CODE’s going to Belgium next week for TomorrowLand, arguably the world’s favorite dance festival and definitely its most international one. Dance fans from 214 countries come to the town of Boom to dance, camp and party for three days, in a fantastical setting. Fitting its fairytale theme, the elements of TomorrowLand are indeed storied; so much so that its full sets are being shipped from Belgium to Atlanta, Georgia for its first-ever North American event, TomorrowWorld, on September 27-29. So while we’re taking in the sights, we’ll be thinking of how they’ll seem on the soil of the U.S. South. Here’s the stuff that we’re most pumped for.
In years past, we’ve traveled to dance events like Ultra Music Festival on flights teeming with fellow dance music fans, forging friendships across plane aisles based on a shared excitement for what’s to come. Tomorrowland’s Global Journey travel package — in which the Billboard Team is taking part — harnesses the same energy and takes it to a new level, literally packing planes with festival-goers and special entertainment for the ride. The Global Journey, as the website says, “[covers] your trip from the moment you take off all the way through to the return journey home,” with specially chartered planes to and from Belgium as well as festival transportation.
The Main Stage
The eye-popping design of the kineticFIELD stage at this year’s Electric Daisy Carnival was clearly inspired by the legendary Tomorrowland Main Stage. But, despite EDC’s multi-dimensional forest landscape and all-seeing animatronic owl, Tomorrowland is among a small handful of festivals that sets — and continually raises — the bar for top-notch stage production.
The theme of the festival dictates the design of the Main Stage each year, and 2012 marked the most spectacular execution to date; the “Book of Wisdom” theme, which centered on the idea of a magical library, translated into a Main Stage comprised of almost impossibly large books stacked atop one another. But the book’s spines also had interactive elements, and the centermost book opened and closed to reveal a video screen and a ghostly face etched into the pages. Tomorrowland’s Main Stage has come to represent a sensory overload of the highest order and, with the ever-rising production values of festivals worldwide, we’re counting on ID&T to bring it like never before. With this year’s theme being “The Arising of Life,” we can only imagine the twisted Garden of Eden scene they’ll deliver.
The 12-Hour Set
There’s no shortage of artist-branded stages at Tomorrowland; Carl Cox has one, for instance, as do Afrojack and Laidback Luke. But, while other DJs will feature sets from friends and label cohorts, Markus Schulz is opening, closing and headlining his own stage. Yes, you read that right: the trance icon will be spinning a marathon 12-hour set on Friday.
It’s not the first time Schulz has attempted such a wild feat of DJing: to ring in 2013, he spun an equally lengthy set at Los Angeles hotspot Avalon. Schulz explained his approach to his marathon sets on Twitter, writing that he aims to deliver the “full MS spectrum”. This includes a “deep warm-up, peak hour (what you usually hear), then — best of all — the “rabbit hole” period. As Schulz tweeted, “I transition from peak hour Markus to afterhours Markus, [and] everything starts getting weird / trippy… It's where the techno admirer in me comes out to play.” With Boom as serving both the backdrop and inspiration for Schulz’s rabbit hole experience, we can’t wait to accompany him on the journey.
The Love Chapel
While we may not be planning on hitting up Tomorrowland’s Love Chapel — also called the “Church of Love” — ourselves, its presence on the grounds let us know that not only do festival organizers care about guests’ every need, but that they have an ample sense of humor to boot. The Love Chapel is just a bit different from the chapel Pasquale Rotella debuted at this year’s EDC: it’s a small structure with nothing but a bed inside, manned by scantily-clad, condom-wielding “nuns.” Don’t believe us? The video below, from Tomorrowland 2012, explains it all.
We are completely intrigued by the residents of Boom, all 16,000 of them, whose lives get bum-rushed every year by the festival’s own boom. Are they like the Woodstock locals portrayed in 2009 Ang Lee film “Taking Woodstock,” whose provincial lives are forever altered by the liberating madness in their midst? Will the grandparents of Boom imbibe with the ravers and open their hearts to their secretly alternative offspring? We want to chill with the Boomers (according to Wikipedia, that’s what they’re called!) and get their take on all this action.
Festival food usually consists of $10 pizza and mystery meat in some form. Tomorrowland offers standard fare, albeit with a Belgian twist (pommes frites, anyone?) — but there are true culinary adventures to be had at the festival, too. First, there’s the Star Restaurant by chef Wout Brou, which wines and dines guests in a special tent with views of the Main Stage. And no dinner is complete without dessert. In Tomorrowland’s case, however, this sweet treat is the creation of chef Roger van Damme, and will be inspired by festival DJs Dimitri Vegas and Like Mike. We don’t know what EDM tastes like, but you can bet we’re going to find out. There’s also a separate offering called “Cocktails of the World,” which features a flight of four cocktails inspired by wide-ranging destinations; “Tiki Style,” South and Native American drinks will be joined by, of course, a Belgian barrel-aged drink. For VIPs, there’s also the promise of the so-called “most exclusive dinner ever,” which will see two triple-Michelin-starred chefs collaborating on a single meal.
Indelicate name aside, the Boozebag is part of Tomorrowland’s total immersion. Rather than paying for food and drinks in cash — how pedestrian — festival-goers can purchase a pouch full of coins to use as currency instead. The 50-euro pouch comes with 35 coins, as well as a limited edition map of the festival. With the Boozebag, buying a vodka-soda has never felt so… magical.
The Heavyweight Bout
This will be one for the books: Nicky Romero, Afrojack and David Guetta are closing out Tomorrowland with an unprecedented back-to-back-to-back Main Stage set. Will the stage collapse under the weight of these three dance music titans? Will they create the most epic bootlegs ever? Will the trio be joined by even more headlining DJs? So many questions, soon to be answered by two bass-filled, fist-pumping hours.
Perhaps we’re getting ahead of ourselves, but we’re not alone in our excitement for the Tomorrowland after-movie. The 2012 video has been viewed over 82 million times to date and, like those from years past, manages to turn the festival experience into a raver’s fairy tale. From the epic aerial shots of the festival grounds and Main Stage sets to the perfectly mixed soundtrack, the after-movie is 20-plus minutes of larger-than-life festival bliss — and a reminder of why hundreds of thousands of fans make the trek to Belgium year in and year out.