Despite being Ultra's marquee time slot, Saturday night's headlining set felt like it might never happen. First, Avicii was forced to pull out of the festival after having his gallbladder removed at a Miami hospital. Then, with Deadmau5 set to save the day, the festival was briefly suspended as the skies over Biscayne Bay split open and dumped rain on downtown Miami.
But rainstorms in South Florida often disappear in a snap, which this one did. Deadmau5, his trademark mouse helmet a silhouette against the Main Stage's massive light apparatus, walked to the DJ booth at 11pm sharp, and proceeded to play a low-stakes set that thrilled the crowd possibly because it was inherently accidental.
Deadmau5's sense of humor while onstage made him a perfect choice to salvage what could have been a disaster for a festival that sold tickets for hundreds of dollars with the promise that Avicii would be playing at that very second. Backed by images of things like jellyfish and Pacman ghosts, he played a set of house and techno music that popped its head up into the mainstream specifically to make some jokes.
Halfway through his set, after walking to the lip of the stage while a choral house track played, Deadmau5 dropped Martin Garrix's festival-conquering hit "Animals"—remixed with "Old McDonald Had a Farm." (Watch it here.) He also removed his mouse head. The irony: The crowd watched a now-plain human bounce around to a song that goes, "We're the f-cking animals." He then transitioned out of that track with a few bars of Avicii's "Levels" mixed into his own "Ghosts N Stuff," a sly nod to his comrade's absence.
A willingness to acknowledge the slight absurdity of the situation continued to the very end of his set, where he intimated that he would leap into the audience to crowdsurf. But he thought better of it, acknowledging that the last thing the EDM community needed was another DJ in the hospital. "I'd be in a bed right between Avicii and Afrojack," he cracked, before turning his back and bounding off stage.