29 March 2009

5 in the morning: Ultra Review


This is a long post, bare with me.
It's 5 in the morning and I'm exhausted, but at this point since I'm getting up at 9, there is no point going to sleep so here is a review of Ultra (go to the site to see the lineup. Don't be fooled, the order they are in does not mean the lateness of when they played).

A simple way to describe Ultra would be: interesting. It's not as flashy and glamorous as LA raves (though of course you had your fair share of ravers with candy and all that) and you didn't have people coming up to your all the time trying to sell you pills or some other drug. While Ultra didn't have the same friedliness that you can see at LA raves, it also had less assholes just trying to fuck with you for fun or looking at you strangely. Ultra attracted a much larger crowd which really extended beyond ravers. The festival itself sort of smelled of a combination of sweat, greasy food, weed, tobacco and god knows what else. The large amount of wind, especially friday, made sure that we would smell all that. I will say that I never set foot in the Carl Cox and friends tent (though I did want to see some people in there) mostly cause of time issues and never went to the smaller stages. The heat was horrible but not unbearable as shade could be found. We ended up taking more breaks then I would have liked and for longer then I would have wanted but that's not a big deal. The key for me I've realized is to rarely takes breaks, cause once I start a break I don't want to stop, and I just get so much more energy at the stages (for example, was extremely tired saturday when we first got there, got to the stage where LA riots was playing, and immediately my energy was back).

NOTE: The videos obviously aren't great quality, it's more about listening to the audio as best as you can and listening to what he's doing.

Here are the ratings of where I would place the acts:

Best List:

1. Tied for first are Swedish House Mafia (Friday) and Boys Noize (Saturday)

Swedish House Mafia: I saw their set in parts because they ended up having a two hour set (I don't know what happened to Tiga) and there were other things I wanted to see at the same time (Para One and Surkin). The beginning of their set was mediocre, nothing special to be honest. I was more impressed with Josh Wink. I went to go see Para One, came back to Swedish House Mafia maybe about an hour into their set. What a show. I mean they went from some remix of thriller (might have been louis La Roche's), into the buildup of Be, which then dropped into satisfaction, back into the buildup of be (but it worked), to drop into the laidback luke thing where he takes Show Me Love (I was dissapointed I wanted to hear Be) and calls it a rework when it's just him mashing it up with Be (Rynecologist did it first let's be honest, but as Be is Laidback's song, who cares), then into some remix of technologic, might have played soulwax Kids but I can't remember fully. They played some other stuff afterwards including let it go and open your heart, but I really couldn't name the rest. The thing that Swedish House Mafia really had, aside from the best stage in my opinion for Friday (they were in a tent which really made everything better, aside from the heat which actually got worse), were these extremely epic buildups. I won't describe what they were doing here, but what really seperated them from other Djs was also the length of these buildups and how hard they all dropped, every single one. I will add though that their use of samples from other things at the end of buildups was really fantastic, and the crowd was overwhelming. My only criticism would be that the buildups they touched were all very similar, but I didn't really care that much because of how good they were.
this was Be into satisfactioN:

back into Be into show me love:

I wish I was here for this part, it's respectable for djs to play one more time if it's fucking as good as they're doing it here:

Here Are some Tracks:

Be Satisfaction (Swedish House Mafia Bootleg) - Laidback Luke & Benny Benassi

I Found u (classic mix) by Axwell

Get Dumb by Laidback luke, angello, axwell, and ingrosso

Umbrella by Ingrosso and Angello

Jack U (Angello and Ingrosso remix) by Felix Da Housecat and Diddy

Lick My Deck by Ingrosso and John Dahlback

Partouze (original Mix) by Angello and Ingrosso

Boys Noize: What a G. I mean his stage prescence is just so cool. He just seems like a really cool, calm, and collected guy; yet still nice and ready to have fun. You can tell he loves djing as much as we love seeing him, and that he's having just as much fun and probably more fun then the crowd. Let's go for some honesty: he wasn't like Swedish House Mafia or some of the other djs who will be named after, who kept the crowd going for the whole time (or at least very large portions). I'm giving Boys Noize number 1 because he was in complete control and played one of the most impressive sets I've ever heard. While most of the djs were doing stuff in the buildups that I could identify, I found myself stumped time after time with Boys Noize about how he was doing what he was doing. I say he was in complete control because there were times when people weren't dancing and weren't cheering as much, but that doesn't mean he wasn't doing amazing stuff. People like simplicity, lots of delay on buildups, a loop brought down to a miniscule segment... Boys Noize wasn't going to do that every time, though he very well could. I also applaud him for not playing as many safe songs as I felt a lot of other djs played. Some examples of un-safe songs are Popof and other minimal (I can't remember the song name, but I can tell you it wasn't motherfucking bass and that's what brings it out of the safe zone. I also say this because this stage was almost purely electro or something related to electro) and his remix of Royksopp (which is not a banger but is still amazing). I was having a blast when he played the para one remix of my head, but nobody else seemed to share as much enthusiasm about the song as I did. But when he dropped lava lava, nothing mattered anymore; everybody was going nuts. I was surprised that nobody really went nuts when he played superfresh, but I guess that's much less popular then lava lava. From what I could tell he also played a lot of new material which was really awesome (I could tell by the sounds used and the vocoder we all know so well from arcade robot being heard in some songs I didn't know, unless he was doing that live). If it wasn't new material, then it's old material that I just don't know very well (there's quite a bit). I was kinda dissapointed that he started and ended his set with the my moon my man loop and never played the song, but that's ok. He also left that Royksopp remix on for too long.
Some Tracks:

Dirty and Hard (boys Noize jump if you're an idiot mix) by Djedtronic

Wrong (D.I.M. vs Boys Noize) by Depeche Mode

Say Whoa (Boys Noize remix) by A Trak

An old remix by Boys Noize that I never had and just recently found. It's bad quality and you have to be patient with it as it doesn't really drop until like halfway through the song, but when it does drop it's crazy.
Dudun-Dun (Boys Noize remix) by Para One

Intro: Come WIth me, DO you remember?

2. Deadmau5

His dj set was good but at the same time you really have to wonder how much he can do with his own stuff. It was well mixed, and sometimes he would create big buildups. He played some version of ghosts and stuff which was cool which then dropped into the original. I wish he had played slip, but oh well. He's just my number 2 becuase it's Deadmau5 and I love all of his songs, and it's so fun to see him in the mask. Interestingly, he was using 2 computers; I wonder why. EDIT: I found out that he's actually doing a live show as well as djing, so now he definitely deserves this number 2 spot.
Some good ones:

Reduction (Original Mix) by Deadmau5

The Reward is More Cheese by Deadmau5 (he played this before dropping into the original)

This Noise (Original Mix) by Deadmau5

Friday's like 10 minute set. Hi friend and Ghosts and Stuff, are the two songs he played.

3. Cut Copy and Dirty South

Cut Copy: I was feeling like shit saturday afternoon when we got there around 4. Part of me that morning really didn't want to go to the festival, but I knew I had to. We laid around in the shade for about an hour before getting up to see the end of La Riot's 20 minute set (which was good but nothing amazing). I didn't feel like dancing: I felt like sitting down and getting out of the sun. I wasn't in a bad mood, but I wasn't super happy either. Cut Copy really helped me out. It really lifted my spirit and made me really happy, and that happiness gave me energy for the rest of the day. That's really quite an accomplishment. Gotta love it when they played that knightlife remix of so haunted and their own remix of kaiser chiefs. It was really nice to just sing along to their songs and to see actual live music in a sea of djs.
Go get their albums if you don't already have em, it's worth it.

So Haunted (Knightlife remix) by Cut Copy

Never Miss a Beat (Cut Copy remix) by Kaiser Chiefs

Dirty South: It's dirty down south. I can honestly say I don't remember much of his set, but god damn it blew me away. I just remember being really happy and everybody going nuts. When a set, especially a house set, is really good, it trances me out. I just kinda leave this world, start moving side to side, until the next buildup. Then I get hyped if it's a good buildup, dance more hardcore when it first drops, then back to trancing out. That's what happened with Dirty South, so I know it was good. Otherwise I would have been standing there bored. Look at that 400 in the picture, must be an old picture or sometimes before he got more famous.

I made a playlist of a long list of videos that a guy put up of dirty south:

Pyramid (Dirty south remix) by John Dahlback

Original's amazing too:

Pyramid by John Dahlback (heard this everywhere, but I didn't mind)

The Things You Say (Dirty South Remix) by Cicada

It's too late (dirty south remix) by Evermore

Let it go (Original Mix) by Dirty South

Let it go (axwell remix) by Dirty South

There's some other dirty south I want to find, so please someone put a bunch up


Let's be honest, I hate the new album. But they killed it. I mean really a crazy high energy set, and even though I wasn't in the main crowd, I couldn't stop but think wow everytime something dropped. It was less about the greatness of the buildups (a lot of filters) and more about how heavy everything was which complimented the lightness of the hi pass filters. And they played a lot of their old stuff, which made me happy. They also kept the crowd at a constant state of excitement. If they were playing their new stuff, either I didn't notice it or it might mean their stuff hits much harder live (but I didn't hear vocals). I left early to go see Prodigy however.
I deleted their new album off my hardrive, so for those who don't know it:
The least known but really crazy MSTRKRFT song:
Beautiful Fighters (MSTRKRFT remix) by Ayumi Hamasaki (she's going deaf)

Beginning of their set:

I'm sure you can all recognize the song they go into here:

5. Busy P and Josh Wink
Busy P: He was great at coachella last year and he was great this year. His song choice was pretty safe in my opinion, but I still really enjoyed his set. Aside from the safe songs, he played a lot of other electro songs I liked and knew which is always nice (numanoid!). His transitions were on par and his buildups were good enough to attract a crowd and get people dancing. I mostly giving him props for not fucking things up, and his song choice was good enough to pull him the rest of the way through. When we entered the tent where he was playing, there were a good amount of people but it definitely wasn't full. By the end it was packed. Funny, while we were leaving, they put out so much fog that I couldn't see 1 foot in front of me. It's really awkward to be leaving and not be able to move because of all the smoke surrounding you and just standing there waiting for it to go away, while wondering if you should still push forward or not.
Go look at a recent older post to get some Busy P: HERE

Josh Wink: The House Djs Friday really pulled through. Thank god he got a haircut, and I'm pretty sure his hair was still short on friday, cause other pictures of him are just ridiculous. He was the first guy I saw at the festival, and he got me excited for the rest of the festival. His buildups were extremely well done, most were on par with Swedish House Mafia, transitions were smooth. The only reason I put him down here is because I don't know him well enough and didn't see as much of his set as I would have liked. But he played Slip as I was leaving which made me force chase to run back in with me and if I remember correclty the Herve remix of omen. I actually don't have a single track by Josh Wink, I'll make sure to post a bunch at some point. For now be content to look at his myspace and to find tracks on hypem.

Swedish house mafia playing Josh Wink's higher state of consciousness:

Honorable mention: Surkin: Played a good set, a lot of songs I did not expect to hear at all at this festival (Momy as an example), and did some interesting things with it. But for some reason I just wasn't hugely moved. Chase thought he was terrible.


1. Prodigy

I was extremely excited to see them to say the least. I was so let down. First of all, they came on like 40 minutes late, but the main stage sucked with times like that (hence deadmau5 playing two songs on friday). They kept shouting "where are you, Miami" well where the fuck were you Prodigy. I stayed for two songs, both sucked, not many people were dancing except in the very front. We left to go get some water before Deadmau5, I wasn't going to miss a minute of deadmau5 for prodigy. I listened from afar to their set, and really it didn't improve. They must have had two to three songs left (because of how late they came on, and they would never shorten Paul Van Dyke's set) by the time we got up to go see deadmau5, and none of the ones I wanted to hear had come on (omen, invaders must die, warriors dance) They played world's on fire, but something must have been wrong with their mids because all I heard were drums and the guy shouting. No idea where the synths were. The actual song is good, but live it just wasn't.
However, I will say that a lot of people really though that the prodigy did a great job. Maybe my expectations were too high, or maybe I don't know enough of their stuff, but I just didn't enjoy it. It might also have been cause I was pretty pissed that they came on so late because I wanted to see a good portion of their set before seeing deadmau5.

Heart's on fire:

2. Para One:

I only stayed for 20 minutes of his set before going back to Swedish House Mafia, and thank god I went back. Those 20 minutes were boring and even annoying. He kept teasing us with midnight swim, but didn't play it. EVERY SONG SOUNDED THE SAME. I don't know if it's because he kept using this sampled scratchy sound, but it sucked to hear it every song. And he kept using this sample of an open hi hat over all of his stuff. His bass was just too high as well. Could barely distinguish the song. But that was partially because I was in the front row and there were huge subwoofers on the floor in front of me. However, even when I moved back it still didn't sound good. I made motions to try and help him, but he didn't see me. Oh well.

3. Benny Benassi:

I love Benny Benassi's new album Rock 'N' Rave. Too bad in the 40 minutes out of the hour he was playing, he did not play a single song from it or a single song from his first one. Benassi actually ended up playing a lot of electro, which is usually fine with me, but not in this case. I was just bored. He played a lot of songs I liked... But did he do anything? I'm not sure. I feel like an ipod would have worked well in his place, maybe a dj with the IDJ. Let's just say, there was a huge crowd for Swedish House Mafia, and they all left when Benassi came on. I also spent half the time wondering who was on stage and where the fuck Busy P was because he was supposed to go on before Benassi. Also from afar Benassi kinda looked one of the guys from swedish house, but I think that's because I think he was right next to them the whole time they played.


4. The Bloody Beetroots
Very mixed bag with Bloody Beetroots. And I gotta say, I think I was most excited to see them. Certain points were great, others not so much. I saw them twice, an hour set on friday and a 20 minute set on saturday. They had some good buildups, and I really liked their stage prescence as they're really into it, shouting and stuff. For most of their set on friday, I wasn't dancing much and neither were a lot of people around me. But by the end it picked up and it was really fun. Saturday's set was better, I mean they played positif. It's hard to say exactly why saturday was better, but it definitely was. But my conclusion about the bloody beetroots is that they are lazy. Though I liked saturday's set better, it made me realize how lazy they really are. They played warp three times: once on friday, and twice on saturday (once in the beginning and once in the end. The song does sound better live). More then half the songs they played saturday they had already played on friday. On friday they went from warp to cornelius. Guess what, they did it the exact same way saturday or at least in a very similar way. Where was all the Bloody beetroots I wanted to hear? Mac Mac, Butter, I love the bloody beetroots, 72 virgins remix, summer of 98...anything... I was so pumped to hear miscommunication, but saddened quite a bit when it turned out to be dimmakmmunication. They also played a really safe set, Kids (soulwax remix), wake up, diplo remix of bart bmore, raven (crookers remix) which is less safe then the original but I heard that song too many times, One More Time (the safest song of all time)...There was more but I can't remember right now. It was cool though when they played baggy bottom boys. It wasn't cool when they cut out the second half of the second buildup. However, some of the stuff which sounded like them that I didn't know and could be on the new album, sounded pretty cool. So we'll see.

Horrible video, but all I've found for now:

Most overplayed songs:
1. Kids (Soulwax Remix) by MGMT, please make it stop. It's great, it's not amazing, and the original has been overplayed. I must have heard it at least 7 times, twice at the house stage...

2. Raven by Proxy, I thought the hype about this song was over, I guess I was wrong. Even when the crookers remix was played I was just tired of it.

3. Motherfucking Bass (Popof Remix) by Dj Rush, Great song, love it, play some other Popof like Boys Noize.

4. Warp by The Bloody Beetrooots, they alone played it too many times.

5. Pyramid by John Dahlback, pretty sure I heard this at every house DJ.

All the DJs had quite a few safe songs in their sets, maybe because Ultra is a huge festival, and like at a college party, people love hearing what they know, and DJs wanted to make a good impression.  No matter how many times people heard that fucking kids remix, they always went nuts.

Acts I really wanted to see but didn't get to:
Crystal Castles (heard they sucked from some EDIT: According to some commenter they were great)
Fedde Le Grande
More of LA Riots
Pete Tong
Carl Cox
Rabbit in the moon
SIMIAN MOBILE DISCO: Tony and Devra were so fed up with dance music by 11 pm on saturday that they had no intention of staying to see simian. Me, most importantly without any cash, and really not in the mood to stay there alone (though if I had money I probably would have), had to leave too. :(
Booka Shade (Really wanted to see, but it just didn't end up happening)
Evol Intent
Infected Mushrooms

Some things I noticed about the djs:

I heard very few to no mashups.

A lot of filters out of songs.

Quick cuts from right before where a buildup would be in the song to the buildup in a new song
For the loops which became smaller and smaller and smaller i'm pretty sure they were using the pioneer mixer and not the cdjs.

Fuck computers, the best djs didn't have em.

They cut in parts of really popular songs that everybody knew, but didn't actually play the song. In deadmau5's case, he cut in parts of harder better faster stronger and he did it in a really cool way, but he didn't play the song or his remix of the song, and people were dissapointed when it dropped back into hi friend for the third time (he played the version without the vocals the first time, and after the first buildup, dropped into the version with the vocals). I'm not so down with that.

Overall I'm not complaining. I really enjoyed seeing all those djs. However, I think next time I go to a festival (whether its a massive in LA or something else) I'm going to try and see more house music then electro acts, unless I really want to see that electro act.


  1. We will see Simian Mobile Disco too, don't worry.

  2. And did anyone play Love To Edit?

  3. Crystal Castles were the highlight for me. I was at the side stage the entire Saturday and they blew everything else away, and with ease. Deadmau5 and MSTRKRFT were fun but Crystal Castles were epic.

  4. I figured they would be good as they were good when I saw them at The Roxy. Julien, who told you that they sucked?

  5. A few people, I don't know, I was willing to sit out and miss crystal castles in order to stay for all of deadmau5.

  6. Hi,

    We are glad you loved the Knightlfe Remix of Cut Copy.

    But could ya do us a favor and not link to our mp3 directly?

    We pay alot for the bandwidth and would really appreciate if you could link to our post directly instead.

    Here is the link for the post: