Mat Zo Saved Ultra
Disclaimer: If you haven't yet, please watch and listen to Mat Zo's Ultra set below while reading this article
Last year, I attended Ultra, and it stole my heart. The production was unlike anything I had ever seen, the talent on the lineup was second to none, and the friends I made I still talk to all the time. The bar was set extraordinarily high, so maybe I had too many expectations for this year to live up to the hype.
I had a great time at Ultra; however, what bothered me this year wasn’t something that the festival could have fixed. My biggest issue with was with the lack of effort that I felt several DJs put into their sets. I thought that many of the sets came off as “ordinary,” and I expected something special. I hoped for a set that was completely awe-inspiring—especially because Ultra is the major festival that kicks off festival season. Many sets from Ultra seemed like carbon copies of each other. The same predictable songs were getting recycled from act to act, sometimes only within minutes of each other.
I got to day 3 of Ultra and was uninspired, probably because it was my 8th straight day of attending a show—Miami Music Week is no joke. I saw Jack U (Skrillex and Diplo), and they killed it just as would be expected, but it still just wasn’t what I was looking for. I began to wonder if I was getting bored of “EDM” and the large festival scene. That was, until Mat Zo took the Worldwide Stage.
I had never shed a tear during a set before until this set from Zo (Pretty Lights has brought me pretty close several times), but about halfway through the set, I had to dry my cheek. It was my first time seeing Mat Zo play after over a year of anticipation. I stood towards the back of the giant arch of the Worldwide Stage and watched the magic unfold. The buildup to this release of tears was slow, as it wasn’t necessarily what tracks he played that brought me to tears, but how he went about playing them. The variety of tracks used was complete brilliance, with everything from techno and trance to dubstep and deep house, and the mixing between the genres was flawless.
In summary, Zo opened with The Chemical Brothers and a Cirez D techno track, and followed up with a few Skrillex tracks (Skrillex even jumped on stage with him for a minute), a bootleg mashup of Steve Aoki, deadmau5 and Above & Beyond, in addition to tracks from Ferry Corsten, Hardwell & MAKJ, Zedd and Bassnectar. Yes, Bassnectar. That’s not even including Zo’s original tracks and other remixes and bootlegs that were squeezed into his one-hour set.
The reason I say that Mat Zo saved Ultra for me speaks more to the fact that without his set, I might have left the festival with doubts in my mind about the direction electronic music was headed in. His set gave me hope that, in fact, there was still a lot of great music to be made and that creativity still existed within a set (As a side note, Diplo has always earned my respect for this, but didn’t display it as much on the Main Stage at Ultra on Friday). Creativity and variety are two of the most important factors in keeping a crowd interested in what you're doing. It might be fun to throw down banger after banger, but when every other DJ is doing the same thing at the same festival, it all begins to blend together.
The moral to the story is that sometimes one set, one song, or one moment can evoke such overwhelming joy in a person that it begins to define the way you think about that experience. Mat Zo had that effect on me at Ultra, and it’s a feeling I’ll never forget.
Mat Zo and Kill the Noise are going on tour as Kill The Zo – for tickets and more information visit: http://killthezo.com/