Carl Cox At Ultra 2018
Photo: Courtesy of Ultra Music Festival
Ultra Music Festival 2018: 7 DJs Who Lit Up Miami
For its 20th anniversary, Ultra Music Festival pulled out all the stops. Whether you were in the crowd in Miami or watching the festival's fantastic live stream, the only thing more incredible than the energy this year was the lineup. From legends like Carl Cox to hometown favorites like GTA to a surprise appearance from a reunited Swedish House Mafia, this year's Ultra will no doubt be remembered as one of the finest.
As we all return home this Monday, head back to work and try to find our way back to reality, let's take a bleary-eyed look back at seven DJ sets from Ultra that stuck to the inside of our brains and beat hard on the walls of our hearts.
GRAMMY-winner Afrojack celebrated his 10th anniversary in the music industry last year, and continues to push the boundaries of the genre and move effortlessly between flavors of EDM, hip-hop, and pop with the crowd's enjoyment always top of mind. His blistering Ultra set showed the variety and power of his talents, and featured a special appearance from Australian vocalist/songwriter Vassy, who joined him onstage for a version of David Guetta & Showtek's "Bad" and the Afrojack/Vassy collab "Lost." Afrojack clearly brought his A-game because, as he told us backstage before his set, Ultra is one of the most important moments of the year for DJs.
"[Ultra] is like a very high-level playground for the DJs." — Afrojack
"It's not just a music festival, it's a music festival linked to the biggest gathering of music industry professionals," said Afrojack, "so everyone from the dance music industry all around the world that has any kind of success is here during this week. So that's what keeps it magic. That's what keeps the artists trying their best because they're basically like, 'yo if you f*** this up you're not getting booked this year.' so it's like a very high-level playground for the DJs." — Nate Hertweck
2. Carl Cox
Headlining the Megastructure stage named in his honor, legendary house and techno pioneer Carl Cox showed the assembled army of partygoers that 40-plus years in the business as one of dance music's greatest selectors have done nothing to slow him down. Playing to a crowd numbering well into the tens of thousands, Cox ripped through his bottomless collection of choice tracks and crowd favorites, even taking a subtle nod at the perpetual rumors that Daft Punk might be reuniting for a surprise appearance by dropping "Rollin' & Scratchin'" off the French duo's acclaimed 1997 debut album, Homework. — Brian Haack
The last couple years have been crazy for Los Angeles-based DJ/producer Julian Scanlan, a.k.a. Slushii. He signed with Red Light Management in 2016 at age 18, released several singles over the next year before dropping a collab with Marshmello in March of last year and releasing his debut studio album, Out Of Light, last August. Slushii's Friday night return to Ultra's Worldwide stage for the second year in a row was a triumphant one, marking his arrival as a fresh, young talent with more than enough versatility to be here to stay. — N.H.
4. Nora En Pure
South African-Swiss DJ Nora En Pure made her first appearance at Ultra since 2015 when she closed Stage 7. This year, her daytime Saturday set on the Ultra Worldwide stage was filled with upbeat vibes and En Pure's signature flair for integrating compelling chord progressions into her deep house sound. The Johannesburg-born and Switzerland-raised DJ/producer was also spotlighted earlier in the week as part of Winter Music Conference's "A Conversation With" series. — N.H.
Miami-based genre-blending party leaders GTA (Matt Toth and Julio Mejia) took a quick pit stop on their 3 Night Stand U.S. tour to play their hometown's biggest dance festival. Taking the 9 p.m. Sunday night set on the Ultra Worldwide stage just before festival trap don RL Grime closed out the weekend, the duo worked their way seamlessly through the sounds of booming electro, hip-hop, future bass, and trap, blowing the party out for a nonstop rage fest.
"We have so many people here that we grew up with that are going to be in the crowd, they come every year and support," commented Toth about the experience of playing their fourth Ultra Music Festival. "It's also really cool being able to see all of our producer friends from Twitter and online, and putting a face to a name, and just being able to connect with everyone," added Mejia. — B.H.
6. Dubfire B2B Nicole Moudaber B2B Paco Osuna
Ultra might be most closely associated with its unprecedented ability to bring the world biggest DJs together in one festival, but it also maintains a healthy respect for the world of underground dance and electronic music. The RESISTANCE stages provide attendees with a wide swath of premiere underground DJ sets to make sure every musical itch can be scratched. This year, the Carl Cox Megastructure played host to a special back-to-back-to-back set with Iranian-American Dubfire (one half of GRAMMY-winning duo Deep Dish), Nigerian Nicole Moudaber, and Spanish Paco Osuna served as a one-two-three punch clinic in globe-trotting techno. –N.H.
— RESISTANCE (@ResistanceMusic) March 24, 2018
7. Swedish House Mafia
While the pervasive rumors of a Daft Punk reunion at Ultra once again turned out not to be true (as always), the equally exciting rumors that progressive house supergroup Swedish House Mafia would be reuniting, surprisingly, did turn out to be true. As the weekend progressed, flyers and posters hinting at the GRAMMY-nominated group's return began to pop up in the streets of Miami, and several sharp-eared Reddit users who were monitoring the festival's official live stream broadcasts began to note that none of the separate members of SHM had played a single Swedish House Mafia track during their mainstage sets. By the time it was separately noted that Sebastian Ingrosso and Axwell had teased the SHM logo as part of their on-screen visuals during their Friday night headlining set, the reunion was all but confirmed. When Ingrosso, Axwell, and Steve Angello hit the stage on Sunday night and reintroduced themselves as Swedish House Mafia, there wasn't a free spot left to stand at the mainstage, and more than a few tears of joy were shed among the capacity crowd. — B.H.