All words & photos by Kyle Kingsley Green.
As most people will know, Cape Town is the ever thriving hub of outdoor electronic music festivals in Africa, if not the world, and any international brand has its work cut out for them when trying to pull numbers through their festival gates. Ultra Music Festival, however, is the world’s premier electronic dance music event, which currently takes place in 19 countries across the globe.
Throughout the build-up to this year’s Cape Town event, there was a not-so-subtle debate on social media as to why the Ultra South Africa organisers chose the Cape Town stadium as opposed to the previously used traditional open air ‘farm-style’ venue known as the Ostrich Ranch. I initially agreed with the sceptics when hearing about the venue change as I am fully aware of the benefits that come along with the traditional outdoor venue experience, but after attending the event, I can understand the reasoning behind the decision.
Firstly, attending an event in the Cape Town city centre offers a range of benefits that include hassle-free transport to and from the venue if you are based within close proximity to the Cape Town city centre. Having said this, there is an abundance of Uber vehicles present in town at any given time and to simplify the transport situation even further, Ultra officially partnered with Uber in order to provide an official drop-off and pick-up area outside of the stadium. When I left the festival just before the ending of Martin Garrix’s closing set, there was no surge pricing and I was able to get home to Woodstock for R65 – bargain!
Other added benefits to hosting Ultra at the Cape Town stadium included comprehensive facilities such as multiple bars, toilets, parking and electrical points which would ultimately have no problem powering the seriously impressive sound, visual and pyrotechnics display that would be on offer throughout the event. Of course, there are many negatives this-this decision – concrete, more concrete as well as a lack pleasing natural visuals and space to run around. But, like anything, one needs to embrace what’s on offer as opposed to complaining.
This year the Cape Town stadium played host to three stages, which included the inevitably impressive Mainstage. Additionally, the Resistance stage, which was significantly smaller than the main stage, was situated beneath the actual stadium stands that ultimately gave it the raw and gritty atmosphere that goes hand-in-hand with the ‘underground’ sound. Thirdly, the Bridges for Music exhibition stage was the third and smallest stage at this year’s festival and showcased some of South Africa’s leading upcoming talent in the electronic music scene. For those of you who are unaware – Bridges for Music is a non-profit organisation that gathers key players of the music industry to support its responsible development in developing countries, leaving a positive impact in disadvantaged communities and helping to raise global awareness about local issues through music. Due to the sheer scale of the Ultra Music Festival brand internationally, it is essential that the brand plays their part in the development of the South African music scene through social-economic responsibility initiatives such as Bridges for Music.
Thankfully, bars were in abundance but one still needed to be tactful in order to avoid what queues there were at any given time. Howler was on hand once again to provide Ultranaughts with their signature cashless system which really does work wonders when trying to minimise waiting time in order to maximise the much desired audio, visual pleasure that the DJ’s were dishing out in comfort food size portions.
Having said that, let’s get down to the real reason as to why you’re reading this review, the music. As for my personal experience, I arrived at the stadium at 5pm, which was a bit later than I probably should have arrived, and ultimately resulted in me missing out on a few of the earlier acts that had begun from 2pm onwards.
Due to unavoidable work commitment, I, unfortunately, had to miss the act that I was most excited for, Stab Virus. Stab Virus is the local Cape Town techno producer duo that is currently in the process of dominating the local and international techno scene. Having recently performed at Boiler Room ADE and currently on the line-up to play Awakenings Festival in Amsterdam in June this year, comfortably playing between Britta Unders and Black Coffee – casual. Do SA proud over there boys!
As I approached the stadium, I became fully aware of what was about to transpire as the sweet lingering sound of ‘Something New ft. Julia Church’ meant Crazy Whiteboy duo had the Resistance Stage firmly in their grip. The smooth and fluctuating frequencies of Crazy Whiteboy’s signature sound is destined to please any crowd.
After spending a few minutes at the Resistance Stage, I decided to get a taste for what the majority of the ultranaughts came for. Arriving at the Main Stage area I was pleasantly surprised by the scale of the production that was set up in front of my eager eyes. Finishing off his set was Headhunterz who banged out his last couple of tracks on the mothership of all sound rigs. Originally established as a hardstyle DJ, Headhunterz is no stranger to taking the party to the next level.
Up next on the main stage was Dash Berlin who is a household name in the international trance scene. After hearing their track “Till the Sky Falls Down” – I decided it was time to head back to the Resistance stage for more of the local music cuisine. After quickly spending some time on top of the Red Bull Deck, situated in the middle of the Main Stage area, I headed back on over to the Resistance Stage for some Strange Loving, who delivered their flavoursome signature sound that has become a regular feature at so many of the tech house parties in Cape Town.
Up next on the Main Stage was KSHMR, who I had no real prior knowledge of, but surprised me with a rendition of Vini Vici’s hit single “The Tribe”. About half way through KSHMR’s performance, I headed back to the Resistance stage once again to check out the Cape Town legend, Dean Fuel, who is no stranger to Ultra, having performed on the Mainstage in 2016. Fuel clearly meant business this year as he warmed the crowd up for Ivan Turanjanin with one of the more underground sets that I’ve heard from him under the Fuel alias.
After a quick refuel at the bar, I headed back to the Main Stage for the highly anticipated French producer known as DJ Snake. An electrifying energy filled the air as the sun set and the Ultra mothership was ready to show off its potential under the night sky. The infamous party soundtrack is known as ‘Turn down for what ft. Lil John’ was the main feature of DJ Snake’s set for me and having spoken to numerous people during and after Ultra – it’s safe to say that DJ snake delivered one of the better performances of the festival.
I missed out on Ivan Turanjanin’s set but I can safely say that he warmed the crowd up good and proper for Black Coffee, South Africa’s favourite and most recognized DJ, who was clearly the most anticipated act to grace the Resistance Stage this year as Ultranaughts came streaming into the ‘underground’ to experience Coffee’s signature afro and tech-house sound. In my opinion, Coffee delivered the set of the evening and would have been headlining the Main stage if I had it my way.
Sorry, David Guetta, but I completely missed your performance due to my love for Coffee and Nic Franciulli – I’m sure you had a good time! Proceeding Black Coffee was the Grammy nominated DJ known as Nic Franciulli. When one of the most established producers in the house and techno game close the Resistance stage at Ultra, you know it’s going to be an award-winning set. From playing B2B with Carl Cox at Discoteca, Space Ibiza to Ultra Miami and Boiler Room – Franciulli proved why he has reached the legendary status that he possesses today with his rolling tech-house sound that kept the crowd grooving right until closing time.
Last but certainly not least, the number 1 rated on DJ Mag’s 2016 Top 100 DJ’s list, Martin Garrix, headlined and closed the Main stage at both the Cape Town and Johannesburg shows this year. To be honest, this was probably the only act that I really really wanted to see on the Mainstage this year. To put it into perspective as to how big of a deal Martin Garrix is – his single ‘Animals’ has amassed a whopping 957, 056, 467 views on Youtube…SORRY, HOW MANY? The combination of excessive amounts of Red Bull, highly intoxicated Ultranaughts, incredible pyrotechnics, sound, visuals and stage presence resulted in a sight to behold. As his set reached the three-quarter point, I quickly ran out the stadium to catch a ride home before the predictable wave of chaos descended upon the streets of Green Point. To define my Ultra experience in one simple sentence, I summed my experience into six words for my Uber driver – Impressive yet not my personal favourite…