Well, it's over. In the end, Ultra 2016 saw little rain, great performances, and — save for the Prodigy's last-minute cancellation — minimal hiccups.
At 18 years of age, Ultra has matured into a well-oiled festival, running smoothly from the porta-potty to the Main Stage. Yesterday, the third and final day of Ultra, brought some of the weekend's most anticipated acts and two reunions that everyone had his eyes on: Pendulum and Rabbit in the Moon. Let's discuss.
There's just no real instruments in dance music. Like, would it kill these guys to use a guitar? When's the last time you've heard that one? It's a common complaint launched at EDM and dance music by those suspicious of the genre. Well, the next time you hear someone say that, show them Pendulum's live set from the Main Stage of Ultra last night. Closing out the festival — and ending a four-year split — Pendulum played one of the most unconventional yet wonderful sets Ultra's Main Stage has seen in years. Last year's festival finale ended with a flurry of pop-star appearances: Bieber and Diddy both danced around to the delight of thousands. This year, the only special guest brought out was Deadmau5 to perform a rendition of “Ghosts ’n’ Stuff.” But even without any big surprises, Pendulum's set did not disappoint. It was a refreshing demonstration of what dance music was, still is, and hopefully can become again. — by Ryan Pfeffer
You don’t need a packed amphitheater to put on a remarkable show. Peaches proved that during her 3 p.m. set at Ultra’s Live Stage. The electro rock pioneer hit the stage and let the small crowd of about 300 people know, “This is the most mainstream thing I’ll ever play. Don’t ruin it for me.” Everyone took Peaches’ warning seriously and started dancing and singing loudly as she ran through her catalog, including “Rub,” “Vaginoplasty,” “Talk to Me,” “Operate,” “Boys Wanna Be Her,” “Burst,” and “Dick in the Air.” During “Burst,” Peaches took a moment to ask the audience to share the weed she was smelling, and one guy happily obliged. Later, she jumped off the stage and sang while perched up on a row of seats. (I imagine she kept Ultra’s production team on its toes.) She closed the set out with “Fuck the Pain Away” (natch), but not before popping open two bottles of Champagne and spraying it into the crowd. I’ve seen Peaches perform several times live, but this had to be one of her best. Sure, there wasn’t a band accompanying her, but she didn’t need it. Her showmanship elevated what could have been a dull early-afternoon set into one of the best moments at the 2016 festival. Dare I say it: Best performance at Ultra 2016. It’s a shame everyone missed it. — by Jose D. Duran
If we had to choose one word to articulate Purity Ring's live experience, it would have to be "consistent." Having seen them at the Fillmore Miami Beach last September and again Sunday night as they closed out Ultra’s Live Stage, there was hardly a difference in energy or execution. That’s a testament to the Canadian duo’s attention to detail and desire to crush it every time they step onstage. In her wonderfully weird outfits, vocalist Megan James captivated while producer Corin Roddick gracefully bashed away on his tree of lights. It was an emphatic, powerful set of their distinctive “future pop” style that brought to life the band's latest album, Another Eternity, a collection of slick yet twitchy songs including one of the evening’s highlights, “Flood on the Floor,” a track that thumps harder than any hip-hop or dance club banger. James, as she always does, connected with the crowd, both figuratively and literally, reaching out to them with her enchanting vocals as she simultaneously shook hands with those near the front of the barricade. It was such a captivating set that we all lost track of time, resulting in a jarring and unexpected ending. Purity Ring had just riveted the amphitheater with its first big hit, “Fineshrines,” when James announced that they had one more song. Or so she thought. Behind her, the main stage set off its fireworks, an amused and startled James reacted adorably, and then, darkness. Curfew was upon us, and so was the end of Ultra 2016. The festival cut the power, and James was forced to apologize and explain in her natural voice, sans microphone, that there was nothing they could do. Time and Miami noise ordinances are cruel masters, but no complaints here; slightly abbreviated set or not, Purity Ring punctuated the end of UMF brilliantly. — by Angel Melendez
Rabbit in the Moon
What in the hell was that, Rabbit in the Moon? Nothing, absolutely nothing, could have prepared Miami for what was, hands down, one of the best sets of Ultra 2016. What vocalist Bunny and producer David Christophere pulled off Sunday night on the Live Stage was a masterful combination of thought-provoking performance art and a balls-to-the-wall, old-school warehouse rave. Reuniting for the first time in years exclusively for the same festival it headlined during its inaugural 1999 edition, the highly influential electronic duo played a show that was mostly new music and had Bunny go through no fewer than six costume changes. The healthy crowd in attendance was treated to bouts of drum and bass, hard trance, and full-blown industrial techno. As soon as they thought they knew what was coming next, Christophere flipped the switch with the visuals following suit. It not only filled the void left by the Prodigy’s absence the night before but went well beyond. There were the gangs of synchronized dancers in outrageous costumes behind Bunny — who himself looked like something out of The Matrix and other times like a marauder from a nightmarish future. He was armed with a CO2 gun and his penchant for grinding sparks on an audience member’s face. On the video screen above, clips of Donald Trump getting wrestled to the ground on WWE played, and at one point, Christophere turned around to give the orange-haired monster the double bird and a hearty “fuck you.” Between the dancers dressed as riot cops and the one half-naked female performer they covered in milk before Bunny launched himself toward the audience in a giant plastic bubble, it was a wild show and everything the Live Stage and an event as grand as Ultra deserved. — by Angel Melendez
Miike Snow might have played to a half-empty amphitheater on Friday, but when Christian Karlsson (AKA Bloodshy) took over the Main Stage with Linus Eklöw (AKA Style of Eye), an endless sea of bodies that stretched to Biscayne Boulevard jumped along with every beat. As Galantis, this is the duo’s second Ultra appearance, and it looked like the crowd hadn’t gotten enough the last time around. Their sets are unapologetically EDM, filled with sugary-sweet pop. From reworkings of Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” Drake’s “Hotline Bling,” and the White Stripes “Seven Nation Army” to original material like “Peanut Butter Jelly,” their set was frenetic and filled with nonstop crowd pleasers. “We are Galantis, and we are going to celebrate dance music, house music,” they yelled from atop the stage before debuting a new track, “No Money.” Like anything that touches Swedish hands, it was EDM pop perfection with a chorus made for singing along at festivals like Ultra. I’m not personally a fan of the direction popular dance music is headed these days, but every now and then you just want something that goes down easy, and in that regard, Galantis delivers, and it does it better than most. Everything in moderation. — by Jose D. Duran
Keeping consistent with the whole ’90s-are-back theme at Ultra 2016, Duke Dumont delivered a set filled with touches of ’90s handbag and acid house. In some ways, it’s depressing, because while the Ultra Worldwide stage was packed with an endless sea of revelers, I’m betting few know — or care — about house music's origins beyond its current EDM form. Dumont seems very much aware of its beginnings as he is able to repackage it with a modern twist. (Hopefully these kids go home and try to do some homework on Dumont’s influences.) Some of the set’s highlights included Bizarre Inc’s 1990 dance-floor hit “Playing With Knives” and Dumont’s own “Won’t Look Back.” His set was basically one big masterclass in house music — where it’s been and where it’s going. Teach the kids, Dumont! — by Jose D. Duran