As the world’s number one DJ Armin van Buuren saluted the huge crowd in front of him at the main stage, the crescendo of fireworks came to a close, and the Book of Secrets closed for the final time, all in attendance took a moment to absorb what they had just witnessed. What an experience it had been.
I am of course referring to TomorrowWorld, the first major festival held by ID&T - the famed event organisers responsible for events such as TommorrowLand, Mysteryland and the Sensation series – on American soil. The stakes have never been higher for ID&T, particularly in the United States. The adoption of 'EDM' by popular culture in the USA has led to an unprecedented boom in the United States. With major players such as Insomniac and ULTRA, and many well established if not slightly smaller firms such as HARD, Made Event and Las Vegas Casinos having well publicised and successful events competition for ID&T is fierce. Not to mention ID&T was recently acquired by global powerhouse SFX, whose listing on the NYSE is imminent.
With all that said, it seemed perfect that ID&T would choose to create a festival around their award winning TomorrowLand brand. TomorrowWorld was dubbed the festival’s new home, and a site in the beautiful Chattahoochee Hills was selected as the home for the festival, as it will be for the next 9 years. An area of immense natural beauty, with rolling hills, lush forests and lakes the venue was the perfect backdrop for ID&T to work their magic, and what an impressive job they did. Each of the stages was unique in its own right, with no expense spared, creating a fantasy like, LED and pyrotechnic fuelled experience at every turn.
The festival opened on Thursday for residents of Dreamville, the campsite that sat on the grounds adjacent to the main festival site. Although camping at festivals is not for me, when we got to tour the campsite I was impressed by the careful consideration that had clearly gone into planning the area. There were ample walkways and sign posts directing you through the site, working showers (although by day three it was questionable just how many of the Dreamville residents had been making regular use of them) and toilets, and a large village of shops of shops and restaurants. ID&T isn’t new to the game, and this was evident in the planning of this area, with everything that you could need on hand. Dreamville residents that arrived on Thursday were treated to their own mini-festival, The Gathering, on the Thursday evening with artists such as Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, Morgan Page, Project 46 and Vicetone on the bill. This event was only open to Dreamville residents, and while I didn't attend, reports from those who did and the daily TomorrowWorld newspaper (yep, their own daily newspaper delivered at 8am each morning) were extremely positive.
Things officially kicked off on Friday, and after a brief tour around the grounds where the final touches were being put in place, it was finally time for the first instalment of TomorrowWorld to begin. After getting our bearings we set up for much of the early afternoon at the Full on Ferry Stage hosted by Ferry Corsten, featuring a host of excellent Trance acts, each with a b2b set with Ferry Corsten after their solo set had finished. The highlight of this stage for me was undoubtedly Audien, and his b2b set. Next it was onto the main stage to witness Porter Robinson and his genre defying set as the sun set behind the increasingly enchanting Book of Secrets. Swede Sebastian Ingrosso and a somewhat subdued Tiesto then took to the main stage before TomorrowLand residents Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike closed out Day One with an impressive, energetic performance. Other notable sets from Friday included Chuckie and Steve Aoki joining Laidback Luke at his Super You&Me Stage as Superman, Spiderman & Batman as well as Art Department, Carnage and Fedde Le Grand.
After a full night’s sleep (in a bed – sorry Dreamvillers!) it was time for Day Two. As it would all weekend, the southern sun shone down on TomorrowWorld throughout the day. Taking refuge from the heat, or at least the sun, in one of the tented stages was pretty key, so I was delighted to have Fehrplay on my list. Appearing on the All Gone Pete Tong stage, the Danish Pryda protégé delivered a flawless set, blending progressive, techno and house elements, which turned out to be one of the highlights of my weekend. Saturdays main stage line-up was a veritable who's who in the world of main stage acts with Dyro, NERVO, W&W, Alesso and Calvin Harris all holding the fort before the evenings headline acts. We took this opportunity to focus on exploring more of the grounds to see what the other stages had to offer. This included some time spent lying on the “nice” grass (according to my slightly hastenburaphobic festival partner) listening to Treasure Fingers play a perfect late afternoon funk -infused set at the Fools Gold Clubhouse. Laying there looking over to the stage, with its impressive LED Castle structure complete with giant water spurting flowers, and onto the lake beyond it certainly was a “I wouldn't rather be anywhere else right now” moment. As the sun went down, and temperatures started to cool, we headed back into the All Gone Pete Tong for Maya Jane Coles and a snippet of set from the man himself. Maya is firmly on the top of her game, with continuously fantastic productions and elaborate live sets, her already impressive following will only grow as the movement away from the “EDM” style artists becomes more widespread.
After that it was back to main stage to take in Axwell's set. The Swede is a personal favourite of mine, and having followed him for many years and been lucky enough to witness his live performance a number of times it was certainly one I was looking forward to. For me this was the main stage set of the weekend, aided by what was the best light, pyrotechnic and firework display of the entire event. Showcasing tracks from his Axtone label, some Swedish House Mafia stalwarts, as well as a range of bootlegs, crowd friendly acapellas and a smattering of the man himself on the mic, this was the perfect main stage festival set. It was clear from the huge amount of flags that were waving high above the crowd during his set that TomorrowWorld, like its European counterpart, was truly an international festival. Throughout the festival, the crowd was a joy to be around, always respectful of each other and most importantly embracing its role in providing fellow attendees a truly unforgettable experience.
This was followed by sets from Afrojack and Steve Aoki, with a back-to-back Afroki performance in the middle but we decided it was time to venture across the river to catch Fools Gold head honcho A-Trak closing the Fools Gold Clubhouse. I had been impressed by the production on this stage during the day; however, it really came alive at night. In the slightly more contained setting, with much less light pollution, the visuals were stunning, in particular the combination of water and LED lighting. One of the best technical DJs around, A-Trak didn't disappoint with a diverse set featuring the latest from Fools Gold, Duck Sauce, Tommy Trash, and Carli as well as his fantastic scratching.
In between a sizeable stretch at the Trance Addict stage on Sunday – with notable performances by Jaytech, tyDi, Orjan Nilsen and a fantastic live performance from Late Night Alumni – we spent time exploring the other stage that we'd only briefly visited in the previous days. The always impressive Q Dance crew had set up their stage to the rear of the main stage arena. Although much smaller than Q stages that I've seen in the past, the fire spouting scorpion stage was an impressive structure, delighting the crowd. Hard style looks set to have a huge swell in popularity over the next 12 month, and exposure for Q Dance at an internationally renowned festival such as TomorrowWorld is evidence of this.
The OWSLA stage was equally impressive with large colourful butterflies and flowers suspended above the crowd. On stage The M Machine were performing their energetic live performance for an enthusiastic crowd, although there were noticeably some tired legs as we approached the conclusion of the final day.
As the sun set for the final time over this edition of TomorrowWorld, we walked on the bridges suspended over the water, taking in the fire breathing fish, fountains and lasers for the last time. Heading into the Smash the House vs Dirty Dutch Stage to catch Swedish duo CAZZETTE, their set was everything you’ve come to expect from the Swedes, their unique blend of dub house squeezing the last bits of energy out of the willing crowd in front of them. Once their set was over Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike took to the stage to close out the festival in their own tent. With the noise of the appreciative crowd in our ears we made our way over to main stage to see one of the worlds greatest ever DJs close out what had been an incredible weekend.
As some of the other stages had already closed, this looked like the largest crowd that had gathered at main stage, with hundreds of flags (and a few dozen plush toys) flying above throughout. With his trademark grin Armin delivered a magnificent ‘closing’ set. After three days of dancing our legs had finally given up, so along with thousands of others we sat on the hill overlooking the main stage to take in the end of his performance. As had been the case at each stage all weekend, the production was grand and the huge amount of pyrotechnics used throughout his set was befitting of such an occasion.
Then, before we knew it, it was all over.
In the months leading up to the event there had been much discussion about the age limit of 21 years of age being in place for this event. And while this was likely the reason that the event was not a complete sell out, in my opinion the difference was palpable. A mature, friendly and responsible crowd was one of the festival’s greatest assets. While it is difficult to say definitively that this contributed to the extremely small amount of arrests and health problems on site, my opinion is that this was a major contributing factor. With the unfortunate deaths at Electric Zoo just a matter of weeks before there was a real focus on this topic from people within the industry and beyond, and TomorrowWorld, ID&T and all the attendees deserve praise for representing themselves well.
Overall this was a fantastic experience; ID&T really went all out to ensure that each and every person that walked through the gates of TomorrowWorld had the time of their lives. Every detail, large or small, had been carefully thought out and executed to perfection. I would like to thank ID&T, the TomorrowWorld staff and those at Get In! PR for their efforts in making this an unforgettable weekend. See you next year!