This year’s Ultra Music Festival Miami has been mired in controversy because their contract with Bayfront Park where the festival has been held since its inception 21 years ago was not renewed. That area has a lot of condo’s and hotels and the residents complained about the noise and the traffic. We went last year for the first time and frankly, I can kind of understand why the residents wouldn’t want 150,000 EDM fans descending on the streets below.
So after a lot of discussions and negotiations, the Ultra organizers were able to secure a new location on the Virginia Key in the Miami bay. Ultra is so big it actually has to span two locations across the island: Miami Marine Stadium and Historic Virginia Key Beach. Both locations do have pretty regular events/festivals at them so it’s not totally out of the ordinary. But there was ample controversy about the environmental and traffic disruption of such a big event.
The timing is also quite ironic… Just a couple of months after the Fyre Fest documentaries came out. Having a giant music festival on an island. Fortunately there is actually a bridge to this island, but
So going into it we definitely had a bit of trepidation… Terrified of the prospect of being stranded with only cheese sandwiches. Their plan was to utilize 230 buses to get people on and off the island and Lyft and Uber had banned ride pickups on the island itself, opting to save their drivers from a potential traffic quagmire. They also decided to offer a ferry service and Helena and I being big boat fans, decided to sign up hoping that we’d get to bypass at least some of the crazy traffic and get a nice bay view on the way in.
On Friday night we decided to go a bit closer to sunset because what’s better than the sunset on a boat. When we arrived at the boat dock we only had to wait about 20 minutes to board a boat. They had a great system of “ferries” on basically what seemed like all the giant party boats and water taxis they could rent. I’m sure the festival this year was a boon to the boat rental industry. They even rented the illustrious Seafair Miami, the biggest corporate party boat of them that normally docks in Bayfront Park to act as their “artist yacht”. A little known fact about this giant yacht… It has no engine so they have to tow it from place to place and so not surprisingly, it remained docked by the festival the entire time.
I have to say, taking a boat to the event, increased the Miami vibe 100x. It was also pretty convenient as we could see the bus traffic on the causeway was going pretty slow. Although I didn’t hear many complaints about the buses getting to the event, g
So when we got there, having the ferry passes entitled us to a pseudo VIP experience because we were able to get in a separate security line and get into the festival in under 10 minutes. I recall it was almost an hour getting into the festival last year with general admission tickets.
Due to the new locations, the layout of the festival this year is very different from previous years because it’s split between 2 disparate locations with a 1.3 mile/26 minute walk in-between. Fortunately for us, all the acts we wanted to see were on the live stage and the main stage which were in the location you’re dropped off at. Those stages were
The big acts we were excited to see the first day were Odesza, Galantis, and Marshmello. Odesza put on a really great “live” show. In the EDM world, I think the definition of
For me, the worst part of Ultra is probably the main stage announcer whose voice sounds perpetually like a monster truck rally TV advertisement. I was kind of bummed that we skipped out on Galantis early because Marshmello was about 10 minutes late so we were subjected to him stalling for about 10 minutes by trying to do shout outs to what seemed like every member of the production staff and then his signature callouts to the countries represented at the event, with an emphasis and repetition on China and Taiwan. When Marshmello finally came on we actually had a pretty good vantage point in the crowd. He busted onto the stage with his signature
The later ending time was another thing different about this
The traffic seemed like it was at a complete standstill and we could hear a lot of honking and see a lot of flashing lights… Not good. As we were cruising back to the mainland I quickly scrolled through
We had a little trouble hailing an uber from our ferry drop off spot at Bayside Marketplace. I wondered if part of the problem was the influx of people
The second day we arrived about an hour earlier to give us more time to check out “Resistance Island”. We made the 1.5-mile trek from the main area to the Virginia Key Beach and honestly it wasn’t that bad of a walk and we made a couple of friends along the way, but I’d be lying if I said we weren’t slightly jealous of the staff zipping along beside the path in the golf carts. When we got to the Resistance Island the vibe was immediately different. It felt a lot more spread out, relaxed and not so cold and sterile as the main area, which is hosted on top of a giant parking lot. The area was mostly grassy and sandy and they really leaned into the tropical theme for some of the stages.
Tucked away in the back of the area was the infamous Carl Cox Megastructure where you can dance your ass off to continuous pulsing beats for hours. But also in that
It was quite a transition and a bit of a letdown to go back to the main area…
This is a work in progress post as the festival is still going!