The nightlife scene in Miami has always been legendary, but it reaches a fever pitch every March when Ultra Music Fest rolls into town on the waves of a bass, dub, EDM and hip hop tsunami. Though the electronic music festival set up shop in Miami in 1999, it's grown into a global movement, with festivals popping up in Colombia, South Africa and a dozen other beat-hungry destinations.
But Miami is where Ultra brings it all home, and from March 28-30, Ultra will present one of its most varied lineups ever. This year Ultra offers some of the biggest names in dance (Avicii, M.I.A., Zedd) rap greats (Dizzee Rascal, Chance The Rapper) and EDM mainstays (Tiésto, Kaskade and David Guetta).
Show up, get down and lose yourself the second the beat drops—and if you're lucky enough to catch Fedde Le Grand, don't forget to "put your hands up 4 Miami!" (We're sure he won't mind the slight change in lyrics just this once.)
— By Hilary Hughes
If the hook from Avicii's "Wake Me Up" hasn't been tattooed on the inside of your eardrums by now, you're not only living under a rock, you're living under a rock that's been buried by more rocks that's been hiding beneath a mountain for centuries. Aviciis' explosive hit has long since taken over the airwaves, and the Ultra crowd is going to go nuts as soon as the beat that gave a whole new meaning to "Country Club" drops.
You may have heard of a little track called "Put Your Hands Up 4 Detroit," aka one of the most iconic club staples of the past decade and a dancefloor requirement blasted Amsterdam from to Australia. That's Fedde Le Grand, who's been keeping busy dominating the EDM circuit and keeping peoples' hands in the air since the single that launched his career exploded.
Cut Copy hail from Melbourne, Australia, where a vibrant music scene and a penchant for DIY warehouse parties helped shape the pop outfit's identity. Free Your Mind is one of those feel-good records that gets better with every listen, and its potent, contagious and euphoric disposition works even better when you find yourself smack in the middle of a three-day music marathon.
Sure, Empire of the Sun make insatiably addictive, highly danceable avant-pop that keeps you flocking to the floor for more, but LOOK AT THOSE OUTFITS. Their commitment to an exceptional, extravagant live show—complete with dancers and the zaniest props this side of Cirque du Soleil—is just as strong and attractive as the music they make.
Admit it: "Paper Planes" will never, ever come off your "Recently Played" iTunes Playlist, even if you can't get scenes from Pineapple Express out of your head as a result. M.I.A. continues her global touring effort behind 2013's Matangi at Ultra so you can get your "Y.A.L.A" fix outside of that Nissan commercial.
Trentemøller is a mad scientist when it comes to electronic music, and his live show appropriately reflects that. Picture a laboratory full of Theremins, keyboards, laptops and lots of unidentifiable gear that he arranges into an unexpected—and overwhelmingly gorgeous—orchestra. The Danish producer and multi-instrumentalist spent a lot of 2013 on the road with Depeche Mode, so he's no stranger to seeing high expectations from devoted crowds and winning them over, too.
Whether he's collaborating with Hayley Williams of Paramore or Foxes, the soaring pop/EDM anthems of Zedd have crossover appeal that turn even the least coordinated music snob into a dancing, scream-singing maniac. Both "Clarity" and "Stay The Night" were Billboard Hot 100 favorites in 2013 and remain party playlist staples well into 2014.
Chicago: Home to deep-dish pizza, Lake Michigan and a fire-spitting rapper turning heads at the age of 20. Chance The Rapper—born Chancelor Bennett—had his life changed when he listened to Kanye's The College Dropout for the first time. Nearly a decade after Yeezus' seminal record hit stores, Chance dropped Acid Rap and found himself on the rise to becoming the Windy City's next big thing.
MGMT aren’t "Kids" anymore, that's for sure—they're back and they've taken a turn for the experimental. It's been three years since we've seen new material from Benjamin Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden, and even longer since we've been shocked like an electric feel while listening to their 2007 debut, Oracular Spectacular. Last fall's MGMT featured synthed-out soundscapes and some seriously sci-fi vocal tracks, and we can't wait to see how this shakes out live. (Still hoping for a "Kids" encore, though.)
You know those panning shots of festival crowds where hundreds of thousands of people jump up and down at the same time wearing neon American Apparel t-shirts while the elated DJ throws both fists in the air, just basking in the glory of the scene? Yeah, that's more or less Tiésto's bag and the kind of adoration he's seen since dancing into the limelight in 2001 with In My Memory.
Afrojack is one of those DJs and producers who constantly finds himself in the best kind of company. He lent his hand to Pitbull, Ne-Yo and Nayer's "Give Me Everything" and Beyoncé's "Girls," which has been her favorite song to kick off the Mrs. Carter Show since the start of the world-dominating tour. He'll be spinning his own stuff at Ultra and showing Miami why he's popular with stars and fans alike.
Diplo is down with hijinks, and the Mad Hatter of Mad Decent knows how to host a killer party at every single one of his shows. If you see Diplo hop into a giant beach ball and head out into the crowd, don't be surprised. Same goes for twerking, furious dance breakdowns, confetti explosions and special guests. In short, a Diplo set is an EDM carnival but with way more flashing lights. (And waaaay more bass.)
It's been about 10 years since Dizzee Rascal made his stateside debut, and since then, he's become the de facto Mercury Prize-winning ambassador for Grime, that beautiful and brash offspring of British D&B, garage and dancehall. Expect an onslaught of insatiable beats from The Fifth, his latest full-length.
Turning up is an entry requirement if you plan on catching Chicago trap gods Flosstradamus live, and there's no sign of their live M.O. changing anytime soon. They're coming in hot off a stellar run of sets at South By Southwest, and it seems as though their time in Austin was spent prepping and perfecting plans for their return to Miami.
Any given set from Soul Clap will have you moving 'til your extremities are sore, or possibly entranced and subsequently paralyzed by the sheer power of the funk. It's that intense, and it's no wonder that they caught the attention of George Clinton—yup, the funk father himself—and teamed up with him to record an EP last year.
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