Over the last 5 years, Ultra Music Festival has undergone international growth that has been unparalleled by any other music festival before. What started out as a small one day event in Miami back in 1999 has now matured into a global phenomenon with festivals and shows in over 20 different countries. The most recent of those events to have taken place was Ultra Europe, held in Split, Croatia. Easily the second largest show of all of Ultra’s events after its flagship festival in Miami, Ultra Europe has established itself as a major player in the European festival circuit.
As a seasoned Ultra Miami vet having already been in Europe, I decided to see what the commotion in Croatia was all about. I was curious to know how Ultra’s European sister would hold up against the festival I had become so familiar with back in the States. As it turned out, it held up pretty damn well in holding down its own fort. While not as large as the Miami edition, the output of energy from attendees was all the same, with over 120,000 fans from 148 different countries across Europe, Asia and even the Americas coming to dance together under the Croatian sky. In order to give you a better understanding of the festival, I’ve highlighted both the good and bad that occurred at this year’s event.
Unbeknownst to me, and unlike the Miami festival, Ultra Europe’s hours ran from a little before sunset to close to sunrise, making it feel somewhat similar to another major festival in the U.S. While this was different from the 12pm to 12 am hours I had grown accustomed to, it turned out to be for the best as temperatures were reaching mid to high 90s during peak daytime hours. As the temperatures dropped during the evenings, churning on and dancing through the morning was made that much easier. These hours also meant that you could spend your days recovering on one of Split’s beautiful beaches before doing it all over again that night.
What makes Ultra Europe really stand out is its location of Split. Split is the definition of a destination festival with its gorgeous beaches and other natural landmarks that aren’t too far away. Spend your day before the festival exploring around Split’s city center or take take a tour of the beautiful Krka waterfalls up an hour north. Want to hit some of the landmarks on your own time? Well then rent a car or scooter for the day and start wandering around. There is so much to do that there is no reason to just stay inside during the day before you make your way to Poljud Stadium. Croatia without the festival is a bucket list goal in itself, so why not knock out two birds with one stone while you’re there?
The Pre and Post Parties
So Split may not have a Miami Music Week the way that South Florida does, but that doesn’t meant that there aren’t parties to go through throughout the week. Ultra curated their own special music week for Split with pre-parties, beach parties, and closing parties for a special 7 days of non-stop music. Nicole Moudaber and Cristoph started the week strong with some techno Thursday night at the Giraffe Palm Beach Club. Located right along the bay by the stadium, attendees got to get a little taste of what was to come with some dark moody beats curated by the techno goddess herself. Following the conclusion of the festival, those who recovered after resting on Monday were treated to a beautiful beach party on the island of Hvar. I’ll tell you, it’s hard not to relax when you’re poolside listening to Sunnery James and Ryan Marciano in seems to be tropical paradise. Ultra concluded their week long festivities with the Resistance closing party on the island of Vis. Those fortunate enough to go were treated to a special back 2 back from none other than Sasha and Nic Fanciulli. Speaking of which…
I’ve mentioned it before and I’ll say it again. One of the best things to come out of the Ultra brand in recent years was the launch of Resistance. Just like in Miami, the Resistance arrived in full force in Split. From beginning to end, fans moves and grooved to the sounds of Adam Beyer b2b Nicole Moudaber, Sasha b2b John Digweed, Nic Fanciulli b2b Eats Everything, Marco Carola, and of course Carl Cox. The techno king threw down an unreal three hour set throwing out track after track of raw, unadulterated techno bangers that should not have been missed.
Some festivals have terrible crowds where people are pushing and shoving each other creating more conflict that unification. This was not the case at Ultra Europe, at least from where I experienced. The fans were genuinely kind and seemed to look out for one another. Making friends couldn’t have been easier on this trip as it was easy to chat up a storm with anyone. During my time at the festival, my friend David and I made new Canadian friends on the first day and ended up hanging with them all weekend. Sure I may have stayed at the main stage a little more than I expected, but meeting new people and making new friends reminded this techno elitist why I fell in love with going to festivals in the first place.
The Not So Good
The Line and Logistics
There weren’t too many things that went wrong with the festival but one of the things that could have been better was the organizational logistics. The second night saw a huge issue with the entrance to the festival where there was a mob of rushing and pushing to get in without any kind of systemized plan whatsoever. It gave me flashbacks to that first day of Ultra Miami 2014 where everyone tried to rush the security guards.
No Free Water
This was my biggest issue with Ultra Europe this year. Any time a festival doesn’t have free water stations they are creating a liability for themselves. This proved to be an issue for press members especially on the first day because we were not given the Ultra wristband to top up funds. Since no vendors took cash or a Visa credit card Friday night, my friends and I were forced to ask strangers to buy waters for us and pay them back in cash (which they did, shoutout to our Canadian and Australian friends for lending a huge helping hand).