Electronic dance music has benefitted from top 40 hits in recent years, most of which feature easy to sing-along to and often star-studded vocals. But trance, like a distant cousin, may got lost in the mix.
The under-appreciated genre was our favorite part of day three of the Ultra Music Festival at Bayfront Park Sunday, which had plenty of material – and stars – to choose from, including cameos from Justin Bieber, Diplo and Diddy on Skrillex’s closing set. Diddy served as the star hype man on stage, while the Jack U combination of Skrillex and Diplo, who rocked Ultra together last year, performed “Where Are U Now” with Bieber, who also seems to have a knack for Miami, one way or the other. The track is off the duo’s new album that dropped last month.
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Consider it a history lesson, or just the ever popular A State of Trance Arena. Anyway, we bring you our Sunday recap, the final culmination of Ultra and Miami Music Week:
3. David Guetta and Poolside Tunes
They are not related, but both were equally appealing. Thomas Jack’s afternoon set at the Red Bull Guest House at the Sagamore Hotel was an easy start to Sunday. Billboard reported last week that Jack will host a monthly house show on iHeartRadio, so we were happy to sit poolside as he spun live. He even mixed Bob Marley, so, our Sunday only got better as a result. Fast forward to David Guetta’s Ultra set, which was a whole other type of excitement. The French DJ mixed “Play Hard” before transitioning over to DJ Snake’s “Get Low,” which had odometer visuals on the screens above, perhaps an ode to “Furious 7,” which is on the movie’s soundtrack. The best part about Guetta’s set was the point of view, the camera on him often switched to what he was doing in the booth, making us appreciate his mixes, especially the use of the instrumentals on Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy.” Guetta also mixed his new single “Hey Mama,” with the help of Afrojack, who is featured on the song with Nicki Minaj, plus an adult version of “If You’re Happy And You Know It.”
2. Krewella’s Voice
One of our favorite Ultra 2015 sets, which may end up flying under the radar because of Bieber and others, was Krewella’s performance on the Klipsch Amphitheater stage. The Chicago sisters Jahan and Yasmine Yousaf are a rarity in an EDM industry dominated by men. They sing pretty well, too. We truly appreciated the live vocals on just about every track they mixed, including “Alive,” “Live for the Night” and “Enjoy the Ride.” They even dedicated a song, “Legacy,” to their father, who was in the audience. The Nicky Romero and Krewella mix had sympathetic vocals which really showed a range in their voices. Earlier in the set, the ladies did a cover of “FourFiveSeconds.” “Take Me To Church” came later, too. With a guitar and drums on stage, the set leaned toward rock at times, until they busted out a mix of Lil Wayne’s “A Milli.” They also played their new, electro-rock style single, “Louder Than Bombs.” Near the end of the set, Yasmine Yousaf told fans not to be fed their information from the headlines, perhaps alluding to a legal battle with the group’s founding member, Kris Trindl. “I don’t think I’ve ever been this grateful,” she said, reflecting on the past. “We had a lot of internal conflict as a trio.”
1. Trance Sets the Stage
What’s a cross between a block party and a rave? Ultra’s A State of Trance Arena stage. While this stage actually dates back to 2011, the energy in this almost covered stage area was unprecedented Sunday. We’re talking laser-like lights, fog and projection screens with lights that seemed to sync with each stream of beats. And, it did not matter which DJ was on the booth, but Eric Prydz and Armin van Buuren’s sets were something to write home about. Each beat in the arena was a complete sensory experience – we even closed our eyes at one point and it felt like we woke up in a dream. The music was much more intense here because of the overhead cover which accounted for only a portion of the crowd, which spilled out into the street, but kept the intensity of the beats in-house. There were no words, just sounds of all speeds and styles. Think of it as a Miami Science Museum laser show, but jacked up on steroids with trance tunes. Safe to say, we needed a few moments to gather ourselves when walking out. Unlike every other Ultra stage, few folks waded in or out during the beats. It was that engaging.