Ultra 2013: Boys Noize, Crystal Castles, and Nicolas Jaar Live!

Photo by George Martinez
Crystal Castles' Alice Glass.

Next up was Crystal Castles, who seemed to attract a large group of curious festival-goers -- from young kids to downtown hipsters to parents (we kid you not). A purplish-haired Alice Glass launched immediately into "Intimate." The stage setup was bleak. The only imagery, looming in the background, was the duo's latest album cover: a photograph by Samuel Aranda of a mother holding her son during a street protest in Yemen. It was unnerving to say the least, as extreme strobe only served to overwhelm us and spread anxiousness throughout the amphitheater.

So maybe it wasn't especially surprising that midway through Crystal Castles' set, the live stage area had emptied out. A couple hundred die-hards remained, but it seems people were looking for PLUR vibes. That caught us a bit off guard since, despite the darkeness and chaos of their music, Alice Glass and Ethan Kath have always been favorites with Ultra fans.

Photo by George Martinez

Nevertheless, Glass and Kath, accompanied by a live drummer, continued hitting us with cuts like "Baptism," "Crimewave," "Alice Practice," "Celestica," and "Not in Love."

The most surprising aspect of this performance: During several breakdowns, when Glass wasn't singing she got behind the boards, while chugging on a bottle of Jack Daniel's, helping Kath turn out noisy "jam sessions." It was a first for us. Usually Glass sticks to front-of-the-house duties.

Photo by George Martinez

Finally, by 11:10, Nicolas Jaar hit the stage. Unfortunately, there was probably less than 100 people at the live stage. "Guess we're all missing the retirement party?" Jaar joked about the Swedish House Mafia set happening at the same time.

We were sitting on the left side of the amphitheater, and Jaar's minimal sound is best heard undisturbed by any background noise. Unfortunately, the nearby bass stage was so loud that the sound bleed was unbearable. (Ultra, you need to fix that problem. It's unacceptable.) The only solution was to pick ourselves up and move to the right side of the stage.

Photo by George Martinez

As Jaar's set progressed, more people arrived, but the amphitheater was never more than half full. "Thank you, Nicolas Jaar!" screamed one dude. It was nice to see someone appreciate him, even if Jaar seemed somewhat aware that he was playing for an anemic crowd.

When Ultra's stagehands started with the pyrotechnics, which included jets of smoke and fire shooting up from the edge of the stage, we could see Jaar sort of look a little lost and then smirk, knowing the bells and whistles weren't needed.

Photo by George Martinez

Unfortunately, Ultra-goers, you screwed up. We are happy to finally see Swedish House Mafia go. (Please, never come back.) But Jaar, he's actually making electronic music worth listening to. Yes, maybe Ultra should have done a better job of anchoring that stage with a bigger name. Because, obviously, Jaar was never going to win against "Don't You Worry, Child."

But perhaps it was for the best. After all, Jaar, it seemed, was playing only for us.

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Location Info


Bayfront Park

301 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, FL

Category: General

Klipsch Amphitheater at Bayfront Park

301 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, FL

Category: Music

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