Having started photography in 2003, Rukes would hit up DJs to grab media passes and tag along to gigs at Avalon Hollywood, Los Angeles. Spending the next few years working on his craft, he quit his job in the video gaming industry in 2006 and nabbed his first tour with Deadmau5 in 2009. Then, throughout America’s dance boom at the start of the decade, Rukes found himself profiling world stars at electronic mega-festivals filled with pyrotechnics, confetti, and hyper-colour lasers.
Now, Rukes is a name that commands respect in his field: He was named the Number. 1 in Complex’s list of ‘Greatest Music Photographers Right Now,’ with work published in Rolling Stone, Forbes, DJ Mag and USA Today. He’s worked with most heavy-hitters in the dance scene, and this week, he’ll be heading to Australia to photograph Road To Ultra in Melbourne with Carnage, Afrojack, Axwell ^ Ingrosso and more.
Ahead of his Australian visit, Rukes has kindly handed us 10 images (and accompanying stories) from Ultra Music Festival in Miami, filled with show-stopping moments and some of our favourite producers in the game. See Rukes’ picks below, and get ready for Ultra’s Australian debut this weekend. Get your last minute tickets right here:
2008: Deadmau5 played his first set at Ultra in style; in a full red suit with his newly-modified red mouse head. The special part about this was that it connected via a USB cable in the back to the mixer, and the eyes would light up in time to the music. Very basic by today’s standards, and it worked pretty well in the end.
2013: Avicii backstage before his groundbreaking reveal of his new sound. With a mix of country/bluegrass, rock, and singers like Aloe Blacc, people expected a usual dance music set from Avicii. People became really confused, and even disliked what he was doing, but once ‘Wake Me Up’ got stuck in people’s heads, everyone realized how this set was ahead of it’s time.
2013: Zedd backed out of getting a tattoo. Deadmau5 called him a wuss. To prove he wasn’t a wuss, Zedd said during Deadmau5’s set at Ultra, he would run around his cube while wearing punk underwear 7 times in honor of LE7LES. He did it, and Deadmau5 no longer called him a wuss.
2013: The old days when everyone was still young. Hanging out back stage, from left to right: Madeon, Skrillex, Porter Robinson, Zedd, Alvin Risk and TEED.
2014: Above & Beyond are playing with their backs to the crowd in this pic, and for good reason. The stage setup in 2014 had the A and B rigs on a rotating platform, which ultimately ended up saving the day. When it started to rain very hard during Above & Beyond’s set, normally they would just have to call it quits. But since the stage rotated, they just turned them around and they continued to play facing the back wall of the stage, as the set was streamed out to the LED panels.
2015: Skrillex brought out a lot of special guests for his closing set in 2015. Justin Bieber, Diddy, CL and Diplo to be specific.
2015: DJ Snake did the ultimate troll on Dillon Francis. He called Dillon out on stage when he played ‘Get Low,’ and as a surprise, posted Dillon’s actual phone number on the screen. His phone immediately went so crazy, it became unuseable.
2015: Martin Garrix had a huge hit just come out with Usher the week before, ‘Don’t Look Down.’ So what better way to promote it than to bring out Usher himself to perform it live at Ultra!
2016: Pendulum reunited in 2016 and came back in a huge way. Not only did they bring Tom Morello out on guitar, but they even had Deadmau5 come out to play ‘Ghosts N Stuff’ with them.
2017: Steve Aoki had a large lineup of guest stars in 20117, but none more popular than former One Direction star Louis Tomlinson!