Ultra 2013: Deadmau5 Proves He's a Real Person, Rejects the Easy Headliner Gimmicks

Via statigr.am/jasonmallia
How quickly some stars have ascended in the EDM boom. Just a few years ago, in 2009, Toronto-based producer Deadmau5 could be found at Ultra Music Festival on the live stage, essentially opening up for Simian Mobile Disco. Last night, though, trying to get the main stage to witness his fest-closing set was an exercise in carefully ignoring claustrophobia.

Tens of thousands of revelers squished body to body in the surrounding field, sharing sweat and vibes as they cheered, recorded, and Instagram-ed Joel Zimmerman's every move. Seriously, Deadmau5 could have showed up and played a polka and kids would have still gone insane, by their level of rapt, devout attentiveness.

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Via statigr.am/samstahgram

So what inspires this devotion? Well, a lot of it seems to be that Deadmau5 comes off as a real person -- despite that Mau5 head! -- instead of taking on that demi-god persona that so many other main-stage DJs seem to like. You won't find him doing that worship-style arm-raise move or seeming to pat himself on the back. Instead, last night, there were actually a lot of awkward, confusing shuffles around the stage. Deadmau5, maybe he's really a slightly geeky computer nerd, like many of us!

But there's also the music, of course, which boasts big, ridiculous melodies, and the occasional anthemic lyric while still managing to hold on to some semblance of subtlety. As a festival performer, in fact, he even seems to revel in bucking the trend toward fist-pumper after fist-pumper.

Deadmau5 has admitted he's not a DJ, and he's said, in the past, that "of course he just presses play," because the point is for fans to hear the tracks in a loud, massive communal setting. Yet last night, there was still some of a proper DJ's structure to the set. It would have been easy for him to come out with the obvious wallop of "Strobe" or another mega-hit, but instead he started things off very techy. And for him, the lead-in was even relatively minimal. The focus was not on synth flourishes as much as the rhythms and a slow burn.

In fact, it proceeded that way throughout the set. For every supereasy part to latch onto, like the vocal-heavy "Raise Your Weapon" or the hit "Sometimes Things Get, Whatever," there were longer, carefully building parts. Monitoring the Twitter conversation, there were fans who dubbed this boring, but it was a slick move on the artist's part.

A lot of dance culture is based around keeping a relatively long attention span for a DJ (or producer) to do proper work. And perhaps by avoiding a total hit parade, Zimmerman is trying to steer things, ever so slightly, back there.

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Bayfront Park

301 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, FL

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Klipsch Amphitheater at Bayfront Park

301 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, FL

Category: Music

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PROTIP: Train wrecks are trolls in disguise.


I guess we can all ignore the fact that he's been playing the same set for years? Only adding a new song here and there? I think professional griefers and channel 42 was the only addition from last time he was at Ultra. He has been my number 1 fave DJ for years but he is slipping. It's an awesome show if you've never seen him before, but I see him literally every time he's in Miami and it's the same set. At least the other DJs will throw in a surprise that makes you go WOW WHAT WAS THAT!!? I could pretty much tell you his exact play list before he even got on stage. It was disappointing to those hoping to hear something new from the mau5!!!! :( 


@kristyam89 That's too bad! I caught only a few minutes of his last performance at Ultra because I was reviewing an act on the live stage at the same time that year. Thanks for reading.

Justin Ryan
Justin Ryan

This article is spot-on. I am not a Deadmau5 music fan but I completely changed my opinion after last night's performance. He played a set with intelligent program that the typical 'mass' consumer would not be drawn to..... but they did because he's a hit-maker. He introduced alot of kids to something fresh last night. Yes, it was baby steps, but have to give credit where credit is due.


@Justin Ryan Yeah, I think we agree -- this was my point entirely. I appreciate what he's trying to do, if ever so subtly.


I don't think I can criticize him after seeing him live last night.  The writer hit this spot on and he delivered a "performance", not a set.  Kudos for keeping it real and spot on set programming.  Give credit where credit is due.....


A demi god?? Raising your arms & enjoying the music makes you a demi god?? I rather be considered a demi god by enjoying the music&  feeling the vibes on stage than a straight up fucking asshole who is nothing but a constant complainer & goes out of his way to bash anyone who doesn't have the same views as him. Nice ass kissing on this post. 

ArielleCastillo like.author.displayName 1 Like

@getrealHmmm... Deadmau5 can be a kinda controversial figure among the superstar DJs, I guess, but the world of mainstream dance music needs someone playing devil's advocate sometimes. Sure, he complains about issues in "EDM" a lot, but he very often tells it like it is. Difference of opinion about that, I suppose. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. 

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