The first chapter begins…Tomorrowworld 2013

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FEB. 19, 2014

Who wouldn’t want to go to a Disneyworld made exclusively for adults? Don’t we all have that small child inside us screaming to be free from the mundane, every day repetition of eat, sleep and work? To experience something far from mediocre, bland, and simple? Because Tomorrowworld is that, it’s that opportunity to let your inner kid run wild and crazy and I truly believe it will, and already has, gone down in history.

But it wasn’t easy, it wasn’t easy for parent company ID&T and SFX (the corporation that has been engulfing EDM entities left, right and center) and to be honest it was a bit rough going on those dreamers who had hoped to make it to Europe’s Tomorrowland counterpart in native Belgium only to believe their prayers had been answered with the announcement of its U.S. debut outside of Atlanta.

Health and safety issues surrounding EDM events in 2013 brought nationwide attention to an otherwise PLUR (peace, love, unity, respect) community with rampant reports of drug use, specifically related to two deaths of attendees to New York’s Electric Zoo festival, which created a shadow over the highly anticipated Tomorrowworld arrival on U.S. soil. Organizers decided to make Tomorrowworld a 21 and over event, something many attendees and even bystanders heralded as one of the best decisions made in relation to these events. Others worried or predicted the 21+ age limit would mean less than stellar ticket sales, especially as its Tomorrowland parent is known for selling out of its global tickets in seconds, literally. This was somewhat true, but I think many agree Tomorrowworld organizers should be applauded for choosing quality over sold out tickets. Some were worried Tomorrowworld AS Tomorrowland in the U.S. would be a watered down version of what takes place in Belgium every July, which has become an EDM holy grail of events.  As the event got closer and a sell out looked less likely, tickets were sold at a discount and many could be grabbed up right before the event for a fraction of the original price, which upset many of those who paid full price the day they went on sale.

For these reasons and more, all eyes were on Tomorrowworld on September 27th and now that that glorious weekend has passed I can say, with much similar language and opinions from bloggers, attendees, reviewers, artists, and involved companies alike, that it was a success way beyond its own expectations.

I can go on about the lineup but I’ll just quickly run through who I saw and loved every minute of:

Dimitri Vegas and Like Mike, Rehab, Fedde Le Grand, Tiesto, Ferry Corsten, Fehrplay, Calvin Harris, Axwell, AN21 & Max Vangeli, Gareth Emery, Sander Van Doorn, Nicky Romero, David Guetta and the inimitable Armin Van Buuren.

There are many more I heard pieces of but at some point in my head it all becomes a big blur of music and beats and lights and screaming and smiling so hard it hurts the next morning. But the best part? The people. So cliché and yet I can’t think of another festival that encompasses this point as importantly as Tomorrowworld does, and don’t just mean from my perspective. After talking to other pioneers before, during and after it was the same mantra over and over again, “Yeah, the music was awesome….but wow, I met some of the most amazing people and made some of the best friends I’ve ever encountered!” And it’s true, the campsite I ended up at was made up of people I’d only talked to online, an old friend I hadn’t seen in years, and complete strangers and by the end we had all promised to come back next year and camp together…and the next, and the next.

And because I believe so strongly in this event, I won’t hold back from mentioning some of the things that could have been handled better, but that’s only because things can’t get better until someone says something and asks for higher standards. And I trust that Tomorrowworld will take everyone’s criticism and apply it for the better in future years.

It starts with “The Walk” because it was so horrendous it deserves capitalization and quotes. There were two entrances and the non-main entrance was a funnel of death similar to cattle herding. Attendees who were camping in Dreamville were given the furthest parking while day attendees got the closest…make sense? It didn’t to me and the others who hauled our gear miles to the entrance only to realize you had to stand and move your items inch by inch for over 3 hours to get through ID and bag check.  Overall this was my biggest issue, mainly because it considerably affected my experience and energy levels from the get go.

Ice and water refill stations were two other issues that revealed the flaw in the staffing at the event, primarily the volunteers. Anyone you asked and I mean whether it was security officers to vendors to information booth workers, anyone at all, had no clue where either could be found or worse yet, would send you on a goose chase with wrong information. If you’re going to staff your information booths and stages with “voluntary staff” please train them to be informed and actually be of help to attendees looking for information.

Food and drink prices were for the most part expected, however, Tomorrowland in Belgium is known for having international cuisine and even offers a five star restaurant dining experience…so when Tomorrowworld touted having similar food options instead of just basic baseball field bar food fare everyone’s expectations were raised and unfortunately majority of the items fell short of those expectations. My advice, bring as much of your own food as you can and rely on vendors for that quick snack when you don’t want to hike it back to Dreamville.

Thankfully their high notes dimmed the noise of the low notes completely as the weekend was packed with never ending jaw drop inducing moments. It started with The Gathering pre-party Thursday night which was the perfect kick off for what was to be an incredible weekend. You could feel the anticipation and excitement that had been building for months finally released amongst the crowd, excited for what lay ahead.

While some of the staff might not have been very knowledgeable, they were amazingly friendly and the locals that had been hired as drink vendors amongst the crowds got so into the music they were dancing alongside attendees by the end of the weekend. Dreamville was a huge success from the good access to showers and facilities which were cleaned and serviced often by friendly staff to the communal grills set up at every section with access to FREE charcoal for cooking. It was also accessible in terms of color coordinating, lighting, and a well laid walk way so you didn’t have too much difficulty finding and getting back to your tent in the sea of tarps and people at the end of the night.

Like many people attending festivals, often those for the first time, you have this set perception that you’ll be able to see every single artist you want if you just plan ahead accordingly and have a timetable set and ready to go. Well, I discovered why everyone told me to throw my plans out the window and just enjoy the experience as it happened. Tomorrowworld was the perfect example of what a festival should be. It’s not a concert where you stand passively watching and listening to set after set unengaged in anything except what’s in front of you on stage. It was so much more than just a list of headliners and big name producers. It was a 5 day adventure and journey that was different for each individual attendee. And while I did get to listen to many of the artist’s I had hoped and planned on seeing, I missed many others, and happily discovered some I had never heard of before. But at the end of this amazing weekend, none of that mattered, what mattered was that I had experienced a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I got to be part of a pioneer movement that showed the world how EDM can be a community filled with fun, good times AND responsibility and gave every other festival a chance to prove itself as well instead of letting the media and negativity take over what is nothing short of magical.

Lauren Stafford