The Theater of Dreams
There truly are only a few guarantees in life: you will die, you will pay taxes, and if you find yourself fortunate enough to attend Miami’s Ultra Music Festival, you will have the time of your life. For the 20th time, the world-renowned electronic music mega-gathering delivered once again, giving attendees, online viewers, and even Will Smith a show for the ages. Now that the dust (and Ultra flu) has settled, let’s do our best to cling to the memories by reviewing one of the highlights of the weekend, the magnificent Megastructure.
RESISTANCE Carl Cox MegaStructure, photo by EDMkevin
The Megastructure. The house that Cox built. The site of Armin van Buuren’s annual sermon. Undoubtedly one of the most unique and legendary stages across the world. For years the Megastructure has captivated millions of festival goers and viewers alike with its world-class production. Those beaconing panels can trap anyone like an Imperial Destroyer’s tractor beam as they float above the audience. The point is that damn place was already perfect, until something nearly impossible happened…. they somehow made it even better.
Change can be a good thing, and in this case, it’s a dream. The venue maintained its traditional size, the perfect amount of space for every techno/trance diehard who is trying to immerse themselves in the music. The major difference was the addition of what many labeled “light vortexes” hanging from the middle of the tent. Flanked by the traditional panels, these combined to create a mesmerizing experience from the front all the way towards the outer rim. They said there would be special surprises for the 20th anniversary, and the revamped Megastructure was certainly one of them.
Speaking of special, the lineup the ultra folks had the audacity of putting together was further evidence as to why Ultra Miami is a dance music fan’s greatest dream. Every year we are treated to the super friend gathering led by two of dance music’s greatest living legends – Carl Cox and Armin Van Burren.
Carl Cox & Friends
The festivity is so nice, they hosted it twice. Cox and his truly special friends took full advantage of both Friday and Saturday to enchant every jubilant fan in attendance under the revamped Megastructure. Resistance positions itself as the “underground” counterpoint to the more EDM-style offerings that have taken over the festivals Main, Ultra Worldwide and Live Stages. What makes Carl Cox & Friends so special is that every act is given a full hour and a half to showcase a truly dynamic set.
Photo: Courtesy of Ultra Music Festival
Philly native and legend Josh Wink did well to kick off the 2018 edition of Resistance party, warming up the crowd with an acid vibe that set the tone for the night. He was later followed by notable performances from Pan-Pot and Joseph Capriati, but then… enter darkness. Adam Beyer, Drumcode boss and techno maestro, came on stage with a vengeance. The last time we saw him in the 305, the Swede had an unforgettable performance on the Live Stage with his wife and techno producer, Ida Engberg. There was something sinister with the way he approached the stage, and the dark bass-heavy drumcode energy ignited the night.
It is almost unfair to the attendees that Cox tagged in immediately afterward, not giving anyone, even those who were afforded the luxury of sitting at home, a chance to breathe. King Cox treated the 20th anniversary of his residence like the special occasion it was, playing a magisterial two-hour set that blew the top off the roof. Accepting that it’s over is the hardest part, but fortunately, everyone had another full day of Resistance to look forward to.
Saturday was as much of a gift as the first, kicking off with splendid efforts from the likes of Jon Rundell, Frankie Bones and Nastia to pump up the fun. Too often, acts will stick a b2b label to their show to generate some excitement, but the one Dubfire, Nicole Moudaber and Paco Osuna performed was no farce. The trio truly played off each other, feeding off the crowd and egging each other on for what was ultimately one of the more memorable sets of the entire event. Maceo Plex and Jamie Jones both built off the momentum, urging the crowd to go on a journey with hypnotic tunes that mixed in perfectly as the day transitioned to night. In came King Cox again to wrap up another epic Miami visit, train horns blaring and all. Everyone who witnessed those two incredible nights had the time of their lives, and the techno crowd could not have been more fun to hang around as they got lost in a trance. That reminds me..
A State of Trance
A State of Trance is the mecca for trance fans everywhere. Coming off an incredible ASOT 850 in Utrecht, Armin Van Buuren and Co. exceeded expectations once again. The special guest inclusion of Above & Beyond already added a heightened level of intrigue to what many consider to be one of the more stacked ASOT lineups in history. Those with the stamina after two action-packed days to make it in early afternoon were rewarded with cool sets from the likes of Estiva, Gabriel & Dresden and Marlo. You could tell the crowd level surged right around the time Andrew Rayel came on, and the InHarmony Music chief gifted the crowd with an energetic set that jolted the day. Paul Oakenfold jumped on the trend, wasting no time kicking off his set with Vini Vici’s remix of We Come In Peace. Observers were treated with a heavy psy/tech-trance set that served as the perfect handoff for Vini Vici’s triumphant return to the Miami stage.
There simply was no time to breathe from this point on, as the Megastructure reached near capacity in anticipation of the main event – Armin Van Buuren. You could just feel the excitement in the building. Coming off two remarkable ASOT performances at the Jaarbeurs, the stage was set for the trance titan to do his thing. Time and time again it seems like he steals the show from a festival, perfectly blending in the right amount of energy and bliss into every set. As the sun set for the final time on Ultra 2018, here came Eric Prydz. People were still recoiling from the stroke of genius they had just witnessed, but none were afforded a full recovery. It’s almost comical to suggest that the Megastructure stage had been holding back on us up to this point, but somehow it found an extra gear for the legend. Rightfully so, as Prydz proceeded to simultaneously melt the arena and take everyone for a visit to heaven at the same time. There to meet everyone was Above & Beyond, the hyped special guests who did everything in their power to give the ASOT stage the rightful closing it deserved. With emotions running high after a classic spiritual A&B experience, the curtains closed on yet another landmark Ultra Music Festival.
Top 5 Sets
- It seems almost automatic that Armin Van Buuren places this high at every event he graciously attends, but his two-hour epic takes the prize. Take a look at the incredible performance you won’t want to miss.
- Adam Beyer. The sinister energy truly possessed the entire crowd. For those of you who enjoy pulsating techno sets, this is for you.
- What an uplifting experience Mr. Prydz. What a treat it was to see him back on the ASOT stage. He is simply a can’t miss wherever he goes and shows like these are the reason why (and shoutout those of you lucky enough to have witnessed his Cirez D performance with Adam Beyer the night before, sheesh).
- The ability to see Carl Cox perform twice in two nights is one of the biggest selling points Ultra Miami offers. Twice he absolutely rocked the building, leaving the trance fam to pick up the debris. That damn train horn is still ringing in my ear today. Hats off.
- For our last pick here we go with one of our favorite b2b’s in recent memory, as Dubfire, Nicole Moudaber and Paco Osuna gave everyone their all with such a fun set.