This past weekend, the Ultra Music Festival, one of the world’s largest outdoor electronic music gatherings, showcased over 300 DJs, bands and producers in downtown Miami’s Bicentennial Park. Headliners included festival veterans Deadmau5, Carl Cox, Tiesto and Steve Aoki, dubstep’s rising stars Skrillex and Rusko, and even a surprise performance from Diddy.
Although Ultra was historically just one facet of the annual Winter Music Conference, a week-long shindig for those in the electronic music industry, the two organizations split controversially this winter. For Ultra, the separation was hardly a bump in the road. This year’s event spanned three days instead of the standard two and all 150,000 tickets sold out back in February.
While future collaborations between WMC and Ultra are unknown, one thing is certain: the numbers don’t lie. This year’s festival proved that electronic music is gradually outgrowing its one-dimensional reputation as music for candy-clad ravers and venturing into increasingly experimental pastures. The festival’s highlights featured artists from a slew of subgenres, including progressive house, hardstep and Washington’s own Moombahton.
After the jump, some of the best acts I heard at Ultra — all of which are scheduled to shake up D.C. in the coming months.
Pleasurekraft: D.C.’s own Kaveh Soroush and Sweden’s Kalle Ronngardh make up the underground tech-house partnership Pleasurekraft, whose “Tarantula” recently took top honors at the Beatport Music Awards. Watch out for them at Lima on April 28 with Sander Kleinenberg.
Cut Copy: Hailing from Melbourne, Australia, the electro-pop dance band was one of the few truly “live” acts to hit the Ultra stages. Drawing heavily from their most recent album “Zonoscope,” the band highlighted its groovier tracks, including “Take Me Over” and “Need You Now.” Catch them at the 9:30 Club Tuesday and Wednesday, and for a late-night DJ set at U Street Music Hall Wednesday at 11 p.m.
Tiesto: Despite being one of Ultra’s oldest performers, Dutch trance icon TJ Verwest, or Tiesto, isn’t losing any steam. Headlining the festival’s main stage on Saturday, he dropped fan favorites like “Escape Me” and “Zero 76,” but surprised the crowd with a new remix of Kanye West’s “Lost in This World,” noting that he and West are still tweaking the track before releasing it to the public. Tietso will performat the D.C. Armory on April 9.
Rusko: This British dubstep star is one to keep your eyes on — which shouldn’t be difficult given his signature mohawk and animated stage antics. See him hurl himself over his turntables at the 9:30 Club on April 30.
12th Planet: The Los Angeles-based DJ and producer blended old school hip-hop and dubstep grind on Sunday. Amid frequent stage diving, he dropped his new joint track with dubstep wunderkind Skrillex, called “Needed Change.” He’ll be at U Street Music Hall on May 5.