Despite having two huge American pop hits to his name, Zedd was scheduled a pre-sundown set on the first day of Ultra 2014. The massive EDM festival is still ruled, to an extent, by the OGs of the greater electronic scene (like Tiësto, who headlined Friday), but the zeitgeist lies with the youngsters, and the 24-year-old Zedd is at the front of that pack.
As such, his set was probably as mainstream as the main stage will get (give or take Diplo), though it still pandered heavily to an audience salivating for squelching drops. The highlights, though, were Zedd's own tracks, played more or less straight. He opened and closed with the early single "Spectrum" and gave trademark hits "Clarity" and "Stay the Night" room to breathe during a set that pivoted often.
Though they often showed up sliced up or in different formats, Zedd rolled out recognizable hits by other artists, too: a remix of Disclosure's "Latch" and Empire of the Sun's "Alive," two Calvin Harris songs including his new single "Summer," Martin Garrix's ubiquitous "Animals." This was the bulk of the set, and these were the songs that spoke for Zedd, that gave us an insight into his own taste. He mostly weaved his own hits into these, pulling up "Clarity" in the middle of the set with no real fanfare.
At least initially, that is. Ultra, like any festival that has swelled during EDM's renaissance, is as much a visual experience as an aural one. The sky over downtown Miami was still a soft blue — with a blush of purple — when the first set of fireworks shot off from atop the main stage as Zedd launched into "Clarity"'s soaring hook. We would eventually witness the type of fireworks display that immediately brings Fourth of July to mind, but even with three more DJs to go it didn't feel unearned.