What Can We Learn from Ultra Europe's Undercard?
Stijn de Grauwe
A grip of superstar DJs expectedly adorns the top of the flyer for Ultra Europe 2022 July 8-10 in Split, Croatia. However, when perusing those smaller logos on the lineup, numerous artists could be unfamiliar to a majority of audiences in America. Examined parallel to the flagship Ultra Music Festival in Miami during Miami Music Week, the curation for Ultra Europe seems to dig a bit deeper. It's a departure from the three days of wall-to-wall headliners, as is the norm for other annual sold-out state-side massives.
The differences in bookings when comparing Ultra Europe to Ultra Miami and beyond can be attributed to myriad reasons. There are obvious basics such as geography. Europeans can travel shorter distances by land to numerous countries for a wide range of cultural exposure—as opposed to the vast expanses in the U.S.
It's more common in Europe to see a mix of demographics all dancing together, from original ravers approaching senior citizen early-dinner discounts age to n00bs just old enough to attend without a guardian. And while there's no denying you'll always see people repping flags from around the planet at American festivals, those crowds are usually dominated by attendees from surrounding regions and on the younger end of the spectrum.
U.S. fans luck out in that often, the same festival moniker with a similar lineup will be coming to their side of the country soon anyway. Also, when Ultra Europe began in 2013, it licensed the Ultra name but was not run by the same promoters. There's another possibility that lineup choices from the start were made based on taste, popularity, radius clauses, budgets—the list goes on but can be a bit too inside baseball, so we won't bore you with industry semantics.
Ultra Europe 2022 predicts the biggest installment yet, with approximately 140,000 attendees for this eighth incarnation. Fans can get hyped on discovering new producers to add to their playlists or hear artists they've only ever been able to listen to ON a playlist live front-and-center.
The European electronic music world is typically known for having longer attention spans than the Americans clamoring to get to the front of the main stage with its flurry of whiplashing builds and drops. At Ultra Europe (and many other European festivals), you're more likely to encounter sets made up of more IDs than Beatport Top 10 bangers. Not that Europe should be blanked as a continent of music snobs—after all, they DID give us the Spice Girls and had an odd affinity for David Hasselhoff music. Even though some fans across the pond call EDM "brostep,"—America has its fair share of genre purists that will droningly defend their view on BPMs until their conversation doubles as ASMR, and you doze off.
If you're about avoiding the main stage, take an auditory adventure with some smaller-billed artists on the Ultra Europe 2022 festival lineup. We did the digging for you to track down each one's deal, including sifting through indie record label catalogs, Reddit rabbit holes, stalking bigger collaborators that may have tagged them, scrolling through artist name matches being like, "That kinda looks like a DJ press shot?" then seeing what kind of music they make. There are plenty of diverse options at Ultra Europe, so here are our picks from the lineup undercard, from house and trance to turntablism, cool covers, and more reasons to arrive early and stay late.
In terms of delving beyond the basic, overall, one can trust Ultra's Resistance stage that's unique to the brand and thus created to specifically focus on underground sounds. If you're timid around techno, start with the legendary Richie Hawtin (aka Plastikman) and Amelie Lens.
Hailing from Germany, Pretty Pink is not only a talented DJ/producer but has a captivating voice to boot. She often sings on her tracks for deep hypnotic and melodic results. And while you'd think her version of "What is Love?" (aka "that song from A Night at the Roxbury") would be ultimate cheese, it's a surprising triumph that innovates while still capturing the original essence and emotion of the Haddaway song before it became a punchline.
Looking to vibe with a true "DJ's DJ"? That's where Ilario Alicante comes in. Tapped to spin at Danny Tenaglia's 60th birthday last year—so you know he's got to be good!—Alicante's latest release dropped recently on Drumcode, the "Rave Soul" EP.
The #TranceFam will find their friends during ANG for some epic trance. The DJ/producer duo from Mexico has collaborated with genre legends Jeffrey Sutorius, Orjan Nilsen, and Super 8 & Tab, plus they always bring the energy with their quick and punchy solo singles.
Remixing Orbital and doing it proper justice is no easy task, but ANNA surpasses the challenge and melds "Belfast" with her heavy-hitting productions. Plus, how can you not groove to another of her tracks celebrating "Forever Ravers"? The Brazilian ANNA is a 20-year-vet of techno, so take notes during this live masterclass of a set.
Speaking of masters on the ones-and-twos, you'd be amiss not to admire the award-winning DJ Kentaro. Get up close at the UMF Radio stage to watch the Japanese mix-master work with the prowess only a DMC Champion possesses—especially the one with the highest score in the World Battle's history.
Whether in Europe, America, or elsewhere, nothing is like that amazing rush from getting down on a dancefloor to a fresh discovery, whether the DJ is new to the scene or just new to you. Happy raving, and stay safe!