The following article was published in the Miami Herald / Miami.com on March 28, 2008
Ultra Music Festival x 10
It's been ten years for the Ultra Music Festival from its humble beginnings here in Miami.
Ultra Music Festival (UMF) has been described in many ways: "Incredible," "awesome," "insane," "unbelievable." But the best description of Ultra is "the ultimate party."
Newcomers to Ultra might see the massive juggernaut that it is now, commanding the biggest DJ names and an expected attendance of over 70,000, but may not be aware of its origins as an ordinary, Miami-style beach rave that started exactly ten years ago at the height of the dance scene.
UMF is the brainchild of Russell Faibisch and Alex Omes, who thought Miami needed a beach festival to welcome the springtime. "We were going to club events under the Ultra brand, so we were really involved in the electronic dance music scene, and there was a gap," Faibisch said. "We went to festivals, and it was in our hearts and souls, and we wanted to do something original."
After the original Ultra became too popular for Miami Beach permits to allow it, they moved to Bayfront Park, and after that venue sold out in 2005, they moved to its current location in Bicentennial Park, right next door.
For this year's Decade Edition, they've secured several big names in dance music to perform at the festival, including Union Jack, who broke up nine years ago but agreed to re-unite and perform an exclusive set just for this year's Ultra, and Moby. Of course, there are the well-known dance music staples such as Carl Cox, Tiesto, Sasha & John Digweed and Paul van Dyk, "the unofficial godfather of Ultra," Faibisch said.
UMF has also tried to diversify musically in recent years. This includes British rock households The Killers in 2006, The Cure headlining in 2007 and this year Underworld and Justice. According to Faibisch, "Music changes, electronic music changes as well, so we've got a renaissance. We've got to keep up."
UMF is also trying to raise the dance community's environmental awareness by participating in what's known as Earth Hour from 8-9 p.m. on Saturday. Ultra will turn off the lights for five minutes, in tandem with many cities around the world blacking out, such as San Francisco, Taipei, Amsterdam and New York.
And of course, there's the heart and soul of Ultra - the concertgoers. Rachaelle Otto, 23, cannot wait. "I have been looking forward to Ultra all year. Ultra is the premier annual event in the world of dance music. The energy of the crowd is infectious and the quality of the performances is mind blowing," she says. "As a resident of Miami, I feel lucky to have this internationally acclaimed festival hosted by my city."
Another concertgoer, Vanessa Flinn, 23, is equally ecstatic. "Ultra is an event you can look forward to year round. No matter what type of music you like, you can't deny the energy of Ultra, and if you're an Electronic Dance Music fan, then it's heaven," she said.