TomorrowWorld Festival Review 2013
Last weekend, I experienced the incredible first ever TomorrowWorld Festival in the Chattahoochee Hills of Georgia, USA. The festival gathered 140,000 attendees over the three days. 30,000 camped in the festival’s “DreamVille.” I have attended smaller festivals, Ultra Music Festival, and Spring Awakening Music Festival multiple times. TomorrowWorld blew them all out of the water. It was the most surreal festival I have attended, and probably will ever have the privilege of attending. This festival encompassed everything that I love about electronic music culture. I connected more with the people, with the atmosphere, and with the overall production concepts than I have at any other festival.
Central to the festival was their slogan, “Yesterday is History, Today is a Gift, Tomorrow is Mystery.” This is one quote that I’ll always remember, and always associate with one of the greatest experiences of my life.
The festival offered a relatively inexpensive close-to-festival housing as a ticket option. Options included regular tent camping, easy tents provided by TomorrowWorld, and Relax Rooms for those who did not want to “rough it.” DreamVille was its own vibrant and electric city, filled with a marketplace, food stands, and even a general store. Those, like myself, who decided to camp were granted access into the festival one day early for DreamVille’s exclusive party called “The Gathering.” This pre-festival party brought together the campers for the first time in a two-stage mini-festival. Gathering artists included Vicetone, Le Castle Vania, Project 46, and was headlined by the incredible Morgan Page and Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike.
After the 9 hour drive from Columbus, Ohio to Georgia, I was just ready to set up my tent and explore the long-anticipated festival grounds. Little did I know that I would have to make a 2.5 mile hike to get from the parking lot to the camp. I repeat, 2.5 MILES, with ALL of my camping supplies. The festival allowed the non-campers to park closer to the entrance than the campers themselves. They had no camping supplies, but were able to park closer. This was infuriating, not to mention it was 85 degrees and sunny. I talked to fellow campers that had to make 5 trips or more, a task that was not only exhausting, but took up an incredible amount of time. Some late arrivals had to set up their tent in the dark due to the long trek. This is definitely something that TomorrowWorld needs to adjust to encourage people to camp again next year.
Though quiet at night, DreamVillers arose early and began to party. Campers were able to bring in food, beer, and liquor (as long as it wasn’t in a glass bottle). This offered a great way to save money on the expensive food and drinks. And with a parking pass that enabled reentry at any point, campers were able to resupply at the near-by Walmart and many other stores.
Both in the festival and in DreamVille, the currency of TomorrowWorld was tokens (see picture below). At $20 per strip of 9 tokens (which was equivalent to 2.5 beers) the festival food, and drinks were very pricy. Everything in the festival had to be purchased using these tokens, which could be obtained at several ticket stands around the festival and DreamVille. DreamVille offered its campers warm showers and portable toilets along several locations on the mile stretch of camping grounds. The toilets were regularly cleaned and restocked and there were sinks for brushing teeth and filling up water bottles and CamelBacks.
TomorrowWorld had a strict zero-tolerance policy for drugs. To enforce this policy there were police officers, undercover officers, as well as a K9 unit at the entrance and in the festival itself. Upon arrival to DreamVille, each camper was heavily searched by a team of volunteers. A strict 21+ event, each person who entered the festival was required have their ID scanned. Depending on the type of ticket purchased, each attendee was given a unique color bracelet to be worn during the entire festival. Each bracelet contained a microchip, different for every individual, that was to be scanned each time walking in and out of the festival. DreamVille campers were allowed in and out of the festival at anytime, a great perk of camping and a great way to recharge during the long days of the festival. The bracelet is something that I can keep forever, an awesome token of my amazing experience.
I don’t know if it is because the event was 21+, but TomorrowWorld’s crowd was my absolute favorite of any festival I’ve attended. Not only was everyone I met incredibly nice, welcoming and mature, they all had the same deep appreciation for the music and the atmosphere that I do. In DreamVille, my “neighbors” were from all over the country. To my right were Texans, those to the left hailed from Pittsburg, and there was a group that traveled all the way from Seattle behind me. I loved the diversity of DreamVille. It shows how EDM is blossoming in nearly all areas of the country! There were also people from across the world. During sets in the festival, hundreds of different flags were represented, an incredible tribute to the way that EDM truly brings people of all walks of life together.
In terms of signage and clothing that the attendees brought to the scene, it was very similar to other festivals that I’ve been to. Rave girls, with ‘fluffies’ and ‘kandi’ up their arms could be seen everywhere. Unique costumes, body paint, wigs, and hats and shirts with EDM/funny sayings lined the festival. There must have been 1,000 people with shirts that read “Eat, Sleep, Rave, Repeat,” a comical and catchy Calvin Harris track. In DreamVille, most tents had totems and signs marking their territory on the camp ground. Several guys held up “FREE HUGS” signs and walked along the boardwalk of the camp. Others “rated” outfits as people walked by. My favorite sign in DreamVille read, “Is there life after TomorrowWorld?” In the festival, people held up flags, signs, and very unique totems. Most of which were hilarious (see picture below).
With so many amazing artists to choose from on each day and during the same time, I had many difficult decisions to make regarding who to see. My favorite sets of the festival were by lesser-known, less mainstream artists who had the most unique set lists. I found that the mainstream artists replayed the same songs, over and over and over again. I felt like I was Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. Here are the sets I loved (and didn’t) for each day:
Friday, September 25th
As it was the first day of the festival, I was eager to see inside the festival. I lined up at the gate right when they opened at noon. Gina Star was the first Main Stage artist. I was pleasantly surprised by this little known artists set, which included a housey and progressive house vibes. R3hab, an artist that has never failed to disappoint me, did not let me down. His hour long set fully aroused the crowd, with smooth transitions from Hip Hop to house. Next I went to Audien, on one of the “smaller” stages. The 18-year old trance artist completely out shined the previous artists. His progressive house mixed with trance encapsulated me for the entirety of his set. John Dahlback was my absolute favorite set of the day. Set in the Super You & Me stage, Dahlback played his set in costume. The Swedish producer played one of his new tracks “We Were Gods” along with several others. I couldn’t get enough. Following Dahlback, I stayed for Superman (Steve Aoki), Batman (Laidback Luke), & Spiderman (Dimitri Vegas). I also loved this set. The artists were able to blend their different sounds together to make a harmonious set, not an easy feat when they each play so differently.
Saturday, September 26th
The second day started off strong with Nervo. It was particularly awesome because I was able to meet them, get their autograph, and take a picture with them before the set! These low-key, down to earth girls know how to get a crowd moving with their progressive house. Next artist was Mord Fustang, one of my favorite DJs. The detail in his transitions cannot be overlooked. The breakthrough artist played his most recent release, “Something A Bit More,” and got the crowd moving with his unique electro melodies. Alesso’s set was somewhat disappointing. If I didn’t look up at who was playing, I would have thought it was Swedish House Mafia. He, and way too many other artists, did NOT stop playing “Reload,” “Save the World,” and “Don’t you Worry Child.” Don’t get me wrong, SHM is an amazing group, but it would have been nice hearing a wider variety of songs. Calvin Harris always draws a huge crowd. The Scottish youngster played his most popular songs. Afroki was one of the artists I was really looking forward to seeing. The collaboration between Afrojack and Steve Aoki turned out amazing. Performing separate sets before and after these two DJs killed it. Each has a very different sound but were able to come together to produce a new sound, filled with Aoki bass drops and high-pitched Afrojack dirty dutch chords.
Sunday, September 27th
Starting out with Seven Lions, I knew the final day was going to be a great ending to a great festival. The viking-looking California native has blown up over the past year. Known for his deep, hybrid creations, his style is all his own. He played one of my favorite songs, his collaboration with Myon & Shane 54 called “Strangers.” A tear may have actually rolled down my cheek, as it was the first time I’ve seen him. Hardwell, who usually plays incredible sets, like in TomorrowLand, disappointed me when he played Avicii’s “Wake Me Up” and other overplayed songs. Funnyman Dillon Francis put his skills to the test in TomorrowWorld, and came up strong. His underground sound stood out from the rest. There aren’t words to describe how amazing the closing set by Armin Van Buuren was. As an avid ASOT podcast listener, I worship Armin. The king of trance was a perfect way to end my festival experience. Looking around during his set, I felt the love from every raver.
The Stages: The Production
TomorrowWorld had the most incredible production quality I have seen at a festival. Most of the 8 unique stages felt like small main stage, with intricate synchronization of lights, waterfalls, fire and fireworks. Somewhat confusing, the names of the stages changed each day, so I had to study the map and memorize the locations of each in the morning. Although confusing, I was glad the producers of the festival decided to do this. Each stage had a different type of music on each of the days. This was awesome for people who like a particular genre. Rather than staying at the same stage each day, fans were able to enjoy several stages showcasing their favorite genre’s artists. A huge thumbs up to TomorrowWorld for this stage rotation!
Every aspect of the festival was carefully and creatively thought out. Everywhere I looked, there were innate decorations, and surreal special effects. To get to one part of the festival, which contained two stages and access to DreamVille, you had to walk across a man-made aluminum bridge across a pond. They literally built a bridge. On each side, there were fire-breathing cod and water fountains that lit up at night. Mushrooms that blew bubbles lined the walkways, and girls in intricate butterfly costumes paraded through the festival. The Main Stage and Q Dance stage were the most impressive.
Brought over from Belgium in 80 shipping containers, the “Book of Mystery” Main Stage was massive. Just before nightfall, the “Book of Mystery” opened its pages, revealing a face within who described each artist like a character from a story. Lazers, lights, fountains, and fire lined the entire stage. It was an incredible sight at night.
Q Dance stage, with mostly Trap and Hardstyle was in the shape of a scorpion. The craftsmanship of this stage was nothing like I’ve seen in a side stage. I was completely impressed by all the other stages as well, each bringing its own personality to TomorrowWorld.
Anticipating the festival for months, I expected a thrilling weekend filled with top artists and a great atmosphere. Arriving in DreamVille, I realized that it was so much more. The people who attended love EDM as much as I do and were the best people I’ve been around at a festival. The location in the Georgia hills and the production made it seem like I was in another world. I was able to escape the stress of work and school in an electro atmosphere. It was my personal heaven. The stages enhanced the music played and entranced the attendees. Though I was disappointed in some of the sets, with repetition and too many overplayed tracks, the music overall was spectacular. I can’t wait to see what next year holds for this new US festival. I will definitely be there!
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