle Hooper dub version out there (besides the edit version that he did) and I can’t find it..

  6. loganfied says:

    Nice! I saw Hybrid play live at the 9:30 Club in DC almost 3 years ago…you’re right….they had an unbelievably good show. Here’s the playlist I snatched…


  7. r says:

    The doctor says I have only 23 days to live. I need to hear the Get Crazy OST before i bucket. Please re-post it, i know you can and you will. BTW, love the new site.

  8. Lost Turntable says:

    I hope you left your real email addy cuz that’s where this request is going!

  9. r says:

    Thanks again!

  10. JasonK says:

    We should have met up at Ultra btw.

    Anyways, I live in St. Pete and have been to 7 Ultras so here is my take on a few of your points.

    The layout was awful, no doubt, although I liked that the live stage was off to the side/edge. Thats where I was 75% of the time anyways. The dirt was a pain, but the large rocks were even worse. Good thing about the live stage is that the sound was better (imo) than the main stage.

    As for the rest of the layout – I couldn’t believe they built those stairs in the middle of the park. The small ledges and hills and stairs seemed like they would be a disaster late at night for the messed up little kids. I wasn’t around that area to find out. There were a few too many stages but (obviously) its all about money. With the smaller stages being sponsered.. well you get the idea. Plus just saying they could have this many acts on the bill was worth it to them, although since it was 3 days for the first time they ran out of artists and many played 2 or even 3 times.

    There was one spot in the near middle of the place where you could hear the main stage, the “Ultra tower” (which was a tent..), the other tent and then the giant Carl Cox tent. Pretty awful. I can’t imagine how it must have sounded when Rusko was playing in that tent.

    Ok some more backstory – the layout has never been like that at this location, but because the city is building a museum there they lost a lot of space (and even sold 10,000 less tickets). They had to squeeze everything in and seriously whoever came up with that bathroom thing should be fired. And then fired again. I hope on day 2 you found the bathrooms near the live stage. I was relieved not to have to tread down that endless row of kids and portapottys again.
    There was actually half of a building under construction to the side, blocked off. That venue will not be available for an Ultra next year. Nowhere in Miami will there be a venue that size so don’t worry about going next year.

    The main stage used to be grass but it was moved this year. I don’t like the pavement but whatever. I knew the ground would be bad because of the construction they have going on. I actually expected all of it to be dirt. I didn’t think the gravel was bad, I believe they put that down because of the dirt.

    You’re right about most of the kids there not knowing anything about the music. I spoke to and heard groups of kids on the bus over saying they weren’t even into dance music but they knew it was going to be a big party and wanted to go and get fucked up. Seriously. Why would they pay $250 for this? I guess people don’t get out much.

    As far as them seeing the artists or not seeing – I was glad to have empty stages for the acts I wanted to see. Getting up close for Hybrid (live with an ORCHESTRA you forgot to mention) was awesome, although they recent catalogue has not been very good and the vocals were too low. Symphony was worth it alone. The Erasure thing was ridiculous and laughable. I thought it amazing to see thousands running away from the main stage at the sight of an old gay man prancing around singing. Erasure was one of the (only) highlights of Friday for me. I’m pretty sure Andy Bell has heard worse in his career and I thought the show was awesome. Again, we were able to get right up front. People around us did talk through Duran Duran, but with the lackluster performance they put out (third time i’ve seen them and this was…. eh) I almost didn’t care. I’ve seen Underworld at Ultra 3 times and the crowd is always split with them. I’m actually not sure why Ultra keeps bringing them back. They are one of my favorite acts ever but they seem an odd choice to have back 3 times. The people around me seemed into them, even if they didn’t know who they were. That Saturday was the best day of music i’ve had in a long time. The only real bad experience I had crowd wise was after being up front for Erasure/Duran Duran/Pendulum it was VERY hard to get out because Tiesto was on next. People would not let us through. We followed this tiny aisan girl and somehow made it through. At one point a guy told me “go around, i’m not fucking moving”, to which I replied Get out of my fucking way we’re trying to LEAVE. I’m not a big guy and he was very big, probably not the best idea but seriously??? His boy moved and we got through. That Tiesto cult was scary.

    As for the organization – The entrance was the biggest clusterfuck i’ve ever seen it. It was as if they hired a new company (re:cheaper) to run the event and they had never done a festival before. Having areas of the sidewalk closed off, meaning if you came from the South end of the park you had to walk across the street, around the entrance, then back across the street to get in line. Each day they changed little things about entering the park. Its never been that bad.

    Like I said, they won’t be having the venue there next year and with the higher price for tickets I expected it to be shitty. They had to go all out for a cash grab.

    The only thing I didn’t have a problem with that you did was the $5 water. The drink and food stands were much better organized and having the guys with wheelbarrows with water/beer was brilliant (they’ve never done that).

    Anyways, it was going to be my last Ultra before it (even though i’ve said each year for the last 3) it definitely no matter what will be my last Ultra. Way too many parties going on during the week and weekend that i’d much rather do anyways.

    I hope you made it to Empire of the Sun. Holy crap they were awesome.

    My highlights: Holy Ghost!, Bag Raiders, Empire of the Sun, Underworld, Boys Noize, Netsky, Erasure

    I love Cut Copy but their 2009 performance at Ultra can’t be topped. Pendulum bored me (again, 2009 was much much better) and Duran Duran I already covered (did we really need a 7 minute band intro at the end of Girls On Film??). Hybrid was very cool with the orchestra but they haven’t released anything decent in the last few years so most of the tracks they played were lacking. Ed Rush + Optical were good, and played some damn hard stuff. The only real letdown I had was Fake Blood. I was so pumped for him and it was just blah……. yes everyone there seemed to love it but knowing his stuff and his sets from the UK I expected much, much more. Not a Pon Di Floor remix (yeah, i’m that snob).

  11. JasonK says:

    Looking at your pics now – I probably saw you a bunch of different times.

    Anyways I forgot to mention a highlight – that freaking Gravitron DJ booth in the Carl Cox tent. Holy crap!! I wasn’t in there for long but every time we passed by I had to take a look. I want to DJ in one of those.

    Btw did you see the Doogie Howser face? That was my friend Carol. The !!! guy took it onstage haha

  12. Lost Turntable says:

    As the water goes, I’m glad there were few lines and it was easy to find but…IT WAS FIVE DOLLARS. At Lollapalooza the water is just as easy to get to and its two bucks. Also, there are refill stations EVERYWHERE that are well-maintained, clean and with short lines.

    And Duran Duran can do whatever the hell they want thank you very much 🙂

  13. JasonK says:

    Guess i’m just used to the $5! The last two years they had vitamin water as well as plain water. Not sure what happened this year.

    Also, was that Simon on stage or Ricky Gervais? :p I so wanted them to bust out Electric Barbarella and Nite Runner.

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