Ultra Megastructure

What started as what many believed to be a joke, and typical saber rattling we’ve come to know after every major North American Festival, just got a whole lot more real.  Ultra Music Festival may be looking at their last year in Miami, as city officials plan to review whether or not UMF will be welcome back in Miami’s historic Bayfront Park ever again.

This campaign, led by city commissioner Marc Sarnoff, is clearly not honoring the position of looking out for the best interest of the people, having leaked video footage of a compilation he acquired titled “ULTRA behaving badly.”  An extremely far cry from objectivity, the video focuses on all negative aspects, while completely ignoring the good. Where is the video of ULTRA behaving well?  Where is the press about how this event did great things.  Certainly show us the negatives, but how in the world is this going to be evaluated fairly when the only major press this event has gotten has been of the 1% of “us” who could care less about whether ULTRA returns next year.

The aforementioned video, which I refuse to cite here as being more than propaganda, interweaves footage of the worst of the worst with interspersed interview questions, laden with comments like, “the fencing was inadequate.”  Whose fence?  ABC local also released this video that stated the city of Miami may be to blame for the tragic injury of a security guard.  This isn’t a time for finger pointing, but it is amazing to see how very little press this piece of footage has gotten, as the witch hunt for UMF continues.   I am by no means advocating the reckless abandon of a few very selfish and destructive people, but please don’t let the actions of a few represent the statement of worth of an entire generational movement.

Where are the videos of people having fun, safely, expressing themselves, while they live out their youth?  Who among our parents didn’t bend rules, take chances, or do things, as they went along the journey to find out who they really were?  Who here is going to look down on the next big cultural movement 30 years from now, when we ourselves have kids doing the exact same thing.  Human behavior is cyclical, and change becomes less familiar, we fight it because it is so much more different than what we know and are comfortable with.  Yesterday’s Woodstock, is today’s ULTRA.

And the scary part about this, is that the bar continues to be set higher for these events.  “A Perfect Event” is the only thing that matters now.  250 Miami police officers were deployed daily in what was likely very uneventful days for many of them.  Of those individuals who actually had tickets and were inside the gates, very few examples of bad behavior surfaced. Text messages and phone calls asking how I was alive, and how complete chaos and anarchy ensued within the hallowed grounds of Bayfront Park, hit me from all angles, yet I was hard pressed to find any such exaggerations.  I walked into Miami wondering if I would be overcome by douchebros, and walked out feeling like that was a well done event, all things considered.  My opinion doesn’t ring as loudly, for all I have is a keyboard and this soapbox, upon which I’ve planted my feet firmly.

We the people who feel strongly about this, do share some responsibility as well.  It’s more fun to highlight the appalling behavior of a few, creating hashtags like #ultraratchet or shuffling awful pictures or videos around on our socials.  Worse off, we propagate our own versions of negative press, with blogs and other electronic media posting memes of two females doing drugs off each other or someone peeing on someone else.  Is this the type of vision the rest of the world sees in us?  Or perhaps this is the image we create of ourselves, that brings the assholes, the douchebags, the drug seeking people who know nothing about the music, and the people who very desperately need a guiding hand in their life to this scene.  Does that make “them” a part of this?  Or can we still separate the “us” from the “them?”  If we’ve been able to do this in the past, that opportunity is quickly coming to an end.  I’m stuck here asking at what point does it appear that electronic music festivals have a target painted upon them that is so hard to shake, any hiccup or inappropriately shone spotlight dooms the whole event a failure.

Now here we stand at a very important crossroads for electronic music in the United States.  If UMF, one the major global staples of electronic music is kicked from its hometown this week, nothing is sacred, and the margin for error gets that much smaller for every other event this year.  If there ever was a time to stand together, it is now.  American or not, ULTRA enthusiast or not, we ask you to take one minute to sign this petition.  Of what this petition will accomplish, we don’t know, but if ULTRA’s future is not meant to be in Miami, given the great impact it has had on the city, the only one who should be able to make that decision is ULTRA.


I close this with a quote I remember from childhood.  “Empty barrels make the loudest noise.”  Marc Sarnoff has been making a lot of noise in a very small amount of time.  More information will be brought to light in due time, and it will be interesting to see where he stands after the debates have concluded.