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Spring Break Electronic Music Highlights, Hash Bash and Upcoming

Ultra Music Festival wrapped at the start of Spring (March 22-24) as its most successful year yet.  Over 330,000 electronic music enthusiasts descended upon downtown Miami’s Bayfront Park to attend the massive event which took place for the first time in its 15 year history over two weekends: March 15-17 and 22-24.  ULTRA MUSIC FESTIVAL will return next year March 28, 29 and 30, 2014.

Each of the six days were streamed live over the internet via UMF TV reaching over 10,000,000 viewers, making it the largest viewed festival event in the U.S. to date.  Over 200 of the world’s leading DJs and electronic musicians as well as emerging artists participated each weekend.

It wouldn’t be ULTRA without special guests.  This year Avicii debuted material from his upcoming new album.  Wrote Alexei Baranuevo of the New York Times (3/25/12), “In a preview of his as-yet-untitled debut album, due this summer, Avicii shared the stage with the country and bluegrass artists Mac Davis, Audra Mae and Dan Tyminski, as well as three members of the alternative band Incubus [Mike Einziger, Jose Pasillas, Ben Kenney]. It was a set unlike any other at Ultra, which spanned two weekends this year for the first time, featuring seven stages and more than 200 D.J.s.” Aloe Blacc also joined the performance. 

There was also iconic, Grammy-winning guitarist Slash who along with Betatraxx joined Chuckie during his main stage set for a performance of their collaboration “Rocktronica.” Wrote Katie Morse of Billboard (3/23/13).  Another highlight of the festival was the final show from Swedish House Mafia.  Wrote Joshua Erenstein and Matthew Spitz of USA Today(3/25/13), “As fans have come to expect from a Swedish House Mafia show, mind-numbing lighting and laser effects, dynamic visuals displayed across massive LED screens, pyrotechnic displays from the band's beloved "Pyro Pete" and a fireworks finale kept downtown Miami alight for as far as the eye could see.  During the waning moments of the show, Axwell grabbed the microphone and asked, ‘Can we have the last dance with you?’ The crowd responded with one last burst of energy as the band's finale, ‘Save the World’ (feat. John Martin), rocked downtown Miami. ‘Miami is where it all started,’ proclaimed Axwell. Now Miami is where it has ended for Steve Angello, Axwell, and Sebastian Ingrosso… for now.” 

     As the world’s most famous outdoor electronic music festival, ULTRA has won “Best Music Event” by the International Dance Music Awards (IDMA) six consecutive years, from 2005 to 2011, “Best International Dance Music Festival” by the Ibiza DJ Awards in 2008 and “Best Festival” by the Village Voice Media New Times consecutively five years running from 2005 through 2009.  Originally created as a pure EDM (electronic dance music) festival in 1999, ULTRA has grown through the years to present not only the genre’s hottest, biggest and best headline artists (The Prodigy, Swedish House Mafia, The Chemical Brothers, Tiësto, David Guetta, deadmau5, Underworld, Kraftwerk, Armin van Buuren, Moby, Fatboy Slim, Justice, Carl Cox and Avicii to name a few), but also crossover headline bands that incorporate EDM elements in their music and have a history or new beginning in the EDM community and culture (The Cure, The Killers, New Order, Duran Duran, The Black Eyed Peas, Erasure, M83, Santigold, The Ting Tings, Cut Copy, Empire of the Sun and Bloc Party). In 2012, global pop icon Madonna appeared as a special surprise guest—the festival’s gift to their fans—to introduce the main stage final headlining artist AVICII, joining him behind the decks to premiere his UMF remix of her new single “Girl Gone Wild.”  The year also was the subject of CAN U FEEL IT, a major documentary feature about the festival, which was shown in over 500 theatres nation-wide.  Together with its signature, cutting-edge productions, ULTRA is unrivalled by consistently presenting the world’s greatest, most diverse EDM line-ups year after year. In 2013, as it celebrated its 15 year anniversary, ULTRA became the first major EDM festival in the world to expand to two weekends: March 15, 16 and 17 and March 22, 23 and 24. Both weekends sold out with a combined total of over 330,000 people in attendance from 95 countries, breaking the festival’s previous record. A global brand, ULTRA MUSIC FESTIVAL takes place in Miami, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Ibiza and Korea, expanding into Europe with ULTRA EUROPE July 2013 in Croatia.

     I got the chance to explore the city and check out some hotspots including some favorites, Sweat Records in North Miami, the Avicii Hotel and Liv inside the Fontainebleau Hotel on Collins.  In just three years Miami Music Week has become one of the world's most recognized electronic dance music events. Each year thousands of electronic dance music artists, DJs, performers and fans from across the globe flock to Miami to experience MMW. These EDM enthusiasts flood MMW-affliated venues, hotels, restaurants, businesses and tourist hot spots, creating a dance music theme throughout Miami.  

Spring Break Miami was a great success and being a part of Miami Music Week, for EDM followers like myself is like a homecoming, or international meet up for such a vast but close-knit community.  Returning back to frigidly cold Detroit after spending time in Miami's beat pounding paradise was tough but also helped reaffirm the excitement that is still our thriving underground electronic scene. 

Just a few days after returning home I was fortunate to check out Joey Smokee at Paycheck's Lounge.  It was an interesting mix that felt more like a basement party than house club, but was still packed to a more chill bar crowd.  Joey's set was a highlight and I was happy to hear the house flavor added to the mix.   

And on the heels of April 20th this weekend, I must also add in that I spent an awesome afternoon in Ann Arbor to celebrate the 42nd Monroe St. Fair aka Hash Bash.  

Hash Bash is cannabis heaven year after year and is a must for those that indulge.  Hash Bash is an annual event held in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on the first Saturday of April at high noon on the University of Michigan Diag. A collection of speeches, live music, street vending and occasional civil disobedience are centered on the goal of reforming federal, state, and local marijuana laws. The first Hash Bash was held on Saturday, April 1, 1972 in response to the March 9th 1972 decision by Michigan Supreme Court declaring unconstitutional the law used to convict cultural activist John Sinclair for possession of two marijuana joints.  Cannabis fun, but not to mention all the amazing food we get to enjoy!  This year I tried some delicious street food from EJ's.  Unfortunately EJ's doesn't have a large web presence yet, so if you are lucky enough to come across this underground hot dog / brat cart - give one of about a half dozen of their homemade sauces a try.  I personally am a fan of the "Ma Cheese Mo" cheese sauce and the "Fucking Fuego" spicy sauce.  We must have caught a contact buzz just driving into A2 cause we downed those dogs before even stepping on the Diag for the rally.  

Also bumped into a bubbly young entrepreneur from Burning Brightly LLC who sells local organic clean burning beeswax covered hemp for all of your "lighting" needs without the butane (start with a match).  For those of us who want to get our fix without the toxins and soot, I was happy to find these guys and now light with hemp!

 After some time of recoup I was happy to cover the Karmaloop Verge Campus Tour with Kendrick Lamar and Steve Aoki.  

A sold out audience of the 8,000+ at Meadowbrook braved a chilly and rainy night to check out the rising hip hop star and world famous electro house DJ.  It was nice to see Dim Mak founder Aoki rocked a Pistons hoodie in front of what felt like an intimate crowd compared to an audience the size of UMF^.  

     He brought his usual showmanship to amp up the show with cake throwing, beverage spraying and a raft sent up to the back of the lawn.  Getting in front of the decks at times to playfully toss things into the crowd and add the vocals to his tracks were highlights for us all.   

A few good shows to check out upcoming...