Two years ago, a friend of mine showed me a YouTube video. Set to the soundtrack of Tim Berg/Avicii's 'Bromance', Swedish House Mafia's 'One' and the Bloody Beetroots' 'Warp', the 'Tomorrowland 2010 after movie
' ensured within the first 30 seconds that this sunshiny, crazy, happy festival would go straight to the top of my bucket list.
Fast-forward to 27 July 2012 (through many, many conversations with friends and colleagues, Internet discussions with those who've experienced it, and obsessive watching of YouTube clips), and I was making my way past the Q Dance stage. It was 2pm, the sun was beating down, the gates had just opened, and already there was a sizeable crowd, fists pumping to the sounds of Activator. Not necessarily my cup of commercial tea, the hard trance/dance/dubstyle prevalent on this stage was, in fact, the perfect preparation for the madness that lay beyond.
The scale of this annual event held in the usually sleepy town of Boom, Belgium, is almost indescribable. A quick breakdown: aside from Q Dance, there are 15 other 'stages' (tents/cellars/music areas) at the festival. Fifteen. As in one-five. Which means that, even if you only dedicate 10 minutes to each act or DJ playing over the weekend, there's still no way you'll get to see everyone. The solution is to find your happy place and leave it only when it becomes necessary to buy more beer. Of which you will drink a lot – trust me. It gets hot and thirsty in that madness.
Because my grungy, dirty, rock-'n'-roll, Mercury-Live-on-a-Wednesday-night upbringing limited my exposure to EDM until fairly recently, my happy place was most definitely the ID&T main stage. Even so, in addition to Fiona & Rebecca, Cazzette, Thomas Gold, Alesso, Fatboy Slim, Avicii, EC Twins, Nervo, Hardwell, Martin Solveig, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, Skrillex, Swedish House Mafia, Nicky Romero, Afrojack, David Guetta and Steve Aoki (all on the main stage over three nights), I managed to catch Yousef and John Digweed at Carl Cox & Friends, Laidback Luke at Super You&Me, a bit of Pete Tong at Pearl – and whoever was playing at Q Dance every time I walked past on my way to and from the press area. (That's, like, 21 out of 420 acts. I think. Which is, like, 20% of the acts. I think. Maths was never my strong point.)
The real beauty of Tomorrowland is that the music is literally everywhere. It permeates the air, the trees, the lakes, the brain. As the sounds of one stage's bassline start fading away, the beats from a tent next door start kicking in, making every trip to a food court, every beer run and every meander through the grounds a sonic experience in itself. People don't walk at Tomorrowland – they dance their way from place to place, always jamming, always bouncing, always singing, always smiling…
I could go on and on (no, really: ON and ON) about the incredible organisation (more than 180 000 people shuffle through the festival, yet every day by 10am the cleaning crews will have ensured that the grounds are spotless), the attention to detail (several 'refreshment' stations where you can reapply sunblock, hairspray or gel – and have a beautiful guy or girl give you a once-over with deodorant), the mind-boggling production (almost seamless artist turnover, perfectly timed fireworks – day and night – that would put New Year's displays to shame, and regular flower-petal-confetti drops from a helicopter that circles the grounds), the lobster braais/BBQs that I was lucky enough to smash in my face as a press member, the lack of any kind of aggression from anyone in the crowd – even in instances that would normally try an average South African's/my patience (yeah, I'm talking about that chick who was all up in my space and all over my toes during Swedish House Mafia), and the off-the-charts hotness of the people from 50 countries who attend the festival (I literally perved myself into a standstill day after day, and the Kissing Point and Church Of Love were hives of endless activity), but all you actually need to know to have the weekend of your life can be summed up in these 10 commandments:
You really do have to see it to believe it. I know I'll definitely be seeing you on that dance floor in 2013!