Ultra 2014: Why the Live Music Lineup Is a Big Improvement

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M.I.A.

"Who do you think we should book?"

It's a question that Ultra Music Festival founder Russell Faibisch asked me last year when I interviewed him for a feature about the iconic fest.

My answer: "I can't believe M.I.A. has never performed at Ultra."

Yesterday, I got my wish and more!

See also: Ultra 2014 Announces Phase One Lineup: Avicii, Diplo, M.I.A., MGMT, 101 Others

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Photo by Ian Witlen
New Order, playing Ultra's live stage in 2012.

I've always been a fan of Ultra's live stage. (It's gone through many incarnations. Remember when it was called the "dance rock arena"?)

While the main stage pushes big headliners and an insane amount of wattage, the live stage is the true measure of Ultra's feel for the pulse of contemporary music. Acts have ranged from electronic acts to rock bands to, lately, hip-hop acts. (I do think there is a place for hip-hop at Ultra, but more Weeknd and less Snoop Dogg, please.) The stage usually hosts an act that's contributed immensely to the genre (see New Order and Kraftwerk) while showcasing acts with an established following, along with up-and-comers.

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Photo by Ian Witlen
Kraftwerk at Ultra 2012.

Last year, though, was an odd one for the live stage. I couldn't help but notice that the stage failed to attract Ultra attendees through both weekends. I thought to myself that maybe Ultra had finally jump the shark. Kids no longer had any respect for legacy acts or artists who are trying to redefine what the words electronic music mean. Instead, today's ravers are looking for the next drop and a hit of molly. I left the festival feeling a little depressed about the state of the scene.

But I later came to the conclusion that there were a few problems that could have been avoided, including odd set times and sound bleed.

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Photo by George Martinez
Boys Noize, raging on the live stage in 2013.

And it wasn't that the 2013 lineup was subpar. Crystal Castles, Nicolas Jaar, Hot Chip, Sleigh Bells, Azealia Banks, and others are all great musicians who have achieved critical acclaim, but the poor planning kind of marred the whole experience.

Seriously, how do you put Nicolas Jaar against Swedish House Mafia and expect him to draw a crowd? Only a few acts, like Major Lazer and Boys Noize, were able to buck the trend.

See also: Ultra 2013: Boys Noize, Crystal Castles, and Nicolas Jaar Live!

My Voice Nation Help
31 comments
Jesse Reyes
Jesse Reyes

^^^Those are all good live artist .. To make a point you strictly just should have said riff raff-_-

Ryan Joseph
Ryan Joseph

Your gonna sit there and tell me that Pusha T, Waka Flocka, and M.I.A. are better choices than The Chemical Brothers, The Prodigy, and Underworld for Ultra?

Germs Nstuff
Germs Nstuff

For $500 tickets, they better resurrect Scott Hardkiss

Damian Garcia Rivera
Damian Garcia Rivera

Susy Castillo What do you think? Anytime you add variety I'm about it. And MIA is the shiiiit

Ben Foerster
Ben Foerster

They need to bring back The Bloody Beetroots to the Live Stage; their set Weekend 2 last year was one of the Top 3 sets of the weekend. They absolutely killed it.

Courtney Miles
Courtney Miles

wait MIA?! OMG I think I have to spend the money just for that, you know cause she's so into the electronic music industry*dripping with sarcasm* LOL so much for the "World's Premiere ELECTRONIC Music Event"

gwagen55
gwagen55

people in miami love to be extorted 

Christy McFizziwig
Christy McFizziwig

Barbara Boulanger-Tysenn Troy Tysenn Damian McFizziwig what do you think?

Frank Castle
Frank Castle

there are better festivals from europe now in the states, ultra is too expensive and your forced to go for 3 days straight, no thank you

Mo Perlman
Mo Perlman

I'm sorry. I don't like M.I.A. at all. Why is she even famous? Her voice sucks. Her music isn't catchy, or fun. Its just annoying to the third power.

Mark Erdman
Mark Erdman

its official, Moonboots/French Express have a grandmother who lives in Miami or something, they love coming back here

Bryan Mello
Bryan Mello

buncha fried pookied out fuckin zombies

Monica Talavera
Monica Talavera

The line up is looking good. I am def excited to see MIA and MGMT.

Alex LaPorta
Alex LaPorta

Fuck Ultra. Trying to lure me with my favorite artists who never play in Miami.

Joey Poy
Joey Poy

fucking idiots all of you

DerekDance
DerekDance

Comments like these are so sad and un plur. Ultra has always had diverse lineups like Cure, Prodigy and Nas. We should all be open minded and try new music aside from enjoying the big variety of favs we love like ASOT and Carls tent. Narrow minded people really ruin the scene lately :(

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