How does Ultra do it bigger and better every year? It’s all a combination of top-notch artists, 7 stages housing a variety of music styles, delicious food, and a growing community of music lovers who spread the P.L.U.R (peace, love, unity, respect) far and wide.  The 20th Edition of Ultra held from March 23-25 in downtown Miami was no exception, as it kept its audience on their toes with surprise secret sets and the most impressive production to back it up. 

Paving its beginnings as a satellite event during Miami’s  Winter Music Conference, it now brands itself as a one-stop shop for all the most well-known and beloved electronic music artists and hosts 165,000 ravers from all over the world in Downtown Miami ’s beautiful Bayfront Park. Ultra Miami is not only an incredible weekend for the music industry, but also for bringing diverse cultures together for one common goal of celebrating music and each other. The 20th edition brought almost seemingly impossible promises to its fans as Ultra teased to “Expect the Unexpected.” The Sherp was certainly not disappointed.

Ultra’s fiery Main Stage during the day. Photo Credit: Philippe Wuyts

The Sherp spent most of the time wandering around to different stages throughout the 3 days. There was just so much to see in each and every set in terms of variety and range. One second, you could be headbanging to NGHTMRE + Slander’s Gud Vibrations dirty trap set at the Worldwide stage, the next second you can choose to vibe to Joseph Capriati’s bouncy techno at Megastructure stage, and the next second you could head over to the Main Stage to see Armin Van Buuren kill it with his uplifting trance/electro house set that can make any living being cry with happiness. All of these genres bending sets happened at the exact same time on the 1st day of the festival.

Additionally, the Live Stage (normally called the Bayfront Park Amphitheater) housed the audiovisual masterpieces in the festival with the most space to dance all day. Not only do you have a place to rest and sit down (necessary!), but also the artists really came to play their own style, with their true fans, their own way. Everyone’s energy was contagious. You might have seen the OG Ultra headliner Rabbit in the Moon, synth-pop styles of Porter Robinson as Virtual Self, the eccentric electro-pop of Empire of the Sun, or silky hip-hop from both Azalea Banks and G-Eazy. Most importantly, the chill reggae vibes of Julian Marley and the Wailers was definitely something to remember, as a reggae show at an EDM festival is out of the ordinary.

Ultra’s packed Worldwide Stage. Photo Credit: EDM Kevin

It’s no secret that Ultra does it bigger and better each year. With 20 years of hard work and success under their belt, you can only imagine how ostentatious the stage production and design would be. Blinding pyrotechnics, milky smoke, and bursting fireworks at every drop were expected at most stages, especially at the Main Stage. Nevertheless, there were two stages that perked my interest throughout the entire festival because of Ultra’s focus on its RESISTANCE movement, which supports the top names in house and techno:

The Megstructure stage never fails to impress with the amazing light shows that it produces for mainly trance and techno artists. Let’s not forget that Carl Cox and his crew basically own that stage every year; he threw down two days in a row. Ultra’s creative director Richard Milstein definitely pushed the boundaries by implementing moving circular light fixtures and a completely different interior design approach to make Megastructure feel more like a place you want to stay for the entire day.  

The mystifying Megastructure during Carl Cox’s set. Photo Credit RVR 16

The Arcadia Spectacular’s ‘Spider’ third consecutive year at Ultra and the Spider also sported insane light and pyrotechnic shows, most notably a 4-hour J.E.S.u.S set with Jackmaster, Eats Everything, Skream, and Seth Troxler to celebrate all types of house (deep, tech, classic) music to keep the spirit of house alive. 

The awe-inspiring spider further elevated Ultra’s Resistance Initiative. Photo Credit: aLIVE Coverage

The most unforgettable and significant moment at Ultra was Swedish House Mafia’s reunion. This was the skeptical unexpected that everyone was expecting all weekend. Dubbed as the “faces of mainstream progressive house music,” this Swedish supergroup has provided inspiration to a plethora of current DJs and producers in the industry, so it was no surprise that their comeback was deemed historic in dance music history. Axwell announced “This time, it’s for life,” leaving unanswered questions on whether the group is really back together or not. Either way, fans were happy to have their legendary production back for Ultra’s closing set.

A Historic Moment in Dance Music History: Swedish House Mafia’s Reunion! Photo Credit: aLIVE Coverage

Aside from Swedish House Mafia’s Reunion, which clearly stole the show and everyone’s hearts, three other stand-out sets at the festival were by Marshmello, Infected Mushroom, and Eric Prydz. Marshmello’s visuals were on point, the best we’ve seen in a while. He’s establishing himself as one of the greats by bringing on Will Smith to sing “Welcome to Miami” and “No Limit” with G Eazy, plus Slushii and Lil Uzi Vert.Infected Mushroom had the energy of a thousand universes and their old school psytrance set did not disappoint. They also gave a nice shoutout to their OG fans, we’re feeling the love. Eric Prydz, whose infectious beats drove everyone’s soul to tears.

Infected Mushroom in the midst of an energetic live set at UMF Photo Credit: Emily Irani

Thanks for having us at your 20th edition, Ultra Music Festival 2018. We look forward to the future where more surprises will definitely be in store.

Words by Emily Irani