Sunday, 3 August 2014

Tomorrowland 2014 - Quite simply amazing...

The struggle for Tomorrowland tickets started 2 years ago...

The Key to Happiness
We had just started working for our new employer in the French Alps and were midway through the season. The only wifi we had was that of a neighbouring chalet and was only accessible if you sat, with your laptop, on the balcony... The balcony that gets to -25 C at night and can get pretty chilly around 5pm, especially when you've been sat in an online ticket queue for 3 hours.

Alas, that first years attempt yielded nothing but very cold typing fingers. So this years challenge was made a lot easier with the introduction of a nice 4g connection inside our chalet. A group of us wanted to go and we make a group chat to discuss the goings on of our respective applications.

A couple of hours passed and no one had even a sniff of being anywhere near purchasing some tickets, let alone the 12 or 14 tickets needed if everyone who had shown interest were to come. Until, the joker of the pack, Alex exclaimed "I'm in guys... no shit" and the group chat went absolutely nuts.

Alex had managed to get through to the ticket purchasing options. We all thought he would only be able to buy 4 tickets, and so waited patiently in queue hoping for another person to get in. Alex then plunged the mood in to a darky abyse as he proclaimed that he was unable to buy the 4 tickets as the single tickets had run out. He could order separate day tickets but not tickets for the whole weekend. Until, with the click of a mouse, he found the holy grail of ticket ordering options.... The Friendship Camping Tickets... A no holes barred weekend Madness ticket for not 1 person or 4 people... but 10 people!

A right palarva then ensued as Alex's touchpad mouse died, rendering his browser navigation down to tentative Tab presses trying not to close the page or navigate away from the holy grail. Matt dropped off a spare keyboard and Kerry and I were in a position to purchase all 10 at once... and... after an evening on tenderhooks, Alex posted a screengrab of the receipt that said we were now in possession of 10 Full Madness Tomorrwland Tickets ....   HALLELUJAH!

We had a few months to hype our selves up, the group chat didn't stop all summer. That gentle 'Ding!' from your phone just someone letting you know you're on your way to the best party on earth, until one Thursday morning and we were all heading to the Eurotunnel with destination Tomorrowland engraved in to our BRAINS! We drove in to Boom, Belgium, where Tomorrowland is held annually, with a few small detours and a questionably safe 6 lane traverse manouver that we prayed we would never have to do, especially after a 5 day Dance festival!

Heading in to the festival was an experience in itself. Before actually getting here we could only dream of what we may face. Piecing together ideas from Tomorrowland's infamous aftermovies on youtube. And it didn't disappoint. What we didn't realise was that our Friendship camping was essentially a sort of VIP camping. Each friendship group was given a gazebo adorned with fantastically coloured mushrooms and candy sticks and all things nice enclosed in a picket fenced section of the camping field. Even when we have been VIP at Global Gathering it hasn't been this good. Heck, even our entry tickets were electronic bracelets with a heart button on to connect you via Facebook with fellow ravers when you simultaneously press them. To be honest I was actually pretty blown away already... and the music hadn't even started yet!

Kerry with her new billed friend

The festival doesn't officially start until Friday at noon, however us lucky campers residing in Dreamville, the Tomorrowland campsite, for the weekend, were treated to The Gathering. A 40,000 strong rave up IN the campsite itself. The main stage from 2011 had been re-assembled in the middle of the campsite, just for one night... one Night! We'd all solemnly declared to stay off the giggle sauce (or atleast practice moderation) for the first night... to which I went headlong in the other direction! How can you not want to have fun in a place that gives you a champagne reception and the daily Tomorrowland newspaper to enjoy?!

Amazing Themeing
I was lulled awake the next day by the campsite DJ rolling some morning tunes, grabbing a very pleasant shower and making myself beautiful again. Not something I've done at a festival before. I usually just condemn myself to a weekend of grime... not Tomorrowland. Everything and everyone looked so beautiful. That was the stark difference between Tomorrowland and other festivals we'd been to. The themeing. Everywhere you look theres a Madhatter looking bloke or giant frog, trees have woollen jumpers so you can get up close and cuddle, lakes are transformed with jumping spouts of water and flame throwing lillypads. Imagine the feeling of crawling in to the dark muddy rabbit hole and emerging the otherside in Wonderland... well this was Tomorrowland. And there's a universe on the otherside of that rabbit hole!

It does feel like the whole Universe is here. Whilst English is widely spoken, we were definitely in the minority, making it a vastly different experience. I had a physical conversation with some one (not like that) I mean, neither of us could understand the other, except for our actions and body language. I think he wanted a drink, or a lollipop... or a woodwind musical instrument... any way he was nice.

Main Stage
One particularly moving sight was that of an Israeli and Palestinian flag being flown side-by-side, despite the recent resurgence in violent over the Gaza strip. Small things like that really moved me. It showed that deep down, no matter what colour, belief system, ideology or brightly coloured snapback you were wearing, we can all have a ruddy good party!

My favourite set of the weekend was on the Carl Cox stage, late at night when Nero played their set. The music at Tomorrowland, on the whole, wasn't what I was expecting, but Nero blew me away with tunes blaring at 5 bigillion megaWatts including some of the colaborations they've made with the London Symphonic Orchestra.

Throughout the long weekend we ambled between over 10 different, yet equally amazing stages. Each encompassing it's own genre of music. I'd say that the music was very much influenced by the EDM movement that's sweeping over from the States currently. No I don't meant that every act was classed as 'Electronic Dance Music' because... well it was! But using EDM in the context of this doublette build up, minimalistic drop Americana that has definitely grown more prominent this year. It's not that I don't like it. I can get my groove down to almost anything! But it's nice to find that stage where the music just clicks and your body kicks off.

There scale of the place is not to be underestimated. Its freaking huge! Set in a recreational area full of open pieces of water. All interconnected with little bridges and small islands with parties erupting out of. The 'Rave Cave' was pumping out bass like those questionable clubs with stalactites of human sweat clinging to the ceiling. One stage had a sort of birdcage-matchstick type construction going over the audience. There was a slope down one side and I can remember having a very surreal experience similar to Dr Gonzo's dismount from the carousel in Bazooko's circus.

The Piece de resistance of Tomorrowland is the mainstage. Every year the production team put in a huge effort to come up with the most bizarre, visually stimulating and wonderful scene. What I didn't realise from the youtube aftermovies is that the main stage is nestled in a massive natural amphitheatre with sides rising approximately 6 to 8 metres above the theatres floor. When full the main stage was a sight to behold in itself. I guess over 140,000 people congregated on the sloping banks and bouncing dance floor when at it's maximum capacity.
My friends made the weekend too. We had such a good set of people, some I'd known for 18 years and one I'd only just met at the Eurotunnel car park! As usual at a dance music festival, everyone looked out for one another, strangers catched you if you fell and peace and love was everywhere. Why can't life be a Festival?!