How the biggest electronic music festival in the world blew my mind, and could blow yours...If you can get tickets.
One year ago, the world came upon a YouTube video like it had never seen before. In it, a bass-heavy trailer narrator voice summoned you into a magical book, which lead you to an aerial view of a grassy sunlit complex where colorful mushrooms and fairy-tale scenery bloomed in soft focus. There were beautiful blonde girls smiling everywhere. And when that ethereal Pryda house track in the background hit its drop, the buildup paid off — suddenly you were looking at the most mindblowing stage, for the most mindblowing electronic music party on the planet.
The Tomorrowland festival in Boom, Belgium released the video through the entertainment company ID&T after the 2011 event, and it certainly had its intended effect. Over 51 million people have viewed it so far, more than any other festival’s YouTube views ever, and the concert attendance skyrocketed the following year, selling out 180,000 tickets in under a second to 75 countries, with 2 million people waiting in the queue. One could even opt to camp out near the complex, and in the end, 35,000 people did.
Watch the after movie of Tomorrowland 2011
While the 3-day festival Tomorrowland is not brand new, and neither are magical-themed electronic music festivals in Europe for that matter, the video and brilliant set craftsmanship — not to mention incredible promotional cinematography — pitched a brand new experience to people all over the world, featuring top-notch electronic acts. It is arguably the largest electronic music-only festival on the face of the earth right now, a fact aided by the popularity of the video, and the newly minted “EDM” commercial house scene taking over America.
“It’s been growing like crazy. I remember the first time I came here it was all Belgium people going to this little festival,” said Dutch DJ Laidback Luke in an interview on the festival grounds. “I’m Dutch and the mother of this festival is Mystery Land in the Netherlands. And they wanted to have a little sister in Belgium and they named it Tomorrowland. Now, it’s even bigger than Mystery Land. I saw a lot of US flags in the audience and Spanish flags…people all over the world come here now.”
Every young person (with any modicum of interest in dance music, that is) wanted to go in 2012, and many couldn’t get in.
So, what was it like?
Well, the people are not always as beautiful as the video demonstrates, and like all festivals, there’s plenty of detritus on the ground and uncomfortable jam-packed situations that didn’t make the video cut. But the festival lived up to its main promises: to feature the biggest acts in electronic music, and yes, to blow your freaking mind.
All the main players were spinning: Afrojack, Steve Aoki, Avicii, Skrillex, David Guetta, Porter Robinson, and they were all greeted by swaths of happy young people waving their hands in the air and making heart shapes with their fingers, a distinctly European move. But the most amazing part of Tomorrowland, as evidenced, is the set design. You walk through the complex — based in a sprawling park in the quiet town of Boom – viewing stage by stage, each one donning more and more lasers and LEDs than the last — all thematically tied together by fake mushrooms, sign posts in fairy tale fonts, candy caned streetlamps and such scenic touches.
“It’s like a big sort of fairytale landscape, like Alice in Wonderland meets electronic music. It definitely has a very special atmosphere,” said Germany’s legendary Paul Van Dyk, who had his own stage at the festival. “The guys that do it had a very clear idea of what they wanted to do, and they stick to that idea.”
Admittedly, at first, I thought that every stage I passed was the main stage. Even the ominous Q-Dance “Snake Stage” near the entrance looked ornate and formidable enough to tide over the hand-wringing YouTube viewers at home. There were stages in small hidden caves, stages with faces carved into them, stages in cubes, stages shaped like “stages” in the classic sense — each one annihilating the next with throbbing bass.
But when I saw the real main stage for the first time, tucked away in what seemed like miles away from the entrance, I nearly fell to my knees. I said something like: “Ooohh maahhh fuuuhhhh whaaaa!!!!!!!” which, I believe translates to, “I’ve been slain!!!”
By now you’ve seen it: the towering shelf of magic books, with one centered, closed book that opened periodically to act as a projection screen for headlining acts. No matter what level of inebriation, everyone who made it to the main amphitheater was forced to stand spellbound for a moment. It was as if the audience had reached some collective artistic zenith, celebrating electronic music and asserting its almighty dominion over the parts of the planet that were finally catching on
Watch the new aftermovie for a taste…but if you’re hoping for tickets in 2013, God speed.