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Ultra Europe 2013: Avicii showcases ‘True,’ Luciano packs out Carl Cox tent on Day 1

Over 5,000 miles from home, Ultra Music Festival planted its roots in Split, Croatia last night kicking off its inaugural European event. Making way towards the sunny peninsula, we noticed much of the original Ultra allure intact. The event was properly marketed as a “destination festival” — flags of all nations were waving throughout the crowd from the main stage to the Carl Cox tent. As Miami’s annual affair brings some of the year’s biggest surprises and debuts, Ultra Europe did just the same on Day 1.

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Arriving in time for Sunnery James & Ryan Marciano at 7pm, the artists who we’ve seen dominate the New York area, brought their mystique to Croatia with a flair unprecedented for even two of the most technical DJs in big room house these days. Beasting through a familiar beginning which included their forthcoming Nicky Romero collaboration, signature Joe Brunning drop, and an hour of the most animated set of traditional house one may imagine, Sunnery and Ryan’s highlight didn’t approach until 7:45pm.

If someone would have told you last year, that there would soon be a track that makes “Atom” look soft, would you have believed them? Well, the Atom-killer is here.

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Nearing 8pm, a chugging, high-octane beat took control of Poljud Stadium, one that had us in awe, as curious as we’ve ever been to identify a track. We soon found out that this future anthem belonged to Sunnery and Ryan themselves, and remains unfinished and tentatively titled. After first impression, this in-progress effort has the potential to break ground as one of the biggest tracks of 2013. Just as “Atom” raised the bar for hard-hitting drops over a year ago, Sunnery and Ryan’s untitled production will once again push those boundaries. Sunnery later clued us in that Fedde Le Grand had received the track, and may be working on it with the duo in collaboration.

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Over at the Carl Cox tent, Art Department’s Kenny Glasgow and Jonny White brought their tasteful Canadian aesthetic to their late afternoon set. While the tent was much smaller than expected for what we thought would be a focal point of Ultra’s European debut, the energy within more than made up for its modest set up. Charismatic as ever, the duo held the crowd’s attention with the type of feel good upbeat tech craftsmanship that has garnered them a cult like following in the States and abroad. Treating listeners to Funky Green Dogs’ classic “Fired Up” moments before they handed the decks over to Adam Beyer, Kenny and Jonny’s set successfully warmed up the crowd and was our personal favorite of the day underneath Cox’s umbrella.

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Later in the evening as Fedde Le Grand worked the crowd at the mainstage, Italian phenom Luciano delivered tasteful Balearic vibes to a crowd far too large for the tent that held them. Keeping things particularly light, Luciano teased his faithfuls with sixteen bars of percussive bliss, swapping and reinstating the bass lines with flawless precision. The Vagabundos party leader has the incredible ability to maintain and develop a minimal backdrop while simultaneously keeping his sets deeply robust, holding us on our heels and toes and patiently waiting for each successful beat change throughout his performance.

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While Sunnery and Ryan’s closing moments kept my mind rattling through the impressive electro house sets of Sander van Doorn, Porter Robinson, and a pyro-enhanced outing from Knife Party, it was at 2am when the main stage hosted the greatest spectacle of the night. Avicii took the decks, opened with a remix of “I Could Be The One,” and was soon off to the races. Looking to up the ante from his Ultra Miami live show that was received to mixed emotions, Bergling did just that. Minutes into his set he dropped his new album’s lead single, “Wake Me Up,” and the crowd roared upon its opening chord. But beyond the opening folk chordplay and harmonious lyrics, Avicii took a turn, revealing a revamped version of the track more geared towards the dance floor. His next tested a still-untitled track off True featured a similar signature progressive styling, this time with a blues twang, and the third album output offered came with yet another dose of festival friendly mayhem.

Earning his Ultra redemption almost immediately, Avicii showcased his album like never before, to a European crowd that appreciated the diversity and found space to dance to the mastered product.

As we head back out to day 2 of Ultra Europe, our sights are set on Marco Carola’s tech-god efforts, Hardwell’s closing performance, and Krewella’s continued domination of EDM at home and abroad.

Andrew Spada and Dylan Farella contributed to this post.

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