Ultra Music Festival 2013 — Weekend 2 Recap (Or, If I Never Hear “Clarity” Again, It Will Be Too Soon)

Posted by on April 9, 2013

“You know, the mainstage doesn’t look that awesome this year. In fact, it kind of looks smaller than it did last year.”

I was sitting on a friend’s couch drinking a lukewarm Bud Light and watching Nicky Romero’s Weekend 1 set on a Macbook. We didn’t have the good speakers plugged in because someone was napping upstairs, so the sound was tinny and easy to talk over. The TV mounted to the wall was tuned to NCAA basketball with the volume off. It was early on Friday evening and I was in the process of getting over bronchitis. A bag of Doritos was making the rounds.

“Shit guys. This stage is bullshit.” I grabbed a fistful of Doritos and gestured at the computer. “Look at it. It’s just sitting there, being purple. God, the mainstage is going to effing suck this year.” My friends nodded sagely. I leaned back, satisfied that my point had hit home, and turned my attention to the basketball game.

Of all the things I’ve been wrong about in my life, this has got to be top three.


In retrospect, I’m not sure how or why I ever presumed to doubt Ultra’s production decisions on the year of its 15th anniversary. Obviously this year was going to kill it like never before. Obviously the three largest stages would be painstakingly designed to dazzle the viewer at every turn. Obviously Ultra would deliver on its promise to “make history” in 2013.

But boy, did it ever deliver.


In many ways, this year’s Ultra was a perfect storm. Let’s examine the evidence, in no particular order:

1) 15 year anniversary.

2) Two weekends — for the first and last time ever.

3) The predictable-but-nonetheless-amazing back to back lineups.

4) Swedish House Mafia playing the final set of their career.

5) A mainstage so iconic that it is sure to endure in our memory for years to come.

Factor in the generalized madness of Miami and all the bacchanalia that surrounds Winter Music Conference, and you’ve got yourself something truly epic. As Ultra itself tweeted:

I realize that we’re now several weeks out from the festival itself, but it has historically taken me at least this long to move beyond the inevitable Mourning Period that follows. (For those of you fortunate enough not to have firsthand experience in this department, the Mourning Period typically involves not listening to any music, avoiding eye contact with work colleagues, compulsively scrolling through the same four Facebook albums, and initiating a week-long diet composed exclusively of Chipotle burritos.)

When you’re right, you’re right. But now that the Mourning Period has come to a welcome close, it’s time to travel back to Bayfront Park and those three magical days. Without further adieu, let’s launch into some Weekend 2 Superlatives, which are, like all things on this site, 110% subjective but 110% accurate.


Favorite Set: Boys Noize in the Amphitheather. Hands down, far and away my best set of the weekend. Boys Noize is a genius. I mean, just look at him up there:

boys noize


Second Favorite Set: Markus Schulz at ASOT600. Relentless, relentless, relentless. And 90% non-vocal! Trance is not dead, folks.


Least Favorite Set: It’s incredibly hard for me to say this because he’s one of my all-time favorite artists to see live, but…Bassnectar. I realize he wanted to do something drastically different from what he did the previous weekend (and tip of the hat to him for that), but I personally found his set inaccessibly slow. In his defense, I also developed a nagging cough about ten minutes before he got on, and actually had to leave Bayfront early because I was so uncomfortable, so that undoubtedly compounded matters. But yeah — not my fave. Cue a chorus of people who now want to burn me at the stake.

But hey, I’m seeing him two days in a row in May! Too much love and respect for Lorin to want to terminate our glorious affair on this less-than-positive note.

Favorite Main Stage Set: Prydz. I missed Deadmau5 (see: having to leave early on Saturday night, above) but from what I heard he probably would have taken it had I been there. Rusko was also awesome (especially due to how much space there was at that point in the day) but it was blisteringly hot and nighttime main stage has an unfair visual advantage over daytime main stage.


Favorite Stage: Easy — the Megastructure. As I knew it would be. ASOT600 + Carl Cox & Friends + the fact that the illuminated “honeycombs” dropped down from the ceiling to create a crazy intimate environment at random intervals = an experience that simply can’t be beat. Oh yes oh yes indeed.

Worst Overall Logistical Decision By The People Who Designed UMF15: The entire Worldwide stage. Too quiet in the back (why weren’t there additional speakers back there?) and far too much crowd overflow into one of the most highly trafficked walkways at Bayfront. There was pretty much no way to avoid walking by Worldwide after entering the venue — and the stage itself flanked a phalanx of port-a-potties and Heineken stations. The parabola thing was cool, and it was pretty easy to see what was going on up front, but this whole situation would have been vastly improved by an exit point manned by a security guy in the far front corner of the hill on the right, and potentially some kind of barrier. Just look at this effing thing:

UMF Worldwide

See those palm trees? Those delineate the edge of Bayfront Park, so everything between those palm trees and the giant parabola is space that must be traversed to access the Megastructure, or the main stage, or the amphitheater…goodness.

Single Worst Scheduling Decision Of The Entire Weekend: Having Zedd play on Worldwide at 3:50 PM, AKA the precise time of day when 9 out of 10 people are going to show up to any festival. Zedd blew up at the tail end of 2012 and is one of the most popular acts in the game right now. Why — why, in God’s name, why? — would you stick him on a stage with all the abovementioned location issues at one of the busiest times of day for arrivals? SMDH, Ultra. You can do better.

I’d Rather Gouge My Eyes Out Than Ever Hear This Song Again: “Clarity.” Goddammit, “Clarity.” I wasn’t expecting you to be the most overplayed, overtrap’t, overremixed and over-“SING ALONG IF YOU KNOW THE WORDS!!”-ed song of the weekend…and yet you were. Your clammy, clingy, boundary-crossing presence descended upon every single stage multiple times each day, much in the manner of that creepy dude at the bar who disrespects your personal space and just can’t take a hint. Back off, “Clarity.” Your horrible chorus sets my teeth on edge, and I hate that you’ve somehow managed to transcend genre and get the look from everyone from Kill the Noise to Armin van Buuren. You are not worthy of being the next “Language.” You effing blow.

Song I Now Can’t Get Enough Of: Boys Noize – Oh! Holy mother of tit(t)s(worth), this song is amazing, and it literally tore the Live Stage apart.

Most Overrated Set of the Weekend (Which I Still Thoroughly Enjoyed): Swedish House Mafia’s closing set has to take this dubious, kind-of honor. It was always going to be a giant, overly crowded cluster, and Seb, Steve and Ax were always going to take us on an incredibly predictable journey through Greatest Hits Land (that involved having to sit through “Don’t You Worry Child” not once but twice). Still, I got chills when they dropped “One” (I watched the Take One documentary a few too many times back in the day not to) and was happy to be present for what was by all accounts a truly historic and monumental set. A fitting way to end the weekend.

Not too many good vids of this set. Put this one into 1080p if you know what’s good for you.

Best Place To Pee: The low-profile real bathrooms located to the right of UMF Radio.

Easiest Place To Get A Beer: The Heineken House. What was that bizarre but wonderful alternate universe of iPads, no lines, erstwhile Hooters waitresses and fog machines? It was bloody awesome. And so was the cute little viewing deck for Worldwide right by the exit. Let’s make sure that’s there again next year, k?

heineken house

Unofficial Winner of Ultra 2013: Skrillex. And, by proxy, Team OWSLA.

I think at some point towards the end of 2012, Skrillex blacked in from Tour Coma and realized he wasn’t too amped on being the unofficial brostep poster boy. So what’d he do? He dispensed with the spaceship and predictable “Break’n a Sweat”-into-“Right In” transitions, launched an amazing (and unexpected) side project with Boys Noize, and adopted a considerably lower profile at festivals. Save for Dog Blood appearances, Skrillex basically spent Miami Music Week with a beer permanently in hand, chumming it up with the posse and jumping on the decks when it suited him and his buddies. This all paid off in spades — Sonny has now amply demonstrated that he’s more than happy to keep us guessing and that he’s not about to let himself get pigeonholed any time soon. Plus, Dog Blood’s awesome set the previous Saturday was one of the most talked about of the whole week.

And frankly, is it possible that anyone is having more fun than these guys?

OWSLA miami

Best Weekend Memory: Walking in at 5 pm on Friday — when anything and everything seemed possible, even in the rain.

This seems like an appropriately cheesy note on which to end, so I’ll cut the roundup here. Thanks, UMF, for continuing to raise the bar for American festivals — and for proving yet again that you’re the biggest fish in the pond.

(I don’t know who these cats are, but I like their vid.)

LIVE SETS: Weekend 1 and Weekend 2 // ASOT 600 Miami

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