Taking on the Ultra Music Festival

Published on September 20th, 2010

As the cosmopolitan playground of South Florida, it is not surprise that Miami is home to the internationally renowned Ultra Music Festival, a two day concert held in Bicentennial Park during Winter Music Conference.

With famous DJs and techno fans traveling from around the globe to attend, you’re guaranteed a great show. Yet dancing to the many artists’ thumping beats is not the only attraction. Other draws are people watching, style, and drugs.

“Ultra is like walking into a different world,” said freshman Ashley Brozic. “It’s as if all the freaks in Miami have left their dungeons and come out to play. It feels like you’ve entered a giant carnival just for adults, only instead of rides, there are what feels like 20 different stages.”

Janine Mears, a 2009 graduate who attended Ultra for the first time last spring, echoed a similar sentiment. “It looks like Halloween on crack,” she said. “I saw thousands of people dressed in every color possible.”

Mears and a friend shopped at American Apparel for their Ultra outfits and were surprised to find how conservatively they were dressed compared with other fans. Ultra invites attendees to push the boundaries of the average concert dress code.

“I think people just go and find random stuff in stores, any type of material, any type of color, and they just put it all together,” Mears said.

“Dress in your tackiest and craziest outfits from the deep depths of your closet,” advised Brozic. “People that get really into it come clad in furry rainbow colored boots, super eccentric wigs, fishnets and thongs, light-up t-shirts and bras.”

The most popular Ultra wardrobes involve glow necklaces, bracelets and neon clothing.

“It’s really fun if you pick one accessory, a token thing about your outfit that is just yours,” said Mears. “I had a purple feather boa, so when everyone saw the boa in the air, they would come and find me.”

Groups of friends often dress in themes. For example, a group may dress as the rainbow with each person wearing a different color. Other themes include neon rangers, tribe and the ’80s — anything that stands out.

Once the perfect outfit is decided upon, the next step is to prepare an arsenal of supplies to take on Ultra.

“The first thing is, no matter what your outfit, wear sneakers that you don’t mind getting dirty,” said Mears. “Also, if you’re going to be there all day, bring a towel so that you don’t have to stand the whole time.”

Make sure you have enough money before entering the concert, as everything is on a cash basis. Don’t rely on ATMs at the venue; transaction charges can be steep.

“Bring more than $50 because things there are definitely not cheap,” said Brozic. “One cup of beer is a whopping $9.”

It is also a good idea to bring toilet paper. The restroom situation at concerts — Ultra in particular — can be less than desirable, and it is unpleasant to be left without “TP” in a dire situation.

Another thing to be wary of is drug use.

“If you’re sitting on the hill and you look down, you’ll see two people that are heavily petting each other and have been for the last hour, so they’re clearly on ecstasy,” explained Mears with a laugh. “And if you look a little bit over to your right, you’ll probably see some guy sitting alone freaking out to the music, so he probably took something else.”

Ecstasy and marijuana are prevalent, along with LSD and GHB. However, with the large number of police and security guards at the event, the situation is somewhat controlled.

“There’s definitely a lot of drugs going on,” Mears said. “But if you’re careful and you have enough common sense, it won’t affect you.”

Now you’re prepared and know what to expect from Ultra: outrageous is the norm, and conventionality is out of place. It is undeniably exhilarating and an experience unique to Miami.

words_ danielle kaslow and maz mann. 

photo_ chelsea matiash

Max Mann also contributed to this article.

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