And just like that, Tomorrowland 2019 has come and gone. As with every year, the second Tomorrowland ends it feels like Fall has arrived. This year brought the epic 15th Anniversary and return of the Book of Wisdom stage. We had some wild weather and some unlucky stage mishaps, but Tomorrowland is still so far above other festivals in other areas that these things didn’t hurt the experience. When Tomorrowland has a problem you know that they genuinely try to do everything they can to provide the best experience possible for us, and it really does keep a smile on your face.
Winner – New Stages
Tomorrowland introduced a host of exciting new stages this year. One of the smallest and longest-running stages was replaced by the neon-nautical Kara Savi stage, Tomorrowland Winter lent Belgium it’s L’Orangerie and Lotus stages, and Q-Dance got its very own dedicated Sword stage. Beyond that Atmosphere got a nice upgrade in LED screens and the Freedom Stage was enlarged.
Loser – Freedom Stage
It’s heartbreaking to write this about my favorite Tomorrowland stage. We don’t really know exactly what caused it or who’s to blame, but the Freedom Stage turned out to be a Weekend 1 exclusive this year. The ceiling experienced a partial collapse and the Tomorrowland engineers could not guarantee its safety for Weekend 2. In their defense, they couldn’t allow it to go forward and risk a collapse with us inside. Therefore the ceiling was actually lowered by crane which makes the collapse look much more dramatic than it actually was. Not only did we lose the 2nd biggest stage, but we lost the best-covered stage during a rainy weekend. Oh yeah, and the structure was also connected to the massive Ferris Wheel, rendering it inoperable for Weekend 2.
Besides canceling the EPIC 6.0 set, it also relegated ASOT to an outdoor rainy environment. After Armin had to put up with a less than ideal stage scenario in Miami’s Virginia Key, this is certainly another major bummer. Yet the stage actually looked kinda badass at night with those evil eyes peering out of the Budweiser logo.
Winner – Eric Prydz
Eric Prydz was without a doubt the breakout moment of Tomorrowland Weekend 1. His groundbreaking new EPIC 6.0 Holosphere had been eagerly awaited for months, and boy did it wow us when it debuted. Tomorrowland redesigned the Freedom Stage specifically for it and the result was a gorgeous spectacle. On top of that, the set itself was a wild 90 ride through new IDs and Eric Prydz classics. This was the moment everybody was talking about.
During Weekend 2, Eric Prydz donned his dark Cirez D alias at the Atmosphere tent and delivered his best set of both weekends. Weekend 2 might not have gotten holosphere, but those visuals and 360 sound in the tent were mesmerizing.
Loser – Also Eric Prydz
You win some and you lose some- though that’s not to take anything away from Eric, since this was out of his control. While Holosphere smashed it out of the park during Weekend 1, fate had other plans for Weekend 2. Between weeks 1 and 2 the Freedom Stage experienced a roof collapse that closed down the entire stage interior. This was devastating not only to the fans, but to Eric as well. However, Tomorrowland and Prydz soldiered on to deliver us a re-imagined Freedom Stage and a much more nuanced Pryda-heavy set than the EPIC 6.0 set from Week 1.
Winner – Tomorrowland Team
For many festivals, losing their 2nd largest stage and their most heavily anticipated set would be impossible to recover from. For Tomorrowland, it was a manageble setback, and through quick thinking and smart engineering, the team was able to build-out an outdoor stage area at what was formerly the Freedom Stage entrance and food court. Tomorrowland is quite lucky that their designs are so intricate that even the facade to one of their indoor stages is enough to become a fully-fledged stage. Speaking to artists who performed there, they were slightly bummed but very impressed with Tomorrowland’s ability to make it work despite all odds.
Beyond that Tomorrowland’s crew goes above and beyond other festivals in fostering a family environment with the attendees and especially the members of the press that attend. After attending for 3 years they’re my good Belgian friends that I look forward to seeing each Summer.
Loser – Weather
Technically you could say the weather won and we lost, but this pertains mostly to Weekend 2. For the second year in a row, Friday of Weekend 2 was an absolute scorcher in Belgium. Temperatures reached into the 100s and the sun beat down with powerful rays. Tomorrowland took precautions to alleviate heat and keep everybody cool where possible. Then on Saturday and Sunday the temps swung down by somewhere close to 30 degrees and the skies filled with rain. For most of Saturday there was consistent rainfall that had some wondering whether the cold and rain might have been worse than the scorching hot sun. Even worse was the fact that the best stage to escape the rain was out of commission. But hey, Tomorrowland gave everybody free ponchos! Luckily, there was also the incredible Atmosphere tent hosting Afterlife and Drumcode and the new L”Orangerie stage to escape the rain. A set of unlucky circumstances was not enough to put a damper on the fun of Tomorrowland, however.
Winner – Underground Music
This is a recurring theme in dance music in 2019 but techno was king at Tomorrowland 2019 – sorry haters. Over the two weekends, there was hardly any respected name in techno that was not in attendance. Beyond that, Tomorrowland handed their stages over to the most renowned brands in techno, like Drumcode, Afterlife, Space Ibiza, Get Lost, Diynamic, Cocoon, KNTXT, Paradise, Dirtybird, and Spectrum.
What’s even cooler is that Tomorrowland gives mainstage slots to techno and deep house artists. The mainstage hosted Carl Cox, Charlotte de Witte, Solomun, Black Coffee, Boris Brejcha, Kolsch, Maceo Plex, and Amelie Lens. That list alone would make for a great underground event! This exposes a whole new crowd of listeners to techno and underground sounds, converting many in the process
Loser – Swedish House Mafia
Who knows if we will ever get the real story of what went down here. We know they told us in 2018 that they would be back at Tomorrowland “by any means necessary” as Swedish House Mafia. We know that all of the fans wanted them to play Tomorrowland’s 15th Anniversary. We all thought it would be peak nostalgia to see them return to the Book of Wisdom stage they played on way back in 2012. We know that SHM knows all of this as well. Clearly, Tomorrowland wanted them there and teased us about their return. Why else would the #1 Tomorrowland Anthem be an SHM track and the 15 Year Spectacle include so much of their material? Obviously, business got in the way, and we all lost because of it.
We’ve heard the justifications and the explanations, but none of that matters. Swedish House Mafia didn’t give the fans what they wanted, when they easily could have. We wanted a one-off unplugged Swedish House Mafia set mixed with those irreplaceable vibes in Boom. We don’t give a f*** about the 3 rings or their special tables. Nobody believes for a second that Tomorrowland didn’t make an attempt to book them for those 90-minute closing slots of each weekend. They were right in the area and could easily have done it. I was fully planning on leaving the techno stage for one of the few times all weekend to go experience some mainstage EDM nostalgia. Whoever was involved in the team that did not push them to play Tomorrowland should not be there any longer. This whole situation is emblematic of mainstage EDM in 2019 anyways. A lot of marketing and hype and teasing, but ultimately a huge letdown. You’re better off staying at the side stages with DJs that are truly pouring their hearts out for you anyway.