By Carla Torres
Feature photo courtesy of Alexander Frederick
Aboard a yacht docked in front of Bayfront Park – just a couple of hours before going on the main stage at the 15th installment of Ultra Music Festival in Miami – Porter is nothing less than cool, calm and collected. Oh, and well dressed.
“I laid ten different things out on my bed systematically,” says Porter. “I was nervous about what to wear and kept thinking what would look good on camera. It was too much pressure so I just said fuck it and threw on jeans and t-shirt.” It’s good to know that pressure to Porter means choosing what to wear (he opted for a grey tie-dye tee and cool vampire denture necklace), but performing for crowds of tens of thousands of people throughout the world? That comes naturally.
Although it’s not a first for Porter to play at a festival that spans two weekends, – he played at Coachella – Ultra is different. “It’s been my dream to perform on the main stage of Ultra for about three years and it’s finally happening. In just two hours it’s happening. I can’t believe it’s fucking happening.”
Running on five hours of sleep after a Winter Music Conference set alongside Mat Zo at Mansion Nightclub the night before, Porter looks anything but tired.
“I got to Mansion at 11 and was nervous because it was empty. I don’t know what I was thinking. Then I wasn’t nervous because it wasn’t Ultra.” Operating for six days over the course of two-weekends and with 330,000 attendees, Ultra is the biggest music festival in the US. “It’s the largest audience I’ve ever played to, not in terms of how many people are present, but the fact that it streams on XM and live on YouTube.”
Porter will perform both weekends, headlining weekend one in the 6:45 p.m. slot, which is timed perfectly with the sunset. Makes sense since Porter himself is a romantic. Didn’t know? You will soon enough. His next album will be different than anything he’s known for. “It’s kind of weird music, although I wouldn’t necessarily call it weird,” he says laughing. “ It’s not big festival music, but more like beauty and emotion. Similar to language.”
Soft-spoken and quite charming, Porter is just like his music: gentle at the core with a hard outer edge. He hopes this transition toward more emotive, prettier, art oriented music will be well received and springboard him into bigger and better. “We’ll see, maybe fans won’t like it but it’s what I have to do as an artist. It’s the music that I care about and that’s what I have always done.”
So why did he shift away from the dance and popular electronic sound the world keeps moving to? As a world-traveler, Porter spends much of his time on an airplane. “I would be on an airplane and wouldn’t find myself listening to dance music necessarily, but rather music that would make me feel something, and that’s what I want my music to do,” says Porter.Ironically, he’s actually a huge homebody, and returned home to North Carolina in between Ultra’s two concurrent weekends to spend time with his family.
“Hell yeah I’m a homebody. I always miss my family,” he proudly says. In North Carolina, he writes music and works on his new emotion-filled album. What better place to seek out inspiration than where the heart is.
“I’ve always wanted to show people my iPod. Right now I’m big on Purity Ring and a Canadian band called Stars.” He recorded two songs with the indie pop band while in Montreal. “I’m also huge on film scores… I’m actually opening up my Ultra set with my favorite film score. It’s so chillingly beautiful that it hits your soul.”
As the clock ticks closer, Porter’s nerves kick in. “There’s no way around it. This is a huge deal for me.” His third year at Ultra, but first time performing on the main stage, Porter reminisces about how the festival’s changed, becoming more and more organized every year. His favorite part is the boat ride over from South Beach. Artists can choose whether they want to be transported via boat or car. “It’s so iconic, I even recorded it at the chance of looking like a total tourist. I guess I am.”
With minutes to go, Porter remembers what got him here in the first place.
“I wouldn’t have been able to get here without my fans. Every time I’ve changed up my sound my fans have always been with me. The fact that they have been so open-minded and down with my vision is the most important thing of all, so hopefully they stay with me through this new change that’s coming.”
Finally, the time arrives for Porter to commence his performance and as told, he opens with a heart-wrenching score from the Chinese action movie “House of Flying Daggers.”
Flocks of PLUR (Peace, Love, Unity, Respect) kids and candy ravers all rush to the main stage, filling it in a split second before the violin dies out. And then, after a beautiful, melodious intro, Porter’s hard edges come through.
It’s tough to believe that this is just a 20-year-old on stage doing this. He can’t even drink, yet his sound is the reason people pay thousands of dollars for bottles at a club. At least he’s turning 21 this summer – July 15, to be exact – and he will no longer be forced to leave clubs after performing. “I’ll be in Europe touring over the summer,” he says. “I think in Ibiza for my birthday, so it won’t matter since I can drink there, but yeah I’m excited.”
It will be his third time in Ibiza, having played once before at Tiesto’s club and the other at the legendary Pacha. “Pacha is the most tired I have ever been in a DJ set.”
Tired? 20-year-olds don’t get tired. They rave, but not Porter. His first live gig was also the first time he had ever attended a DJ show. If it were up to him he’d be at home as often as possible. Hanging out with family and making sweet love to the love of his life –music. Something he will never tire of.