Seoul’s Hottest Summer Party

by Emma Kalka

UMF comes back to Korea for its 6th edition

As summer inches ever so closer, it’s time for music fans to start planning which music festivals to hit up over the coming months. While most offer a variety of genres, there is only one that has been dubbed the hottest party of the summer – that’s right, UMF Korea is back in June.

Ultra Music Festival Korea will hit Seoul Olympic Park on June 10 and 11, this year bringing around 100 acts from all over the world to perform in the country’s largest electronic music festival. This is the sixth year that the festival has been held since it started in 2012.

The festival, which originated in Miami, Florida, prides itself on bringing in top-ranked DJs that have graced DJ MAG’s Top 100 list, and this year is no different, with the likes of Tiesto, Hardwell and KSHMR taking the stage at the two-day festival. This year’s edition features four stages, with a few new twists as well.

So sit back, relax and let Groove take you through the ins and outs of UMF.

History of UMF

Starting in 1999 in Miami, Ultra Music Festival is now considered the world’s leading electronic music festival. In 2017 alone, UMF will take place in 10 countries around the world, including Croatia, Spain, South Africa, Japan, and Singapore.

The festival series kicks off every year in March at Miami Music Week, according to the festival’s press release. The festival brings in top DJs and crowds, causing the city’s economy to grow remarkably each year. This year it was held on March 24-26 and attracted over 100,000 people.

At the time Ultra started in 1999, electronic dance music was still mostly just a European thing and had yet to really gain a foothold in the U.S. It was against this backdrop that the festival’s founders, Russel Faibisch and Alex Omes came up with the idea to host a one-day EDM festival to coincide with the Winter Music Conference – an annual EDM conference in Miami. The festival exploded and after a repeat performance in 2000, it moved to its current home, the Bayfront Park in downtown Miami. Later in 2007, it was expanded to a two-day event.

As EDM grew in popularity in the States, so did Ultra, with the festival completely selling out in 2010. It then grew into a three-day festival in 2011. Around 2007, the festival began spreading internationally, with the first overseas UMF taking place in Ibiza, Spain, followed by Sao Paulo in 2008. Other countries quickly joined the UMF bandwagon starting in 2012.

The festivals share many of the same acts, and this year, between three series of events under the Ultra brand, Ultra is set to hit 19 countries on five continents.

History of UMF Korea

UMF landed in South Korea for the first time in 2012. The company had announced that it was planning to bring the festival to Asia, but hadn’t said which country. Many fans speculated it would go to one of Singapore, Hong Kong or Tokyo, but it was Seoul that was ultimately chosen.

According to UMF Korea organizers, Seoul was chosen as the first UMF venue in Asia due to the rapid growth of its arts, culture, fashion and beauty industries, including the global spread of K-pop.

The first festival in 2012 – spread out around Olympic Stadium at Jamsil Sports Complex — brought in 50,000 attendees over two days from Korea and abroad and featured artists such as Skrillex, Tiesto, Steve Aoki, Carl Cox, John Digweed and many others. The event also attracted a smattering of Korean celebrities to its VVIP section, with folks such as Psy, Kim Bum-soo, Yoon Do-hyun and Jang Geun-suk spotted mingling in the roped off tent.

Following the first edition, the 2013 and 2014 festivals saw increased success, bringing in such artists as Armin van Buuren, AVICII, Kaskade, Carl Cox, Boy George, Above & Beyond, Steve Aoki, Steve Angellow, Paul Van Dyk and M.I.A.

Festival attendance hit a record 110,000 at UMF Korea 2015, with explosive sets by Hardwell, David Guetta, Knife Party and Skrillex. Last year’s festival only continued the momentum, bringing in a rousing 150,000 people and 100 acts, with the festival expanding to three days. It was the fifth anniversary of UMF in Korea, and certainly went off with a bang, bringing in Afrojack, AVICII, Axwell A Ingrosso, Deadmau5, and many others.

The festival has also proven to be a great stage for local acts, bringing in both DJs and MCs to perform. Such names as DJ Koo, Zion.T, The Koxx, Juncoco, Kingmck, Illinit x Illevn, Guckkasten, Idiotape and Delispice have taken the UMF stage at some point in its history.

While it is predominantly an electronic music festival, UMF Korea has brought in a variety of genres over the years, mostly through the festival’s Live Stage, which has hosted rock bands, hip-hop artists, and DJs. British duo July Child performed last year on the Live Stage and said that, as a more relaxed house group, fitting in wasn’t an issue.

“It’s funny because initially when we got the offer, I was kind of like, does our music fit in? The main theme of the festival is hard-hitting EDM. But again, the promoter was steadfast. He was like, ‘We love your sound. Korea is going to love your sound,’” said producer Kiks.

“The Live Stage was set up incredibly, to the point where part of it was like, we kept looking at each other going, Jesus Christ, this is huge. We can fit a few hundred people here.”

He added that the crowd at Ultra Korea has its own essence, different from other audiences they’ve played for.

“Both receptive and reflective. Like, it was obvious how they felt at all times. Whenever the beat dropped, everyone would scream. When Amber sung her first notes, there was a really loud scream,” he said. “Like, a really loud cheer of support. They weren’t afraid to be vocal, both during the songs and in between.”

UMF Korea 2017

Ultra Korea 2017 is once again returning to Olympic Stadium in Jamsil Sports Complex this year, set to take place on June 10 and 11 – going back to a two-day setup. The festival will feature about 100 acts performing on four different stages spread out in the stadium and its surrounding auxiliary stadiums. They include the Main Stage, Magic Beach Stage, Live Stage and the Resistance Stage, which is making its first appearance in Korea.

The Resistance Stage is a futuristic stage that accommodates a variety of electronic dance music. It was introduced this year in line with the current global trend of electronic dance music gradually becoming more varied, according to organizers. The stage will be helmed by Sasha & John Digweed.

Currently, two-day tickets are available for 165,000 won or US$165 for foreign ticket buyers. One-day tickets are available for 120,000 won. There are also premium general admission two-day tickets for 210,000 won. The festival will also once again offer VVIP tables for groups of up to 10 people, which come with bottle service, valet parking and discounts on additional VVIP tickets over the 10 that come with the table.

For an extra layer of luxury and the celebrity treatment, there are also VVIP suites available for groups of up to 15 people. The suites come with discounts on additional tickets, private butler service, bottle service, and valet parking. One more step above that is the VVIP Skybox, which can accommodate up to 40 people and has an unlimited cocktail bar, catering, bottle service and private butler service.

All VVIP packages also come with access to VVIP-only restrooms, exclusive VVIP red carpet entrance and access to VVIP-only zones.

The Lineup

So far, UMF has only released its phase one lineup, with others to follow leading up to the show. So far, the headliners are Alesso, Dash Berlin, Dubfire, Hardwell, KSHMR, Martin Solveig, Nic Fanciulli, Nicky Romero, Sasha & John Digweek, Steve Angello, Tchami and Tiesto, with many regional DJs and performers to take part as well.

Alesso is a Swiss DJ, record producer and musician. He has worked with many artists over the years, including Tove Lo, Theo Hutchcraft, Ryan Tedder, Calvin Harris, Usher, David Guetta and many more. He has graced the stages of many a big-name festival including Coachell and Tomorrowland, and was named one of the “EDM Rookies to Watch” in 2012. In 2015, he was ranked 13 on DJ Magazine’s list of the top DJs, and most recently released the full-length album Forever in May 2015.

Dash Berlin is a Dutch trance/progressive house music group consisting of friends Jeffrey Sutorius, Eelke Kalberg and Sebastiaan Molji, though the face of the group – Jeffrey Sutorius – also performs alone under the group’s moniker. Dash Berlin first gained attention with its track “Till the Sky Falls Down” in 2007. Later in 2010, it debuted on DJ Magazine’s Top 100 DJs at No. 15.

Dubfire is an Iranian-American techno and tech house DJ and producer. He was formerly part of the Grammy Award-winning duo Deep Dish, though has since moved away from the progressive house style of the group. Recently, Dubfire has co-produced tracks with British electronic music act Underworld. He started his label SCI + TEC in 2007, which has continued to grow and now has a roster of internationally based artists.

Hardwell is a Dutch big room house and electro house DJ, producer and remixer. This is his second appearance at Ultra Korea. Hardwell was voted No. 1 on the Top 100 list in 2013 and 2014 and is currently ranked at No. 3. He first gained attention in 2009 for his bootleg of “Show Me Love vs. Be” and recently premiered new tracks at Ultra Music Festival Miami in collaboration with Olly James, Austin Mahone, Maddix, Moksi and Henry Fong.

KSHMR is an American DJ, producer and musican from California, mostly creating electro house, progressive house and big room house music. Previously he was part of hip-hop production duo The Cataracs, which created such hits as “Like a G6” with Far East Movement, “Bass Down Low” with DEV and “Stars Dance” off Selena Gomez’s debut album. He started out at No. 23 on the Top 100 DJs list in 2015 and currently sits at No. 12.

Tiesto is a Dutch JS and record producer and was named the greatest DJ of all time by MixMag through a fan-based poll. In 2013, he was voted by DJ Magazine readers as the best DJ of the past 20 years. He is currently ranked at No. 5 on the magazine’s Top 100 DJs list, though he ranked No. 1 three years in a row from 2002-2004. In 2015, he won a Grammy for Best Remixed Recording, Non-Classical for his remix of John Legend’s “All of Me” and last year launched the deep house label AFTR:HRS to promote the genre.

Sasha & John Digweek, which will headline the new Resistance Stage at this year’s festival, are a progressive house DJ duo from the United Kingdom. The two started out teaming up for DJ sets together in early 1993 while both were at Renaissance. They often performed in tandem, focusing on track selection and technical mixing abilities. Since then, they have released six mix albums in the UK and three in the U.S.

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