Let's get something straight from the get go, I wasn't actually in attendance at this year's Ultra Music Festival in Miami. But thanks to the magic of the internet, the UMF TV, Youtube, and Soundcloud I have been able to listen to more live sets at home than I would have attending all 3 days. This week has been all about listening to new music and searching for the talent that will propel this industry forward. So without further ado, here are EDM Canada's top 5 sets from this year's Ultra Music Festival, enjoy:
#5. Dillon Francis
Dillon Francis invoked what the Ultra Music Festival and the Miami Music Week is really about, showcasing brand new music. With a new album on the way, Dillon treated Ultra fans to a few new IDs and originals that are indicative of him returning to his moombahton sound which makes me very happy.
#4. Jack U (Skrillex & Diplo)
The Jack U duo of Skrillex and Diplo was definitely one of the most anticipated acts of the Ultra Music Festival. To hear these two massive acts coming together to form a new super group is not something to be underplayed, as expectations went through the roof weeks before the festival even began. Thankfully when Jack U took the mainstage, they played a killer set filled with a proper fusion of OWSLA and Mad Decent tunes. Their set was filled with special remixes, IDs, edits, a mashup, and a VIP that made this first big stage outing for Jack U a huge success.
In my opinion Alesso took the prize for the best big room live set from Ultra 2014. That is no small feat considering how many big room DJs played on the mainstage during all 3 days of the Ultra Music Festival. How did he do it you ask? By a combination of showcasing well received new tracks and crafting a set that progressively built up into a frenzied hysteria by the time the last track dropped. Judging from the crowd reaction alone, his new tracks with One Republic's Ryan Tedder and his new one with Noonie Bao, are going to be real winners in 2014. In a sea of sameness and me too-ism within the big room world, Alesso continues to march to the beat of his own drum.
Who would have thought that a last minute replacement of Avicii by Deadmau5 on the mainstage would ultimately turn out to be one of the major highlights of Ultra? Not me. But Deadmau5 impressed me this year for playing such a cohesive set that made me wonder if Joel is actually interested in going beyond simply "pressing play" in 2014. Besides the trolling (which for the record I found to be highly amusing and all in good fun), Deadmau5 managed to craft a set that showcased his recent tracks while adding an extra flair to his live performance that goes beyond his prior shows.
Rarely do you get to see a performance when a single show attempts to redefine the paradigm of what it is like to experience a live set from a mega EDM festival like Ultra. When Armin Van Buuren's Gaia project took the stage on the closing night of Ultra, it blew everyone away. One of the surprises was that there were actually two people (second person widely thought of being Benno De Goeij) on the stage, and another was how Armin and Benno dressed as they concealed themselves in heavy robes and operated a mysterious two laptop DJ setup. Armin Van Buuren is known for his special kind of flair behind the decks but under the Gaia project you barely saw him move a muscle as all of his energy was focused on what truly matters, the music. Gaia's set was dominated by Armin originals including the new "Empire of Hearts" release under the Gaia moniker. If you want to hear a wonderful showcase of trance music, look no further than the beautifully crafted and uplifting set that Gaia produced at Ultra.
Honourable mentions goes out to Datsik and Paul Van Dyk for also delivering highly memorable and noteworthy sets at Ultra.