What could bring 180,000 people from over 75 different countries to the woods of De Schorre Boom, Belgium for a five-day period? The conducive force behind this massive congregation of men and women is Tomorrowland; the unprecedented fairy tale festival based around the EDM culture that has blossomed over the past few years. With the stage setups, the fireworks, the mix of cultures from the world-wide attendees (and of course, music), it is no wonder the demand for tickets was incomparable to any other music event this summer.
Although we waited three hours in front of four different computer screens when tickets became available to the public, two days prior to our departure to Boom, we were only in possession of Magical Friday Passes and Dreamville Passes. While our Euro adventure was underway in Paris, we were startled to see an urgent email from Bryan of The Dankles who was in contact with the Press Office and working on securing us Media Passes for the festival. Within a few hours, we received an email from the Press Contact stating; “You are invited to the event: Tomorrowland 2012” which included the attachment of two Comfort Full Madness Passes and Press Accreditations. One minute we were happy to attend at least one day of Tomorrowland and the next we were VIP Guests for the full enthralling weekend. In raptures, we ran from building to building trying to find an accessible computer and printer so that these tickets would become our physical possessions. In a mix of very broken French, English, and some hand gestures, we finally were able to print our passes and continue our day, which consisted of celebrating this phenomenon as well as the existence of The Dankles.
Arriving to Boom was a pilgrimage within itself. Loaded with supplies for the weekend, we boarded two different connecting trains from Brussels to Boom and upon our arrival; we were greeted with the site of festival-goers boarding busses specifically designated for Tomorrowland attendee’s. All this travel only continued to build our anticipation and we were thrilled once we finally arrived at Dreamville (the official camping area of the fest). The entrance to the campgrounds held a marketplace filled with camping essentials, food stands (the best fries you will ever eat), and even a hookah lounge. There was no doubting the fact that Dreamville truly lived up to its name in every possible way. With many people already occupying camping spots, we set off in search of our own site that we would call home for the subsequent five days. Pop-up tents were shooting up left and right and we were left stranded on a small patch of grass, encircled by groups who had already claimed their space. However, our neighbors sensed our anxiousness and immediately offered to shift their tents and canopies to make room for ours; creating a positive atmosphere amongst our camping area that would be omnipresent during the entirety of our trip. What started out as a sweaty, tent-pitching morning quickly escalated when the beats from the nearby “Gathering” infiltrated Dreamville. After finishing our tent preparations, we emerged to see a huge stage and circus-like tent structure for those who were camping in Dreamville as a pre-party before the opening day of the festival was in full swing. Trash Radio made our night when he remixed Major Lazer’s Original Don after dropping Nari & Milani’s most played song, Atom. The Oddword proved to be one of the night’s best acts, with an ominous intro that developed into mixes featuring the likes of Dada Life, Knife Party, and even System of a Down. Ending the night was Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike vs Yves V, who debuted Tomorrowland’s official anthem as well as hardstyle mixes of Red Hot Chili Peppers; putting the cherry on top of it all with an incredible mix of Kings of Leon’s Sex on Fire and Epic by Quition and Sandro Silva. We headed back to our tent at one in the morning with smiles plastered on our faces. If the pre-party was this epic, we couldn’t wait to experience Tomorrowland in all of its glory.
On the massive festival grounds, 450 of the world’s most prominent DJs, producers, and artists graced the audiences with performances of a lifetime. With every possible sub-genre of electronic dance music being represented and each day loaded with a plethora of artists we wanted to see, our time at Tomorrowland consisted of running from stage to stage in excitement. The festival spanned sixteen different stages dispersed amongst the grounds; two of which were on water, one in an underground cave, and all designed in the most ornate manner, which created a setting that was a dive into wonderland.
Entering the festival, lockers and ‘Refresh Points’ (actually flushable toilets and running faucets) were available immediately, and numerous others were situated around the grounds so that there was never a cramped line to take care of business…something American festivals could take note of!
Past the amenities, the sidewalk shortly turned into the valley containing the main stage. Weighing over 140 tons and reaching towards the sky at 150 meters, the massive LED Book of Wisdom (a.k.a the most incredible structure on this green Earth) was surrounded by other intricately designed books; a stage production design that must have taken months to prepare. Walking into our first set with eyes and mouths gaped open, we were astonished even further when the Book of Wisdom opened on its hinges to project a 3D face and scripted handwriting for each artists that was playing.
Our Magical Friday began with Cazzette at this enigmatic main stage. Pinching ourselves to make sure this was truly reality, the Swedish duo did not disappoint, dropping crowd favorites such as their remix of Sweet Dreams in addition to their well-known remix of Adele’s Set Fire to the Rain. With the masses enraptured by the music and presentation, the ambiance of the fest was unlike anything we had previously experienced. Everyone was genuinely ecstatic, looking around the festival grounds like children on their first trip to Disney World. This general aura HAS NOT been present at any music festival in the States… at least not yet.
We decided to bid adieu to the enchanting main stage and discover what else Tomorrowland had to offer. We made our way over the Dim Mak Fight Club stage, where Joachim Garraud was giving the crowd his best. With his keytar in hand, the electro/techno/dubstep mix by Joachim adhered to everyone’s eardrums in the most pleasing way; hyping the crowd up to the point that when Steve Aoki came on, madness was about the break loose. Seeing the familiar face and style of Aoki in a completely new setting was one of the most enthralling feelings of the fest. The feelings were so overpowering that one of our counterparts decided to jump into the raft in order to profess their love for Steve. By the time Lil’ Jon made an apperance on stage for Turbulance, the tent was so heated by the mass of bodies that the droplets of dampness were actually palpable. We stayed for the intro of Angger Dimas who is one of Aoki’s prodigies and in our book one to look out for this year. His massive collaborations, such as Beat Down with Aoki and Iggy Azalea and Madagascar with the Belgian trio Dimitri Vegas, Like Mike, and Yves V shook the tent even further and we decided to change locations in fear of heatstroke.
We ventured back to the main stage for Alesso and were amazed to see the amount of flags spread across the crowd. Everyone was repping their country and nationality; so proud to be from wherever they were, yet simultaneously ecstatic to be at Tomorrowland which at this point appeared to be a universe of its own. We found ourselves next to a group of Brazilians whose general excitement was contagious. Beginning with a remix of Nillionaire and Coldplay’s Paradise, Alesso gained an energy of the crowd that would reverberate throughout his entire set. The young DJ’s performance climaxed with impressive remixes of Swedish House Mafia and Knife Party and continued with Nicky Romero’s Toulouse into Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit. Halfway through the breathtaking set, we decided to take the trek across the festival grounds to the designated dubstep stage, Untitled!
Our journey to the Untitled! Stage from the Main Stage took around fifteen minutes, seeing as they were located on completely opposite sides of the park. However, upon arriving we took a few minutes to take in the scene. Untitled! was located adjacent to the Carl Cox stage, which was made to the likeness of the main stage of 2010 with a giant sun face encompassed by a palace, with the Cloud Rider ferris wheel located behind it. Truly a sight to behold and one we won’t be forgetting anytime soon. Even though our eyes reveled the imagery, our ears took us under the tent where Subscape was finishing up his set.
Our entire experience at Untitled! was a mad mix of events. Well residing there for four hours, we took in sets from The Others, Trolley Snatcha, and Caspa who proved to be one of the highlights of the entire experience. With a European dedication to trance/house artists, the dubstep tent made enough room for all fans of bass. A heavy dosage of wobbles from Trolley Snatcha made our ribcages shudder and we gained an even bigger appreciation for UK Dub, if that’s even possible. Introducing his set with a new mix with Chase and Status titled Blind Faith, the London native made us beg for more throughout the entirety of his set. Booty clapping our way through Tek Your Time, another Chase and Status mix with Doctor P, as well as his mix of Caspa’s Terminator, Trolley Snatcha literally left our bodies trembling from the bass. He was definitely the King of Untitled! that night according to ourselves and the crowd.
We headed back to Dim Mak where the highly acclaimed German producer by the name of Zedd prepped the crowd with Shotgun and his original track Legend of Zelda. With the waterfall behind him streaming the words ‘Zedd’ and ‘Scream’, the crowd was reciprocating his bountiful energy. Soon after, the Canadian duo of Zeds Dead came onstage to close the Dim Mak tent for the night. Lacking Omar LinX, we were slightly disappointed for the lack of bass, with ZD not going as hard as we’ve witnessed on previous occasions. DC and Hooks who are known for their sped up bmp and low reverberating basslines, had a more house-y feel to them at Tomorrowland. Something the majority of the crowd enjoyed and although it wasn’t our favorite performance of theirs, we could appreciate their ease to transcend musical genres.
Exhausted due to the intense treble at the Dim Mak, we journeyed back to the main stage to finish off Magical Friday in the grandest of fashions as The Bloody Beetroots closed off the night with live guitars and screams that filled the valley with awe. The fireworks in combination with the sounds brought the crowd to such delight. Everyone lost his or her minds as Church of Noise and Warp 1.9 brought a strong finish to their set. The LED Book of Wisdom wished us sweet dreams in Dreamville before slowly closing for the night.
We returned to our tents with the masses, where the party never stopped. Music played from speakers and people were running around screaming ”TOMORROWLAND” into the wee hours of the morning. But instead of being abrasive, this only furthered our love for the unifying force that is Tomorrowland.