Scattered rain and foreboding clouds could not deter the third edition of SFX’s Tomorrowland stateside spin-off, TomorrowWorld, from shining in Georgia’s Chattahoochee Hills on Friday (Sept. 25).
While the main stage dazzled yet again with another over-the-top steampunk-inspired design consisting of gigantic clocks, waterfalls and Disney-sized fireworks displays, it was the eight other branded side stages that captured the attention of its attendees. Billboard takes you back to all the muddy revelry and foot-shuffling mayhem of day one.
4:03 p.m.: After a soaking wet debut at the festival’s pre-party, The Gathering, misty rain and grey skies persist while excited Dreamville campers make their way across a pristine lake equipped with oversized flowers and fire-breathing fish. The seductive sounds of the Victor Calderone lure a considerable amount of techno lovers over to the Drumcode tent as the New York legend kicks off what seems like a condensed version of his usual after-hours marathon sets.
5:12 pm: “It ain’t raining anymore!” crows Alex of DVBBS as the rain relents above. The Toronto duo fittingly launch into “Gold Skies” and stir a swell of approval from the main stage masses.
5:28 p.m.: The festival’s boat stage appears to be the nucleus of TomorrowWorld – both geographically and musically – as the funky vibes and disco-inspired beats of rising French producer Watermat hypnotize house heads and newbies alike.
5:54 p.m.: “I feel like poncho fashion is the next wave,” says a forward-thinking photographer in TomorrowWorld’s artist mansion. Although many took shelter in their green rooms during the downpour, the finely decorated grounds steadily fill back up with artists, journalists and industry personnel. Audien wears a big smile while being interviewed beside a tent where people take turns being photographed with emojis on sticks.
7:11 p.m.: The clouds begin to break as the sun sets over Benny Benassi’s performance — where thousands of main stage revelers holler the lyrics to the Italian veteran’s anthemic classic “Cinema.” Couples hold each other tight and sway while squeezing in kissing selfies.
7:46 p.m.: Shaq is clearly the main event backstage. Flanked by his sons and illuminated by flashing cameras, the towering NBA legend slowly makes his way through the paparazzi throng. A rainbow-clothed raver hands over a tiny plastic hand to the bemused giant, who humors the fans with smiles and exaggerated stretches in advance of his set. Although supposedly surrounded by seasoned industry pros, it seems no one’s too cool to compete for Shaq’s attention.
8:00 p.m.: “Kazaam, baby!” shouts a twenty-something in the far-stretching trap stage crowd for the highly-anticipated set from Shaq, whose stage alias DJ Diesel makes his festival debut. His seven-foot silhouette looks at home on the decks as he proceeds to take off his Lakers jersey, grab the mic and hype the crowd before dropping O.T. Genasis’ guilty pleasure track, “CoCo.” Scattered moshpits churn to the drop.
8:35 p.m.: Joined onstage by Kryoman, DJ Diesel drops their debut single “My Squads Lit” to a roar of approval from his adoring audience. The fans went to town on their totems, hoisting tributes to Kazaam, his Lakers tenure and plenty of ridiculous memes skyward in time with his booming trap beats. Shaq’s DJing is no simple gimmick — the retired Hall of Famer has been mixing hip-hop for years, and his experience shows as he ignites the crowd with classic cuts and booming trap bombs.
9:12 p.m.: Shaq’s departure leads a mass backstage exodus towards a green room heavily fortified with security guards. Inside, Shaq poses for photos with his wife and kids against a “Shaq” branded backdrop. The usual rules of industry poise and engagement seem to be temporarily suspended — everyone wants a picture with the hoops star.
9:32 p.m.: Tchami takes the crowd to church at the “Smash the House” stage playing groovy anthem, “House Every Weekend,” while sampling a mixture of old school soul tracks and bass-heavy reworks of hip hop classics. Building on his festival market momentum over the past year, the Parisian influencer ignites the visually stunning mirror stage with a genre-bending repertoire of infectiously soulful songs.
10:47 p.m.: Coinciding with the release day of his ninth studio album, Automatic, Kaskade entrances the main stage with his ethereal classic, “I Remember.” After a cataclysmic fireworks show to hits like “Never Sleep Alone” and “We Don’t Stop,” the proud West coast representative performs potential next single, “Whatever,” featuring electronic-rock band KOLAJ.
11:03 p.m.: Shaq sends the artist village into a tizzy of excitement upon his arrival. The seven-footer gets besieged by selfie-seekers as he lumbers over to fill his plate at artist catering. His crew humorously intersects with Tiësto’s and the two share a moment. Despite being 6’2, the Dutch star is absolutely dwarfed by DJ Diesel.
12:07 p.m.: Drumcode CEO and techno titan, Adam Beyer, is no stranger to DJ sets that cut straight to the soul, and his TomorrowWorld sorcery does not disappoint. The proud label boss shuts his eyes for a moment amid his impassioned mixing –drawing the crowd further into a pelvic-thrusting state of euphoria.
12:36 p.m.: Tiësto drops Martin Garrix’s high octane remix of The Weeknd’s “I Can’t Feel My Face” as the sprawling main stage crowd reacts in excitement. Perched high above the masses in the Liv Skyloft, Shaq puffs on hookah and pumps his fist with the beat. “I want to play there,” he says with a grin.
— Women of EDM (@WomenofEDM) September 26, 2015