It’s often hard comparing apples to oranges, Road to Ultra is certainly the infant child of it’s parent Ultra Miami but when as Damian Pinto kept telling us on Saturday, “you’re making history Australia,” it’s a fulfilling experience to know you are part of the Ultra Family, now taking the music brand around 6 continents in a calendar year.
As a newborn, and after I’d experienced Miami last year, I was hesitant to actually partake of this one. Would it be the overall Ultra experience, could it live up to all the hype that had advertised its beginning? My answer is yes and no.
Of course, breaking new ground is exciting enough and Australia being as most call us ‘the ass end of the earth’ it’s a monumental task to bring this mammoth across the globe let alone make it work. Travis Grech, Lucky Entertainment’s new Tour and Event Manager; once Marquee Sydney, now back in Melbourne has achieved what seemed impossible and he and partners have done it within 8 mths and that is a testament to the work ethic of Australians who knew after the demise of Stereosonic and Future Music that there was a niche that Ultra would fill perfectly.
Melbourne over Sydney? Tick to that one, despite being loyally Melbourne, I think the added advantage of having a precinct able to accommodate this within walking distance of the CBD has the hallmarks of someone who knew how well the Miami parent works being in the same vicinity. Close to hotels, public transport and a space made specifically for concerts.
Time Frame: 11am to 10pm, I’m 50-50 on this one but sadly being so close to the city is close to residents and I guess Miami is far more appreciative of the business a huge global brand brings than Australians who are yet to experience the thrill of it. On one hand it was easy on the body, being able to be home by midnight but perhaps the experience of lasers etc lacked a little due to the daylight hours but Melbourne did turn on an overcast day so sunlight was never a problem.
Sidney Myer Music Bowl Venue: Tick, perfect size to accomodate a good sized crowd of I would say upwards of 15,000 perhaps more, the Bowl has quite a large expanse of lawn and with the layout of food trucks and amenities beind the stage view area’s along with a big screen while you ate in the food court it seemed the event was well patronized.
VIP was front of house but it lacked the energy of Miami’s VIP and that could be due to the already in place structure of chairs and aisles that make up the Bowl seating area that could not be removed. That caused the rail section to be quite crammed. The raised sections on either side are small but afforded one a great close up view of the stage. I spent time in and perhaps more time out in the general public to get a feel for how it was all performing.
We had the Ultra Angels around in little bursts, the Bar set ups at the top of the hill on both sides of the stage were large and did not feel like you spent half your time waiting in a queue. Plenty of food choices and the prices for Australia were reasonable and well received. I found one drink station to refil water strategically placed between the food and the entrance back to the stage viewing and it seemed easy to find and not hard to utilise being devoid of people every time I went to it.
There is not a lot of shade where you can see the stage though, Melbourne was cloudy but humid, I could well imagine a lot of sunburn had it been sunshine so that could prove a problem if the event is over three days in Melbourne who can go from nice to nasty in a hurry weather wise.
A few Aussies grumbled over Damian Pinto but I felt it was more they just didn’t get the idea of how Ultra puts on a show, to me and others who had journeyed to the US we got the buildup Damian provides and I think it adds to the atmosphere but I felt he struggled to engage the crowd the enthusiastic way Americans respond to him. A cultural difference I’d say plus a lack of how Ultra works.
We arrived during TigerLily’s set and I did note that Lucky Entertainment clients did supply the first half of the day, logistics and cost I assume made this a safe bet. The popularity of Timmy Trumpet and Will Sparks was warmly received by the pro Melbourne crowd. Timmy to my thinking with the sweet live trumpet sounds emanating from the stage took first place over Sparks in the early afternoon. He’s gone from strength to strength over the past couple of years and seems to effortlessly hold the audience. Nothing out of the ordinary with his set, a cumlative hour of his hits obviously hitting the right note with the psy trance beat.
Will Sparks took over and I guess Psy is the rage in Melbourne these days, he rarely ventured back to the Bounce that made him famous but he is a consumate entertainer and kept the crowd vibing.
To follow was Andrew Rayel and I was completely ready to be absorbed into Trance but again he ventured close to the psy as well so I can only say well done to reading or knowing the Aussie crowd but to my delight he did go to the classics in the latter part of the set with a mash up intro of Sun and Moon warming my heart immediately.
KSHMR’s first trip to Australia was a complete success, his amazing visuals which take you on a journey that weaves its spell along with his music kept me spellbound and it’s an experience to see a set of his done this way. He spoke very little on the mic and allowed the graphics and music to grab the audience and it did just that from the obvious applause to Tsunami, Spook and House of Cards, to the lesser known newer songs that accompanied the Indian flavor in his production. Thoroughly enjoyable set to herald the evening in.
And then came the disappointment, while still floating from KSHMR’s set one could only cringe as a loud brash and distinctive american voice say Whaddup Melbourne, I’m here to Fuck this party up!
Now it’s no suprise to a lot of people that Carnage ain’t my cuppa tea, and although a lot did stay for the very angry style he portrays behind the decks, perhaps the generalisation of calling Australians that ‘C’ word didn’t endear him to everyone. Quite a large exodus of people ensued to the bar and to the food court so their ears could recover from the assault.
He did mention he wouldn’t be returning for a long time and I have to say apart from Toca which he called upon KSHMR and Trumpet to join him on stage, his set ruined the very happy nature of the entire event. I won’t be sad to see the back of him or his style and I know that will offend his ASOC fans but frankly he swings off the coattails of far more talented producers and even sat the entire Axwell set beside him which I felt was rude and unnecessary and kudos to Axwell for being as gracious as he was, I fear I would not have done as he did and embrace the intrusion.
Afrojack was next up and people morphed back into the viewing area and he is an enigma to me, I’ve seen him a number of times and the sets are often so diverse I’m not sure where he sits. I’ve had some that I just couldn’t get into, and there are some like his ADE set a coupld of years ago that was simply amazing. I’m glad to report this Ultra Aust. set was one of those. He bought an MC with him which, at first, I thought was strange and then it dawned on me! An MC allowed Afrojack to fully immerse himself into the set and mixing tasks while being completely unimpeded by having to talk on the mic. Oh how I appreciated that. He was a tour de force with a classic set of well known tunes and also a beautiful premier of a new track called Bed of Roses which was part of his closing out. He engaged, the crowd engaged and it was the perfect penultimate set.
Enter the Swedish goliath of Axwell sans Ingrosso due to unforseen circumstances that kept him from visiting as the duo they have become. It certainly wasn’t a loss. Axwell from the beginning took us up a notch and kept going up from the amazing intro all the way through the classic old school SHM to big room smash hits, the songs he and Ingrosso have made in their new project ending the night with a mashup of Avicii’s Silhouette into Reload.
I was perfectly happy wandering off into the surrounding gardens bound for the train home and I didn’t see an unhappy face around me either, apart from the fact we got drowned by the city garden sprinklers coming on as patrons left, it was a great first year and junior sized Ultra to whet the appetite.
If anyone at Ultra is listening or reading, Melbourne is definitely the place to bring big Mama too because apart from the locale, I feel our rave scene is quite respectful and receptive. I hope I haven’t read them wrong. Well done Melbourne I think you gave Ultra a lot to think about between now and 2019.