How Ultra Music Festival and WMC Are Hurting Miami

Categories: Opinion

how_ultra_is_bad_for_miami.jpg
George Martinez/gmartnx.com
As the Dissident, J.J. Colagrande turns his critical eye on Miami culture. This week: how the annual mega-rave that is Ultra and WMC makes Miami a second-class city.

Miami is in the middle of a cultural and intellectual renaissance. We're finally evolving from a stale reputation leftover from the '80s. You know the rep -- that Scarface, Miami Vice, Cocaine Cowboys, sun-and-fun, Dave Barry look-at-how-weird-we-are cultural wasteland.

Well, that's not who we are anymore. Miami is growing up, and events such as Winter Music Conference and Ultra Music Festival hold us back.

Do we still want to be known as the home of the world's biggest rave? Do we need party people parachuting in with crates full of records and pockets full of powder? Doesn't this lifestyle reinforce everything locals are evolving away from?

Granted, WMC (started in 1985) and Ultra (started in 1999) have played a role in the development of Miami; they should get some respect for their part in our history. The events do contribute to our local economy, an estimated $100 million this year. But what if we tried to attract other business ventures to our downtown area, like technology or film sectors? Maybe there are conventions that stay away from Miami because of our reputation for being a fun-in-the-sun lost weekend filled with music, porn, and drugs.

We are, after all, in the middle of our peak tourist season. Take away WMC and Ultra and we'll be fine -- and our reputation will continue to solidify itself across the country and world.

Miami is not Ibiza. We are not Las Vegas. And if we continue to sell this city as such, we undermine the cultural strides we've made in recent years. How can Miami earn nationwide respectability from a cultural and intellectual standpoint with events like these, with the people they attract and the news they produce?

The Dissident says grow up. Not that a party isn't fun or healthy, but to constantly be defined as a place of decadence is stale, counterproductive, and knuckleheaded.

We're better than that.


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113 comments
freedomfighter
freedomfighter

You are a fucking dick!!  Working for this festival had bring me some serious $$$ So shut the fuck up,. Consider getting a new job, I dont even know how this newspaper hired you for writting.  Cultist you suck and your writting is horrible.... Go and sell some water in the street! Fucking idiot! 

LLMiami
LLMiami

You're either a total idiot who blindly feeds into stereotypes, or you've never been to Ultra.  It is nothing like the drug induced trance that ingnorant perople portray it as, and it sure as hell isn't as bad for this city as the hell hole South Beach becomes during Memorial Day Weekend.  The music and shows that go on during Ultra and WMC attract countless different cultures, and a vibe and energy of love and positivity.  Not to mention that every major city has there own version of this (NYC, Chicago, Philly, Vegas, LA, etc.)...do some homework next time before you crap on something you know nothing about.

allyv305
allyv305

Haha damn, UMF isn't THAT bad, man. Where are all the bad talk about Miami because of UMF? If anything, Miami being a party town AND an art and technology center are the reasons why people love miami. We go there to enjoy art, growth, and party on our off days! 

analise87
analise87

Kerouac & Bangs surely enjoyed life more than you ever will. 

Miami was founded by thinkers & free spirits. Those same free spirits flood to maimi during WMC to celebrate life, music, and our city. Its our generations woodstock. When ten thousand people are gathered, listening to one song, heartbeats in sync,  living in the present and spreading love & peace to all  - its a beautiful thing that you must expreience with an open mind to understand. 

Your quotations imply that those who enjoy life and a "Decadent" lifestyle will die young - then fuck it.. i'd rather die young. 

Why dont you write an article about how labor day hurts Miami Beach?!  I

Pinkpoui
Pinkpoui

Miami ever had culture?  When was that?

thatcathood
thatcathood

Hey Double J: Were you a hall monitor in middle school or have you just always been a bore? Don't dig Ultra/WMC, don't go, but don't gripe because you don't get it. And don't cite the likes of Bangs and Kerouac if you don't get them either. Yeah they're dead, but they lived, man. And you party pooper are sitting on the sidelines quoting them.

As for some Fest wrecking our rep, well, last I checked NY, Chi and LA all have mad bashes of their own and they seem to be thriving along just fine. Granted they've got a few years on us, as well as some serious cultural heavy, but any city that can gamut from  Zora Neale Hurston to Charles Willeford is a city that can stand to dance its ass off every once in awhile. 

Close your eyes, shut your mouth and place your palm against your chest... feel that? That's called the beat, brother. And when it stops, so do we.


Mechanesthesia
Mechanesthesia

"Do we need party people parachuting in with crates full of records and pockets full of powder? "
Just how old and out of touch are you?  This line says it all.  Your opinion obviously has the same validity as a paranoid soccer mom guarding their teens from reading Harry Potter books.

bliepelt
bliepelt

What a stupid thing to say! The SoBe beach raves in the 90s used to be fantastic and so is WMC and I am sure UMF is equally awesome.

NONE of these events are accompanied by any violence either.

Lots of other cities would be glad to have them. Leave it to a snowbird from New York to gripe about Happy People having a great time in Miami while leaving behind vast amounts of money.

monicavera008
monicavera008

As noted in the article, UMF indeed attracts massive swarms of party-goers from all over the world, which does contribute to our local economy in very significant ways, but also disrupts the flow of one of Miami's busiest areas, as well as the residents who live there. Excluding the blatant corruption of Miami's government officials and law enforcement, this huge boost in tourism revenue has the potential to fund some of the more intellectually and culturally relevant initiatives suggested in the article. That said, why do we have to choose between a huge party that comes around once a year, and the kinds of project that promote Miami's growth as a diverse city with a rich cultural, artistic, and intellectual heritage? As someone who was born and raised in Miami, and who has attentively observed the growth of our city (including useless or inequitable city-sanctioned initiatives - i.e. Marlin's Stadium, allowing Britto to become representative of a Miami "aesthetic" ugh) I am very proud of Miami's reputation as a party capital during WMC/MMC (or whatever), but I am also proud of our fine cultural institutions and projects, such as MoCA (N. Miami), the Tower Theatre, Viernes Culturales, Art Walk, Art Basel, etc. Promoting Miami as a cultural hub that comfortably hosts everyone from Molly-poppin' bass heads, to some of the most renowned names in music, art, literature, cuisine, and everything in between, is one of our city's most attractive qualities. Rather than assuming something like UMF is powerful enough to hinder Miami's development in terms of intellect and culture, it seems to me that it would be more useful to position its role in the city as one that enables the kind of cultural vision proposed in this article. Essentializing the tastes, preferences, and experiences of Ultra party-goers as radically opposite to cultural production is not only inaccurate, but it's exclusive. And if there's one thing Miami does NOT need more of, it's exclusive notions about what it means to be "culturally useful," so to speak. 

sotyan
sotyan

God, I just waste four minutes of my life reading this. who is the inside the box boring person that wrote this irrelevant article. Get a life and have some fun dude. You mad because it was a busy two weeks comme'on dude you have the rest of the year to have the peaceful "ideal" place to live. The "hurting Miami" part is really out of context, how they are hurting a place in where they spend a lot of $$$ and it means a bust of money for your local economy... get a life.

MiamiForLife
MiamiForLife

LOL ... U MAD BRO?  Did someone take your parking spot this weekend?... awwww...:'(

MiamiNative
MiamiNative

First and foremost Ultra and WMC are two different animals let's not get it confused. However [fundamentally] it is about the Music and this is necessary to the cultural growth of any community. Both events also contribute to our local economy by providing employment to many from talent, staff, contractors, venues, restaurants, hotels, and other businesses during this time indeed but how sustainable are any of these contributions? I think that rather than placing blame or getting into moral debates, the community should hold an open forum discussion about how to make these events smarter, safer, and more responsible. I think such conversations should serve to unite not divide and it should challenge all of us to want and ask more of our city to take pride in what we do and how we do it.

WMC & ULTRA events have managed to create an International platform for Miami and I believe a more constructive discussion should be about combining forces and ideas to capitalize on what's been created and expand on those opportunities so that the economic & cultural benefit is sustainable THROUGHOUT THE YEAR and it benefits the COMMUNITY as a whole not just a selected group. People in this city need to eat and people need creative outlets for self expression but it's got to be about doing it with integrity and connecting the dots so that the impact is positive and financially rewarding for everyone in the LONG TERM. 

I challenge Ultra & WMC organizers to take a step towards making these events more progressive from a Community stand point and to perhaps reach out via a town hall meeting; As it's been said " With great Power comes Great Responsibility" and I believe it's time we all grow up and look beyond our own individual needs and ideas.

trishthedish
trishthedish

I agree that UMF IS stunting Miami's growth and continuing to drag the city's reputation through the mud.  However, WMC includes events such as seminars, panels, workshops, parties, DJ spinoffs, and networking events for those in the industry or looking to learn more about the industry, which should be recognized as a beneficial cultural facet.  WMC is a benefit to the city as a whole by both immediately boosting revenues and long-term by making Miami an industry haven.  UMF is merely a reason to party.  Albeit probably a great time for party goers, I say as a city we should focus more on WMC and less on UMF.

miaboi
miaboi

have you heard of lester bangs? probably not


ooooh, so cool. like nobody else watched "almost famous"

if you want to act like some literary hipster please try and quote from sources not every 16 year old has already heard of.


sertnaccire1
sertnaccire1

How are they hurting Miami they are spending money fro when they get here and until they leave and every hotel and restarant and nightclub , Limo,taxi & van shuttle are full. Go to Doral or Kendall if you want a sleepy town Florida is a vacation destination and Miami is the best bring on the Casinos !

jdc3565
jdc3565

This guy is an economical genius, $100,000,000.00 to the local economy and he believes we would be better off hosting a technology fair? Why don't you, JJ organize a technology fair/convention and see how much revenue it brings to the local businesses. Then poll the local business community and see what they think. 

shop28
shop28

EDM is a HUGE part of the culture here in Miami and has played a MAJOR role in the development in the community.  You have no idea what you are talking about and I cannot believe they actually published this ignorant article >> LOL on you J.J. Colagrande

There are drugs in EVERY scene and unfortunately the people that do not care about the music have given others this impression and have ruined it for us that do care.

MIAMINT
MIAMINT

Erikace: Miami is not Vegas, its Miami! Secondly, learn how to spell when you are defending your opinion on "unemployment". Using words like WTF, double question marks, and exclamations is not the proper use of english. Run-on sentences galore, oh my. Erikace I would suggest you immediately enroll in an English and Florida history class. Your opinion sounds like you were born in the moshpit of Ultra. Miami was not founded for having a good time. 

MIAMINT
MIAMINT

Erikace: Miami is not Vegas, its Miami! Secondly, learn how to spell when you are defending your opinion on "unemployment". Using words like WTF, double question marks, and exclamations is not the proper use of english. Run-on sentences galore, oh my. Erikace I would suggest you immediately enroll in an English and Florida history class. Your opinion sounds like you were born in the moshpit of Ultra. Miami was not founded for having a good time. Maybe, just maybe, you have a brain of a mosquito. Good luck 

erikace
erikace

who is this hack and why is he writing for New Times? Miami is Vegas! Dont you know our history?! Miami was founded for haveing a good time! From the Rat Pack era to now! WTF miami is not vegas??!! Who got this clown to write for a respected publication like New Times? Because of these closed minded old school thinkers is why are city has the unemployement it has! Bring Casinos and parties to miami and let the party and money flow!

hammerfall10
hammerfall10

People fear that which they cannot understand. This article is just that.

ANAWANA
ANAWANA

AMEN THANK GOD SOMEONE HAS SOME DECENCY TO WRITE THIS THANK YOU JJ

HollowBloke
HollowBloke

how about cleaning up the corruption first,  then feeding and educating the poor. miami's needs an enema. south florida has always been party spot. we need the tourist dollars and that's why there is no state tax, thank you tourists please keep coming.

seanlevisman
seanlevisman

With all due respect, J.J. Colagrande, maybe you are the one that needs to grow up. Electronic dance music subculture has its place in a cosmopolitan and culturally mature society just as much as any other. Dance music has been a vital component of human societies since we were dancing to ceremonial tribal drum beats around fires 40,000 years ago, while tripping on entheogenic substances like peyote and ayahuasca. It's our oldest and most powerful communal rite. 

Was New York City in the 1970s-1980s not the hedonistic cocaine-fueled capital of disco music and clubs like Studio 54? Yet it was also the cultural capital of the world, setting the tone for art, music, film, literature and intellectualism for the rest of millennium and beyond. London throughout the 1990s was the rave capital of the world, with upwards of 2 million youths congregating each weekend to take ecstasy and dance to electronic dance music under motorways and in abandoned warehouses. Last I checked, London is still one of the cultural capitals of the world.

At its worst, electronic dance music culture attracts kids being kids, and doing what kids do -- taking drugs, getting rowdy and grooving to loud music. At it's best, it's one of the greatest manifestations of human collectiveness that history has seen. A Temporary Autonomous Zone (to quote the philosopher Hakim Bey) where there are no divisions and conflicts between social classes, races, religions, and sexual orientations, and where everyone is united by a shared love of music, dancing and collective elation.

When you ask "how can Miami earn nationwide respectability from a cultural and intellectual standpoint with events like [WMC and Ultra]" you ignore the fact that the are mutually exclusive. People can dance and be "decadent" as you call it, and still be intellectually and culturally productive members of society. I consider myself and the majority of my friends prime examples of this. 

Instead of laying blame on WMC and Ultra for supposedly hurting Miami's cultural and intellectual advancement, try to contribute some constructive ideas on how our cultural sectors can continue growing. There is room for everything in a cosmopolitan society.  

p.s. I am more than familiar with Lester Bangs, and have read most of his collected writings. Try not to patronize and underestimate your readers' intelligence and literacy. By doing so, you become the one perpetuating negative stereotypes of how culturally and intellectually vacuous Miami residents supposedly are.   

cpchester
cpchester topcommenter

I completely agree. Downtown Miami is just too small to absorb an event of this scale without letting it completely take over the entire area. I think this is a negative. Sure, it's fun for the partygoers, but it usurps a public park for an entire month (how is that legal?) and just reinforces Miami's reputation as an utterly unserious party mecca unbecoming of place trying to diversify and mature into real economy.

hamburger.hamburger
hamburger.hamburger

If you're really serious about improving Miami's image, you would focus on the real scourge of Miami... Urban Beach Week.  Not once have I read an article about Ultra or WMC and hesitated to come into the City, or invite my friends down for a weekend.  On the other hand, the images and stories that come out of Urban Beach Week each year continue to enforce the image of Miami as a lawless, crime-ridden, out of control glorified ghetto.  Ultra/WMC is a blessing that most other cities would die to host.  

omen305
omen305

Get over it: Ultra has its purpose.  Let the kids party! I went to the first 4 Ultras and moved on.  If you're in your 30's and still dressing like a candy raver you're doing it wrong.  God knows the city needs the millions from the outrageous parking and water and food sales.  In my day it was all about Paul van Dyk, today it's all about Skrillex.  The author is loud and wrong! 

riot.nrrrd.mail
riot.nrrrd.mail

If you go to Google Images, you'll find a photo of author J.J. Colagrande in a Descendents t-shirt.  And he has the gall to criticize other peoples' taste in music and events?  LMAO


AndreasBosch
AndreasBosch

For starters, I dont like raves and I have never been in any of these two events.  But this journalist comes across as so arrogant and pretentious.  She seems to hold the torch of truth in her hand, so she knows what arts and culture is the best, not to mention this "intellectual renaissance" (lol) Miami is going through.  If someone may be experiencing an intellectual renaissance I would suggest is her.  Miami has always been Miami and people's spirit has been moved by the arts of the music.  

Today, there are no better conventions than those two in the electronic music genre and to presume or argue that all people there have their pockets filled with powder, etc and continue all the way to knuckle-headed (boy she really killed me with that one), i just plain wrong and prejudiced.  Besides, if she only really knew where Miami is heading in the future, a mega-city with supertall skyscrapers and a mega-tourism industry, no one can be turned away.  Besides, Miami has always been a place for fun and she just need to learn to coexist (oh, I presume is a she).  

To finish my rant as this bleach, she mentions companies that may take the place of the ULTRA and WMC places.  Let me tell you something, the magnitude of this two events, if would take so many conventions, it would take years for Miami to book besides the indirect impact in all the night clubs and eateries.  My company is one that tried once to go for our annual yearly meeting down there and the prices were so ridiculously high that had to go to other luxury destinations that did not had the high season factored in.  

xxxraiderxxx
xxxraiderxxx

This is the most ignorantly written article I've read all year. Congratulations.

quantumcreep
quantumcreep

@thatcathood Amen to that. I think that there are far, far more things more damaging to our reputation than ten days of people coming from around the globe to celebrate one genre of music together. Ultra had its first drug casualty this year, and as terrible as that is, that's one death in 15 years. How many other well-established festivals could claim that statistic?

And are you seriously going to downplay a $100 million dollar boon? How many times has the city been ripped off by businessmen holding the banner of art or athletics? Once every decade or so, when that generation's burgeoning art scene is eviscerated for development.

sertnaccire1
sertnaccire1

Alot of parking spots got taking last week alot of people ANGRY sorry you had to walk a couple of blocks but it was only a week now everything will get back to normal

shop28
shop28

I think the SUPERBOWL is hurting Miami


cpchester
cpchester topcommenter

For the record, I think one weekend of Ultra is great. 2 is overkill. Glad to see it's back to one for 2014. 

GetReal
GetReal

An entire month?! It was two weekends this year, and one weekend every other. Get real.

peopleofultra
peopleofultra

@xxxraiderxxx Fabiola Santiago still works for the Miami Herald, it can always get more ignorant.  Just wait for her column on Ultra - I'm sure she'll say that "music is the debbil" like Bobby Boucher's momma from 'The Waterboy'

cpchester
cpchester topcommenter

@GetReal Yes an entire month. The park is closed during set-up and break down and then the 'repairs'. Try going there today.

GetReal
GetReal

I live across the street. They closed it a couple of DAYS before weekend 1. It hasn't even been 3 weeks. And like I said, before this year it was always one weekend. To say an entire month is a little ridiculous...no offense.

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