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From diapers - To Dab Hands

From diapers - To Dab Hands

As Ultrafest celebrate their 10th birthday during WMC, we look back at the festival's highlights over the years

Timeline: Ultra Music Festival

1999 The very first Ultra is more of a party than a festival, taking place on Miami Beach. Even then the line-up was incredible: Armand Van Helden, LTJ Bukem, Paul van Dyk and Rabbit in the Moon play to more than 7000 people.

2000 The last year on the beach, when the fest bursts its banks and enters the big time with over double the attendance figures. Roni Size, Sasha, Digweed, Lee Burridge and Sander Kleinenberg all appear. Sheer numbers suggest that relocation is the only way to go.

2001 The first year in Bayfront Park. This time the main stage action moves to an amphitheatre with a capacity of thousands, with 10 more stages scattered throughout the park each catering for everything from trance to breaks.

2002 Paul Oakenfold, DJ Craze, BT, Hernan Cattaneo (pictured, right), Deep Dish, Plump DJs and tons more play to a 30,000 strong crowd.

2003 The first year that the mighty Underworld headline, with The Streets, Pete Tong, Erick Morillo and Christopher Lawrence just some of the other performers.

2004 The Chemical Brothers, The Rapture, Miss Kittin, LCD Soundsystem, 2ManyDJs, DJ Hell… One of the best yet.

2005 Moby, Tiësto, Paul van Dyk, Carl Cox and Shy FX is a sample of the massive selectors to get the crowd moving this year. The first time around for Carry On (the official UMF after-party) at the American Airlines Arena, with Sasha, Digweed, UNKLE and more playing.

2006 The first event at Bicentennial Park and fittingly, for the first time, The Prodigy live juggernaut brings some punkin' instigator action to Ultra. The Killers drop in to rock the place.

2007 The festival goes super-size for the first time, expanding into a two-day event. They also surprise and delight fans by inviting indie/Goth legends The Cure to play. Techno gods Richie Hawtin and Carl Cox, and drum & bass dons Fabio, Grooverider and Goldie are some of the highlights.

2008 The 10th anniversary Decade Edition promises to be the hottest Ultra so far. Tiësto, Justice, Deadmau5, Carl Cox, Steve Lawler, Digitalism, M.A.N.D.Y., Justice, Erol Alkan, Underworld, Sasha and Digweed, Paul van Dyk, Stanton Warriors, The Bravery and Moby are all confirmed.
Miami's Ultra Music Festival lives, breathes and sleeps dance music. With a beautiful location, cutting-edge programming and a real sense of style, Ultra is famed as the closing party for the Winter Music Conference, but it's also a massive draw in its own right. Founded by dance music enthusiasts Russell Faibisch and Alex Omes, from humble beginnings it's steadily grown to become one of the States', and indeed the world's, biggest and most essential events.

This year they celebrate their 10th birthday and are marking the milestone in typical style. The 10th anniversary Decade Edition of Ultrafest takes place on the 28th – 29th March, in the city's Bicentennial Park. With an incredible line-up of the most diverse and innovative dance music around, it's looking like a belter. Over the course of the two days, there'll be techno, drum & bass, electro, house, minimal, breaks and everything in between across 12 stages. Tiësto, Justice, Deadmau5, Carl Cox, Steve Lawler, Digitalism, M.A.N.D.Y., Justice, Erol Alkan, Underworld, Sasha and Digweed, Paul van Dyk, Stanton Warriors and Moby are just some of the mega acts and DJs playing. "It's absolutely amazing, we never imagined it would become this big, or last this long, but we're very happy to be where we're at, very appreciative," smiles Faibisch.

Of course, it hasn't always been this big. Ultra began back in 1999 as a party on Miami Beach, which quickly outgrew its origins, and as the WMC itself became a larger event, Ultra expanded with it to become a global dance music concern. In 2000, the attendance figures were so voluminous that the festival was moved to the picturesque environs of Bayfront Park for the following year, where it remained until 2006. This was this year the festival grew to Godzilla proportions, busting out and relocating to the huge Bicentennial Park, with 70,000 dance music fans expected to descend there this year.

As well as their carefully chosen dance music line-ups, Ultra has also roped in some of the world's biggest dance-savvy rock and indie bands to play at the vanguard festie. The Killers, LCD Soundsystem, The Rapture and Hard-Fi have all made an appearance, and last Cure (incidentally the authors of one of the very first remix albums) was extremely well received.

The Killers: amongst the Ultra faves in 2006

"We're the only dance music festival in the United States of this calibre," claims Omes. "We've been doing this all our lives, living and breathing dance music, promoting and making sure the scene grows in the US." "We wanted to push ourselves and create the ultimate festival experience," adds Faibisch.

This year, Faibisch is particularly excited about the return of one of the greatest acts to play Ultra, earmarking them a personal favourite that he's looking forward to seeing again. "The return of Underworld is gonna be amazing. The last time they played was Ultra 2003, and that was one of the brightest moments in the 10-year history. And to have them back for the decade anniversary is really magical."

The festival has also expanded into other territories recently, with Ultra Music Festival events now taking place in New York City, the Caribbean, Ibiza and Brazil. They also won the IDMA Award for Best International Dance Music Event in 2005. "We're gonna let it grow organically. We'll stay here until the capacity gets too much, but right now we're focused on maximizing the fan experience," says Faibisch

Josh Wink has played at every edition of Ultra Music Festival since its inception, and reveals why he keeps coming back. "It's the only festival in the USA where 95% of the artists and DJs are friends or people I know. It's always a great crowd, with great artists and the production is always on point." Wink is stoked to be part of this year's birthday celebrations. "I'm happy to be a part of the festival this year as I get to play in Carl Cox's tent yet again," he grins. "The experiences in there have always been the best!"