Despite the loss of HOLOSPHERE and extreme swings in weather during Weekend 2, Tomorrowland turned out to be one of the best experiences yet.
There are no shortages of festivals around the world, but Tomorrowland stands tall among the rest as one of the best experiences imaginable. Blending the world of fantasy with powerful dance music all while playing host to a crowd that is full of diversity, this festival is truly iconic. The first time I experienced Tomorrowland was in 2017 and ever since then, I’ve been completely enamored and hopeful for a return trip. So what better time would it be than to return to Tomorrowland for their 15th Anniversary celebration?
After counting down the days, making last-minute travel preparations, and packing my bags, it was finally time for the second weekend of Tomorrowland to come. Once I landed in Europe and made my way to the festival, I was excited as ever. Despite being at the festival in the past, as soon as I stepped into the beautiful Recreation Area De Schorre, I felt like I was transported to another planet.
The production of the festival impressed me immediately, especially with the stage decor that featured Tomorrowland stages both past and present.
Out of all the festivals I have had the privilege of attending over the years, Tomorrowland holds the record for most stages at an event for me. There are seventeen stages, so you’ll want to avoid visiting each one on the first day of the festival to conserve energy and survive the three-day event. While I sadly didn’t attend any sets at the Rave Cave, CAGE, The Harbour House, or Rose Garden this year, these staple stages remain unchanged from 2017 but clearly captivated the audience throughout the day whenever I passed by them.
I did manage to visit the “newer” stages for me at this year’s edition, however.
The Organ of Harmony was replaced by the Lotus stage used at this year’s inaugural Tomorrowland Winter. Another Tomorrowland Winter stage, L’Orangerie, took the place of the former Arch of Love stage as well. Returning new stages from last year’s Planaxis were also present at this year’s event: Kara Savi and Atmosphere.
The Kara Savi looked like a stage version of a conch shell during the day but at night, it came to life as the lights around the shell turned on. The long led lights in the innermost part of the stage added an amazing 3-D effect to the stage that reminded me of that moment on Space Mountain when your “shuttle” is climbing to the top of the ride. What was missing from this stage was a big tarp to help shelter attendees on from the hot sun on Friday or the pouring rain on Saturday.
The Atmosphere stage became my new home where I spent a good amount of time this year.
With many attendees still saddened by the unexpected cancellation of the HOLOSPHERE set and the inside of Freedom stage shut down, I used that time to appreciate the Atmosphere stage more. While the outside of the stage looked more like an everyday circus tent, the inside was spectacular with three bars of LED panels in an almost 360 position with an LED lights in a conical shape in the middle.
The artist area of the stage had two laser circle wheels that appear to only come to life at select sets. It was the perfect stage to avoid the sun or rain and if it only it had some fans to keep it all the dancing bodies in it cooler, it would have been the perfect stage.
In the past, the main stages at Tomorrowland focused on a new theme, but for the 15 Year celebration, they chose a 2.0 version of the Book of Wisdom stage from 2012.
The “Return to the Book of Wisdom” stage may not have seemed too wildly different from the 2012 version, but if you looked closely the stage designers added more features. The moving train on the far right of the stage traveled back and forth and a few of the books on the stage were able to close and open.
Each of the book titles represented a part of the Tomorrowland history such as the Chattahoochee Hills to symbolize TomorrowWorld, along with others that were about Tomorrowland Brasil. The most popular book that everyone talked about was the one titled Tim Bergling, a clear tribute to Avicii. Not only did the spine spell out his name but the book cover featured a photo of Avicii with the words, Forever that was only viewable from the sky.
While I could talk about the design of each Tomorrowland stage, it was actually the music acts at Tomorrowland blew me away this year.
The heat of Friday had me running away from the sun into the Atmosphere stage during Carl Cox’s Space Ibiza takeover. I found myself hearing Joyhauser and UNER for the first time. I was not expecting Joyhauser to go so hard during their set, but this Belgian duo definitely caught my attention. UNER kept the energy that had been built up by Joyhauser, and I really wish I could have gotten a closer look at his special DJ setup that “combines four decks, dozens of FXs, touch controllers, and a sampler”.
As UNER ended his setup, ANNA transitioned into her performance with ease. I don’t know if it was the energy of the crowd or the magic of Tomorrowland, but her set had me gushing well after the festival and even to this day. I loved hearing her new track, “Forever Ravers” with Kittin as well, and even though the heat took so much of my dancing energy, I kept dancing and got lost in the incredible set that she delivered.
While I stayed for a few sets at Atmosphere each day, I spent almost all of Saturday at Kara Savi for the FSOE takeover.
Aly & Fila brought progressive and uplifting trance sounds to the table as usual but also snuck in some fantastic techno in the second set. It was incredible seeing him twice and hearing him close with “We Control The Sunlight”. I saw some of Paul Thomas and John 00 Fleming before going to see Recondite (Live) but I wished I stayed for that set more.
I had been able to catch Ferry Tayle and Dan Stone play at Dreamstate Vancouver earlier this year, so seeing them at Tomorrowland was a huge bonus. As I hoped, they delivered an uplifting set that made us dance and sing in the rain at Tomorrowland while armed with some very special IDs.
However, the set that stood out to me the those from the FSOE takeover was Gai Barone. After hearing Abisola talk about him and his wonderful music all the time, I simply had to check out his performance this year. The minute he played “Tame Her” remixed by Teenage Mutants, I fell in love with his set full of progressive tunes that just fit so well with the mood of the crowd.
As for Sunday, it was a busy day of moving back and forth between the Main, Lotus, and Freedom stages.
With the indoor section of the Freedom stage closed, the Symphony of Unity moved to the Lotus stage since the makeshift Freedom stage didn’t have enough space for the orchestra. I had to leave MaRLo’s ASOT set early to make the trek to Lotus, and it was a long walk that was slowed further by the traffic control where certain roads became a one way only path. It also didn’t help that the crowd at Lotus preferred to stay on the hill, making it tricky to move down to the front of the stage.
Either way, off I went with friends to check out the Symphony of Unity, which fit in perfectly with the Tomorrowland 15th Anniversary celebration. I loved how the orchestra paid tribute to some of the biggest electronic tracks from Robert Miles’ “Children” to Eric Prydz’ “Opus”. Susana graced the stage with her amazing voice as we listened to her perform, “Shivers” with the Metropole Orkest. It was that moment when I teared up, overcome with emotion and the beauty of the set.
Little did I know she would perform, “Shivers” one more time with Armin Van Buuren who did a special surprise 15 Years Tribute set for thirty minutes. It was truly a special day to hear “Shivers” twice and to see her perform it with such passion that brings the song to life. Fun fact, Susana is celebrating her own anniversary with vocal trance.
Overall, I enjoyed every set I went to and while I wish I had more time to stay at the Q-dance stage longer or hang out at other stages like the Rose Garden or CAGE. I thoroughly enjoyed how quite a few sets were over an hour and the variety.
What also cut into my music time was all of the fun activities around Tomorrowland.
Some attendees were lucky enough to be blindfolded and whisked away to a beautiful library in Antwerp that inspired the library design of the mainstage. Festival actors and actresses gave out invitations to Dreamville guests to the mysterious Brew District. Special Happy Hour carts appeared randomly distributing treats. Nearby the bathrooms close to the Atmosphere stage featured a random DJ entertaining guests with a music cart set. Someone on Reddit posted that the ballerina performers had a special page that allowed guests access to the maze.
The amount of special secret experiences that Tomorrowland executed this year seems endless. While I would have loved to experience more of them at the event, we got our own special surprise during the global journey bus ride from Amsterdam to Boom but more on that in a different article.
While the special experiences seemed endless, the festival offers attendees the chance to dine more upscale with their Tastes of Tomorrowland offerings.
Unlike other events, Tomorrowland offers restaurants for attendees to dine at locations around the festival for an extra cost. The Brasa offers grill meat, fish, or cheese off the grill while the Mesa offered a taste around the world experience where you and friends can enjoy and share cocktails and food.
The B-EAT food experience is inside the mainstage where you can experience some more Tastes of the World with a random menu set by one of their renown chefs and delicious drinks whilst a random DJ plays. However, the catch is that you can’t sit at this “restaurant.”
Lastly, Aperto is the most popular choice for a special dining experience where you can enjoy your dinner while enjoying a view of the main stage and music. This experience is usually the first to sell out and diners can choose between a meat, fish, or vegetarian course. Luckily, one of my amazing friends manages to get extra vouchers for Abisola and I to enjoy the Aperto experience.
While the restaurant was smaller than I expected, the service was quick and the presentation of the food was top notch. I enjoyed getting my appetizer off a tree or dessert presented in the festival treasure box. I would love to come back to Aperto but at an earlier time to not miss any good sets in the evening.
I also took note of the festival essentials they provided such as merchandise, the cashless system, and bathrooms.
I love collecting merch from events and the quality from Tomorrowland is high class from t-shirts to jewelry. One of the most popular items that sold out fast was the gold limited edition Tomorrowland flag. Roughly, only 5,000 were made for both weekends followed by a few of the shirt designs sold out fast like the floral dragon tee. Patrons had the option to purchase merchandise with their credit cards or with their bracelet aka cashless system.
The only way to purchase food or drinks is with Pearls as well, which is the cashless currency of the festival. While I am not a fan of the exchange rate, I found it nice to be able to leave my cash and credit cards in my locker. I didn’t have to worry about the items being stolen or lost. In some instances, it helped people get food or beverages quicker by not having to look for their wallets and vendors to count money and give change.
As for the bathrooms, it was wonderful having flushable bathrooms to use at a festival.
They have a bright light and hardly ran out of toilet paper. However, it would be nice for them to have a hook for bags. Some of the bathrooms have refresh stations where there is free sunscreen, hand sanitizers, and spray deodorant for people to use. You could wash your hands at the sinks and some of the sinks had a drinkable water sign for people looking to refill their water bottles or camelbaks. I only wished they marked on the maps the bathrooms that had the drinkable water or even added actual water refill stations like the ones at Insomniac hosted festivals here in the US.
In the end, Tomorrowland Belgium transported me into their fantasy world despite crazy weather conditions.
It was my second time experiencing the festival and I still feel like I am falling deeper in love with it. I love immersing myself into magical atmosphere that the artists, production, weather, entertainment, safety, clean up, and vendor departments work so hard to put together an unforgettable weekend.
I love seeing all of the flags from a variety of different countries and meeting individuals from those countries. For those looking to get away to a whole new festival world, I highly recommend Tomorrowland. However, getting here isn’t always easy with how fast ticket sales move. But once you are here, though, you’ll embrace the slogan of Tomorrowland: Live Today, Love Tomorrow, and Unite Forever.