In Defense of Ultra Music Festival
Photo by George Martinez
Is everyone done with the pearl clutching in regards to Ultra Music Festival?
I get it -- EDM is Satan in musical form. And if you'd believe Mayor Tomás Regalado and City Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, Ultra is the ninth circle of Hell.
The reality is Ultra deserves some credit, and while there are some problems that need to be addressed, city leaders shouldn't make such irresponsible statements -- like Regalado who said, "I think we should not have Ultra next year here" -- before a thorough investigation has been completed into the trampling of security guard Erica Mack.
See also: Ultra 2014's Ten Best Moments
Photo by George Martinez
"If you want to say Ultra has outgrown the space [at Bayfront Park], that's a valid argument, but to say its overstayed its welcome is a slap in the face," says Cocaine Cowboy filmmaker Billy Corben, who's been vocal in his opposition to the city's handling of Ultra, both when speaking to the Miami Herald and Crossfade earlier this week.
He admits to never attending the festival. But he says politicians like Regalado and Sarnoff are "out of touch with the new voting bloc."
"The police chief [Manuel Orosa] is the only voice of reason. He hit all the right points when he held that press conference."
Although perhaps a bit inflated, Ultra reports "the economic impact generated from the six day event in 2013 was over $223 million." (Ultra was held over two weekends last year, and the source of that data is an independent review by Washington Economics Group, commissioned by the festival. It's also difficult to actually calculate the impact of Ultra alone when there's Winter Music Conference and tons of special events going on the entire week.) According to the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, the hotel occupancy rate during March 2013 was 89.1 percent while the yearly average was 79.9 percent. It's safe to say Ultra probably has something to do with that.
"It's important because it serves as a catalyst to bring people to Miami," says Aramis Lorie, operating partner of downtown nightclub Grand Central. "It also brings revenue to the city and area businesses."
There is no argument that what happened to security guard Erica Mack last week is inexcusable. But Ultra tried to shift the blame exclusively to the perpetrators, saying in a press release, "the criminal acts of the gate crashers resulted in critically injuring one of our security guards, Erica Mack."
But that doesn't appear to be entirely the case. Chief Orosa claims the department warned the festival that the area would be a problem and it seems as though that advice was ignored. That doesn't mean Ultra is solely to blame -- because the people who decided that getting into Ultra illegally was worth more than Mack's life were also wrong.
Still, this incident isn't reason enough to pull the plug on Ultra.
Long before downtown Miami was filled with condos and residents, Ultra was there, showcasing the city to the entire world. It turned a simple one-day beach party into a festival that is considered one of the best in North America and the unofficial kickoff to the U.S. music festival season, which includes Coachella, Bonnaroo, Sasquatch!, Outside Lands, and Lollapalooza.
See also: Ultra 2014's Ten Worst Moments