Last weekend saw one of the biggest electronic dance music festivals in the world – Ultra Music Festival, return to Singapore for its 2nd edition.
The surprising fact here is that Ultra returned to Singapore in a span of just 9 months since it last took place here. This change in schedule from September to June was probably made to accommodate other Ultra Worldwide destinations, stay away from the rain (which didn’t really work out) as well as have sufficient gap from the popular beach festival, ZoukOut.
Since this was the 2nd edition, the expectations of the fans were quite high and they expected Ultra to fix the shortcomings of the 1st edition. Were the expectations met? Read below to find out the good, the bad and the ugly that went down at Ultra Singapore 2017.
The first things fans notice before booking tickets is of course, the festival line up and the Ultra Singapore line-up didn’t fail to impress. The main stage line up housed headliners such as Hardwell, Tiesto, Steve Angello, Don Diablo, Dash Berlin, Nicky Romero & Steve Aoki to name a few. The Live Stage saw big names such as KSHMR, Tchami, Pendulum and more; Resistance Stage saw Dubfire, Sasha & John Digweed and a few other big names get behind the decks.
Let’s start off with the entry pass. The Ultra wristband had a RFID tag that was meant to be the mode of payment for all food and beverages inside Ultra Park. The top up of the RFID chips and entry process was well organized and hassle free.
The first things fans notice when they enter the festival grounds is the stage setup. This year’s main stage was on point and was much better than last year’s simple design. The technical issues that were a let down last year were fixed this year. Instead of regular even rectangular panels, this edition saw the introduction of panels designed like an equalizer, which enhanced the visual experience.
Also, shifting the festival from monsoon to summer was a good idea. However, the rain gods didn’t show mercy on day 1. The showers were bittersweet as some fans were trying to find shelter to stay dry whereas the others went wild in the rain. The showers stopped just in time for Hardwell’s set but by then a number of fans (who hate the rain) had left the fest only to join the non-ticket holders and stand outside the venue to continue the party.
To keep fans fueled for about 21 hours over a period of 2 days, there was a wide spread of food and beverage available. From vodkas & Red Bull to a slice of pizza, to a cup of frozen yogurt, everything was available at your service. Last year fans had a bad experience queuing up at stalls. This was quite frustrating as some fans missed their favourite DJ sets while refueling. But, more RFID top up stations and food counters enabled the queues to be slightly better.
The usual perception of fans is that the big names have the best sets. But, this year’s Ultra proved them wrong. The underdogs outperformed some of the big names. Of course, the mammoths of EDM pumped up the energy when they dropped their signature tracks. Fans went crazy when Martin Solveig dropped a couple of radio hits, Dash Berlin dropped his remake of ‘Heaven’, Hardwell dropped a mash up of ‘Stay v/s Off The Hook’, Nicky Romero dropped his remix of Linkin Park’s ‘Heavy’, Aoki dropped ‘My Heart Will Go On’ and Steve Angello dropped some progressive house tunes along with some nostalgic SHM tunes. We also saw some bromance on stage when Hardwell joined his fellow producer Tiesto from the same postal area of ‘Zero 76’ to drop the obvious track.
Apart from the above, fans were treated to some groovy French house by Tchami, an energetic big house set by KSHMR and an electro-rock performance by Pendulum at the Live Stage. KSHMR had a mini orchestra and a set of Indian dancers at his service to enhance the Live Stage experience. The Live Stage had a new born energy compared to last year, where the crowd turn up was quite disappointing. We were able to catch a bit of local talent MYRNE and Rich Chigga’s performances at the live stage as well and let us tell you, they were “TURNT”.
For fans of Resistance, Techno legend Dubfire, tech house pro Nic Fanciulli and underground techno act Carlo Lio and ANNA kept the energy going at the only covered stage – The Resistance Stage. This stage also saw fans fleeing in during the day 1 showers to stay dry.
One of the most awaited acts of day 2 – Don Diablo almost got cancelled when the Dutchman’s flight saw an unexpected delay. To cover up for the empty segment, the organizers got Knife Party to play a surprise set on the Main Stage. Knife Party’s thumping electro house/dubstep set was the best surprise of the festival.
The Dutchman did manage to make it for the last 30 minutes of his set, which turned out to be wonderful although short. We wish that it had last longer.
For good to exist there has to exist something bad. There were some areas that didn’t manage to match expectations and deserved improvement. To fix last year’s issue of lack of crowd at the Live Stage, the organizers included big names such as Tchami, KSHMR, Pendulum, Will Sparks and Rich Chigga in the Live Stage line up. But, the artists didn’t get the stage set up and pyros that they deserved. The rain didn’t help either by creating technical glitches on both stages with either the LEDs turning off for a bit or the sound getting cut off. KSHMR’s set had his own issues on day 2 with neither his mic nor one side of the stage speakers working. You could see the frustration clearly as the DJ tried his best to keep his cool while stage-setup flocked his booth during his performance. For a premier festival like Ultra to compromise and face such glitches year after year on such elements is quite disappointing. We hope that Ultra decides to improve its Live Stage setup next year (and probably figure out a way to keep the rain from causing so many electrical faults).
German luxury car brand, Mercedes-Benz being one of the main sponsors of the event had a special VIP area set up for its guests. Even though we can’t deny the fact that those were the best seats in the house, the positioning of the Mercedes-Benz suite was not great for the rest of the fans as it obstructed the complete view of the Main Stage from far.
Ultra Singapore had experienced the slushy and muddy ground last year when it had poured just before the event. Organizers didn’t pick up cues from last year to fix the flooring and make it rain friendly. This year after the showers on day 1, the ground was filled with muddy puddles and festival-goers had to watch every single step. (We’re only saying this cos we hate the mud. Yes for the ones that truly didn’t care, they did walk out of Ultra Park with mud up to their waist but hey, that’s not how we like it)
This is the side that no one wants to experience. Unfortunately, this year had 2 such instances. Most of you may be aware of the fact that Don Diablo had a spat with Ultra after his delayed arrival, which led to him cancelling all his future performances and ties with Ultra. So, this 30-minute set was probably the last Don Diablo Ultra performance. We’re not gonna comment much on the issue here. You can read about the incident on this page.
One other major disappointing event of the evening occurred just after Aoki’s set right before Steve Angello’s made his way onto the stage. Steve Angello was assigned to close the Main Stage on day 2. Just as Aoki got done with his set, the fans started fleeing away from the Main Stage. We’re not even kidding – there were literally groups of masses walking away from the main-stage either to catch other acts or leave the festival to catch the trains back.
Steve Angello is a renowned Swedish progressive house producer and yes, he may not have the most entertaining set of them all but he deserves more respect than that. It would have been quite disappointing to be Angello on that specific night. Our personal thoughts were that a lot of people were tired over the two days and had enough of partying throughout the weekend to stay out any longer.
To conclude, it was a mad weekend filled with variety of energetic performances and good vibes. The few shortcomings didn’t hinder the festival-goers from having fun. However, we hope that the organizers continue to improve the overall festival experience in the coming years. Ultra Singapore is one of the best music festivals in Singapore and hopefully can become even better.