Day 3 of Ultra is well known for having the biggest bang of the weekend. It’s usually packed with massive surprise performances, Armin Van Buuren’s ASOT (A State Of Trance) stage, and intense energy all around. After two crazy days and nights, nobody seemed even the least bit tired. The biggest rumor was the reunion of three Swedes affectionately known as Swedish House Mafia.
We started the day at the ASOT curated Megastructure with two long-time legends Gabriel and Dresden. G&D are best known for their track under the alias Motorcycle “As The Rush Comes,” which they ended their beautiful set with. They flawlessly warmed up the crowd with a bunch of tracks off of their amazing new album “The Only Road” out now on Anjunabeats.
Up next was Australia’s number one DJ, MarLo. MaRLo came out swinging with the track ‘The Ghost’ by Alex Ender – released under his new label Reaching Altitude. Transitioning into the track ‘Fire Wire’ by Ste Ingham and kept the energy at insane levels throughout his entire set. MarLo didn’t have any mercy on the crowd, and he is truly fun to watch as he very obviously loves what he does. Finishing his set with his very own “Enough Echo” and “You And Me” he was jumping 360 degrees with his hands wide open, clearly happy his set was a huge success.
Andrew Rayel is one of the most talented producers around. His great energy and signature sound make him one of the top DJs out there. Rayel took over the decks from MaRLo and was throwing fire right away. From some of his huge hits taken from both of his brilliant studio albums to his signature synth remixes, the crowd was going nuts at full force. Highlights include Andrew dropping his own “Soul On The Run,” Tiesto‘s “Adagio For Strings,” and his brand new “Tambores” that Armin van Buuren had dropped first during his Ultra Mainstage set on Friday. A beautiful sea of flags filled the megastructure after Andrew climbed on stage and asks everybody to show the world we are united and in a complete state of trance. Towards the end of his set Rayel announces his “Find Your Harmony” radio show’s anthem which is called ‘Trance Reborn’ and it’s an absolute banger.
Over at the Mainstage, the infectious grooves of Sunnery James and Ryan Marciano filled the packed crowd. We have been long-time fans of these guys, and they always have the crowd going nuts. Their signature blend of progressive, house, tech, and jungle grooves, along with their onstage energy and presence really get everyone going. SJRM dropped a bunch of new tracks from their label “Sono,” some new remixes, and ended their set with their newest single “Savages” which is a collab with Bruno Martini feat. Mayra.
Up next on the Mainstage was Dash Berlin who is currently on his “Legend Of The Feels” tour. Dash was not originally booked for Ultra, but because of a ridiculous number of fans tweeting and messaging the festivals social media accounts about him missing, Ultra booked him. It’s great when a festival of this magnitude actually listens to what the fans want.
Dash started out with a long custom video and audio intro featuring the “Voice Of Dance Music” Damien Pinto with some amazing visuals from Visual Artform, and then went into his new remix of Dua Lipa’s “Homesick.” Going through new tracks and remixes from his 12 year career while baking in the intense direct sun, Dash Berlin only slowed down the energy for about a minute when he was nice enough to run out to the front of the stage and throw out about 20 bottles of cold water into the extremely hot crowd.
Back at the ASOT stage, Vini Vici immediately started with their collaboration ‘Chakra’ with W&W which was an instant number one hit. The crowd was taking in some unheard tracks and then they dropped Coming Soon’s ‘African Jungle’. The vibe was great, the sound progressive, and all the hardcore psy-trance lovers gathered in the front to show their enthusiam. Half through the set VV decided to smack the crowd in the face with Human Resource’s ‘Dominator’ – followed by the track ‘The House Of House’ by Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike & Vini Vici & Cherrymoon Trax. He ended his set with ‘Great Spirit’ which was co-produced by Armin van Buuren and Highlight Tribe and is probably the most familiar psy-trance song of the year. This song got played a million times in one week after it got released; absolute insanity.
After these crazy sets it was Armin van Buuren’s turn. Armin started off with Fatum’s “Mowgli” and then went right into his brand new anthem “The Last Dancer” which he produced with Russian producer and part of Hard Rock Sofa, Shapov. The megastructure was completely packed with people spilling out all the way to the nearby Worldwide stage, and it seemed as if 75% of the crowd was wearing something Armin or ASOT related. There were hats, flags, t-shirts and sweaters everywhere. About halfway through his set, Armin picked up the microphone and said “I want to create an ocean of lights..” Everyone took out their phones, turned on their flashlights, and let themselves get lost in the feels. Armin then dropped his remix of the absolutely beautiful song “Sorry” by the Dutch band Kensington. Friends we’re hugging, couples kissing, security raising their hands, camera men pulling out their Armin van Buuren t-shirts and a field filled with lights followed. What an amazing moment. At the end of his set, Armin throws in an insane mash up of ‘Chakra’, ‘Take Me There’ and ‘Great Spirit’ by W&W, Vini Vici, Militia, Hilight Tribe and himself. What a sick set.
Eric Prydz was something else. The Swedish producer with eleven different aliases is well known for his unique progressive house, tech house, and techno sets, with one of the biggest and most loyal fan bases. As Prydz was getting started, we overheard Dave Dresden (Gabriel & Dresden) say “I’m gonna go listen to some Trancy Prydz now.” Prydz did not disappoint as usual. Going through his catalogs from himself, Pryda, Cirez D, and more, the crowd got a set that mentally put them on another planet.
While some of the crowd ran off to see Swedish House Mafia the true trance fans stayed to see the surprise guests Above & Beyond. A&B have played Ultra a few times before, but kept this year’s appearance a secret until their Thursday night show at the massive RC Cola plant had finished.
The megastructure slowly filled itself with purple lights and as Above & Beyond jump on stage we hear the first notes of a mashup between Fatum’s “Chocolate,” “Parker & Hanson’s “Alquimia,” and Oceanlab’s “Siren’s Of The Sea.” A few moments later we hear Zoe Johnston‘s recognizable voice fill the stage with “Always” and suddenly everybody sang along. By this time, Paavo is bouncing off of the walls while Jono is staring at the table fully concentrating on the mix. Above & Beyond go on to drop their own “Tightrope,” “My Own Hymn,” “Northern Soul,” and a plethora of the best tracks Anjunabeats has to offer. The men with their very similar dance moves are almost ending their set but not before they make the audience cry with their own classic “Sun & Moon.” A massive moon surrounded by a ring of fire is displayed on the LED wall and fills the megastructure with orange and yellow lights to close out the last few minutes of the ASOT stage at Ultra 2018.
Onto the final Mainstage act, Swedish House Mafia. Needless to say, this was the most anticipated set of the weekend, and for good reason. SHM had probably the biggest impact on the electronic music world, bringing millions into it and bringing it to the forefront of music in general. There was a 45 minute break in between David Guetta and SHM, allowing time to totally revamp the stage and add some of the most intense pyro effects ever. Finally at 10pm, sound started to blare out of the speakers. Huge droning synths started to play a chord about every 15 seconds and then slowly started to get closer together like contractions before giving birth. This was however a REbirth of one of the biggest acts in EDM who “retired” exactly five years ago in this exact spot in Bayfront Park. Quickly enough, a kick drum started getting faster and faster as every single person had their cameras out to capture this epic moment, and then we started to hear a voice becoming more and more clear. It was Tinie Tempah saying “from Miami” over and over until the eventual “That’s standard procedure from Miami to Ibiza.” The newly built platform on the stage opened up to reveal three figures walking up to the decks, and the crowd was louder than it has probably ever been in Ultra history. People were in hysterics, grown men crying, jaws on the floor, etc. It was truly an unreal moment. Over the next hour, Swedish House Mafia went through what felt like an incredible top notch SHM set from 2011, dropping some old favorites from other artists, new mashups and remixes, a couple of tracks which might be new SHM IDs, and a personal favorite, some original mixes from them which people haven’t heard live in years. Ending the night, SHM played a mashup of 4 different versions of their track “One” accompanied by loads of fireworks and pyro. Some inside info leads us to believe this will be the beginning of a new SHM come to life.
We wanna thank Ultra and everyone involved from the bottom of our heart for making this all possible. We had the time of our lives. See you next year!
–Anna Smedema and Adam Levine for EDMNYC