The Ravers Fought Miami, and the Ravers Won
Party-pooping politicians tried to quash the two-weekend expansion of Miami's giant electronic dance gathering Ultra Music Festival. But the increasingly popular mega-rave could not be contained.
Party-pooping politicians tried to quash the two-weekend expansion of Miami's giant electronic dance gathering Ultra Music Festival. But the increasingly popular mega-rave could not be contained. Thursday night, city commissioners voted to let Ultra's promoters stretch the event over two consecutive weekends. They have to pay the city $500,000 to compensate for added expenses and pinky-swear to shrink back to one weekend from here on out. But after a long, bitter fight that pitted sober old men against neon-speckled teens, the ravers more or less got what they wanted. If you live in Miami, expect to encounter scenes like if you plan on heading downtown during the weekends of March 15th and March 20th:
As Spin's Philip Shelburne notes, the festival's growth is more than just a gimmick to boost ticket sales—it's persuasive evidence that electronic dance music (EDM) might be surpassing Coachella's "indie" fare as the youth movement du jour:
One-upping Coachella's re-run model (in which identical lineups are repeated across two weekends), Ultra promised the audacious proposal of six full days of programming comprising "two separate and distinct highly unique experiences for our attendees."
But that symbolic coup almost didn't happen. "Personally, I think one weekend is enough," mayor Tomás Regalado told the Miami Herald earlier this week. "Two weekends with street closures would collapse downtown. Plus, people complain about the kids." City commissioner Marc Sarnoff (a colorful local character who in the past has allegedly created movie studios on the taxpayer's dime and gotten into physical altercations with propane-sniffing men) was one of the loudest complainers. He proposed a resolution to block Ultra's two-weekend stay in Bayfront Park, writing that EDM revelers would cause too much "nuisance behavior" for locals and business owners to tolerate. Sarnoff also complained that—according to his research—most Ultra attendees are spaced out of their minds: "About 70 to 80 percent of these kids are on some sort of mind-altering drug."
Ultra organizers offered to work with Miami officials on minimizing disruption to the city, promising to cough up $600,000 for police and fire personnel overtime. DJ Tommie Sunshine wasn't so diplomatic:
hey @marcsarnoff & @cityofmiami, way to demonize the visitors of your city who make you money to cover your own asses.— Tommie Sunshine (@tommiesunshine) January 8, 2013
The irascible anonymous blogger EDM Snob (rumored to be a Miami promoter) fought for his right to party the hardest of anyone, launching a petition that had close to 9,000 signatures when this post went up. His campaign got lots of EDM fans riled up, but in the end the petition wasn't needed as politicians and promoters hammered out a double-weekend deal on their own.
Ultra isn't the first EDM festival to irk local authorities. Over its nearly 16-year history, peripatetic festival Electric Daisy Carnival has managed to draw the ire of Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Dallas over drug-related deaths and general mayhem.