Tomorrowland kicked off its second weekend honor of the festival’s 10th anniversary on Friday (July 25). Boasting one of the deepest talent pools and arguably the most impressive production value that dance music has to offer, Tomorrowland is an immersive and at times overwhelming experience deliberately designed to engage all of its attendees’ senses. Billboard takes you to Boom, Belgium, to recap the highlights from what has emerged as one of the genre’s most significant festivals.
1:01 p.m.: The gates have officially opened, allowing an enthusiastic tide of flag-bedecked fans to stream into ID&T’s otherworldly wonderland. On the intricately designed and steampunk-inspired main stage, Swedish progressive house artist Eric Prydz curates a rare three-hour extended set. While fans frolic and take photographs under the stage’s oversized clockwork gears and churning waterworks, Prydz provides a fitting soundtrack to the manifest anticipation in the air.
1:40 p.m.: “Tomorrowland! How are you doing?” hollers Dutch artist Oliver Heldens. “I have one question for you? Are you ready for Gecko?” The Blue Flame stage signals its assent in cheers as green lights dance beneath a giant disco ball wreathed in cutout butterflies. A giant Dutch flag waves in time with the hit song’s bass progression. An enthusiastic Heldens jumps atop the booth pumping his fist as confetti twinkles above.
2:33 p.m.: A capacity crowd explodes within the packed confines of the Blue Flame stage as Norwegian sensation Kygo appears behind the decks. Wearing a backwards cap and plaid shirt, the young producer grins broadly at the sea of Norwegian flags being waved by his faithful fanbase, many of whom are perched atop shoulders to show their support. As he commences with his remix of Ed Sheeran’s “I See Fire,” security guards are forced to close the doors and bar hundreds of rabid fans from entry. “There’s too many people who want to come in here,” exclaims a member of the stage crew. “It’s crazy!”
4:32 p.m.: Australian twin sisters Nervo delight the main stage with energetic vocal offerings and shouted words of encouragement. An overenthusiastic fan draped in an Argentina flag slips and falls. Forgetting football rivalries for the weekend, a group of Brazilians swiftly swoop in to offer a helping hand.
5:09 p.m.: Guatemalan DJ Carnage drops a trap remix of Queen’s “We Will Rock You” on the Dim Mak stage’s frenzied crowd, causing a rippling wave of tangled limbs and neon clothing with each booming 808 beat.
5:46 p.m.: “It’s a revolution,” Canadian singer Kai’s voice declares over the main stage’s staggering speaker setup. Diplo’s audience’s energy seems to affirm the statement. Clad in a pewter long sleeve and fresh white headphones, the Mad Decent boss nods as his new single’s colossal trap drop shakes the pulsing crowd before him. As a flurry of sampled gunshots ring out, Diplo shakes an outstretched hand at his fans, shooting a salvo of proverbial bullets over his matching white mixer and decks.
6:11 p.m.: After teasing the hit track’s chords throughout his energetic main stage debut, 18-year-old Dutch phenom Martin Garrix finally relents and delivers “Animals’” signature percussive drop to the expectant crowd that fills the sprawling field before him. Garrix leaps into the air with gusto, green sneakers clearing the ground as the flag-waving masses lose their collective minds.
6:45 p.m.: Against a Ferris wheel’s serene spinning backdrop, Slovenian dance veteran Umek delivers a tech house clinic on Carl Cox & Friends’ majestic opera-themed stage. Confetti blossoms above like a kicked dandelion, spinning slowly in various directions. Fans in Guy Fawkes masks and sunglasses prance about to Umek’s driving bass grooves and shuffling percussion.
9:08 p.m.: Nina Simone’s voice cues a deafening wave of adulation from the swarm at the main stage. Off-key accompaniments come courtesy of a crowd well lubricated on spirits and sunlight. The entirely unnecessary announcer interjects to remind everyone to applaud for Tomorrowland’s 10th anniversary. An ocean of individuals becomes one on the cue of a chord-driven drop while the air bristles with blue confetti. It’s Avicii’s “Levels” on Tomorrowland’s main stage, an overblown anthem for an even more ostentatious festival. It’s everything it should be.
9:12 p.m.: Avicii transitions into “Wake Me Up” as the main stage erupts in a sea of sparklers. With a single finger outstretched in near-defiance, the Swedish star mouths his hit song’s lyrics as the crowd chants along. “Wish I could stay forever this young,” croons Aloe Blacc’s voice while the global gathering of fans wave their flags while echoing the sentiment. From Israel to Sweden, Brazil to Australia, and South Africa to Japan, Antarctica appears to be the only continent unrepresented.
10:13 p.m.: “Everybody make some noise for feel-good music!” screams Dillon Francis, leaning forward with his back arched as though ready to pounce. Upbeat drum and bass beats and ebullient synths tear through the Mad Decent stage’s sizable crowd. “I wanna see the biggest pits possible right now!” Francis goads the crowd, who happily oblige to the tune of a thunderous remix of Dr. Dre’s “The Next Episode.”
10:21 p.m.: “Get low when the whistle blow!” a sampled voice instructs Dillon Francis’ crowd. A painfully ponderous trap beat leaves the audience little other recourse. Someone hands Francis a white snapback emblazoned with “BLOOD.” Momentarily confused, the Los Angeles artist shrugs and dons it backwards while the crowd continues getting low. Silencing the whistle, Francis vaults atop the booth and yells something unintelligible about DJ Snake as the crowd surges to their feet on his cue.
10:25 p.m.: A frenetic build gives way to an all-too-familiar whine. “Tomorrowland do you know this song?” screams the Chainsmokers’ Andrew Taggart. The Dim Mak faithful (as well as the rest of mankind) clearly do. The electro synth drop of “#SELFIE” enthralls the convulsing crowd, whose dance direction shifts in response to the bone-jarring trap beats that follow.
12:50 a.m.: George Fitzgerald delights the We Play House Recordings stage with smooth and deep dance fare. Meanwhile, Hot Creations boss Jamie Jones closes out his Paradise stage in style, delivering funk-infused house grooves to attendees seeking subtler musical fare. As the festival comes to a close, an animated British announcer urges applause for “Mr. DJ Jamie Jones,” who receives a well-earned ovation from the audience.
1:00 a.m.: The festival officially closes. Hordes of sweat-soaked and bright-eyed attendees stream towards the distant campsite comforts of Dreamville. Although the music has ended, one shirtless fan still feels the beat, dancing exaggeratedly and hoisting a welcome water gun that hydrates the surrounding throng trudging into tomorrow.