[FESTIVAL RECAP] TomorrowWorld: Yesterday is History, But We’re Shaping Tomorrow’s Mystery
Last weekend, the American festival season celebrated its finale at TomorrowWorld. As expected, it went out with a bang.
A year ago, I attended TomorrowWorld for one fateful day at its inaugural US debut as a newcomer to the electronic music scene. I was blown away. It was on those Georgia grounds I was inspired to become involved as more than just a fan. Returning to TomorrowWorld 2014 with press passes marked an achievement and for many reasons, TomorrowWorld holds a special place in my heart.
So for this recap, I’d like to write with more of a personal and behind the scenes perspective, because without having attended this very festival a year ago, I likely wouldn’t be sitting here writing about this year’s TomorrowWorld today.
YESTERDAY IS HISTORY
Let’s pause and consider how TomorrowWorld came to be in the first place. The 3-day festival is a spin-off of Tomorrowland, the ubiquitously popular festival held in Belgium. With eight uniquely-designed stages and a lineup of more than 300 artists, it was the first European festival of its scale to arrive on US soil.
Despite the fame of its international counterpart, TomorrowWorld’s success stateside was skeptical, namely due to the remote location and age restriction (the first US festival to impose a 21+ age minimum). But in its first year, TomorrowWorld welcomed more than 140,000 visitors from over 75 countries to its grounds across the five-day event. To put this in perspective, Tomorrowland has been running more than ten years and now attracts 180,000 visitors. Clearly, TomorrowWorld beat expectations.
When I attended TomorrowWorld last year, I didn’t know the difference between trance and trap. I visited only for a day, and the day didn’t turn out how I expected—my phone was stolen, and I lost everyone I was with. But I befriended two amazing humans from Canada who took me under their wing. For the first time ever, I saw legends such as Axwell, Alesso, and Gareth Emery live; never before had music moved me in that way. The production was larger-than-life. I fell in love with the day, the music, the people and the vibes. All the sudden, I had an innate, magnetic pull towards a new direction in life, in terms of what I wanted to do, and who I wanted to be.
TODAY IS A GIFT
With all the effort that goes into attending a music festival, there is a sense of sincere reverence and appreciation—what we call “good vibes.” We save up to purchase the tickets; we take great care in preparing elaborative, self-expressive outfits; we count down the days with friends and friends-to-be inside dedicated Facebook groups. When the day finally arrives and we run to the gates, there is an incredible joy coursing through our veins after so much anticipation and hype.
That appreciation couldn’t have been more palpable than at TomorrowWorld. It’s not every day you get to truly live in the moment, leaving all your troubles behind. Our generation is bombarded with distractions—global epidemics and war haunt our headlines, stresses from work, money and relationships place immense pressure on our personal lives. We have never been more “connected” by technical standards, but behind the façade of social media, smart phones and the omnipresent internet, our generation is said to feel more alone than ever.
TomorrowWorld is a chance to connect again—in the real sense.
TomorowWorld is a place to connect with the earth and your surroundings. Only 40 minutes outside Atlanta, Chattahoochee Hills is a sprawling picturesque oasis marked by rolling hills, natural lakes and scenic pastures. Its location was inspired by Tomorrowland’s home in Boom, Belgium.
The rural background is juxtaposed with mind-blowing production demonstrating the care ID&T took to craft a perfect, surreal world. Starting at the main stage, you’re humbled by a 400-ft Volcano with cascading waterfalls, troves of flowers, and the adoring face of the Mountain Spirit. Continuing your journey, you enter a wooded path lined with tea lights, where the entrance to Dreamville is at your left—a medieval-inspired village where you can buy drinks, food and other festival fares. Carrying on, you encounter the lake, where fire-breathing fish and LED flowers dance along the water. Crossing the bridge at night is a sight to behold, as lasers guide your way to the stages in the back. It’s a long 30 minute walk, but well worth the journey to witness the psychedelic Taj Mahal- inspired stage where Anthem and It’s A Trap hosted artists ranging from Vicetone to Ookay, and the even more magnificent ménage of mirrors Mythical Frames where Mad Decent and DIM MAK stole the show.
There was no cell service, and while many griped at first, I hope festival goers eventually became grateful for the break from the digital world to embrace the real one.
TomorrowWorld is an opportunity to connect with others. Two thirds of the visitors to TomorrowWorld hail from abroad or from other US states. How amazing is that?! Where else are you ever in close proximity from people of such diverse cultures and backgrounds? We arrive with our familiar friends, but by the end of the weekend we’ve made so many new ones. We bond with strangers, maybe even fall in love if even for a day. Festivals are about being accepted for who you are as an individual, while celebrating being part of something larger. This surge of love makes up the fabric that binds new relationships and enriches existing ones. Despite the many different flags waving high in the air, we are reminded that deep down and at heart, we’re all the same.
TomorrowWorld is where you re-connect with yourself. There is something undeniably amazing about being in a crowd of tens of thousands of people, but despite the fact that you’re listening to the same DJ, what you experience is most special on a personal level. Each song means something different to you than the person standing to your left. Each dance move is your own interpretation of the music. Each set will invoke emotions only you can feel, bringing to surface old memories or creating new ones right then and there. Those moments are beautiful and enlightening, they’re what we live for, and they are completely, uniquely, yours.
I personally couldn’t have been more grateful to attend TomorrowWorld. Attending as press is a very different experience. The work that goes into planning before, during and after the festival can be overwhelming, but you have to keep in mind how fortunate you are to be there.
Perhaps the coolest part (and the most intimidating) is the chance to hold interviews with artists. The week leading up to TomorrowWorld, I had more than 40 interview requests in my inbox. We boiled it down to 13, which over the course of three days is a bit overzealous. You only get about 10 minutes with each artist, who are on tight schedules and closely watched by their manager and publicists.
From established stars like Dannic and Yves V, to rising names such as Oliver Heldens and Botnek, each artist was nothing short of friendly, engaging and enjoyable to speak with. The most humbling thing you realize is that behind the stage name, they are people who are just genuinely grateful to be doing what they love and sharing their music with the world.
Keep an eye out for feature pieces from these interviews in the coming weeks.
TOMORROW IS A MYSTERY
TomorrowWorld is designed to make you feel like you’re in a fantasy. Tomorrow is indeed a mystery, but the happiness, inspiration and hope felt for the future couldn’t be more real. We are the “People of Tomorrow”, citizens of a collective utopia who, albeit briefly, breathed life into what the world could be.
Editorial by: Chelsea Burka
Photography by: Maximilian Rutyna