Time: 12:15 P.M. Location: London. Status: I have become that cliche’ girl crying in a gift shop.
Before you judge me for being soft… I suppose you must first understand the incredibly humbling and yet totally emotionally satisfying feeling of finally realizing your one festival bucket list goal. THE bucket list goal has always been Tomorrowland.
Chasing dreams never quite became a reality until I started venturing from my own Midwest bubble. The Midwest attitude comes with the preconceived notion that big dreams are unlikely, and it’s better to spend your time finding a husband, having children, and supplementing that with a career to feel value. I suppose that life just wasn’t for me, as much as I tried to fit that mold in my 20s.
Starting my Tomorrowland adventure was a time consuming and costly one. Make no mistake about it. I’m not gloating, merely preparing those of you who want to go at some point. I spared no expense and saved for two years to make this dream a reality. Luckily, I am a very blessed individual to have fested for half a decade now, and by doing so, have met some of the most marvelous people from all over the world. I have dreamt of Tomorrowland since its inception. I never imagined I would actually go. It took careful planning, and a wonderful crew on site to make all the moving pieces come together into the absolute festival trip of a lifetime.
It’s fitting that it took me 15 years to make my dream a reality. I have, or make friends wherever I go, and meet new rave/ festival family members easily. I don’t know why it seems so easy for me to connect with new people, experiences, and cultures… I suppose I must blame my mother for always encouraging my adventurous nature, and moving me all over creation in my youth. Tomorrowland is the most culturally diverse and mature electronic dance music festival in the world. The expense incurred through their elaborate packages ensures everyone there really wants to be there. This isn’t a Coachella style festival where you see fake #influencers taking photos to be seen, this is the biggest and best party in Europe. All ages and nations come together for two weekends of unity, and it truly is the greatest place on Earth. (Sorry Disneyland).
My friends at home started calling my festing lifestyle a “pre-midlife crisis” years ago, but personally, I seem to think I was not meant to be stuck in one place for too long. I prefer a nomadic lifestyle, traveling outside of the small bubble the Midwest USA provides. I feel most at home, well…not at home.
The road to Tomorrowland was a long one. Resolved to go solo, a miracle of sorts happened when I saw my facebook friend Valerie post about her intentions of a solo journey. After a quick chat about both of us being dead set on attending, we decided to do our bucket list festival together, and add a fantastic Euro trip to make it even more memorable. Something I highly recommend if ever crossing the pond for a festival. Those flights, they definitely are not cheap. Luckily I was able to use my airline miles and booked my journey on Virgin Atlantic.
After a battle royale with four different internet-ready devices all while face-timing from Indianapolis to Seattle, we jumped for joy 4.5 hours later by securing our Global Journey tickets. (Global Journey and Viagogo are pretty much the only ways to ensure a Tomorrowland ticket as an American). You can try and succeed in the general sales, however, we knew better after attempting to procure tickets for the last four years.
We started our journey in London. After a fantastic pub crawl, a trip to Stonehenge, and a massively busy day of sightseeing, we then made our way to Belgium.
The weather for weekend two left much to be desired. We arrived on the hottest day literally ever recorded in Belgium. We boarded our train, tried to nap, and walked the sweaty yet surprisingly short distance to our Montague camping area. The minute we walked through the doors, our faces were in absolute awe. Our mouths hanging open, we checked into our glamping style Dreamlodge.
The Montague area boasts several unique glamping options including Kokonos and Relax Rooms, a pool, hot tub access, and an after-party with a killer DJ until 3 A.M. nightly after the fest. If you can spring for this style camping option, I highly recommend it. The pool was especially inviting Thursday before we headed to the camping pre-party, “The Gathering.” I am honestly not sure how we would have survived without these amenities due to the weather we encountered.
So how big is Tomorrowland? In a word: MASSIVE. They offer so many different onsite camping options as well as hotel packages through Global Journey. This ensures every festival goer is accommodated at their level of comfort and financial capability. Considering this was the only time we expected to attend, we sprung for everything VIP. Our goal simply being to experience the festival itself in style.
Unlike many U.S. festivals where VIP can be a very costly sick joke, Tomorrowland delivers an absolutely unparalleled experience. The Mainstage VIP area was a fantastic respite from the steady rain on days two and three. The viewing platform alone would have been worth it, along with the bathrooms with real sinks. Aerial artists and dressed up characters frequented the VIP area, the lines for drinks were short, and hors d’ oeuvres were served gratis.
They even had hot tubs and pools in VIP. They provided swimsuits and towels, and although I personally never got in one, they looked pretty tempting by day three after all the walking. At that point even my blisters had blisters.
My personal goal of Tomorrowland was to see every stage. This is a daunting task because not only are the grounds absolutely massive, but there are only specific directions you can access one side or the other to encourage a systematic flow of traffic. Simply put, you literally have to work hard to see every stage in just three short days. The crowd is massive, and at times you are whisked into a different experience than expected because you assumed two hours to eat prior to Armin’s ASOT set was enough time. Sorry not sorry, food is essential to powering me through an entire day. I am not one of those chicks that can survive on a chicken nugget a day at the fest. Unfortunately, due to the “hangriness,” we happened to miss Armin’s ASOT set. Sometimes you have to just go with the flow.
I had the benefit of having an excellent crew from all over uniting for this year’s 15-year extravaganza, and this truly made it more special. There was never one set spent feeling out of place, or wishing I was at a different stage. I didn’t go for the lineup at Tomorrowland, I went for the experience. Quite frankly I can see these DJ’s anywhere. Tomorrowland has the sound and music quality of Ultra and Movement, with an unparalleled production level that Insomniac events such as EDC can’t quite yet touch. The stages are some of the most brilliant works of art that I have ever witnessed in my life. Aside from the stages, the Tomorrowland crowd atmosphere is supportive and full of diversity. It is the most well-rounded festival I’ve ever attended.
Day one was a beautifully sunny day, now dubbed the “good picture day” by our group. Valerie and I both had hair appointments that made us both feel like a million bucks, even though it felt like Miami in August heat while attempting to do our makeup at camp.
We met up with our friends Lama and Nayla and attended the Daybreak session with Kölsch. The first big set of the day was the masterful masked “techno” cowboy himself, Boris Brejcha. He played one hell of a set, and I was quite happy that we were all spending our first experience watching him live together.
After exploring a third of the stages that were notable on the map, and of course, stopping by Fedde Le Grande to put our hands up for Detroit, we closed our day with Eric Prydz. Lucky weekend one witnessed the premiere of his “Holosphere” show, and unfortunately for us, strong winds and a stage failure forced the closing of the Freedom Stage, eventually canceling his sphere setup. I appreciated being informed and Tomorrowland doing it’s due diligence to alter the concept to an open stage format to keep us all safe. Trust me, no one needs another horrific festival disaster on their hands. Prydz delivered one hell of a Pryda-heavy set, even closing quite predictably with yep, you guessed it… “Opus“. The perfect end to a perfect first day.
The walk leaving the Freedom Stage was insane. Shoulder-to-shoulder with a fun chanting crowd, our sweat was completely washed away during a torrential downpour that seemed to come out of nowhere. Our new friends Mitch and David helped us navigate the crowd exit, and my friend Karna put it well, “It wouldn’t be as memorable without the weather.” I must 100 percent agree with his sentiment.
Day two was House music day, and I still had half of the stages to see. I admittedly got a later start than I had originally intended. The fresh flower crown making class they provided in the campground was absolutely worth the late start. Very fitting as I have an entire box of them, and yet, at the best festival in the world, I fashioned a real one with friends over coffee. Cliff notes: flower crown making is HARD!
The weather was much cooler, so I praised myself for bringing a few cold fest weather options. Armed with my poncho, umbrella, and a positive outlook, I made it to every single remaining stage, with the exception of the Rave Cave and a few smaller nondescript stages. I danced solo at the rail for one of the best Benny Benassi sets I’ve witnessed to this date (I love this man), and then was delighted with a culinary masterpiece at Mesa from my friend Joseph who unfortunately was unable to make the fest after purchasing tickets. Mesa remains the best festival meal so far in my life. I noted that if we were to do it again, I would absolutely purchase a meal voucher daily. There are so many onsite restaurants to choose from, and the experience of sitting with 15 people you must get to know before the sharing options are delivered was masterful. It is another incredible way that Tomorrowland brings all cultures together.
After the meal, I joined a bit of FSOE where Fadi of Aly & Fila made me shed my first tear of the weekend and then met up with my fest buddy Karna for the set I was most excited for, Solomun. I must say, Solomun has my heart. I had been wanting to see him for years, and he did not disappoint. After trying and failing to meet up with the others, we jammed out in VIP and again on the floor before leaving for my favorite House music producer in the world, the one, the only, Mr. Armand Van Helden.
The girls joined us as we danced gracefully in the rain for Armand’s set, and Karna mentioned he had never seen me look that happy. There is just something about a classic old school house set that sets my soul on fire. We closed watching the fireworks on the hill and walked back to camp. My Creamfields 2018 crew Keith and Martin were also luckily glamping, so the afterparty was spent laughing and dancing with them… to be honest it is one of the few times in my fest life I really wanted to spend more time at the after-hours, but the DJ stopped and bed called our names.
Day three I woke up in a completely damp bed, surprised that I had made the amateur mistake to fall asleep in my super comfy sweater that had apparently retained all the rain after I took my restrictive poncho off. Note to self: won’t be doing that again. Clearly, it was amateur hour.
I grabbed coffee with Martin and Keith and was blessed with the first breakfast of the weekend. I checked out the relax room option and found them to be quite nice and potentially the best value for the price. If I were to do Tomorrowland again, a relax room is what I would purchase. They are fully enclosed, and you can stand up comfortably inside. We all banded together to walk in for the final day, but Karna and I had two bucket list items: visit the Q Dance stage as well as the Symphony of Unity.
The symphony at Tomorrowland has always been on my list. Our group descended upon the Lotus Stage to watch them set up. Have you ever ugly cried at a Festival before? A few tissues were not enough for the incredible performance Tomorrowland’s Symphony of Unity puts on. Hearing all the great electronic music anthems from my rave heyday and even closing with the fan clacker’s anthem “Losing It” gave merit to an already full weekend.
I still can’t believe what I witnessed. I have no words for that experience. I will forever treasure it. There is nowhere else in the world that experience would be possible other than at Tomorrowland.
Now it was time to dry my eyes and make my way to another completely unique experience.
If you have never witnessed the Q Dance stage, you must mentally prepare yourself for the absolute insanity Hardstyle can be in Europe. EDC’s Hardstyle Wasteland Stage is more like Diet Coke, where European Hardstyle is pretty much like crazy speedy insanity. I have never seen a crowd this energetic in my life. In fact, I finally found the one genre I literally can’t dance to. Da Tweekas set went from comical to cheesy to fast as fuck in seconds, and it is no wonder the sets are shortened. It is something I’ll never forget, the balloon animals, the almost-moshing, the costumes, and the realization that one of my guilty pleasure genres, Happy Hardcore, gave birth to what Hardstyle has evolved into today. Watching Karna get down to his fave genre was a treat. We both witnessed each other’s “happy sets.” You couldn’t ask for more.
Afterward, food was a necessity, so we made our way to the ASOT Freedom stage and found it too crowded to even queue for food. We ended up back at the Mainstage eating area and had a great conversation with some fellow Hardstyle fans, just in time for Freedom Stage to be closed for Armin’s ASOT set. OOPS.
Not all was lost. We decided to go back to Mainstage for Solomun and danced with some really amazing Swedish men who were dressed for the part. It was the party highlight of my day. We then ventured to find the best spot at Mainstage for Armin’s 15-year Spectacular. Tears welled in my eyes as he brought Susana on to sing “Shivers” live, and I closed my Tomorrowland shortly afterward with Drumcode’s very own Adam Beyer.
So how was Tomorrowland? In a nutshell: FREAKING AMAZING. Worth every penny. 10/10 Best Festival I have ever witnessed. Every detail is catered to your desire. If you have the resources to make it to the Holy Mecca of festivals, you will see for yourself.