Ultra 2013: Kaskade and Tiesto Kick Off UMF's Weekend Two, Reach Epic Pop Peaks

Photo by Ian Witlen
Ultra 2013's main stage with Tiësto (and not Kaskade).

Kaskade and Tiësto, two undeniable titans of the current electronic dance music landscape, took to the decks on two different stages toward the end of Ultra Music Festival 2013 last night. They could have easily shared time on the same stage, though. Kaskade has certainly grown in stature enough for a bump up to the festival's main event -- but more interestingly, their sets could have easily blended together.

Photo by Ian Witlen

That wouldn't have been the case just five years ago. Then, Dutch demigod Tiësto already reigned as arena trance's king, but Kaskade was in the middle of a transitional period, out of his crunchy past as a deep house guy into something more populist.

Now, in 2013, with the so-called "EDM" explosion and certain trends in dance music running red-hot, their sets harbored more in common than ever before.

Via instagram.com/Kaskade

Kaskade took the 10:00 slot at the Ultra Worldwide stage, a spot within the fest that, given the star power of its talent -- Afrojack and Fedde le Grand, among others -- could have easily taken over an even bigger slice of the UMF festival grounds.

With clamoring throngs squished in every direction, Kaskade eschewed any notion of subtlety. For a DJ, an hour or even hour-and-a-half-long set is short, and there's no time for much of a build-up. So he played loud, hard, and unapologetically thumping, full of heavy-hitting low-end beneath drilling yelps and stutters.

Photo by Ian Witlen

This Ultra 2013 set would have been unrecognizable to Kaskade fans of yore. And that's OK -- artists evolve, and there are different approaches for different vibes.

This was clearly crowd-pleasing stuff, as evidenced by his heavy leaning on vocal tracks. This was hit after hit after hit, underscored by the fact that the screen behind him usually broadcast the lyrics of songs like his collab with Swanky Tunes, "No One Knows Who We Are," or another original, "Illusions Fade."

Just a half-hour later, Tiësto assumed his annual position as the first-night closing DJ on Ultra's main stage. And at times, it would have been hard to tell his selections apart from Kaskade's. With a slightly longer set as the festival's proper headliner, he usually takes his time, building up a sort of mood climax and release.

This wasn't so much the case last night, when Tiesto even aimed for the anthems and mass sing-alongs. Gone were most of the trancey flourishes, and in their place, a reliance on more pumping, female vocal songs like Zedd's "Clarity." The result was pop peak after pop peak after pop peak. And for the crowd of shirtless, sweaty dancing maniacs and girls hoisted aloft on their dates' shoulders, this was emotional communion enough.

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