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Ultra Music Festival: Seven Live Acts You Need To See

Anna Palma

If you've passed through or live in downtown Miami, you've probably already heard Ultra Music Festival testing its massive low-end speakers. Yes, the festival, which starts this weekend and then repeats all over again next weekend, brings plenty of bass. With the top names in electronic dance music converging on the massive event, the weekend offers plenty of straight-ahead, four-four beat oblivion.

But Ultra gets a bad rap among those who aren't necessarily familiar with all of its booking nuances. Yes, there is plenty of crowd-pleasing, easily digested dance music on offer. But the festival has, from the beginning, also boasted plenty of left-field acts. And in recent years, as it's swelled in size, Ultra has also devoted at least one large stage to live acts only.

If the endless oontz-oontz isn't your thing, there are still plenty of acts performing at the festival who veer far off this path. There are even, yes, bands! Here are seven of the top live acts, many of whom you might not expect at something like Ultra, to look for during both weekends of the festivals.

The Weeknd (first festival weekend only)

Local fans of Abel Tesfaye, the real name behind the Weeknd, have charted his ascent through the local venues in which he's performed. This spinner of louche, vaguely ominous R&B tales has played Revolution in Fort Lauderdale, then the Fillmore Miami Beach, and now, this huge festival stage. His live shows have expanded into full-on productions with a full band and coordinated visuals that add to the eerie existential angst of his songs.

Snoop Dogg

Yes, the beloved rapper-actor-filmmaker-whatever performs both weekends of Ultra, in one of the festival's few hip-hop sets.


This gleefully weird, critically lauded indie-ish act Yeasayer has always flirted with psychedelic dance beats and slinky soul, making them one of the few acts to really bridge the dance-rock gap. The band's last show in Miami was in fall of 2010 at the Fillmore Miami Beach -- and, frankly, was a bit under-attended -- so this provides a chance to make up for that.

Hot Chip (second weekend only)

When LCD Soundsystem called it quits, this English act filled a big, live-dance act hole in everyone's hearts. The 13-year-running London act are veritable royalty of the millennial, genre-crossing scene, churning out groovy, melodic beats on organic instruments.

Matt & Kim

Matt & Kim may come from a slightly crusty-punk, d.i.y. background, but thanks to an ear for pop hooks and a heaping of cuteness, they've transformed into a bona fide pop rock act. Keeping that link to Ultra appropriateness, some of their songs, too, flirt with electronics, and their live shows are notoriously energetic.


This up-and-coming U.K. duo melds pure electronics with soul and a genre known as "U.K. garage," all adding up to a funky, neck-snapping brew with a melancholic tinge. The pair is poised to break big this year, and this show makes the act's Miami debut.

Major Lazer

Helmed by golden-boy producer Diplo, Major Lazer is the act that made hipsters and club kids finally get down to dancehall. Of course, it all comes filtered through weird effects and unpredictable tempos, accompanied by guest-star vocalists and borderline-lewd dancers.