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  Ultra 3 3.21.01
Story and photos by Lei Vishnu

Venue: South Beach - Miami, FL

Lei VishnuMany of the top electronic music performers convened in Miami for the annual week long Winter Music Conference. It was slated as the Mecca of dance music and music devotees from all over the country were making plans to trek to their "promise land." I knew it would not be feasible for me to go for the entire week, however I could not pass up the opportunity to attend Ultra, the "massive" happening in Miami during WMC. The line up was incredible with almost every genre being represented by the top DJ's in the respective areas, nearly 100 performers total. Once I got over my initial shock of the outstanding talent, I put the flyer up on my refrigerator so that everyday I could get more excited about all the talent that I soon would be experiencing. Having the flyer posted also helped me to work out a strategy for the night, since there was going to be 10 "entertainment arenas" and 7 dance tents.

A group of my friends and I all rented a minivan to make the trip down to Miami. The drive was not that bad, but then again I was not driving! In total we were drove 2 hours for each hour we were at the event. We arrived into Miami at noon on Saturday right when doors opened. The street were jam packed already and it was very difficult to find parking close with out paying $20 or more. I have been to Miami before and let me just say that the crowd filling the streets looked a lot different. There were license plates from all over the place (some as far as Michigan, a 24 hour drive) and people with all sorts of party clothes styles all smiling and ready to party. It was a gorgeous day and was shaping up to be a perfect day for an outside party right on the waterfront.

Ultra performerWe used to purchase our tickets and were very impressed with the ease of the transaction. The line to retrieve the tickets was fairly short and divided by last names to ensure a speedy transaction. I was very happy to see that they were very strict in following the rules of requiring both a picture ID and the credit card used to guard against fraud.

The first thing we did was to walk around and search out all of the arenas. The place was so massive that even with a map we had a hard time locating all the stages. It was right against the bay front with a spectacular fountain in the middle of the venue. It ended up that one entire stage was not set up, or possibly we could not find it. We asked a bunch of people but it seemed the stage with Donald Glaude, Doc Martin, DJ Dan and others (I believe it was called the All American Tent) was never set up due to some difficulties. I was disappointed with the way this was handled because there was no set signs to let partygoers know the stage had been cancelled. Additionally, there were several DJ's that were on the initial flyer but not on the time slot sheet. In particular, Ed Rush and Optical whom I was really looking forward to since they did not make it to Liquefied Universe back in October.

Atlanta revelersI cannot remember every set of every DJ that I saw during the day but I will provide the highlights of my experience. I spent the first half of the day mostly wandering between the two drum and bass tents (Drum and Bass Arena and Formation Records). The Formation tent, which was much smaller and off the beaten path seemed to be the DnB place to be, whereas the actual Drum and Bass Arena tent was not shaded and had a difficult time keeping the intensity. DJ SS was the first DJ I watched at the Formation tent, and he was not even on the original flyer. Nonetheless he got the crowd going from jump. I love to see a DJ smiling and giving back to the crowd and SS set the tone for the rest of the performers for the rest of the night. In between dropping dirty pounding bass lines all the DJ's at that tent were signing autographs and giving away CDs. It was a wonderfully intimate area!

Warren G and SS The MC's for this area were laying it down as well, in particular Skibadee, Chickaboo and Warren Gee. I had never heard of Warren Gee before but he was simply amazing, with his smooth voice and mad skills I could not get enough. He and Skibadee went back and forth getting the crowd hyped up. SS was followed by John B, and then a tag team between Wildchild and Rap. It was definitely a power packed lineup and every time I returned to this tent it seemed I would run into more and more ATL heads. Jumpin Jack Frost was one of the last performers of the night and he rapped things up in style. His tracks were deep and hard forcing even the most tired people to move around. It was kind of amusing though because he had his eyes almost completely shut throughout his set. Even with his eyes closed he put on a memorable performance.

MC Chickaboo and friend Other notable performances included Aphrodite and Andy C at the Drum and Bass Arena stage. They brought in the two largest crowds of the day for that tent. Both sets had people dancing like crazy causing a big dust cloud right by the stage. I made a stop at the UFO tent to catch some of Prophecy. They were putting on a good show with Shannon representing with her signature wings and boys superman underwear. I was not to delighted with Oakenfold, although some of his difficulties were from the wind supposedly blowing his record. I saw him in ATL and it seemed he played the same unenthusiastic anthem filled set both times. The one plus of his set was there were two beautiful women dancing around on stage in these exotic costumes, but they weren't even enough to keep me at the stage for his whole set. Paul Van Dyk did impress me with his crowd presence and track selection. He managed to have some crowd interaction despite being on the main stage and seemed to choose his records wisely to make his performance an overall experience. The last notable performance was Bad Company, who surprisingly performed on the main stage. They were well received by what seemed to have been a mostly trance-minded audience. It was my first time seeing them and I, like most everyone else around, could not help but be moved by their deep and dark set that would just not stop. They definitely rinsed the entire main stage audience in true drum and bass fashion.

Overall, this event seemed to have gone off with out any major problems other than the cancelled tents. It seemed at first like they were going to be faced with a large problem of dehydration due to the astronomic price of $5 per bottle for water, but soon people found the hidden water fountains and bathroom faucets. There were an estimated 29,000 people in attendance with few overdoses and less than 40 arrests. The media was there in full effect trying to capture every possible piece of rave drama but I think the crowd did a good job of being respectful and responsible. I can't wait until next year to see how they can outdo themselves.

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