Our Incredible Saturday began with a champagne breakfast and ended with eye spasms from one of Swedish House Mafia’s last sets (supposedly), but lets fill you in on what happened in-between.
We journeyed to the main stage first and laid eyes on two Australian producers that we’ve come in contact with before as Nervo tore the valley apart. Intermixing Sunshine by Avicii with Florence and the Machine’s Spectrum accapella, Mim and Liv sang along and provided the crowd with enough energy to jumpstart the day. Of course, also including their Tomorrowland anthem of 2011 The Way We See the World, Nervo left the crowd yearning for more. Hardwell was up next and his skills behind the decks were definitely audible. As compared to many DJs with pre-recorded sets, you could see and hear the difference behind Hardwell’s mixing. His set developed into a variety of sounds including Empire of the Sun’s Walking on a Dream to Kanye West’s Niggas In Paris.
Dancing our way out of the crowd, our next stop was the gorgeous Sun with a Face stage (actually called the Paul van Dyke Evolution stage that day), to catch the ending of Ferry Corsten. With over 20 years of work behind him, Corsten proved his expertise to the crowd; though we don’t if anyone really doubted him. The young Porter Robinson followed Corsten’s two-hour set, bringing his friend Zedd to stand alongside him while he generated a huge crowd with his set. Playing hits off the Spitfire album such as: Say My Name, Unison, Take Me Home, and 100% In he Bitch, Porter also managed to sneak in some Dubsidia and Headhunterz… Which brings us to the highlight of Saturday…
One thing I hold dear about Tomorrowland is that this experience definitely widened our musical horizons. Having been previously set on dubstep and drum and bass, wandering from stage to stage proved to give us a greater respect for many other styles of electronic dance music. In particular, a love for hardstyle blossomed at Q-Dance, where Headhunterz opened our minds to the joys of this subgenre. The Q-Dance stage was a massive 20 meters, with studs, cobras, lights, and enchantment. The baseboards of the Q-Dance stage were loose in areas, creating a trampoline-effect on the dancefloor, much to the pleasure of the irrepressible dancing of the hardstylers present, who were jumping up and down in unison with the hard beats. Relatively new into the dance music scene, this Dutch DJ brought everyone in the crowd to a bouncing bliss, with remixes of Hardwell’s Spaceman and our personal favorite Viper and Neophyte’s mix of Coming Home. We were so euphoric at Q-Dance, that where we used to look at Defqon and other hardstyle festivals and shudder, we are now anticipating attending.
Losing track of time in this hardstyle haven, we realized that Sonny Moore was about to open at the main stage. Although Skrillex was mothership-less at Tomorrowland, the visual additions of CO2 smoke and fireworks that rivaled any 4th of July display we’ve ever seen, amped up the masses just as much. Having recently witnessed Skrillex’s set at Spring Awakening under a massive downpour, we weren’t sure if he could match such energy as in the monsoon of Soldier Field. Even though the setlist was a little predictable and saturated with crowd-pleasers, the combination of lights, pyrotechnics, and the surprising amount of support for this man proved to make up for this.
Ultimately, Angello, Axwell, and Ingrosso closed the night properly. Under the cascade of lasers and fireworks and the crowd armed with Technicolor light wands, Swedish House Mafia began with one of their newest singles Greyhound. With so much enthusiasm in the valley, Tomorrowland may be the only festival where I have seen full grown men squeal with excitement. The dynamism brought Axwell to take the microphone and confess to the masses, “You are our legends, you are our heroes”, of course only fueling the crowd even further. The Holy Trinity continued the set with all of their biggest releases, such as Calling, Miami 2 Ibiza, Don’t You Worry Child, as well as remixes of Coldplay, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and even Depeche Mode. This set was gigantic in every way possible; I haven’t seen any artist move so many people to tears as Swedish House Mafia did when they ended with Save the World. Admittedly, I shed a few tears myself at the magnitude of it all…
On our return to the tent, we ran into a friend we had made at Sensation White in Amsterdam, Hektik Hektor. This Australian-Polish madman’s claim to fame was his recent fall from a 20-meter high scaffold at Creamfields. Hektor calls himself the ‘absolute lover of life’ and his actions and attitude definitely reflect this mindset. Being one of the most genuine and insane people we have met on this trip, Hektor told us about his journeys in the upcoming month to Kazantip, a month-long festival in Ukraine… We are praying for him. Tomorrowland indisputably brings together some of the world’s most eccentric souls.
Once again woken up to the sound of happy chaos already ensuing, we made ourselves up and went to see Nicky Romero. Having heard many of his songs incorporated in the sets of a slew of DJs the two previous days, we were anticipating seeing the young Dutch man in all his glory. With the mainstage looking just as breathtaking in daylight as at nighttime, Nicky Romero brought the crowd to a pulsating unison with Toulouse and Metropolis. Streamers were blasted into the valley, as a throng of people sang along to Human, Romero’s recent collab with Zedd.
The decision to leave Nicky Romero in order to see Tommy Trash at the Pearl Stage was uncertain at first, but as soon as we entered Tommy’s tent we were beyond grateful. This eccentric fellow led the crowd into a dancing storm with Cascade, Ladi Dadi, and Alive. Most notably, Tommy Trash demonstrated his talent of some of the best transitions, with the most opposite of songs at completely different BPMs meshing together with perfect fluidity.
We returned to the main stage to witness Afrojack. His appearance and demeanor gave off the “I own this” kind of attitude, with his shirt unbuttoned and his sunnies over his eyes. However, the crowd fed off his music. The climax of his set came with his collaboration with Will.I.Am This is Love. Colored smoke exploded from the massive books into the heavens, and the backdrop of the sky created a perfect contrast. Incorporating Tommy Trash and Shermanology into the set, Afrojack truly had a uniquely strong captivating effect over the crowd.
The remaining five hours of the day were spent where we found a second home…jam-packed with the best UK dub we have ever witnessed and the most booty-bouncing we have ever done. The stage: Daily Dubstep. The artists: Plastician, MistaJam, Dismantle, Hatcha, and Emalkay. Fueled only by RedBull, we spent those five hours against the stage railing, gripping on so tightly that our hands formed new calluses and our knees new bruises. Plastician, aka Chris Reed, mashed up some of the grimiest sounds and synths of Tomorrowland. With his clean cut and rainboots, one would never expect such sounds to emerge from such a petite figure, yet this English inhabitant ripped the crowd open with his Seven Figure Swagger mix with Foreign Beggers and Westside Dub collab with 12th Planet. The emerging dubstep star left the Pioneers and the legendary Mistajam stepped up. With listening to Mistajam on BBC radio religiously, seeing him play a live set was more than a dream. Commencing his set with his new anthem with Knife Party Sleaze, MistaJam had the entire crowd chanting “UNTIL THEY KICK US OUT!”. With sickening basslines all throughout his set, Jam incorporated a great variety of sound from Major Lazer to Katy B, all transitioning from one to another in seamless form. Dismantle had a tough act to follow, but his style presented us with a mix of drum and bass, dub, and house that had us dancing through another set straight. By this point, we had made friends with all of the DJs who were standing in the back behind the CDJ setups, and not only received shout outs, but visits from Plastician and The Offenders themselves to rage with us. With our hearts pounding against our ribs and worn out beyond compare, we decided to complete our Tomorrowland experience with Steve Aoki at the main stage.
Ending with No Beef, Pursuit of Happiness, and a remix of Duran Duran’s Hungry Like a Wolf, Aoki mesmerized the whole of Tomorrowland. Witnessing Aoki in an assortment of venues, like the Rave in Milwaukee on Thanksgiving (where orange juice was sprayed instead of champagne), Ultra 2011 in Miami, and Lollapalooza, I have never seen such cheerfulness in the performance from the father of Dim Mak. I guess Tomorrowland has the same miraculous, serene, out-of-this-world effect on everyone, even the artists.
The entire weekend was pure ecstasy to our senses as Tomorrowland shifted perspectives, created the most genuine fantasy world, and made dreams come true. In the end, we left with slight whiplash and destroyed shoes, but copious memories that will inhabit our minds forever. Countless thanks again to Bryan of The Dankles and Ms. Wilmsen, who made this entire experience possible. With that said, we can’t wait to return to our Belgian fairytale next year.
The one thing we’d change about Tomorrowland? How quickly time passes …