Tomorrowland in Boom, Belgium — that’s always been the dream. Well, it’s been my younger brother’s dream for a few years now and I’ve agreed to go with him whenever that time comes. I can’t exactly say that I’m a hardcore fan of electronic dance music or anything but yeah, I get the urge to throw my hands in the air when my favorite Marshmello song comes on. So last year when tickets to Ultra Music Festival went on sale, I jumped at the opportunity for a festival test run.
Miami’s Ultra Music Festival is an annual, outdoor, EDM festival that takes place in March. I’ve lived in South Florida for almost a decade now and this year, on Ultra’s 20th anniversary, was the first time I’d ever attended. I figured this was an easy in to the festival world before I traipsed across the Atlantic for the big leagues. I didn’t realize, though, how many times I’d change my mind about going in the 10 months leading up to the festival.
“You’re too old for this,” I said (I’m 26). “You’re not a college kid anymore. You won’t fit in with them and worse, they’ll annoy you with their fun-having while you mope around the festival grounds.” It’s fairly easy to resell Ultra tickets, and at a profit, so that was the plan — at least until our tickets came in the mail a few days before Ultra weekend.
They were packaged so attractively with face tattoos and festival pins that screamed, “Hey, you’re a part of this now!” I accepted what I felt was a personal invitation to Bayfront Park in Miami to party with the likes of DJ Snake, Kaskade, KSHMR, Steve Aoki, and Tiesto. I was ready, or so I thought.
On Day 1 of the festival, I immediately felt out of place — like I suspected I would. But the more I let my guard down, the more I explored, the more I realized literally no one else there gave a sh*t about me (in a good way, I swear), the more I started to get the allure of music festivals. The no-inhibitions vibe is strong, almost as if it were airborne and highly contagious. I was infected and, if there’d been a cure (hydration and electrolytes, probably), I didn’t want it.
Before I knew it, I was only a few feet away from the main stage, jumping up and down maniacally as I embraced strangers from France and Japan and, evidently, got over my claustrophobia. I’m pretty sure this is what having an out-of-body experience feels like because I started doing something I’d never done before. No, not drugs. Still haven’t touched those. I was fist-pumping! WTF? Even more surprising? This went on for another two days.
That’s the thing about music festivals, I realized. The energy, the magic, the metaphorical freedom — it’s all so endearing. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you’ve been, or where you’re going. It doesn’t matter that you fist-pumped so hard, you have to ice your elbow for the next week (like I did). Because in those moments, in front of those stages, and among those neon-colored crowds, you’ve become the carefree person you’ve always wanted to be. And to quote Cheat Codes, “It feels great, motherf*cker.”