The kandi king and queen of Ultra, interviewed below
Imagine that you're standing in a crowd of a few thousand people, fireworks cracking above your head every few minutes, underage girls in bedazzled sports bras asking if they can borrow your phone to call their dad. From the back of the crowd, the DJ looks to be about the size of a cricket. Ultra's festival grounds slope downwards past the stage—they're dotted with other stages, tents, pavilions, elevated smart-lighting platforms, and you realize looking past all of this that you're not even at the main stage. Oh my god, there's one that's even bigger.
Some people are dancing like maniacs, shuffling and stomping in circles on the hill that slopes up from the arena. But most people are not dancing at all. They're sitting cross-legged in circles trading kandi, wandering around asking about their lost friends, or standing shoulder-to-shoulder waiting for the drop to hit so they can bunny-hop in perfect unison, one hand pumping in a salute to the DJ. Unless you're at one of the tiny stages, where there's minimal techno and plenty of room to move around, Ultra isn't really about dancing.
Ultra is about community. It's about experiencing something together, about subsuming yourself to a whole and melting into the vast expanse of ravers who are all attuned to the same carnal cycle of build-ups and drops. It's about becoming a part of the most powerful pop culture force on the planet right now, learning its fashion codes—and coming dressed to impressed. And most of all, it's about magnitude and scale. This festival boasts the most expensive array of LEDs, pyrotechnics, HD monitor matrixes, robotic moving light panels, and other NASA-level technological innovations that I don't even know how to describe. Then there's the sound system. These ravers, young and old, rookie and veteran alike, are here to witness the greatest spectacle of the year—to become one fucking gigantic psychically connected hive of PLUR writhing in unison.
And since Ultra is all about the people, I went around chatting with the folks that caught my eye. Here they are:
Erin the Go-Go Dancer (left) and Kaycie Fatale, CEO / Founder of Juicy, an agency for professional dancers and performers.
THUMP: You, with the purple hair. Who are you?
Erin: I'm Erin the Go-go. I was hear to go-go for Riff Raff—new talent signed by Mad Decent out of Texas, my home state. So I came out, showed my support earlier today and now I'm just listening to Paul Kalkebrenner tear it up here on the Live Stage. It's been an excellent day.
Where are you from originally?
Erin: My mom's vagina, but more specifically, I'm from Dallas, Texas. I got a call last minute that I needed to be here to dance at ULTRA, so I bought a plane ticket, booked a room, and the rest is history. Here I am! I'm signed with Juicy Entertainment and they have different chapters in every state and girls that work together in each state. Actually those are my Juicy girls right now!
Hey there! What's your name?
Kaycie Fatale: Hi, my name's Kaycie Fatale.
Are you also a go-go?
Kaycie: No, actually, I'm CEO and Founder of Juicy. It's one of North America's largest dance teams. We're in 30 cities and 15 states across the nation.
That's amazing, and you girls just get flown around to party and dance?
Kaycie: Well, we keep the partying to a minimum… but I guess that's my job as the CEO—to travel and oversee the girls. It's like living the dream.
What was your last gig before this?
Kaycie: The last booking we had was the Ultimate Music Experience on South Padre Island. It was a three-day festival. We had Tiësto, Carnage, Zedd—it was totally sold out and we rocked that out for three days.
What's life like on the road? Are you touring all the time?
Kaycie: You know, I actually haven't been home in six weeks. I'm living out of a suitcase—different hotels every night. You definitely meet a lot of people and you always want to find the good in people—something that reminds you of that person from back home, so you find comfort in strangers. You find comfort not knowing anybody. I'm definitely getting used to it.
What's the weirdest thing you've seen at one of these big festivals?
Kaycie: Oh, god. I'd say a better question would be, "What's one normal thing that I saw." Probably the craziest thing I've seen today—
Erin: I saw this guy finger a chick out on the Live Stage today, so there's that.
Kaycie: I was just at the dubstep stage and there was a large pole that had a flag on it, and some guy shimmied himself up to the top of the pole and was swinging around up there for, like, five minutes. My heart stopped, because if something happened then everyone here is gonna have to deal with the consequences. Luckily he shimmied himself down safely and security didn't kick him out so I guess he's still hangin'.
The author (left) with Sexy Thing #2 (right), encountered just outside Stage 7
THUMP: Tell me about yourself.
Sexy Thing #2: I'm from Pennsylvania, and I'm so glad to be here. I'm with family—my nephew, my brother is here. He's #1. And my nieces and nephews—it's great.
You came all the way down from Pennsylvania?
Yup. We came in Thursday.
Any artists you're particularly excited to see?
I like Carl Cox. You can't beat him.
What do you do for a living?
I'm retired! [dances around in celebration]
Yes! That's great. Have you been a house music fan for a while?
Yeah, ever since my nephew turned me on, about three years ago.
Do you prefer house and techno to dubstep and all that other stuff?
Whatever you can dance to. If you can dance to it I love it.
Have you seen anything particularly memorable so far? Any good stories?
No good stories, but I just love seeing everybody. It's wonderful how everybody gets along so good. Everybody's so nice and kind!
The kandi king and queen of Ultra, Melissa Ballestros (left) and Kenny Morales (right)
THUMP: Where are you from? How old are you?
Melissa Ballestros: We're from Miami. I'm 20 years old.
Kenny Morales: I'm also 20.
What's your favorite kind of dance music?
Melissa: Dubstep, for sure. I love dubstep. Hardstyle, too—it's a nice mixture of rock n' roll and techno, in my opinion, because it's hardcore but it's not using actual instruments.
Kenny: I like dubstep and a little bit of trap.
Melissa: He really likes it when they mix in the hip-hop, 'cuz he was actually a hip-hop fan before I met him. I got him into EDM.
When did you get into EDM?
Kenny: About a year-and-a-half ago. And I've been hardcore ever since.
Melissa: I've been into EDM for, like, five years.
So do you got to a lot of festivals? Do you travel?
Melissa: Yeah—I don't travel, though. I'm just from Miami so I got to a lot of the festivals here. I don't have the money to travel.
Do you think $500 for a ticket is a reasonable price for ULTRA?
Melissa: It's expensive but the experience is so awesome that I think it's worth it. That's why I've gone five years in a row.
What do you think makes EDM so special?
Kenny: When you hear it, you feel it. You're not only listening to it but you're feeling it in your body. When it drops, you drop too. And it brings together so many different types of people. I've met people here from Venezuela, from China, from Portugal.