Tomorrowland is known as the world’s most popular electronic music festival. With this title it seems odd that many people don’t know much about the festival beyond the mainstage and the acts that are synonymous with playing the main stage. Tomorrowland offers over 15 stages of music on the expansive grounds in Boom, Belgium most of which go completely undiscussed once the festival has wrapped. I was surprised to find such a wide range of stages at the festival, from the enormous main stage that everyone sees, down to stages that can only fit a handful of people. Here are a few of the highlights I discovered at Tomorrowland 2016.
The Tomorrowland Experience
One thing that stood out and surprised me about the festival was the level of production. Everywhere you looked, there was something in view that caught your eye. Even the information booths were worthy of photos, not to mention the numerous fountains with water lit up by colorful lighting at night, fire breathing monsters floating in the river, walkways lit up by themed string lights and performers walking about and interacting with the people of Tomorrow.
The People of Tomorrow
Attending US electronic music festivals while over the age of 30, more often than not, you stick out like a sore thumb. At Tomorrowland the average age of attendee was noticeably higher. Throughout the weekend it wasn’t uncommon to see people in their 40’s and even older dancing the night away and feeling right at home. The mature audience helped create a unique vibe that I have yet to experience at any festival in the states to date.
The Arch Stage
Nestled off into a corner of the festival grounds, the Arch Stage could have easily been missed. Each day the stage changed from the ‘Super You & Me’ stage on Friday, to the ‘Q-dance’ stage on Saturday, and finished up with ‘Dave Clarke Presents’ on Sunday. With only a capacity to host a couple hundred people, this stage featured some of the best music and vibes at the festival. Highlighted performances were Timmy Trumpet, Laidback Luke, Green Velvet and Dave Clarke.
Just about everyone was talking about the Deadmau5 and Eric Prydz B2B that happened on Friday night, but just next door there was an intimate stage named ‘The Magical Mirror.’ It would have been easy to walk right by its small double door entrance, especially with the much larger Opera stage overpowering the view close by. The small round room with mirrors throughout featuring a large disco ball hanging from the center of the room hosted acts such as Ed Banger House Party, Firebeatz and CLAUDE (aka Fulgeance). It was a little hot and sweaty but that didn’t stop those inside from dancing throughout the night. Not the typical image that comes to mind when thinking about Tomorrowland, right?
The small outdoor Harbor House stage offered a wide range of music throughout the weekend. With no line up posted the small crowd was drawn in strictly by the sounds resonating from the speakers. Featuring old school hip hop, funk, disco and various other dance music you could easily find yourself pausing and dancing for 30 minutes while on your way to another stage.
Leaf by Lipton Iced Tea
Located on a lake and only accessible by a single bridge, the Leaf stage was a personal highlight. Sponsored by Lipton Ice Tea, the small stage was on a second story platform and had a very small capacity. Grooving to ANNA TUR on Saturday as she played house music under the scattered cloudy sky, I felt like I couldn’t have been further from the Tomorrowland Mainstage, even though I was only around a hundred yards away. The experience of this stage was definitely one of a small intimate festival or club, featuring underground music and smiling faces. Welcome to the real Tomorrowland.
Last but definitely not least was the Rave Cave. This is one of the smallest stages at a major electronic music festival I have ever witnessed. The capacity of this stage might be 20 people max, not joking. With the DJ on a small stage only about 40 feet from the entrance, the jam packed cave was buzzing with electricity. Once I stumbled into the Rave Cave, I couldn’t leave and ended up spending the rest of my night here. This was definitely not what I expected when I first booked my trip to Tomorrowland, and it was definitely a welcoming surprise.
Tomorrowland, a Festival for Everyone
You now get a sense of what Tomorrowland is like away from the main stage and this is just a sampling of what’s offered. Whether you are a fan of main stage or underground, you are young or old, local Belgian or from the furthest reaches of the planet, this festival unites. It might be hard to imagine traveling halfway around the world, to a country where you don’t speak the language to attend a music festival, but it’s something everyone should experience. Start saving your money and making your plans, join me next year as I’m sure to make the trip again.
All images courtesy Casey McCune copyright 2016.[ad name=”Festival Clothing”]