[Herald Review] Fiery performances electrify Ultra Music Festival

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Jun 16, 2014 - 20:55
  • Updated : Jun 30, 2014 - 11:15
Over 100,000 EDM fans and music lovers came out to Olympic Stadium at Sports Complex in Seoul last weekend for the heart-thumping beats produced by the world’s top DJs at this year’s Ultra Music Festival Korea.

On Friday and Saturday, the entire ground floor of the Olympic arena was transformed into the nation’s largest outdoor club. Spread out over four stages, thousands of festival attendees enjoyed an array of electronica music delivered by big-name DJs including Steve Angello, Above & Beyond, Steve Aoki, Paul Van Dyk, Laidback Luke, W&W and Empire of the Sun.

As the most anticipated electronica music festival of the year, Ultra Korea drew a particularly international crowd of house/electronic music lovers, including some who had flown in to Seoul just for the event. Over 30,000 foreigners were present at the festival, according to organizers.
This year’s Ultra Music Festival Korea took place at Olympic Stadium in Seoul on June 13-14. (UMF Korea)
On all of the stage floors, many groups of people waved or wore giant flags from diverse countries including the United States, Japan, China, Singapore, Germany, France, Brazil, Canada, Netherlands, Thailand and Australia. There was even a grizzly bear flag representing the U.S. state of California.

Among the highlights of the festival was an electrifying DJ session by Steve Aoki on Friday night, during which he galvanized the crowd with “Turbulence,” “Boneless” and other hits, while jumping around and waving the South Korean flag on stage. The London-based trio Above & Beyond followed with chill, alluring sessions of trance music featuring favorites from “Group Therapy,” combined with high-tech stage design, flashy lighting and impressive LED screen effects.

However, as much as flashy stage designs and fiery effects add to the excitement of EDM performances, they proved to be a slight safety hazard on Saturday night. In the middle of a heated performance by the Dutch EDM duo W&W, the roof of the main stage caught on fire, prompting the artists to get off the stage while security personnel put out the fire with fire extinguishers.

“You guys are way too hot, Seoul! You’re burning the house down!” the duo wittily shouted to fans who then waited for over half an hour as the stage set was fixed. Though the music continued shortly after and fans quickly returned to the music party, the incident served as a reminder to be mindful of safety. 

There were many standout performances from other stages as well. Rapper M.I.A. thrilled the crowd with plenty of audience interaction, inviting everyone up on stage to literally lead a wild and passionate party “together.” On the other hand, Asian-American hip-hop group Far East Movement paid homage to Seoul with an original stage set shaped like the South Korean flag, to the delight of many local fans.

The top DJ of Ultra Korea 2014 was undoubtedly Saturday’s main headliner Steve Angello from world-famous EDM group Swedish House Mafia ― which disbanded after a final performance at Ultra Miami last year. Angello performed in front of the largest crowd of the weekend on Saturday.

As opposed to delivering a set list filled with the group’s classic hits, Angello chose to focus more on pure house music, playing mostly his solo hits such as “Payback” and “SLVR.” When putting on Swedish House Mafia favorites such as “Save the World” and “Don’t You Worry Child,” Angello did not allow the crowd to bask in familiarity by imbuing a fresh sound and style into the originals.

Amid an array of fireworks and flashing lights, Angello closed down this year’s Ultra Korea, as many festival attendees headed to the official after-party held at various night clubs around Seoul such as Octogan and Syndrome.

On Sunday, a pool party featuring more upbeat acts including The Chainsmokers, T-Pain, Ale Mora and Raiden as well as Sick Individuals was thrown at the five-star Sheraton Grande Walkerhill’s outdoor swimming pool for “those who needed another dose of fun,” organizers said.

Ultra Music Festival started out in Miami, Florida, in 1991 and has since expanded to other countries to become one of the largest music festivals in the world. Ultra Korea has taken place annually in Seoul since 2012. Last year’s edition featured major EDM acts including Afrojack, Armin Van Buuren, Avicii, Carl Cox and Kaskade.

By Sohn Ji-young (jiyoung.sohn@heraldcorp.com)