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My Journey to Becoming a Stage Hopper at Ultra Miami

Ultra Music Festival (UMF)

by Raffi Santos
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Ultra Music Festival UMF Phase 1 Lineup MMW 2024Ultra Music Festival Miami Bayfront Park 2023 Miami Music Week MMW Ultra Miami Skytrain and Red Bull

Ultra Miami Kandi Making Station


At the start of 2023, my group of friends and I decided it was time to send our first real major music festival. We all love EDM and have been pretty avid festival-goers for years, so we decided at the ripe ages of 21-23 that it was time to make our debut at Ultra Miami.

From the start, Ultra set itself apart from other music major festivals due to its ability to curate unique, exclusive, and talented artist line-ups, and when saw the Phase 2 announcement for 2023, it definitely caught our attention. Featuring the best and rarest artists, plus speciality sets, not to mention over 50 headliners over just 3 days, Ultra makes its ticket value worth the cost. This year featured Swedish House Mafia, Hardwell, Carl Cox, Rezz, Eric Prydz: HOLO, Kx5, Tale Of Us, and David Guetta, amongst other industry legends. As a group who has been going to music festivals and in love with EDM for years, we finally would get to see many artists we had been trying to track down for a while.

In the weeks following this decision, we quickly realized how great of a decision going to Ultra was. Ultra continued announcing B2B sets like Jauz B2B Svdden Death, and Michael Bibi B2B Maceo Plex, which only kept adding to the festival’s value. UMF also generated fan buzz around unannounced sets, like Hardwell and Afrojack’s surprise sets at the intimate UMF Radio stage. Whilst Miami announced countless pool parties, afterparties, and even more artists for Music Week, all of this is being planned by some of the best events companies in the world and at legendary venues like Space, Mana Wynwood, and Factory Town. Ultra launched their new night-club M2 earlier this year on Miami Beach, featuring techno heavyweight bookings Carl Cox and Charlotte de Witte during Ultra and Music Week.

Upon arrival in Miami, and going to pick up our wristbands from the will-call, we were delightfully surprised to get a little box package with stickers, and a custom metal RESISTANCE brand, amongst some other goodies. When pulling up to Bayfront Park, we were amazed at the scale of the production. The Megastructure and Worldwide stages towered over us, whilst the Main Stage and Live Stages lie in the heart of the park. When we arrived for Day 1 of the festival, it was like being a kid in a candy store. I felt myself quite literally running around with excitement. I loved all of the sponsor activations like with Red Bull, or the Kandi-making station Ultra had on-site. The Main Stage was picture-perfect, with a city of skyscrapers behind us, water setting the backdrop, and palm trees overhead, not to mention the perfect weather. Ultra’s stages had insane sound production, and looked just as good visually, their screens drew and held our attention, having fireworks, lasers, fire, and smoke to blow the crowd’s minds. Pairing such incredible artists and speciality sets, like Eric Prydz: HOLO, with that level of production like with the Megastructure, provides for an insane experience.

On Day 1, I looked at the set schedule, and immediately realized the worst part of major music festivals, the conflicts. As the headliner sets approached, more and more artists I wanted to see began playing at the same time over different stages. I started being faced with difficult decisions over choosing between my favorite artists and EDM-genres. Torn, a spark was born within me, aligned with a certain-level of stubbornness refusing to miss any of my favorite artists. I became a Stage Hopper. I looked over the schedule, and made my plan of attack. If done correctly I should be able to see at least part of each set I want to. Although I would obviously rather see full sets for the full immersive experience, I felt a greater satisfaction knowing I would hopefully get to see almost everyone I was there for. I mean, isn’t that the point of major music festivals anyways? Determined to see all my favourite DJs and producers, I began quite literally hopping from stage to stage. My strategy was to try and catch the best parts of each set, aiming for moments with the best production and songs to maximize my time, which typically was at the beginning or end.

Stage Hoppers

My (rough) set schedule for Ultra 2023

Ultra sets itself apart from all other major music festivals for a couple reasons. The first is that the artists and production at Ultra is truly top-notch. Ultra also provides many European talents which fans are unlikely to see in North America otherwise, and does a fantastic job at highlighting genre diversity. At Ultra, you can catch House, Techno, Trance, Drum and Bass, Bass, Live music, and everything in between. There were also special guests during Ultra to keep fans hyped, like Coi Leray during David Guetta’s set and Ice Spice during Zedd, which had fans flocking from all stages when announced. Bayfront Park is huge, and a perfect venue for a music festival. There’s tons of room to dance, and vendors and diverse food options. Although the price-tag was definitely high at Ultra, I had the most memorable refreshing fruit smoothie from one of the vendors, and purchased countless 7$ empanadas over the course of the week due to their affordable cost. Ultra did a great job at offering vendors and washrooms spread out all around the park, as well as water stations for free fill-ups. Not to mention, Ultra’s portable-style washrooms were the nicest and cleanest I have ever seen at a festival. They also have an air-conditioned merchandise store. One of the best parts about Miami is that it’s hot during the day, and warm even after the sun sets, helping fans party until the morning. The food, culture, music, and people of this city are unmatched, and Miami is now one of my favourite cities in North America, and I can’t wait to go back.

With the first Phase of artists not revealed for Ultra Miami’s 2024 festival, Ultra’s dominance is clear as one of the best music festivals in the world. The 2024 line-up promises to deliver, including Calvin Harris making his return for Bayfront Park for the first time since 2013, alongside FISHER and Chris Lake bringing their Under Construction production. Svdden Death and Eptic are bringing their MASTERHAND set to UMF, bringing fans from all over to Bayfront. Black Tiger Sex Machine returns with another speciality set this year, performing the Animé Show. New appearances amongst the Phase 1 headliners this year include sensations Peggy Gou, Amelie Lens, Excision, and Zeds Dead. The returns of Vintage Culture and Oliver Heldens raise the question of potential B2B sets, or if we will be seeing solo artist performances, or even a Hi-Lo set this year in Phase 2. Gryffin excitedly will be returning after a thrilling Main Stage set this year, and Nora En Pure is debuting a Purified label stage takeover in 2024. Techno-renowned artists Artbat and Adriatique are playing in 2024. Artbat is listed with an exclusive Ultra set, while Adriatique and CamelPhat look like they will be participating in Miami Music Week shows. CamelPhat hosted their own Dark Matter pool party this year, prompting questions about upcoming MMW announcements. Will Afterlife be returning to Factory Town this year for MMW? Will we be seeing Tale of Us announced in Phase 2? Potentially play exclusively to Music Week? Or not at all? Slander and Tïesto’s non-exclusive sets hint at Miami Music Week’s surprises, with Slander potentially even bringing their Before Dawn techno-alias this year. Eric Prydz is playing exclusively at Ultra again, however not been announced yet to be returning with his HOLO production. This raises the question if we will see the coveted and unparalleled production return this year, or if Eric Prydz will be playing a regular set. Although there is no Carl Cox announced for Phase 1, hopefully, this Ultra Music Festival and Bayfront Park legend will be in Phase 2. Which artists would you like to see announced for Phase 2? Any B2B features or specialty sets?

You can purchase tickets for 2024 and find more information here.

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