Tomorrowland is the festival everyone has heard of and has an opinion about, celebrated their 15th anniversary this year. Like it or not, this festival is one of the highlights of the year for many ravers and DJs. 400,000 ravers come down to Belgium each year for 3 days of madness, and tickets sell out within minutes every time.
What started out as a small local festival with about 9000 visitors in 2005 rapidly grew into this monster of a festival. In 2011 it became a 3 day festival and they started adding themes. This special 15th anniversary edition marked the return of one of the fans favourite themes over the years… ‘The Book of Wisdom: The Return’.
One of us has been going to every single edition of Tomorrowland, whilst the others are going to discover this magical place for the very first time. What follows is our recollection of these 3 wonderful days. The festival happens over 2 weekends, we were lucky enough to be in the weekend 2 crowd. Also there are so many stages it is impossible to cover them all and yes, we are ravers, so we do tend to get stuck at some stages and rave our hearts out.
Anyway! Here we go… Belgium being Belgium and having some very interesting weather patterns it all begins in 41 degree heat. Thursday is the first day of the festival… IF you camp. We are not camping and feel very lucky, imagine this heat and having to drag your equipment all over the place. Then set up your tent in the blazing sun while sipping on some nice but sneaky Belgian beers.
Tomorrowland campground called Dreamville, is a city in itself. There is a supermarket, bakery, a gym, you can follow yoga classes, … anything is available. You can stay in your own tent, rent one from the Tomorrowland people, rent a little cottage and it goes all the way up to proper mansions (for the few of us that can afford it). The people lucky enough to be staying in Dreamville are treated with a pre-party called The Gathering. The line-up usually is a mix of local talent and a few surprise guests.
We are not camping but staying in a hotel in Antwerp. We’ll be using the trains to get to and from the festival, because remember kids, don’t drink and drive! Skipping the whole camping business and not catching a heat stroke means that we can start day 1 all fresh and fruity. The festival starts around noon each day and goes until 1am. We catch an early train, walk the 15 min walk from the station to the festival grounds. Anticipation rising, the first timers are getting excited and the old timer is more curious about their reactions.
After all the safety and security checks at the entrance we walk onto the holy grounds, there are so many stages to choose from, so many possibilities and choices of music. Everywhere there are food stands offering anything from healthy foods over junk food to actual high class munchies. We decide do dive right in and make our way to mainstage where Boris Brejcha just started. Tomorrowland really made an effort this year to diversify the mainstage a bit. It’s not just mainstream EDM right now but they made room for some techno and hardstyle.
Arriving and seeing mainstage for the first time is always an experience. You either walk up from the hill and see it appear in front of you. Or you walk in from behind and see it appear from the side. Anyway you come in and view it for the first time, it is impressive. The first timers look impressed and stop for pictures. This years stage is a massive collection of books. Some of them open up into LED screens. Some of them have hidden messages like a tribute to Avicii or maybe even next years theme. The old timer runs into friends. The first timers make new friends. After all Tomorrowland is a nice and friendly place with people literally from all over the world coming together to just have a good time.
After Boris Brejcha is done teaching us some techno, Mark with a K takes over with some Hardstyle. Maybe not now in the heat, it is still over 30 degrees today. We make our way past some of the amazing food stands with names like Balls & Glory and find ourselves a nice stage in the shade. Core is the name of this one. Yes, Tomorrowland has a name for each of their stages. Core is a little bit hidden in the woods, so perfect for a sunny afternoon. Hosting this stage today is Nico Morano & Friends. Nico is a local hero from club Illusion. Once one of the best clubs in Belgium (now closed unfortunately). In the shade of the trees we enjoy some house, techno, electro beats by Animal Trainer, Jan Blomqvist and Nico Morano himself. We stayed around this stage for a while as it was very nice to hang out in the shade and the music was surprisingly good! Summer vibes anyone?
Sun is getting less brutal so we are ready to venture out of the woods again. After some roaming around on the festival grounds we start making our way to the Freedom stage. So much to see, so much to do! Everywhere there are friendly people, some of them dressed up in amazing costumes, some of them in different stages of undress. (It is warm after all…). We have spotted the massive ferris wheel behind the Freedom stage and want to get in there (We never made it).
Walking past the Freedom stage was just impossible. Adam Beyer just started a B2B with Ida Engberg. It’s just impossible to walk away. So good! Freedom stage is a special one. Usually it is a big room filled with LED lights. On the walls, on the ceiling… everywhere. This year Freedom was redesigned to host Eric Prydz’ Holosphere, especially built for his Holo 6 show. That show was premiered here at Tomorrowland during weekend 1. Unfortunately, disaster struck and the roof of the stages collapsed in between the weekends. Nobody got hurt but the stage was not usable anymore.
Yet here we are listening to Adam Beyer & Ida Engberg playing an amazing set. Somehow the people of Tomorrowland managed to turn the stages entrance into a stage on it’s own. Very impressive! A dance floor was made clearing some tables from the massive food court and voila…. new stage! We were really looking forward to seeing Prydz and his magical Holosphere so the fact that it’s not there is a bit of a downer. We are now debating to stay for Prydz or go for another stage.
We ended up staying for Prydz. I still don’t know what happened but this experience turned into one of my all time favourite rave moments of the almost 20 years I’ve been doing this. Without the Holosphere and because of the re-arranged stage, this became a very intimate experience between Mr Eric Prydz and the fans that stayed for him. He took us on an unbelievable musical journey, just incredible. The first timers still not believing they are looking at a stage entrance and not an actual stage. Prydz just took every one of the people on that makeshift dancefloor and showed us what music is. No genres, no boxes… just pure music. This is how our first day ended. Just pure amazement of what just happened. He ended the whole trip with an amazing version of Opus. Thank you very much Mr Prydz.
We train back to our hotel. At the train station the waffle and candy shop is still open so we get some treats for the walk back to the hotel. A nice shower and a good sleep later we wake up ready for day 2. One look outside and we notice it is raining! So we went from 41 degrees and blazing sun to a grey and rainy day. Suddenly very glad we are not camping, we make our way back to the train and the festival grounds. Again the whole check in and security, everything here works with a leather bracelet. You put money on there and the rest of the weekend you walk in to the festival and pay everything by just tapping your bracelet on the receiver boxes. Very easy system! Afterwards they even pay you back the extra money that is still on there (If you haven’t drank or ate it all that is).
Day 2. We actually have a bit of a plan. Go see some classics at the Bonzai stage and get a bit of trance in at the Future Sound of Egypt stage. We walk in and make our way to the Rose Garden. It’s here the Bonzai crew will be playing all day. The Rose Garden is an amazing stage to look at. It is a massive dragon, with a moving head that spits fire every now and then. Arriving here the music is pretty heavy, maybe a bit too much for the start of our day. So we decide to move on and come back later (Well that never happened). This is the beauty of Tomorrowland, you can plan and stick to it, or you can just get lost and go explore, and discover new things.
One of the favorite psy artists of the old timer is about to go on, so we make our way to L’Orangerie. A new stage for this years Tomorrowland. Well, almost, it was introduced at Tomorrowland Winter earlier this year in France, it replaces The Arch where last year VII stage was hosted. L’Orangerie looks like an old school green house with stained glass windows and plants hanging from the ceiling. Behind the DJ is a massive LED screen picturing all kinds of plant wonders… and minions at some point. In short, very fitting for a psychedelic crowd. Ace Ventura starts and is amazing as always! Later he will return with Astrix as Alpha Portal. Here our little group gets split up. Old timer gets stuck in the psy vibe and does not want to leave. The first timers feel like some exploring and we split ways. Also one of the pro’s of Tomorrowland, you can just go and enjoy what you want and meet up again later.
The first timers end up walking around and discover the Rave Cave. One of the smallest stages of Tomorrowland, it is a small little cave on the side of a walkway between stages. It has always been a little alcove that wasn’t really used. Until they set up a DJ booth in there and made it a stage. I think maybe 50 people fit in here but the vibe is always amazing. If you ever go to Tomorrowland, try to find the cave and hop in for a bit, you will not regret. The guys end up at the Atmosphere stage. This stage is like a massive circus tent with an amazing light show on the inside. They end their day here with Tale of us. So although some plans were made we ended up at completely different stages and still had an amazing time! That really shows you that stepping outside of your comfort zone can get you great experiences.
Back on the train, get a waffle, walk to hotel, shower, sleep and get back to Boom for day 3. Day 3 we are starting off with a treat, Tomorrowland has several amazing restaurants were you can make a reservation for an amazing meal. We got ourselves a table at Brasa, a grill restaurant. You can choose between meat (beef), fish (salmon) or a vegetarian menu. The food is amazing and comes with a glass of wine. When walking out we get a nice little desert with a 15 year Tomorrowland logo on. Again we have some plans today; See Symphony of Unity, Cirez D and maybe the closing fireworks.
Because of the issues with Freedom stage they have moved the Symphony of Unity to the Lotus stage, one of the big open air stages. Symphony of Unity is a nice break from all the madness. It is a massive symphonic orchestra playing known tracks like Universal Nation, Opus and Children. They even had Susana come out to perform Shivers live! Really impressive to see.
After this nice intermezzo we made our way to Freedom again. This day it is hosted by A State Of Trance. When we arrive Cosmic Gate is playing. Enjoyable. After them NWYR is on. Not really our favorite thing but still having a good time. And then came mister ASOT himself, Armin van Buuren. He played on the main stage one of the other days but today he is here to play his own A State Of Trance stage. We must admit, we had an amazing time! He threw in some classics, some of his new stuff and managed to stay away from the extreme cheesy stuff. We again met some amazing people hanging out at the stage, a group dressed as sailors. Ended up dancing and jumping around with them for most of our time at the ASOT stage. The plan was to go to the Atmosphere stage and end out Tomorrowland with Adam Beyer and maybe a bit of the fireworks at main.
That didn’t happen…. again. Our new friends convinced us to join them at main where there was going to be first the “15 years tribute” for 30 minutes, followed by “15 years of iconic anthems”. The first tribute was done by Armin and had some nice classics like Universal Nation in there. Again Susana was brought out to sing Shivers (That’s never a bad thing). The 15 years of iconic anthems turned out to be 3 Are Legend, or Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike joined by Steve Aoki. This last hours became an hour of any cheesy track you can think off, they threw it at us. Accompanied by massive fireworks and Aoki throwing 15 cakes in the crowd. Because it was the final hour, we went all put and jumped around like crazy. Not a proud moment maybe, but oh so much fun!
And then for the final time this year…. back on the train and back to the hotel.
In short it was an amazing experience, for the old timer and the first timers alike. Tomorrowland is so much more than just mainstage. There is decent music in all styles of electronic dance music everywhere. We did not even visit half the stages! People often keep coming back to main stage and mention the popular names on there as a proof that it is commercial and all EDM, It is not! I invite you all to try it one day and judge for yourself. I know for a fact the first timers are sold and will be back next year!
Check out the official Tomorrowland 2019 after movie below.