Last night Grammy nominees Skrillex, Diplo, Kaskade, Nero and Tommy Trash played a secret pre-Grammy party in Los Angeles at the AT&T Building. The bash featuring the cadre of respected DJs had a noble purpose: to raise awareness of DANCE (RED), Save Lives, the electronic music branch of Bono and Bobby Shriver’s RED charity that’s engaging businesses in the global fight against AIDS. It was an intimate evening to say the least: only 20 sets of four tickets to the private event were auctioned off via global charity auction site Charitybuzz.com. An auction featuring loads of memorabilia and the opportunity to meet artists from many genres ends tonight. If the auction is too rich for your blood (or you simply don’t fancy paying a few grand to hang out with Steven Tyler or Barry Manilow), then take the path of least resistance by purchasing the DANCE (RED), Save Lives Presented By Tiësto album.
At first observation Ultra Music Festival 2012 has more attendance for day one than I’ve ever in past years. Hordes of fans arrived earlier than previous years and to navigate the grounds and stake out good spots for some of your favorite artist’s stages.
On arrival to the main stage I caught the last few minutes of Tommy Trash to witness his head banging, hair flying, and a crowd already more familiar than me with his rise and fall sounds and changing beat to keep up in dance moves.
Clean cut Martin Solveig appeared in a Lacoste polo shirt and ’80s aerobics headband and played the lovestruck and catchy Rihanna’s “We Found Love” featuring Calvin Harris. How sweet. He eventually pitched some dubstep moments of sounds and bleeps and ended up Skrillex “Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites” and Knife Party “Internet Friends” which warns, “You blocked me on Facebook and now you’re going to die.” Such a turnaround from Solveig’s boy-next-door appearance but the crowd was tearing it up on these.
He eventually regrouped and played the crowd his singalong remix of Oasis’ “Wonderwall” and ended with his track that really helped put him on the map, the pop-styled (and more neighborly) “Hello” featuring Dragonette.
Veteran electronic dance music artists New Order played a live stage set and announced, “Hello Miami. It’s been a while since we’ve been here; it’s good to be back.” They went on to play some of their classics that were the household names of the club scene throughout the ’80s yet still hold strong today including “Regret” and “Blue Monday.”
Meandering stage-to-stage and tent-to-tent I would’ve like to had the opportunity to stop at Benny Benassi’s performance especially when I believe that’s where “Cinema” was resonating from but I was on a mad dash to catch Porter Robinson at the UMF Korea stage, and I lost my bearings.
I caught the end of the set of teenage pop/house producer Madeon and for someone who has only been in the industry for a relatively short while he sure knows already how to command a stage and class it up as well. He was rocking out all while sporting a dinner jacket even though it was probably at least 85 degrees in that tent! He gets points for that, for his artistic DJ skills and funked up set, for his electro-house hit “Icarus,” for his Blur “Song 2” Madeon remix that gave the crowd an opportunity to yell, “Woo hoo!” at cued moments, and for the fact that he really is that guy who’s claim to fame is that he mixed an impressive 39 songs into one. He topped off his set with a little drum ‘n’ bass.
Porter Robinson followed with a string of greats that are almost too vast to name from the Knife Party remix of his own “Unison,” Tiësto “Maximal Crazy,” Skrillex “Summit,” and Sam Worsley “Apathy,” to Knife Party “Internet Friends,” Skrillex “Bangarang,” and Temple One “Love The Fear” Tom Fall remix. Porter’s was one of the most stellar sets of the day but no surprise there, his sets are always top notch.
Across the festival grounds Afrojack was finishing his set with the Afrojack and Shermanology track “Can’t Stop Me Now.”
No doubt the crowd highlight of the night came from the highly anticipated and the highly humble Mr. Sonny Moore better known as Skrillex. When an offstage announcer came over the PA stating, “The three-time Grammy Award winner, the one, the only, Skrillex,” it certainly had nice ring to it. It also helps when the stage backdrop hosts a countdown of minutes until your appearance, and the ticker gets to 10, as the screams of the crowd as far as the eye could see is deafening, and the ascending bass from the walls of speakers flanking the stage compete with the deafening screams, it’s definitely going to be something pretty impressive. And the fact that you get to play your set in an over-sized Delorean-looking DJ deck set up right in the middle of the already massive stage surrounded by hundreds of fluctuating streams of lights. It’s an ultimate (adult) kid-in-a-candy store moment and Skrillex gets to be that kid. He played a plethora of favorites including his own Grammy Award winning “Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites,” Avici “Levels,” and his own “Reptile’s Theme” and “Bangarang.”
Skrillex ended his set with Benny Benassi’s lovely “Cinema” Skrillex remix that even had Paris Hilton singing along from beginning to end from her VIP section perched high on the sidestage surrounded by her current BFF Afrojack on one side and DJ Dirty South on the other. She’s the luckiest girl I (don’t) know. The dubstep “Cinema” was the perfect energized ending that included explosions of steamers, confetti, and cryogenics.
When I had literally a minute or two at the backstage UMF Korea tent with Skrillex I gave him props for his set, his production skills, and his artistic endeavors. I asked him if he could even view how far back his Ultra crowd tonight spanned. He shyly shrugged as he took a swig of his drink. When I struggled to give him an accurate, yet somewhat metaphoric description I came up with, “From here to South Beach!” Well, that made him laugh in his drink a bit and he thanked me. Seriously, I don’t recall ever seeing fans that thick for a single artist in the history of Ultra.
With the blaring sounds of “Big Bad Wolf,” another current festival favorite “Kick Out The Epic Mother Fucker, and “White Noise Red Meat” blaring from the still overflowing UMF Korea tent manned by Dada Life, there wasn’t a shred of evidence that this event was starting to wind down any time soon.
And to think, this is just the first of three Ultra Music Festival days.
Images by Kathy Vitkus