UltraFest 2006: SOMEBODY Listens to Techno
UltraFest. Never heard of it? Of course you haven’t. Because unless you spend countless hours perusing the Dance/Electronica or “techno’ sections of your local Best Buy, this annual event seems to be nothing more than a collection of guys with German names playing records. And, admittedly, if you were not familiar with the world of club music, that is pretty much what it would look like. Well, that, and one of the biggest freak shows this side the “Love Parade.” Known simply as Ultra to most of the super-cool, in-the-know types, this event features more or less every big name DJ in the world playing in Miami’s Bayfront Park as the culminating event of the Winter Music Conference. I would list off a few of the big names, but again, it would more than likely elicit nothing more than a response of “Who?” from 98% of the people reading this. But even if you are not a fan of Meat Katie, Armand Van Helden or Carl Cox, there are still plenty of things to entertain you during this 12-hour extravaganza.
The funny thing about electronic music (and can we please stop calling it all “techno?” Seriously) is that for some reason it seems to invite a larger-than average number of freaks. And by freaks, I mean people on drugs. You don’t often go out in the middle of the day and see a group of grown women all wearing pacifiers for no apparent reason, now do you? Nor do you go out in the middle of the night and see 20,000 people all wearing sunglasses. I would like to think this is some sort of fashion statement, or that everybody was just too lazy to take them off after the sun went down, but something tells me this may not be the case. I think the girls wearing the skin-tight wife-beaters with “Roll with Me” printed on the front pretty much summarized it all. Either that or the guy with the blow up doll glued to his crotch.
Of course, one nice side effect of tens of thousands of people all feeling “Euphoric” at the same time is that it becomes very hard to get into a fight. You ever go into a bar and you bump into a guy and he acts like you just punched his mother in the nose? Well, at Ultra, you could probably walk up to the same guy’s mother, punch her in the nose, and his response would be something along the lines of “Hey, man, that’s cool. She hadn’t been punched in a while. She really needed that. Thanks.” Oddly enough, some guys like it when you bump into them at Ultra, but I try to avoid that. And for the ladies, you know when you go to regular clubs where guys are intoxicating themselves with traditional substances like, you know, liquor, and they get all stupid and try to grind on your ass for no particular reason? Not the case at Ultra. Most guys at Ultra seem to like to stand in one place and stare at the DJ booth, thoroughly convinced that the strobe lights and lasers are somehow spelling out the meaning of life in Morse code. And if they are not entranced by the visual effects, they are entranced by their own dancing as they have what appears to be an upright epileptic seizure with glow sticks. Either way, most guys are too wrapped up in bright lights and shiny objects to bother trying to rub up against you. Kind of like going to a club full of retards.
And let’s say you were one of the nine people who decided it would be fun to get drunk at Ultra (Ultra, also the only place where hard-core drinkers are seen as wholesome). You know how when you get wasted you always seem to get really hungry? Well not only does Ultra boast 25 or 30 top-notch food stands, but, for some reason, nobody seems to be eating anything. So you just walk right up, order your chicken-kabab and an Arepa, and go back to dancing the night away. But don’t even think about trying to buy water, you’ll still be on line when they kick you out at midnight. Although, according to many Ultra-goers, it is “like, the best water I’ve ever tasted,” so perhaps it’s worth the wait.
So see, even if a repetitive beat overlaid with a sound my mom once described as “a loud cat burping,” is not your thing, there are a lot of worse ways you could spend twelve hours on a Saturday. And this year, they even had The Killers play a set, since, you know, those ravers LOVE The Killers. Perhaps this will start a trend and more rock bands will start playing at Ultra and eventually it will become more like Woodstock than Burning Man. Or perhaps Eminem was right, and “Nobody listens to techno,” which would mean that the 40,000 people I saw on Saturday were just an illusion. Man, I gotta find out where to get some more of that shit.