BOOM (BELGIUM) – As the northwestern region of Europe is being hit by southern temperatures and broiling heat waves, the dust slowly settles after the final visitors have left the festival campgrounds of ‘De Schorre’ in Boom, a small town near the city of Antwerp. Every so often out of the blue, random strangers on their way home target passers-by with toy water pistols to delight them with a welcoming spritz of temporary refreshment. Each year, 400,000 thrill-seekers from all corners of the planet are united in the tiny, but cozy country of Belgium with the same purpose: to be a part of Tomorrowland, the world’s most renowned EDM (Electronic Dance Music) festival, held for two weekends in a row at the end of July.
After entering the festival grounds and passing through several thorough security checks, the People of Tomorrow are instantaneously blown away by an energy words can hardly describe. Arriving at the edge of a hill filled with people, you look down upon the epic valley with its majestically engineered main stage; everyone is being submerged into a true fairy tale. This year’s theme – as Tomorrowland’s 14th edition – was ‘The Story of Planaxis’: a sunken fictitious city similar to Atlantis where spiralling seahorses, whimsical turtles, neon-lit jellyfish, and sea snail shells inhabit the stage design. The DJ seems nothing but a small dot disappearing into a massive setting towering up above the heads of the crowd. Trying to make himself more noticeable, he calculates the build-up of his dance tunes carefully by working his magic on the decks. Exploding fireworks and flames after every drop excite the sweaty crowd to the maximum. From here, it is only a matter of letting the beats take over and having the DJ guide you and your friends to a different stratosphere. There is merely a small chance the spewing water fountains, misting vapour canons, and the overall underwater scenery brought some relief to the record-breaking 38-degree heat.
Surrounded by all sorts of quirky creatures and dancers, the main stage DJs are introduced to the audience by an epic voice that guarantees every listener goosebumps for minutes. Besides world famous performers like David Guetta and Fatboy Slim, the festival is being animated by stilt walkers, pole dancers, hairdressers and make-up artists. Plenty of visitors are dressed up as their favourite superheroes, imaginative beings, or rocking the typical tank top rave-look. Everyone is looking mysterious, fabulous and beautiful… Oh wait, truly beautiful? Rather trashy, some might think. Half-naked, muscular bros in shaven, tattooed torsos dance their faces off like never before under the guidance of electro-dance. Right next to them are sexy, fake-boobed blondes wearing thin, white, see-through tops while trying to hide an innocent smile behind their glittery make-up. Nevertheless, the People of Tomorrow all seem to live by the festival’s tagline: “Live Today, Love Tomorrow, Unite Forever”. More than 200 different nationalities gather almost religiously each year, making Tomorrowland the most international gathering on the planet. The festival accurately shows its true colours by the thousands of waving flags from countries you didn’t even know existed.
It’s not just the blend of flags, nationalities, and languages that attract people to the event. It is more so the unity of individuals melting into one culture and speaking the same language: the language of electronic dance music (EDM). The festival especially gained its fame by offering an enormous array of genres, styles and substyles of EDM. Any variety, from club to breakbeat, from nineties to hardstyle, from drum’-n-bass to dubstep, from trance to trap, from deep house to garage, from minimal to techno; you name it, they spin it! Furthermore, since these types of party music have their differences from one another, they each deserve their own uniquely designed stage or dance floor. It certainly is jaw-dropping how much work and effort goes into the making of this exclusive and awe-inspiring wonder world. Months in advance, sketches are being drawn by the architects, structural engineers meet with builders and safety inspectors to see which materials should be used, and the designers put their creative minds to work to conceptualize what the drawings would look like in real life. The fact that Tomorrowland has a new enchanting Main Stage decor up its sleeve every edition, along with 16 other stages and a Rave Cave, blows the mind of any festivalgoer.
All of the preceding construction work, as well as the remuneration of over 1000 of artists, comes with a price. Because tickets are usually sold out in under half hour, the organization plans two dates for ticket sales. The cheapest three-day entry ticket to the festival grounds during the worldwide ticket sale of 2018 cost 285 EUR (435 CAD). However, this ticket just provides access to the event. For the Full Madness Pass, including a camping ticket on the campground DreamVille, you pay 360 EUR (550 CAD); please don’t forget to bring your own camping and sleeping gear. There is the option to add on a tent and a mattress, but you can also opt to sleep on a double bed in a full-on bungalow mansion with a hot tub and butler service. People from all walks of life will find comfort up to their own standards.
Of course, all of this is still without any food or drinks! Fortunately the hungry can enjoy world cuisine at its best: from food trucks offering takeaway street food to fine dining sit-down restaurants, there’s a tasty bite for everyone. When in Belgium, obviously try the typical Belgian fries with mayo or hot samurai sauce. Don’t always go for the Italian pizza, Mexican taco or American hamburger; you are better off trying something new, like an Israeli hummus club sandwich, a Surinamese sharing platter or Moroccan crisps. If you feel like Asian, then Japanese sushi, Filipino spring rolls, Thai curry, a Vietnamese rice bowl or Korean fried chicken will suit your needs. Still room for dessert and tough enough to resist that invigorating smell of local, artisanal Belgian waffles? Then treat your body to some cooling down by lavishing fresh, healthy toppings onto your ice-cold frozen yoghurt.
You can consume all you want, as long as you have enough pearls on the chip inside your festival bracelet, or your special ‘TML credit card’. Pearls are the official currency of Tomorrowland and are also the only accepted currency in all bars, food stands and boutique shops. In order to add pearls onto your bracelet or card, you have to find a top-up booth on the festival site. Paying for food or drinks is done by tapping the chip twice onto a reader to confirm your payment and see your remaining pearl balance. The conversion of one pearl equals 1.60 EUR (2.40 CAD). If you ever want to be part of the fabled wonder world that is Tomorrowland, go find out for yourself whether it is worth all the money. Either way, don’t worry too much if your money can’t buy you happiness, because your pearls probably will.
Each year many bloggers love spreading rumours on the Internet, speculating what the new theme and stage designs will be like in the upcoming edition. Let me break a secret to you: Tomorrowland has already introduced a brand new concept in the French Alps for March 2019 during the most magical season of the year: winter. With the theme of ‘The Hymn of the frozen Lotus’, the legendary Belgian music festival promises a sensational line-up, state-of-the-art decor and a truly exceptional (festival) experience. Are you ready for Narnia? Let us hope the heat waves that are torturing Europe at the moment have long passed by then and have made way for a snowy winter wonderland full of magic and whispering pines. See you on the slopes in France?