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Ultra Japan and the EDM I’ve Been Looking For


With raves and music festivals spread throughout the year in California, coming to Japan where the electronic dance music scene is not as popular was a bit tough for me. Sure, I would hear some EDM music in the clubs or go to concerts at Ageha (like Porter Robinson), but with no outdoor festivals solely featuring the amazingness that is EDM, it left something significant to be desired.

However, this year featured an EDM explosion in Japan like never before. With over 40,000 attendees, Ultra Japan sold out over two months before taking place on Sep 27 & 28 in Odaiba, Tokyo. It was the first time Ultra Worldwide came to Japan, and I am so glad that I was able to make it over to Tokyo for it.

A couple EDM-loving friends and I had no trouble getting our iFlyer tickets and wristbands for both Saturday and Sunday, and the event was very well organized. Not sure what to expect from an EDM festival in Japan, we all noticed the following after entering: an insanely long line for buying Ultra merchandise, a UMF Radio stage for the smaller acts, food shops including ramen, and stands selling all kinds of alcohol from Budweiser cans to Jaeger bombs to tequila mixed drinks.

The main stage was where the party was with tons of people waving their hands and respective country flags up in the air, head bobbing, and #selfiestick-ing to an enormous illuminated stage. We were also pleasantly surprised by the rave outfits that the attendees had. We’re talking bright colors, wrists full of kandi, crazy sunglasses, and even some bare midriffs and shoulders. I suppose Ultra Music Festival brings out certain freedoms in the typically conservative Japanese lifestyle.

The absolute best part was the music though. Both days featured top DJs spinnin’ popular tracks and remixes. For all of the DJs we listened to, nobody disappointed. Day 1 included Morgan Page and a super dance party with W&W. The up and coming Martin Garrix threw down with “Gold Skies” & “Animal.” Kaskade played a bit less of his signature trance and opted for a more house dance-y set, which was awesome. Though, the best for Saturday was Steve Angello as he laid down some sick beats and pumped up the crowd like no other that day. The headliner, Hardwell (rated #1 DJ in the world by DJ Magazine) got us going with his signatures “Dare You” and “Apollo” while also mixing in some “Blame” by Calvin Harris and “Rude” by Magic!. The epic-ness that was Day 1 of Ultra Japan left us simultaneously satisfied and wanting more (especially since it ended around 9:30 p.m.), which leads me to Day 2.

Day 2 of Ultra Japan for us was pretty wild since we found our own spot for dancing in the crowd, and like Day 1, the music fueled our EDM-highs. We caught a bit of M-Flo and Far East Movement on Sunday, which was really interesting to hear them stray away from hip hop and provide a more club music-like sound. It was my first time hearing Fedde Le Grand, and I was impressed by the house music he provided. I was happily surprised with Afrojack on Day 2 since I consider him to be the Flo Rida of EDM, but he laid down favorites like “Ten Feet Tall” and “Illuminate” and even had lyrics on the screen for fans to sing along with. Next came the DJ I considered to be the best of Day 2 – Alesso. His new song “Heroes” got everyone to sing as did “City of Dreams.” Day 2 capped off with Axwell & Ingrosso and although we had hoped Steve Angello would jump on stage for a Swedish House Mafia reunion, they did end up playing a fantastic set complete with “Save the World” and “In My Mind.” When the last bit of confetti and streamers touched the floor though, a wave of disbelief that Ultra Japan was over hit us, and even amidst the musical high that was achieved, we just didn’t want it to be true.

Ultra Japan was an EDM experience that was filled with good feelings, friends, and fun. Compared to raves in America, I actually preferred Ultra Japan because of how cooperative the crowd was (i.e. not running you over or pushing in the crowd). I also liked how there were the “Sumimasen” & “Gommennasai” phrases when people were moving around you. It was honestly a “no stress, focus on the excellent music” kind of event and I loved it. I cannot wait for June 2015 when I will be heading to Ultra Korea to do it all over again!

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Brandon Yanari



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