Ultra Music Festival, Miami Music Week, and even a Miami Heat basketball game: this past week was a rather busy one for the lively city of Miami, Florida. You better believe the cab drivers I met were quite ecstatic to serve desperate out-of-state travelers.

After months of saving, planning, waiting, and ignoring the low balance on my bank account, the weekend of March 27 finally arrived. Joke’s on me for thinking those $450 tickets were the bulk of my money I’d be spending. On the bright side, I was paying for an unbelievable weekend to hear a variety of brilliant acts. Bouncing from stage to stage, I saw it all: naked teenage girls, dazed middle-aged men, 8 dollar beers, the sun (yes Syracuse, the sun!), some mind-blowing lights and visuals, and everything in between.

That being said, I’m going to break down Miami’s Ultra Music Festival for you. And it will be honest. Not too critical, not too hyped; simply 20 Watts-style honesty.

PROS, in no particular order:

  • I personally loved that Friday was a half-day. It left room for us travellers to get to the airport, order some Dominos pizza (anyone else?), and relax. We didn’t feel that we were missing out on 4 hours of music.
  • Of course the artists. Ultra’s line up never fails to glorify an impressive roster of top-named artists, up and coming DJs, and a few guest stars as well.
  • The live stage. Gorgon City, Kygo, Porter Robinson and Klingande are a few notable artists who performed their sets with instruments, vocalists, and more. It almost felt like a punch in the face to those who bash EDM as a weak genre due to its electronic nature and lack of “real instruments.” This stage kicked ass and added a different element to the experience. Screen Shot 2015-04-04 at 12.38.37 PM
  • The stages’ layouts and design. The stages were spaced apart enough to drain out the nearby artists’ music, but they weren’t too far away where it felt like a hike to walk around. The design was extremely impressive too. The quantity of screens and lights, the annual half-indoor arena-shaped layout for Carl Cox’s “Carl Cox & Friends” stage, the versatility of movement at the Ultra Worldwide Stage. The lighting and fireworks were breathtaking.
  • The food quality. I ate that corndog in 2 minutes tops. The Asian cuisine was delicious. The fresh lemonade was perfect.
  • The location. Miami sunshine, culture, close beaches.
  • The sense of community in the crowd. I felt that the attendees were genuinely friendly. Many people started conversation, asked you how you were enjoying yourself, and just wanted to have a good time with you. The crowd wasn’t obnoxiously pushy, and the guys weren’t touchy (sorry to stereotype, boys. I’ve seen it far too many times at other party-like environments and concerts in the past, so it had to be noted.)

CONS, in no particular order:

  • The high costs of everything. Although all festivals cause this burden, I was still shocked to see how many times I had to pull a $20 out of my wallet. Cab rides averaged $35-$40 a trip (which we learned to avoid at all costs.) The festival food was expensive, as anticipated. The ticket price, as usual. The entire weekend was money, money, money.
  • Transportation to Ultra. After figuring out the hard way that a cab ride there and back was nearly 100 dollars, we learned to use the Miami Metro system. Handy and cheap? Yes. A short trip? Nope. However, keep in mind that this is our personal experience. I’m sure that those few who paid the hefty price of staying at a hotel within walking distance were happy as a clam. For the majority of us, we were stuck with shuttles, transfers, metro cards, and unpleasant transportation workers. Going to and from the festival was not very enjoyable.
  • To play devil’s advocate about the music, there were definitely some acts missed. While I understand that booking a huge event like Ultra is not easy, as I’m sure many sought-out artists were unavailable for a variety of reasons, the billing was anticipated. Many of the genres were similar (deep house, big room, dubstep.) Nevertheless, still great acts.

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  • The low-culture dressed crowd. Shocker, right? I love EDM, but I’m not a fan of the thin thongs, furry boots, nipple tassels, facemasks, netted shirts, and all that trashy junk that Ultra attracts. While I’m a strong believer that EDM music is not defined by that culture, Ultra, along with other similar electronic music festivals, such as Electric Daisy Carnival and Electric Zoo, appeals to that stereotypical mass.
  • The first day’s downpour. Ultra does not have Mother Nature’s number on speed dial, I get it. But man was that rain brutal. It surely shoved the price we were paying in our faces during the few hours of torrential weather.

Overall, my Ultra Music Festival experience was an unforgettable weekend. If you’re an EDM fan it’s worth the trip as a youngster. I would do it again in a heartbeat and do not regret a minute of that weekend. If you aren’t the biggest EDM fan, you can probably skip it and save your bank account the stress.