Ultra Music Festival pulls through amid heavy rain day one

Armin Van Buren and surprise guest John Bon Jovi perform during Ultra Music festival on March 24, 2024. photo courtesy of Alive Coverage

The University Metrorail station near campus was flooded with UM students covered in glitter, studs, hair decor, bead bracelets and rain ponchos on Friday, the first day of Ultra Music Festival.

As early as 3 p.m., stations from Dadeland South to Government Center were crawling with students as they made the pilgrimage to Bayfront Park. Friday’s weather forecast called for heavy rain, but there was no stopping students from experiencing the biggest festival in Miami.

“It felt like a community,” said Sharron Lou, a senior advertising major. “The metro security was so helpful in helping guide everyone, and they gave out free Redbull at the station.”

In its 24th year, Ultra was set to feature the return of renowned DJ Calvin Harris to the festival for the first time in 11 years, as well as the introduction of the Chris Lake and Fisher collaboration, Under Construction.

Calvin Harris performing during Ultra Music Festival on March 24, 2024. photo coutesy of Rudgr.com
Calvin Harris performing during Ultra Music Festival on March 24, 2024. photo coutesy of Rudgr.com

Peggy Gou, the hottest DJ in techno, was set to headline Ultra’s RESISTANCE stage along with acts like Eric Prydz and Camelphat. Martin Garrix, Excision, Hardwell, Afrojack, Steve Aoki and more were set to take over the main stage.

By the time many made it to the main stage on day one, the rain had made a muddy mess all over the area, causing people to slide around and end up covered in mud in the early hours of the festival’s opening.

Issues like rain and mud didn’t stop acts like Nostalgix from playing in unfavorable conditions to a crowd of headbanging ravers at the Live Stage. Headbanging and dancing in the rain was certainly the vibe as the crowd only continued to grow.

Tiësto, one of the all-time great dance and EDM DJs, was bumped to an earlier-than-usual set that was supposed to take place amidst a typical Miami sunset, but the gray sky and dark clouds had other plans.

As he played some fun tracks like his latest Karol G collaboration, “Contigo” and “The Business,” the downpour began. This didn’t seem to bother the DJ — instead, he responded with “Set Fire to the Rain” by Adele, one of the last songs he played before the rain got too heavy and disrupted the equipment.

Around 8:30 p.m., the rain became too heavy and the entire festival was evacuated. Mass chaos ensued as people frantically tried to get out. Wet, distraught attendees were still trying to leave the downtown area around 11 p.m.

“I was devastated when it ended early on Friday,” said Aris Montero, a junior creative advertising major. “I feel like the crowd was energetic, especially with people that aren’t particularly big fans of EDM.”

Nevertheless, Ultra announced on its social media platforms that they would delay the festival’s opening on day two to ensure a safe reopening. Online users were dissatisfied as they realized that a lot of great acts would have their sets cut short or completely removed.

Fans refused to let this happen to Dutch producer Hardwell, an Ultra favorite playing a special 10th-anniversary set. After outcry his set was rescheduled to the slot before Excision, creating a series of all-star-level performances Ultra fans had not expected because of the last-minute changes.

Montero was glad that Hardwell was rescheduled for Saturday.

“I was a big fan of the fireworks and pyro that he had on display for his show. It was worth it to change him out for other main stage acts,” Montero said.

At this point, the soggy dancefloor had become a part of the festival experience. The mulch thrown around festival grounds did little to help the drying with rain carrying on through most of Saturday. Still, the remainder of day two proceeded as planned, with Ultra even extending its closing time to 1 a.m. in order to fit as many day one and day two acts into the evening.

One of these acts was Martin Garrix, who had one of the weekend’s best sets, playing his classics “Tremor” and “Animals,” as well as international hits like “In the Name of Love” and “Scared to Be Lonely.”

He accompanied his set with one of the more unique stage designs, including an LED cross behind him and an elevated stage. It was clear to see why Garrix was looked to as the coheadliner of the festival.

Sable Valley boss, RL Grime, and signee Knock2 are a popular duo among EDM fanatics at UM. Together, the two put together an hour and a half of some of the hardest bumping bass, trap and dubstep.

“Knock2 doing a back-to-back with RL Grime is easily one of the biggest highlights of the festival for me,” said Asha Shah, a senior studying creative advertising. “It was crazy and chaotic, but I think that’s a good thing for fans of harder EDM.”

The last day of Ultra went mostly as planned, apart from some minor schedule changes. The mud was halfway dry by the time that most of the crowd began to appear at around 4 p.m., and the festival began to look like its usual self.

Amazing sets from Andy C, Camelphat, Eric Prydz, Eli Brown and more kicked off Sunday, but the excitement for those sets paled in comparison to Calvin Harris.

Harris has not played Ultra Miami since 2013, before albums like “Motion,” “Funky Wav Bounce Vol 1” and singles like “This Is What You Came For” were released. Meaning, he had plenty of hits to share on Miami’s biggest stage this past Sunday.

Harris came onstage at 9 p.m. and broke the 10 p.m. curfew to give the people what they wanted. An hour and fifteen minutes of all-time classic hits combined with a bit of pyro, fireworks and trippy visuals had the crowd bouncing.

Opening with “This Is What You Came For” — complete with an LED projection of Rihanna — Harris was on the nose for the crowd who had long been anticipating his return after an 11-year wait. Spinning hits like “Summer,” “Blame” and “We Found Love,”, Harris teased the crowd with classic favorites and groovy… whatever you said. The crowd was enamored for the entire set.

For the last song — his collaboration with Elle Goulding, “Miracle,” he started with the track’s studio version before switching to the Hardwell remix.

The beat dropped one final time as the last pyro show began and fireworks rained all over Bayfront Park.

Ultra left festival goers with a final message: “Thanks for coming and we hope to see you next year for the 25th anniversary of Ultra!”