Thursday, April 14, 2011

Ultra Music Festival Report: Day 3

It's difficult to get to Ultra as early as you want most days, especially when you're on day 3 of such a crazy weekend. Originally our goal was to make it there in time to see !!! (yes that's a band, they're fucking awesome too, say it/search for it like “chk chk chk”) play at 1pm, but when I woke up at 12:30 in the afternoon it was clear that wasn't going to happen. We were slow moving, worn out by the previous two days but determined to make it through the end of the third, something no one has ever had to do at Ultra before since this was the first year it was 3 days.

We did get our shit together and make it in time for the Disco Biscuits, which was crucial because they are one of my host for the weekend's favorite bands. They were a lot of fun, I'm not the hugest Bisco fan but their vibe was impossible to resist in this setting. Accompanied by LEBO doing live painting they definitely brought out something different in the Ultra crowd, more of a normal festival feel than the non-stop rave atmosphere of Ultra. It was a welcome change, we stayed for the whole show and had a blast.

Next up was Fake Blood, we had a little time to go cool off in the Heinken dome first though and drink a beer and get blasted with some AC which was much needed. Then back to the live stage we went to see one of my current favorite DJs of the moment. Fake Blood was at Ultra last year too, his performance really sold me on his style then and completely cemented him as one of my favorite Djs of the festival. His grimy electro style really appeals to me, big beats with fat drops and great bass lines. I highly recommend you check this guy out if you ever get the chance, or just look up some of his tunes to get a feel. 

Steve Aoki was to follow on the same stage, and while I'm not a huge fan of the guy he has a huge following and the energy was off the charts. He isn't the best DJ, in fact artists on his label such as Bloody Beetroots make much better music than he does and he played their shit often. One track he even played twice, the dance floor hit Warp 3.1 (I think that's what it's called), but the crowd didn't care they went off both times. We hung out in the back near the water and got silly, the energy was irrestible and while no one in our group would claim Aoki as a favorite I think most secretely enjoyed it. I sure did.

The live stage was simply where it was at today, for me at least although that really was the case most of the weekend. With Crystal Castles being slotted to play next there really was no point in leaving. We made our way up to get a good spot and soak in the craziness that is the Crystal Castles live experience. Fronted by Alice Glass, Crystal Castles has become known for their insane live shows, bright strobes obscuring the view of the band while intense electronic noise pummels the audience and Glass shouts, squirms, throws shit around and maybe sings a little here and there. This was my 5
th time seeing Crystal Castles, and they were the same as always. Lots of new tunes mixed with the old and plenty of mayhem thrown in the mix. We didn't stay for the whole show but I heard plenty of my favorite songs, if you don't know what their about I suggest you just check it out for yourself, pretty hard to describe. 


We decided to go check out a little Glitch Mob playing at the Tower of Ultra before the real main act of the evening. I like Glitch Mob's style, kind of like dubstep but it almost predates that in some respects. It's 3 dudes cutting up sounds together, and they earn the name Glitch Mob because it does have a glitchy sound at many times. I couldn't tell who was doing what most of the time, but the crowd was going hard even if everyone in our group wasn't. 

We went to check out some of trance at what was the Carl Cox now labeled “State of Trance” tent. ATB was playing at he was doing the trance things, lots of female vocal samples with big buildups to high pitched crescendos. Overall not really my scene, but it was an enjoyable atmosphere and a good warm up for the rest to come. I bailed a little early to go corral some friends and catch one more act before the the highlight of the weekend.

MSTRKRFT was absolutely killing it at the live stage, the crowd was huge and just going berserk. Their hard electro style had everyone moving, each drop met with wild enthusiasm from the large crowd. I wish I could have stayed longer, probably should have left ATB a littler earlier than I did, but luckily I had seen them several times. The energy was awesome and they had the crowd in the palm of their hands throughout. I danced through the crowd to find some friends and lead them back to our bigger group to get ready for the Chemical Brothers, the clear main event of the evening in my mind. 

I had been dying to see the Chemical Brothers live for seemingly forever. They were one of the original groups that got me into electronic music, their classic albums Dig Your Own Hole, Surrender, Exit Planet Dust, and Come With Us were all ground-breaking, feet-moving, and just plain amazing. I had seen them play two DJ sets before, one at Ultra and one at Coachella, and while they are definitely masters of that craft (see their album Brothers Gonna Work it Out for proof) it is their live show I had been craving. They have long been known for being on top of the live performance game in electronic music, tying an incredible visual aspect in with their music. Which of course they play live, their rig is enormous and they keep busy behind it at all times.

From the moment they opened with Galvanize I knew why I had been so anxiously awaiting this day. From there it was a non-stop thrill ride through their catalog , all accompanied by some of the best visual work I have ever seen. It is hard to put into words how great this show was, and made even more so by the incredibly large group I was with at the time, definitely the biggest of the week. Many didn't know what to expect and others had seen it before, but nevertheless everyone was floored. I talked to some who had seen the Chems before and they said this was their favorite show they had seen, the hardest and most intense but definitely the best. My amazement was capped off by something I had never seen at a festival before, as this glowing web passed over the crowd when the brothers launched into their epic tune Escape Velocity. I was able to capture the moment on video, but even that and the pictures I took can't do it justice.

The Chemical Brothers are legends, and very much deserved to be closing out the festival. They put on the best show of the weekend in my opinion, and though It was sad to depart the festival it was an incredible way to end the weekend. And luckily I'll be seeing them again tomorrow, and I'm even going to meet them due to some other craziness that I'll have to tell you about later. For now I sign off, and the next journey begins.


  1. This fest would have gone great. I wish I could be a part of this fest. Thank you for sharing the pictures. It seems to be wonderful.

  2. Wow, I remember we used to have music festivals in Pakistan in early 2000 but now things have change I really miss such events. Thank you for sharing details about this music festival with us