My Rating of the Festival: 7/10. Tomorrowland’s scale cannot be beat – 15 stages and 180,000 people from over 75 countries. However, two general impressions that detracted from my experience – 1) Too big! Takes forever to walk anywhere, even if you are staying in the Dreamville camping area (20 min minimum to walk into the festival). 2) Crowd was quite touristy; given the fame of the festival, seems like there were many who didn’t have the “raver spirit” in the crowd – I felt that many people were not there for the music but rather to see and be seen. Read on for my Tomorrowland Festival review.
I was at Tomorrowland for 2 nights and 1 day. So, you may say that I did not have the full Tomorrowland experience. But I did stay 11 hours at the festival on Sunday and made an effort to go to ALL 16 stages – walked all around Dreamville – even participated in morning yoga in Dreamville… So I basically got a crash course of the madness that went down!
Dreamville at Tomorrowland
As I said in my last post about how I got tickets to Tomorrowland, I arrived at Dreamville at midnight on Saturday night. Since there was only 1 hour left of the festival this night (and would have been a 30 minute walk into the festival grounds), we decided to chill and explore the campground. Pranav had brought in “special” orange juice, and we sipped on the bottle as we explored Dreamville. By the way, here’s a comprehensive packing list I made for Tomorrowland, including tips on how to bring alcohol!
Now, Dreamville is REALLY big. We stayed at the “international ambassador” campground since Fernando was able to get us wristbands for being from Chile. This meant that we camped closest to the entrance within the general camping areas. We were also only a couple steps away from the main plaza, which had a bunch of food options, grocery store, a hookah bar, bathrooms, the opening party stage and more. Others that were not as fortunate can be camping at an area that was at least another 30 minutes away walking.
Even after the festival ended at 1am, Tomorrowland Radio stage within Dreamville kept the music going and there was a mini party for festival-goers gathered around there. The music stopped at around 2am so we went back to the campsite then.
We found my trusty festie buddy Fernando (who I met in Chile 2 years ago) back at the campsite! He was so tired he could not move, he was only able to stick his head out of his tent.
We got a good night sleep at around 2:30am and woke up at around 8am.
Morning in Dreamville @ Tomorrowland Festival
From our campground, the showers were a 15-minute walk away. And there are always long lines in the morning to the shower. The best times to go to the shower are right after dawn, or right after the festival ends. If not, then wet towel wipes are a great option.
Finally, after the yoga and a big juice smoothie, we were ready for Tomorrowland (circa 1pm)! After the half-hour walk under the hot sun, we arrived successfully into the festival.
Tomorrowland Festival Experience
Tomorrowland definitely gets full points for stage design and production. A picture’s worth a thousand words, so here’s a tour of some of the festival!
First stop was Pussy Lounge! A.k.a. The famed Freestyle host in the world of Hard Dance.
Then there is the infamous main stage, which is set within a natural Greek Amphiteater, with the gigantic stage at the bottom of the hills. This year’s theme was was “Elixir of Life”, so the stage was created to showcase the Trees of Life. No one can deny that the construction of the stages was elaborate and epic, but the trees in my opinion looked a bit more like broccoli than trees!
I didn’t hang out too much at the main stage, but I really like the setup of having grassy hills where you can sit and chill while getting a great view of the whole stage!
There was also the Rave Cave: A tiny stage playing intense techno music inside. Cute!
Of course, there was the Q-Dance stage too! Such a cool stage design, but unfortunately it was only on Saturday. They built the cobra overnight and took it apart for the next day!
The coolest stage of Tomorrowland goes to this dragon!! Its eyes moved and everything! And at night its spine lit on fire!! This was the Rose Garden stage.
One of my favorite stages of the weekend was the Barong Family Stage – didn’t know the label before but I really loved their music when we stumbled upon it! Really fun, danceable music to go crazy to, music you don’t usually find in the Netherlands festivals although it is a Dutch label. I think the DJ we saw there was San Holo.
Footworxx stage – the hardcore stage. Music was great but it was like a furnace inside. We saw Sandy Warez, one of my favorite Frenchcore artists.
I was disappointed that many of the Tomorrowland stages played very commercial house music. I counted at least 4 stages – played mainstage trouse-y tracks exclusively. Since Tomorrowland boasts 16 stages, it would have been much better if they had more stages dedicated to specific genres. For example, having a drum & bass stage would have been amazing, or having 3 days of trance instead of just 1. This would have made the festival truly cater to all spectra of electronic music, and would have helped festival-goers discover new music.
Tomorrowland Festival By Night
Because it is right in the middle of the summer, the sun sets pretty late, like after 9pm. At night is when the festival came to life and became an enchanted wonderland of sounds and lights. I felt like I was in a surrealist dream while wandering around the stage. The festival definitely spared no expense creating a fantasy land for adults.
At the end of the night, we headed to the main stage for the closing ceremony. It was a Dmitri Vegas & Like Mike “Vinyl” set. Unfortunately, I felt that the closing ceremony was really underwhelming. The music was a snooze-fest, you couldn’t hear much when standing at the top of the hill, and there were barely any closing fireworks. The only impressive part I thought was scale of the stage and light show at the mainstage, which had a capacity of 40,000 people and packed like sardines. However, in terms of end show, Defqon.1 was definitely much better!
Just the like famed German techno club Berghain and America’s favorite festival Coachella, the Tomorrowland experience is quite possibly tainted by its own fame. Because Tomorrowland is widely known as the best EDM festival in the world, everyone wants to go. This is especially true now that the festival culture has burst into the mainstream outside of Europe. This means that even people who are not truly into electronic dance music and perhaps can’t even name any DJs besides Avicii and Hardwell want to go to Tomorrowland. Thus, the crowd I encountered wasn’t one that cared about the deeper meaning behind raving – “peace, love, unity, and respect”. There were many bro-types and people that probably would have thought you’re strange if you had asked for a sip of their water.
You can’t blame Tomorrowland for its success, but I do also think the organizers are further contributing to the deterioration of the culture with the VIP festival experiences. For example, the best way to actually obtain a ticket is to purchase one of their Global Journey Packages (with very much marked up prices). Another example is that you can spend tens of thousands of dollars at Tomorrowland to get VIP bottle service. This does nothing to promote the spirit of openness of dance music culture. To be fair, putting on an event that is the scale of Tomorrowland surely doesn’t come cheap, but I’m not sure to what extent it’s worth it to compromise the vibe and atmosphere.
Overall, did I enjoy Tomorrowland? Yes! Would I go again? No!
Tomorrowland really stood out in production, but I felt that it was too expensive, music was generally too commercial, the crowd did not create a good atmosphere, and the grounds were way too big to be enjoyable. There are other festivals in Europe for more reasonable prices (i.e. Mysteryland for EUR 120 for two days), a more manageable size, with more interesting music in my opinion.
I do believe that Tomorrowland is something you should experience once in your life due to its impressive scale. However, next year I won’t be competing for a Tomorrowland ticket.
Check out all my festival power rankings and other reviews here.