As an Editor for EDMTunes for several years now, I’ve had the opportunity to attend many of the biggest festivals in the dance music scene numerous times. From Ultra Miami to TomorrowWorld to smaller fests like EDC Orlando, I’ve experienced a lot. However, Tomorrowland has always held a legendary status of being something a step beyond any other festival. I was lucky enough to get my taste of it at Georgia’s TomorrowWorld, and I was hooked. Could it really be that much better? Could it really be so amazing after I’ve been to Ultra and experienced VIP at many other festivals?
In short, yes it really is that amazing.
The best way to describe Tomorrowland’s attitude is to relay a story I was told during our tour of the grounds by one of the festival’s planners before Weekend 2 kicked off. The story goes that the Founders of ID&T (who are still in charge today) are so obsessed with details that they wanted to create ice cubes that would bear the Tomorrowland logo. The company went about designing a cut-out and spent a lot of money testing numerous designs and methods. After other management asked whether all of the effort and expense was necessary for such a minor detail, one of the founders said “If even one girl sees that logo on the ice cube and thinks of Tomorrowland and smiles, it will all have been worth it”
As Armin van Buuren described, Tomrrowland has grown to be much more than a festival. It is a cultural phenomenon that you must experience at some point in your life if you can. I will approach it by comparing it to typical American festivals and then also by contrasting it with TomorrowWorld in the US for those who were able to attend.
What Tomorrowland Does Better Than The Rest
There is no such thing as a generic stage at Tomorrowland. Each one has its own story and them that is followed out to a T. From the gargantuan Amicorum Spectaculum circus mainstage to the smoke breathing dragon at the Rose Garden stage, each one is meticulous in its attention to detail. It is that meticulousness that really helps you feel like you’re transported to a fantasy world. The Rose Garden Stage features a robotic dragon that moves around and breathes smoke that actually smells like roses. This is, of course, by design and another signature of eccentric manner in which things are thought out here.
Tomorrowland might be a very modern festival, but it still takes place in a park and the designers are very mindful of that connection to nature. There is greenery everywhere and it is also extremely well maintained. Beyond that, stages that feature flowers are always featuring real live flowers that are watered constantly (the first artificial flowers were used in this year’s Garden of Madness canopy due to design constraints).
While other festivals in the US have attempted to employ a similar whimsical theme, often times the result ends up feeling a bit cheap or cheesy. Not so with Tomorrowland – and while the idea of less crazy LED walls might seem a bit strange at first, you’ll quickly learn that some smart colored mood lighting on an intricate backdrop with water effects and fire will mesmerize you.
Simple Solutions to Typical Festival Headaches
For being a 2 weekend festival that serves around 400,000 people each year it looks extremely clean around the festival. This also extends to one of the most annoying festival experiences, porta-potties. Tomorrowland has such incredibly simple solutions to these issues, such as installing multiple trough-like installations for men so that they no longer have to wait at all and freeing up the porta-potties for women. The end result is that you almost never had to wait even a minute to use the bathroom. When you did use the bathroom they were clean and always located right next to the stage you were at. You could leave a set at Freedom Stage for the bathroom and come back during the same track.
For water refilling needs, these bathrooms also each featured sink-devices where you could fill up your water bottle or camelback without interrupting the flow of others. An area which is normally a hassle at other festivals was made so simple that you never had to wait for water. Along with bathrooms, food concessions were also conveniently placed near the stages so that you never needed to leave the music to get food. Also, Tomorrowland food is legitimately very good with tons of options.
Amazing VIP Treatment
I have reached the age where I can appreciate the benefits offered by a VIP festival pass, but Tomorrowland makes VIP an amazing experience for anybody. First off you get your standard perks like real bathrooms and separate bars and viewing platforms. Thankfully, all are also extremely nice and never too crowded that you can’t get in. Many of the stages have a dedicated Comfort Deck with amazing views and some even more amazing perks. Have you ever been so tired from a day of raving that you would just love to jump in a pool or hot tub? Well at Tomorrowland you can go in a full size hot tub at the main stage VIP deck, and yes they let you borrow a bathingsuit with a changing room for no fee. Over at the Organ of Harmony there is a full pool on the comfort deck, though it was generally empty because the weather was not too hot most days. The main stage VIP also has a set of massage chairs you can use, but these were usually pretty crowded. There was certainly a special feeling that washed over me as I watched Kaskade play from a hot tub, and I doubt any other festival will manage to top it.
Maybe its the international crowd which features more countries represented than the UN, but the Tomorrowland crowd was much friendlier in general than at other equally large festivals. I never encountered any pushing and never felt the need to tell anybody to get out of my space. I might as well give the added disclaimer that I spent very little time at the main stage, so that might be part of it but who knows.
You will also find a healthy amount of older adults at Tomorrowland, like people in their mid 30s to 50s. Of course you’ll see older ravers everywhere, but it seemed much more common at Tomorrowland and could be a result of the fact that Europeans have grown up on dance music whereas Americans have not been (until now).
The European crowd is much less interested in “ravey” attire than in the US, which leads to a much less intimidating atmosphere for some. It’s the complete opposite of EDC which encourages crazy neon, costumes, gloving, etc. You won’t find a lot of crazy neon, wild furry boots, or glove light shows. You also won’t find many totems or funny posters. It’s a much more spartan crowd, but that makes it much more accessible to non-ravers. Some people will love this and others will hate it, but its a stark difference from Ultra and EDC or even TomorrowWorld.
How Tomorrowland Improves on TomorrowWorld
As somebody who attended all 3 years of TomorrowWorld, I thought it would be instructive to explain to my fellow TW fam just how Tomorrowland improves on the festival we love so much. In short, it’s like TomorrowWorld if it had a permanent venue so that the festival could improve the property on its own each year. That’s exactly what happened as Tomorrowland slowly helped Boom develop DeSchorre Park to the point where now it has many fixed walkway bridges and concrete paths so that Tomorrowland has a much easier time moving in. If TomorrowWorld had more permanent pathways and parking, the problems in 2015 would have been greatly diminished.
It’s also like TomorrowWorld if the neighbors were actually thrilled to have a huge music festival in the neighborhood instead of fighting to get it stopped. Tomorrowland throws small neighborbood parties for the locals on the Tomorrowland grounds before the festival opens. They even open up 2 stages, one for kids and one for adults and have DJs perform for them. This festival might take place in a relatively bustling small town of Boom, but the Tomorrowland flags line the streets and people are thrilled to have a spotlight on them for a few weeks.
Tomorrowland also destroys the lineup that TomorrowWorld got. In 2013 and 2015 TomorrowWorld received a very competitive lineup, but 2014 was notably smaller in scale. Tomorrowland’s lineup was arguably the best of 2017 alongside Ultra Miami. What sets Tomorrowland apart from a festival like Ultra is the way they allow fabled brands and artists to curate all the stages. We get ASOT, Pryda, Axtone, Refune, STMPD, and more to hand pick lineups all together on one stage. Not only that, but many of the sets are 90 or 120 minutes which makes a huge difference. In fact, Tomorrowland is so stacked that get legends like Carl Cox or Aly & Fila to play 3 hour opening main stage sets for the early arrivals. Over its 2 weekends, I could count the number of big name artists that weren’t there on 1 hand.
You Need to Go
While news is looking up for TomorrowWorld and Tomorrowland Brazil again, you should still take the opportunity to go to Tomorrowland Belgium at least once in your life. It’s much more than just an EDM festival, its a cultural staple of our generation like Woodstock was for Generation X. Its a weekend (or 2) full of incredible music, amazing vibes, and meticulous customer service.
If you want more of Tomorrowland 2017, check out the full library of video sets and more here.