Love and Passion for Music! Remembrance of Romantic Era in 2019, Ultra Japan

Love and Passion for Music! Remembrance of Romantic Era in 2019, Ultra Japan

David went a journey to experience the sixth edition of Ultra Japan…


I had been checking the weather for more than a week before I set my foot on Japan. It was supposed to rain all weekend; but there’s always a benefit of a doubt with weather forecasts as it is a hit or miss. And it missed! At least for the time when the show was on. But the show? That was a hit! A BIG PHAT H. I. T.



Going to a festival always feels like a journey and the way to the festival feels like a car ride to an airport: excitement, full of hopes and joy, and teeming expectations. All those feelings began to stir up on the way to the venue, located on a man-made island only 15 minute ride from Roppongi, the central location of Tokyo. As I crossed the bridge in a taxi, from a far, was a ferris wheel that was idle. Ferris wheel provokes a feeling of genuine, candid childhood memories from my own experience and also from the media; and also romance, not love. The kind of romance that we used to learn in the western world history class because I was pursuing this festival journey for my love of music and the culture that is behind it.


As soon as I made through the gates, I speed walked to the main stage. A curiosity of a 32-year-old was no different than a 5-year-old. When I arrived around half past three, the Main Stage was only one tenth full, almost empty. Of course, there was no music playing from the Main Stage as DJ Snails had just finished his set. The main stage was grandiose but rather simple. Two giant screens on each end with a mix of handful of screens in the middle to add complexity and depth to the stage. I left the main stage to give myself a tour of the venue.


The festival had two stages: The Main Stage and Ultra Park Stage. The RESISTANCE Stage, a much-loved stage for house and techno lovers, was not present for this edition, and was saved for an after party on the second day at Club Womb in downtown Tokyo. For this edition, Ultra Tokyo had to leave its usual hosting grounds to accommodate for the upcoming Tokyo Olympic in 2020. As the whole country is behind the mega sports festival, the number of people who showed up to Ultra proved that everyone understood the reason for downsizing and stayed loyal to the brand of Ultra.


The tour was like a walk in the park, both figuratively and literally, as people were still making their way in to the venue. Tokyo proved itself as one of the world’s fashion mecca. The crowd embraced their individuality, yet the squad goal was strong. Some fashion styles were bold, and some were eclectic, which only added entertainment other than what was prepared by the Ultra brand. I overheard a conversation from a fellow New Yorker who was telling his friend how impressed he was about the order and patience of the Japanese people at the festival. He mentioned that going around the festival couldn’t be easier than here in Japan. I totally agreed with him in silence.

When I arrived at the Ultra Park Stage with a Chupa Chups lollipop that they were handing out in my mouth like thousand other people, the crowd was very chill. A local Japanese DJ, DJ Martin, was spinning and people were chilling. Located near the main GA entrance, it would’ve been hard to miss. It was a welcome stage that warmed up the hearts before racing too fast from the Main Stage experience. Ultra Park Stage was filled with hard to meet celebrities: four Marshmallows, three Steve Aoki-es, and the long-forgotten Power Rangers.


5 minutes after 4 PM, I came back to the Main Stage to catch NETSKY. He was playing his remix of Chemical Brother’s ‘Hey Boy Hey Girl’. When he turned on Wuki’s ‘Pon De Time’, the crowd turnt up with the most familiar verse in EDM, “One More Time”, all commending to Netsky’s question, ‘Are you guys ready to jump for me?’ They were more than ready. The energy of the crowd had gone from 0 to 100 since I’ve seen the stage last. The Main Stage was filled up to at least 50 percent at this time. With Netsky’s own ‘Higher’ in the background, I went to greet my friends who were just arriving. I am not going to lie; I had been waiting for my friends ever since I got to the venue. It’s always a pleasure to do what you like solo, but when you are making great memories with your friends while sharing your passion, you simply can’t ask for more.


As the sun was on its way down to make the stage brighter and light up the crowd, the sun and I were facing face to face at this point. I stood standing welcoming Pendulum Trinity while saying good bye to the Sun. The LED screens began to fill up with red smoke as the suspense began to build up like a horror movie. During their ‘Witchcraft’, they had one of its members singing live in the back, making it a live concert. The sky was filled with waving hands as a chilled ‘Come Together’ was playing, keeping everyone relaxed to just take a breather for a moment. Then with Macky Gee’s ‘Never Wanna Stop’, adrenaline began pumping into people as stage began to burst its flame coinciding with the graphics on the screen. Pendulum Trinity was enchanting the crowd with his demands and the crowd followed; people had their hands up in the air jumping up and down. As the stage was filled with blue lights, an aquatic experience started with their ‘Watercolor”. It reminded me of my middle school days when I used to listen to skate punk genre; Offspring to be more specific. The song definitely took me down my memory lane reminding me the silence power of music.

I needed some rest, but my friends insisted that I needed some shots: pure peer pressure. So, we left the Main Stage hoping that everyone was already buzzed and is now at the main stage to watch Steve Aoki play. From the midsection of the stage, we made it to the back of the stage and to the back of the stage, and now we were in front of the alcohol booth. The truth was that the Main Stage had no choice but to end itself because of the booth; there simply was no gap between the stage and the alcohol booth. Because there was only one stage, the Main Stage, with international DJs, almost the whole festival was by the Main Stage. Our initial hope of the line for alcohol being shorter was shattered as soon as we were at the end of the main stage. We had no choice but to wait. Luckily, there was a giant screen in front of the booth that showed the UMF TV; so, the only thing that we were missing out on was the action. The sound was carried all the way to the back and the video was sufficient to keep us immersed in the moment where we thought we had left off. Oh, and sometimes your friends are right. After couple shots, I was ready to dive back into the crowd again for some Steve Aoki.


The energy level was at its pinnacle. Steve Aoki showed no mercy to DJ Snake by not leaving any room for growth of the energy on the floor. Steve Aoki’s remix of ‘Bella Ciao’ with MARNIK was amazing as a fan of Netflix series, La Casa del Papel. In my opinion, the visuals for the song were so much better and on-point than its official music video. The night sky is completely dark but it’s brighter than ever. People’s feet are only touching the ground half the time. And it surely felt like it was soon going to be over, but I looked at my watch only to find that its 6:45. Steve Aoki was almost half way into his set, and of course, he has his shirt off and is running across the stage left and right. Steve Aoki paid his respect to Avicii, RIP, with ‘I Could Be the One’. And 10 Pikachu, a favorite anime character of one of Ultra Angels (if you know, you know), came on the screen along with ‘Pika Pika’; totally appropriate for Japan! When ‘Cake Face’ was playing, suddenly and without any shock, Steve Aoki disappeared from the stage. We all watched him throwing those giant cakes to the crowd on the screen.


At this point, there was no point of going back because it would have been almost impossible to come back to where we were standing. Honestly, I don’t even remember if there was any break between Steve Aoki and DJ Snake. That’s how pumped up the energy was at the Main Stage. With his set including songs like ‘Turn Down For What’, ‘Taki Taki’, and ‘We Will Rock You’, I am not sure whether to call him a popstar or a superstar DJ. His actions and the aura that captured more than 30,000 people was like a rockstar with hip-pop’s swag. The chants in unison of the verses from ‘Let Me Love You’ was definitely the loudest and the clear east chant of the whole day. The lighting, the graphics, the flames, and the music; they were all jacked up on steroids. And sky was painted with colors as DJ Snake finished his set with ‘One More Time’. With one more day to go, my friends and I safely made it alive through the 1st day of Ultra Japan 2019.

Day 2


A whole new lineup was ready for a Day 2. I was pumped, but my body wasn’t. Who said Day 2 is a brand-new day? It was a continuation of Day 1 with a long break. There was a long detour until I made it back to my hotel room. I will just tell you that I saw all 4 headliners from day 1, AGAIN.


I got to the venue around 3:00 PM. Instead of heading straight into the venue, I decided to take a walk around the place. There were two things that I noticed: an eight story-high statue of a Gundam, a Japanese anime robot character, and tents. Next to the venue was a multiplex shopping mall that housed the Gundam exhibition. But I am sure its mere existence of the multiplex during the weekend was to be used as a shower space for all those who slept in the tent. For your information, Japanese hotel prices are more on the expensive side compared to those of other parts of the world. And the majority of rooms are so small that there isn’t enough room for an extra person to sleep on the floor. There were people outside the tents, enjoying picnics on the grass; pre-games in disguise. And some were already asleep.


Going into the venue, I can already sense that there’s a lot more people compared to yesterday. I wasn’t sure if it was a quick walk around the park or the energy from all the people at the venue, but I began sobering up. From the look and feel of the crowd, I thought it was Day 1. People were going places, eating things, and having fun! I say eating things, because I witnessed a small girl that was having a turkey leg barbeque that was the size of her forearm. That was pure dedication. It meant that she felt the necessity of fueling up to give all she got for the DJs.


I got to the Main Stage at around 4:00 PM with a turkey leg barbeque in one hand to catch Kayzo, who had closed Ultra Korea earlier this summer. I honestly don’t remember his set, as I was probably partying too hard instead of focusing on the music. But, listening to his set again, his spot as the closer seemed well deserved. I really enjoyed his remix of Travis Scott’s ‘Sicko Mode’ or so called Kayzo’s ‘Psyko Mode’. Kayzo’s ‘Feel the Power’ had everyone headbanging against his hard trap sounds. If you are hungover, you can’t headbang. So, either they were all sober or they were pushing beyond their physical limits to return the energy that Kayzo was giving them. I was gently nodding on the side like a bobblehead. Kayzo closed his set with ‘Cruel Love’, which just made it harder to say to say good bye to him. Yelling “Arigato!”, which means “thank you” in Japanese, with all he got, he made it to the backstage.

I got the same crew from yesterday with me who arrived later than myself, no surprise there.

My friends were excited to see Jeffrey’s comeback as Dash Berlin once more; hence, the “Return of Dash Berlin” on the timetable. With few other artists coming back to the music scene this year, 2019 has been a welcoming year for the fans of EDM. Damian, the Voice of Dance Music, described Dash Berlin’s comeback as “something magical”. When Dash Berlin set the tone on stage with his remix of ‘Faded’, the crowd screamed and welcomed his official return. On the screen, we saw his smile with a nod as if he was responding to the crowd, thanking our warm welcome. It was a great moment of connection and acknowledgement between the fans and the artist. I am not sure if he usually includes the song ‘Here I Stand For You’ in his set, but the song sounded like his message to his fans. During his last song of the set, ‘Till The Sky Falls Down’, the whole crowd sang along the melody with all eyes on the Ultra Angels. With a big “Thank U Japan” on the screen, he took his vow.


Drumroll please! I’ve always been a fan of Galantis, especially their opening act. It’s so charismatic! By this time, everybody had their phones out above their heads. And the scream? It’s been the loudest yet today. Along with “Tell Me You Love Me”, up went the fireworks, and up went the crowd. The Main Stage is noticeably more packed than yesterday. Galantis’ drumming performances between the songs provides the entertainment for the crowd, but it’s not a necessity. People would’ve loved them just for their songs and energy that that the duo pours out. Despite their slick hairs and cool jackets, some of their songs are bit jolly, putting everyone in a happy mood: ‘Love On Me’ and ‘Peanut Butter Jelly’. Or maybe I am biased because PB&J has been and will always be my favorite breakfast. And of course, ‘Runaway’ was the perfect way to end their set, leaving the new fans with a big impression if you weren’t a fan already.


Now at this point, I am for certain that there were so many of us who shared the same dilemma. Do we go back for drinks? Or do we stay where we are? I am no Hamlet; but the question, it’s a harder one to answer than what he posed. I am a responsible social drinker. And I am a great learner. And I have learned from yesterday that couple shots can get you running again, so off we went towards the back of the stage for drinks. Tired from yesterday, we wanted a head start on the way out anyways.

The moment that everyone was waiting for all day long. Afrojack took over the stage as the headliner. You could’ve known that he was the headliner with your eyes closed, even without the timetable or the crazy lasers and flame throwers from the stage. He made a big entrance with ‘1234’. With only couple songs into the set, he threw his hat to show his afro. There was no way that he was going to give a break to the crowd. He wanted everything that was left from the crowd. The jumping got faster during his ‘Let It Rip’. He ripped it. He teared it. He commanded all the lights up from the crowd and a sea of lights appeared. And naturally, the crowd chanted along ‘Turn Up The Speakers’. There were couple of times where he’d cut off the music completely to connect with the fans. After one of cut-offs, came out Rae Sremmurd for ‘Sober’. And I’ve definitely made ‘New Memories’ like the song with my friends in Japan. With ‘Scarlet’ as the finale, the fireworks lighted up the last night of Ultra Japan 2019.


And again, the night was still young and I had another detour back to my hotel.

October 30th, 2019

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