Do you smell that? That, my friends, is the unadulterated aroma of festival season around the corner. Flowers are blooming, weather is warming and DJs are preparing monster tracks for everyone to enjoy for months to come; it’s like Christmastime for music lovers. But whether you’re most excited for Coachella, EDC or Bonnaroo, it’s impossible to deny the enormity that is Miami Music Week, with the major attraction of the week obviously being Ultra Music Festival. Having been around since 1999, Ultra sure knows how to please the crowd. From the location on Biscayne Boulevard to the magnitude of DJs playing every year, Ultra Miami continues the fight to be one of the best dance music festivals in the world.
With so many fantastic acts in one place in such a short span of time, picking who to see and who to sacrifice can definitely be overwhelming. Fortunately, Ultra has been kind enough to release set times in advances so fans can plan the weekend without too much stress. Don’t worry though, if the pressure is still too much for you I’ve come up with a smaller list of artists who I can guarantee from personal experience (or rumours) to be fantastic live DJs.
Author’s Note: This list is extremely biased to my own personal preferences but is probably still the best schedule for the weekend possible. Also, set times are approximate.
4:00pm – Resistance Stage — Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs (DJ Set)
4:45pm – Main Stage — 3LAU
5:00pm – Ultra Korea — Grandtheft
5:00pm – UMF Radio — Henrik B
5:35pm – Main Stage — Oliver Heldens
6:40pm – Main Stage — Dash Berlin
~ Food Break ~
7:45pm – Main Stage — Afrojack
8:00pm – UMF Radio — Syn Cole
8:50pm – Main Stage — Alesso
9:30pm – Live Stage — Chromeo
9:55pm – Main Stage — Avicii
10:00pm – Carl Cox & Friends — Carl Cox
11:00pm – Ultra Korea — Zeds Dead
11:00pm – Main Stage — Tiesto
11:00pm – Stage 7 — Alvaro
Starting off with a relatively mellow DJ set from T.E.E.D. is the perfect way to wait for the rest of your friends while they get through the gate. When you’re satisfied with at least 40% of your group gaining entry, head to 3LAU and you will not be disappointed — plus heading to the main stage this early will guarantee a good spot. Now comes a decision, trap or upbeat-mainstream-dance? If trap is your end goal, you’ll be heading to Grandtheft, otherwise Henrik B. I’ve personally seen Grandtheft twice in small venues with low production value and can vouch for his ability to get the crowd dancing; imagine what he can do with Ultra size production value. After that, I’d personally head to the main stage for back-to-back sets by Oliver Heldens and Dash Berlin. The difference in their styles will promise to keep you entertained for the entirety of their playing, plus one represents Tiesto and the other Armin. Then, we’re taking a small break for food and beverages — might be a good time to check in with your missing friends as well.
After dinner it’s mostly a mainstream evening but be sure not to miss Alesso even if that’s not your favourite scene because the dude is absolutely amazing live. If you’re satisfied with having said you’ve seen him, go check out Chromeo. If not, stay at the main stage for Avicii.
Now, here’s where it gets interesting; Avicii or Carl Cox? The first time I saw Avicii he was absolutely amazing and blew my mind, the second time however, he wasn’t worth the money. When faced with the challenge of Avicii vs. Carl Cox I’d suggest heading to the main stage first to access. If Avicii is in the zone most definitely stay put, but if he seems a little off don’t miss the chance to see one of the founding fathers of EDM.
Finally, head to Zeds Dead (shoutout to a Canadian act other than Deadmau5 for getting a closing bill spot) if don’t like mainstream for the majority of the closer. If you’re into fireworks and special effects, go catch the last 15 minutes of Tiesto. If you’re somewhere in the middle I’d suggest Alvaro; more mainstream than Zeds Dead but doesn’t have the baggage of being Tiesto.
1:00pm – Ultra Japan — Cash Cash
1:30pm – Main Stage — Vicetone
4:00pm – Ultra Japan — Tommy Trash
4:30pm – Main Stage — W&W
5:00pm – Ultra Japan — Galantis
~ Food Break ~
6:50pm – Live Stage — Kiesza
8:10pm – Live Stage — Big Gigantic
9:00pm – Ultra Japan — Boys Noize
9:55pm – Main Stage — Hardwell
10:30pm – Carl Cox & Friends — Carl Cox
11:00pm – Main Stage — Axwell ^ Ingrosso
Get familiar with the Ultra Worldwide Stage, the Live Stage and the Main Stage as most of my favoured acts are playing one of three stages on Saturday. Cash Cash and Vicetone are both incredibly upbeat-singalong-anthem producers and that is sure to show in their sets. You’ll be singing your heart out before your less-committed friends roll out of bed. I’ve left a gap until 4pm incase you are one of those less-committed friends who would rather lounge by the hotel pool sipping rum punch. At 4pm the action picks back up with Tommy Trash who will serve as a filler until W&W take the stage. Last year W&W had an absolute killer set on the main stage and I expect this year’s to be even better. Things get really interesting when the Live Stage takes off with Kiesza and Big Gigantic; who says EDM isn’t real music because they don’t play instruments? At 9pm, we’re picking Boys Noize over Armin Van Buuren because their lives sets are known to be fantastic and Armin is playing again on Sunday. Obviously we’re not going to miss Hardwell but if you elected to skip Carl Cox the previous night I’d seriously suggest checking him out Saturday.
We’re closing the night with Axwell / Ingrosso who are playing at the same festival as Steve Angello for the first time since their final show at Ultra 2013. Also, the three were seen having lunch together last week. Also, last year the Ultra Main Stage shared a resemblance to the Swedish House Mafia Dot Spot logo. ALSO, they’re closing over the current #1 DJ in the world. Can you tell it’s taking all of my willpower not to write 5,000 words about the conspiracy of their potential reunion?
1:30pm – Main Stage — Matthew Koma
3:00pm – UMF Radio — Milo & Otis
3:30pm – Main Stage — Robin Schulz
4:00pm – Resistance Stage — Pete Tong
5:40pm – Main Stage — Nicky Romero
~ Food Break ~
7:00pm – A Stage of Trance — Eric Prydz
7:50pm – Main Stage — Steve Angello
8:30pm – A State of Trance — Armin Van Buuren
10:00pm – Main Stage — Skrillex
10:00pm – Live Stage — Kygo
Sunday is relatively straightforward compared to other days. Heading to Matthew Koma first will guarantee your moods are lifted and hangovers cured because I swear this guy could make mimes sing along. If you’re into trap, it’s Milo and Otis next but otherwise stay at the Main Stage for Robin Schulz. Regardless of your music preferences you’ll go see Pete Tong because he’s a legend and missing him is blasphemy. Afterwards, check out Nicky Romero who is known for three things: wearing google glasses, looking like a lesbian and producing Toulouse.
After a break for dinner and confirming your friends are still missing, Eric Prydz is going to kick off the nightfall. Hopefully we’ll have seen Steve Angello in a Swedish House Mafia reunion the night before but if not make your way to the Main Stage. Satisfied with almost having seen SHM, you can go back to A State of Trance to see Armin. Finally, everyone will be closing the night with up-and-comer Kygo who’s untitled track has been labelled the official anthem of UMF 2015.
[Header image via Youtube]