For the majority of our time in Brussels, we spent it in a small town called Boom around 1 hour north of the city. In Boom lies Tomorrowland, one of the biggest electronic music festivals in the world. Spreading thousands of square feet, Tomorrowland is a place where people come to from all over the world to simply celebrate life in all of its existential glory. There are a couple of things in the world that rank as once in a life time opportunities and in my opinion, Tomorrowland hovers in the top half. Below I’ll highlight some of the reasons I think Tomorrowland is worth the journey.
The Small Details
One of the biggest things I’ve learned over the years about musical festivals is that logistical adeptness can make or break the experience. Things like excessive wait times for entry, dirty bathrooms, or cash only vendors can slowly chip away at your festival experience, despite having an amazing line-up or production value. At Tomorrowland, you don’t have to worry about any of this. They have seriously thought of every single detail to the tee. Some of the things that impressed me the most were the availability of FLUSHABLE toilets, a cashless vendor system (money is loaded into your bracelet), more than substantial standing room at each stage, and DEODORANT stations where employees spray your armpits with Dove.
One of the reasons Tomorrowland is such a notable festival is that it replicates everyday life… except you’re in a fantasy world. So you basically have everything you’d need on a day-to-day basis while exploring a rose garden stage which just happens to have a mechnical dragon blowing fire over the headlining DJ. No big deal.
Tomorrowland is not just about the musical festival. It is about the entire living experience that weekend, and this includes Dreamville – a camping village just a couple of steps outside of the music festival where Tomorrowlanders eat, drink, sleep and socialize when they’re not inside fist bumping to Axwell at the House of Madness. Inside Dreamville, you’ll find sleeping and living quarters where campers have set up tents and canopies decked out with their countries’ flags and inflatable pools. In Dreamville, how you live that weekend is completely up to you – our group was lucky enough to be able to stop by a sports store where we were able to pick up enough gear to put together this set-up:
While our campsite was definitely not like staying in hotel, it got it through the hot days and chilly nights. If anything, the complications we had to endure together over the weekend brought us closer together; the most notable one being the storm that flooded our campground on Friday night, which in a tent felt like a monsoon.
Surrounding the living quarters are shops, food vendors, grocery stores, and even hair salons. Like I said, being in Tomorrowland is like living everyday life, except you’re about 70 miles away from the city center in a village of party goers. My favorite part about Dreamville is the people you meet there. When you cram 50,000 people into a living quarter, you’re bound to form some friendships. With our American flag flying high and proud amongst the European flags, we attracted a lot of American brethren to our campsite who came over before and after the festival to relax and catch up on other’s lives. Without Dreamville, Tomorrowland would have been an entirely different experience. Perhaps a cleaner one, but nowhere near as fun.
Festival Production Value
Technically, a music festival can be defined as so if it simply consists of stages, performers, and festival goers. However, calling Tomorrowland a music festival is like calling Beyonce a singer because she is way more than that – she’s an artist, dancer, activist, visionary, and mother. In the way that Beyonce is more than a singer, Tomorrowland is more than a music festival – it is a sensory and existential experience.
I’m so impressed by the immensity and intricacy of each stage that I can’t even start to imagine how much time went into designing and constructing each one. In 2016, the main stage was basically a treehouse on steroids. The centerpiece was a massive tree with multiple levels and compartments cascading over waterfalls, bridges, and hot air balloons. And since my description won’t give it much justice, here is a picture:
Picture from Tomorrowland website
I mean, wow, who thinks of that? And the thing is, main stage wasn’t even my favorite. Some other notable stages include a massive Greek arch, a full-blown Opera house with multiple levels you can stand on, an underground rave cave, a rose garden with a fire-breathing dragon (my personal favorite), and a semi-indoor stage called the House of Madness. Beyond these, there are probably about 10 more mini stages sprinkled throughout the festival grounds. The craziest part is that we didn’t even have time to go to each of them by the 3rd day, so perhaps I’ll just have to come back…
Sense of Camaraderie
Physical experiences aside, I think one of my favorite parts of Tomorrowland is looking around and realizing that you are among people of so many different backgrounds but for that weekend you are one and the same. The experience of Tomorrowland is raw in that it unifies its festival goers by striping away the things that allow us to contextualize each other in usual circumstances. In Tomorrowland, you are not a race, a size, a gender or a social status, you’re simply the people of Tomorrow who have willingly come together to have a damn good time and dance to the beat of the music. For me, this is what made Tomorrowland. There was a moment on Sunday at the rose garden stage, where everybody in the crowd held their countries flags together in unison in commemoration of the terrible events that are currently happening in the world but also in remembrance of the incredible events that supersede them, such as that very moment at Tomorrowland. If the rest of the world could bring people together like Tomorrowland, we would achieve world peace.
At the end of the day, I think Tomorrowland is also about what you make of it. If you’re willing to spend the money, rough it out, and immerse yourself in the culture, then you’ll leave the festival enchanted by the experience. For some, it can be physically and mentally taxing to spend over 80 hours straight at a festival, and to that I say: it’s just part of the experience you committed to… so pack up your gear, buy a flight, and go party your heart out with the people of Tomorrow.