Local Obituaries

Ultra co-founder, Miami nightlife fixture Alex Omes dies at 43

DJ CULTURE TRAILBLAZER: Alex Omes co-founded the hugely popular Ultra Music Festival in 1999 and watched it grow into one of the nation’s biggest dance music events. Omes died at 43 on Jan. 12, 2015 in Miami Beach.
DJ CULTURE TRAILBLAZER: Alex Omes co-founded the hugely popular Ultra Music Festival in 1999 and watched it grow into one of the nation’s biggest dance music events. Omes died at 43 on Jan. 12, 2015 in Miami Beach. Courtesy Omes family

UPDATED: A memorial service for Alex Omes will be held at 1 p.m. Jan. 23 at St. Patrick's Church, 3716 Garden Ave., Miami Beach. In lieu of flowers, the family asks for contributions to a fund set up for his son Joshua Omes at https://www.giveforward.com/fundraiser/3hb7/joshua-omes.

Friends of Alejandro “Alex” Omes, a South Beach nightlife impresario who championed dance music and DJ culture, struggle to comprehend how someone could die so young.

Omes, who published D’VOX magazine and co-founded the popular Ultra Music Festival, died Monday night at age 43.

“Alex was my only sibling and my best friend,” said his brother Carlos Omes. “He was strong and in perfect health. His sudden and untimely death is seemingly unimaginable. … [We] find solace in knowing that Alex touched so many people and that his memory will not be forgotten.”

Omes, who moved to Miami Beach with his mother and brother when he was 9 from Argentina, died Monday night according to the Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner. A cause of death has not been released.

His brother, along with attorney Aaron Resnick, who was representing Omes in a two-week trial that was to begin Tuesday related to Omes’ departure from Ultra, became concerned when he didn’t show up for a Tuesday morning court date.

“Alex was a man of principle … deeply spiritual,” said Resnick. “I know Alex would be smiling to know that his legacy is being recognized and will not be forgotten.”

Said friend Carmel Ophir, former owner of The Vagabond in downtown Miami: “He was a rare bird, that rare breed who believes in certain things and had integrity. I credit him as the very first person I met in Miami back in 1989 while I was still on vacation.”

Ophir remembers that January night decades ago, an escape from the cold New York winter, and a jaunty stroll down Ocean Drive. “I heard this awesome sound coming from the Tropics Hotel lounge, this great funky, soul sound. I naturally gravitated there.”

At the door, Ophir remembers an “imposing character, long curly hair, husky guy.”

That was Alex Omes, a graduate of Miami Beach Senior High who would also work as a bouncer at the Cameo club on Washington Avenue. He couldn’t have been friendlier or more invested in a fellow music fan’s interest in DJ culture and happening grooves.

“Here I am, a stranger, and he made sure to check in on me as he made his rounds. Then he invited me to go where the locals hang out,” Ophir said.

The two found themselves at the old Island Club on Seventh and Washington.

“I was vibing,” Ophir said. “That was my first introduction to the DJs of Miami. I quickly felt this sense of Bohemia and community and within a year I was in Miami. I credit him for that, as a spark. That’s nice to know in my history.”

In 2010, Omes left Ultra, which he co-founded with Russell Faibisch in Miami Beach in 1999.

Ultra would grow into one of the largest electronic dance music festivals in the world, luring top DJs like DJ Tiësto, Avicii, and Deadmau5, as well as stars like Black Eyed Peas and Madonna, who, in 2012, used the event’s popularity to promote her MDNA album and sparked controversy with her stage patter that some said was a reference to illegal drugs: “How many people in this crowd have seen Molly?” Madonna wasn’t looking for a lost little girl.

At its peak in 2013, Ultra grew into a six-night, two-weekend event, drawing some 400,000 fans to downtown Miami. Two years after his departure, Omes filed suit to regain control.

On Tuesday, Ultra Music Festival released a statement:

“The organizers of Ultra Music Festival extend their deepest condolences to the family of Alex Omes and are saddened by the news of his passing. We will continue to remember and celebrate Alex for his love, passion and contributions to the Electronic Dance Music community.”

After Ultra, Omes continued to stage events around Miami and, with nightlife partner Emi Guerra, co-founded the event company, Go Big Productions. Go Big hosted successful house music concerts in 2011 and 2012 featuring Swedish House Mafia on the same weekends as Ultra.

Also in 2012, the company’s new UR1 music festival, which was to star Kanye West in downtown Miami during Art Basel activities, was canceled after ticket sales didn’t meet expectations. As publisher, his ’90s dance magazine D’VOX was an early leader in celebrating DJ culture in the community.

“D’VOX was an early focus local publication on DJ culture, music and the underground club scene, and the first publication to bring guys like Seth Browarnik to cover clubs and DJs in a glossy presentation,” Ophir said. “A lot of things that went on in South Beach were [based] on ‘let’s try it out,’ and he was a part of that scene.”

On Facebook, Nicole Alvarez of KROQ radio in Los Angeles recalled her “formative years” in South Beach under Omes’ watchful eye when he was a bouncer.

“He always kept an eye on us, he took care of us, made sure we didn't get into TOO much trouble, and made damn certain no one crossed us. He was like a big brother and our keeper. I remember the exact moment he started his magazine and how passionate he was about it. Failure was not an option, how could it be? He knew exactly what he wanted and he went for it. Boy did he surpass expectations.

“He became a businessman, a father, a friend, and a music guru,” Alvarez posted. “I remember closing down The Spot every night and singing to Bob Marley's Jammin’ and there was Alex at his post, arms crossed, slight grin, watching over the masses. I know I won't ever forget him.”

In addition to his brother, Omes is survived by his son, Joshua.

A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Jan. 23 at St. Patrick's Church, 3716 Garden Ave., Miami Beach. In lieu of flowers, the family asks for contributions to a fund set up for his son Joshua Omes at https://www.giveforward.com/fundraiser/3hb7/joshua-omes.

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