Any veteran of Ultra Music Festival who attended this year's three-day event was pleasantly surprised by the increased organization and overall maturity of the audience. Certain seemingly simple measures, like an 18-and-over age policy and significantly improved perimeter security, taken following 2014's trampling of security guard Erica Mack and the fatal overdose of Adonis Escoto helped turn Ultra into a safer, happier place.
Another of those measures was a ban on many things that festival-goers have come to see as Ultra staples, such as glow sticks, totems, facemasks, and backpacks. For the most part, these so-called Prohibited Items were few and far between (except for facemasks, which were everywhere), but we managed to find sneaky ravers with more than a few pieces of contraband in their possession. Here is some of what got through the gates at Ultra 2015.
Backpacks Small Camelbaks were officially "Ultra Approved" festival gear, but regular backpacks were a no-go unless they were made of clear material. However, this fella was carrying a fairly large tropical-themed pack. And there were others like him. Is it a Camelbak? And does it really matter when he's crammed so much gear in there? Although, it's not like anyone is in danger of attack by Hawaiian sack. The crackdown on bags of various kinds was likely to ensure that illegal substances and weapons were tougher to smuggle into Ultra 2015. But a see-through backpack comes with its own problems: some fans complained to us about stolen goods and money, which thieves spotted thanks to their clear containers.
Facemasks Everywhere you looked was another facemask. Kandi kids simply wore their masks as bracelets until they made it through the gates. And then they slipped these beaded accessories on their heads. What's the problem with facemasks? They are heavily linked to rave's drug culture, often serving as a way to hide excessive gnawing or other signs that someone has taken molly. People also line their masks with Vicks VapoRub, which is kind of a rush to inhale when you're rolling. So banning facemasks seems to have been designed as a deterrent to that kind of drug-centric activity. But these days, there are plenty of party people who wear masks for fashion's sake alone. Maybe that's why we never heard a raver complain about confiscations or being stopped for wearing one.
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Stuffed Animals This rule is also a crackdown on the childish accessories associated with rave's drug culture. The problem for Ultra is not really the stuffed animal, but what it seems to say about the owner. Cuddling a soft, cute thing isn't only fun when you're sober, it helps on bad trips too. Plus, tiny gorillas are just generally adorable when you're high. Honestly, though, the dangers are limited, unless the little guy gets used as a mule for drugs, a knife, etc. But as long as that plush toy is given a thorough check, it is not particularly alarming that security doesn't mind so much if these dudes bring along their furry friend.
Laser Pens Glow sticks, laser pens, and focused-light devices of any kind were banned from Ultra 2015. Glow toys are the absolutely favorite accessory of kids on MDMA, so cutting back on them does a lot to change the atmosphere of a music festival. Sure, it's fun to get a light show from a friend when you're blowing up, but it's embarrassing for everyone involved when walkways are full of slack-jawed kids huddled together, staring at a trailing finger glove. Also, laser pens are obnoxious and ruin the vibe. No one wants to see your little green dot on Ultra's Main Stage. Thankfully, we didn't see many of these things, but clearly, some jerks still had their fun. Overall, we have to say, "Kudos, Ultra."
Umbrellas Devices used to shield yourself from the rain have absolutely nothing to do with drug culture. They're just a horrible visual obstruction that will ruin the experience of anyone standing near or behind the inconsiderate clowns who thought their comfort was more important than the Ultra enjoyment of those around them. Yeah, an umbrella is a great way to escape the elements. But seriously, grab a poncho and some sunscreen like the rest of us.
Selfie Sticks and Recording Devices Much like umbrellas, selfie-sticks are annoying and unnecessary. Yes, they could lead to accidental injury or even be used as weapons. But mostly, it's aggravating having to watch everyone focus on getting the perfect profile picture when we just want to enjoy a musical experience that cost $450. Recording devices, such as professional cameras and GoPros, are also Prohibited Items because Ultra likes to control how the festival is seen. However, selfie sticks and recording devices were, unfortunately, everywhere. They may as well have never been banned.
Totems These rave accessories are basically giant selfie sticks atop of which you shove a stuffed animal or stupid sign. It's a great way to keep track of your group of friends in a crowd, but it's also a great way to ruin the line of sight for dozens of people. It's another chance for injury too. There weren't very many at Ultra 2015, and the example pictured above is clearly quite makeshift. We welcomed the lack of totems in the crowd at this year's fest. Dope move, Ultra.
Pacifiers Please excuse the poor image quality. Pacifiers were so well deterred, this is the only one we saw all weekend. We had to snap a quick pic with our phone in the middle of Cashmere Cat's awesome set to get the evidence. Eliminating binkies is just another way to curb visual reminders that lots of people are so mind-boggled on substances, they hardly know what's going on anymore. Not seeing folks sucking on a soother at every turn made the festival seem more mature, even if it might not have been truly more sober.
Pets This is a no-brainer. Why even bring your non-service dog to a place as loud and crowded as Ultra? We have no idea how this pup made it past the gates. He was spotted backstage. So maybe he's a VIP. But hey, it's also possible that he's providing his owner with some kind of absolutely essential minute-to-minute assistance. After all, his doggy t-shirt does read, "Security." At least the poor thing has his own set of noise-canceling headphones. But dear lord, get a dog sitter.
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