Live Report: Ultra Music Festival – Miami

In an age where nearly everyone in music is complaining about not making money, perhaps live shows will once again become a lucrative outlet.  We weren’t lucky enough to attend the Ultra Music Festival in Miami a few days ago, but fortunately, we had a good friend of the site who was there to witness the highlights and bring us back a few notes.  Ticket prices were around 100 bucks a night and Ultra Music Festival claims that 2009 was their biggest year yet.  Above is a snippet of The Prodigy and after the jump, read a short synop about the other acts.  

So this past weekend I flew into Miami to attend the Winter Music Conference and the eleventh installment of the Ultra Music Festival in Bicentennial Park.  If you can stomach large-scale festivals, electronic music, and moms and dads wearing goth-raver gear, you would have a gay old time.  If not, you would more than likely barf a lot. I was only present on Saturday (it’s a two day festival) so I missed half of the acts, but of the sets I witnessed, here are a few of the ups and downs.

Crystal Castles
Despite having one of the worst live vocalists in modern history, these blippy, 8-bit inspired art rockers pulled off an intense and unique performance.  As expected, their sound was noisy, chaotic and refreshingly weird.  Surprisingly, it was also heavy as fuck, an element boosted by the addition of a live drummer and an extra layer of feedback.      

Boyz Noise
Not to blaspheme the sacred stoic tradition of the Disc Jockey but when you’re performing to tens of thousands of drugged out festival-goers you should consider stepping up your live game just a little bit.   Like, at least wear a funny hat or something. This dude just stood there and switched records like he was DJ’ing his cousins Bat Mitzvah, which is a shame because his music sounds like that one time Godzilla fought Mothra.

The Prodigy
Mind: Blown.  These guys slaughtered it from every angle.  Before he even said a word, front-maniac Keith Flint (the guy who sang on “Firestarter”) smashed a crane-controlled camera with his mic.  Everything that followed was just as extremely ruthless and cruel.  They played like a Metal band, with a drummer and an axe-shattering guitarist.  The sound was epic and even the new stuff eradicated.  Neither the band nor the audience stopped dancing from start to finish.

Simian Mobile Disco
In a genre dominated by rookies and plug-ins, SMD are O.G. audio perfectionists. Every sample, loop, lead, beep and squelch is immaculately placed, equalized, compressed, and modified–apparently on the fly.  That may sound pretentious on paper but it sounds pristine in person.   Couple that with a brilliant light show and the visual of them looping around a table of cables and vintage modular synths and you’ve got a winner.

Cut Copy
This was sort of a snooze-fest but what are you going to do?  It’s Cut Copy; they write solid new wave head-bobbers.  Definitely better than Hot Chip but nothing worth paying for.  

I saw about 14 seconds of this guy’s set but he was wearing a gigantic mouse mask and there was about seven bajillion people flipping out so he must be doing something right.

-John Barclay