Take a brief moment to reflect on that time you took a week off from work (a well-deserved week, of course) and departed on a real vacation. It could have been around Spring Break season when you and your friends decided it was time to take a trip to Mexico, or perhaps it was over the summer when you and your significant other took off on a romantic adventure to the spot where you first locked eyes. Seven whole days passed in the blink of an eye, and as you made your way back to the airport you found yourself asking, “Is it really already over?”
In the world of electronic dance music, the modern day music festival is our equivalent of a vacation – but even better. For some, it is an opportunity to see some of their favorite artists perform live for the first time, and to discover talent that was once seemingly nonexistent. Others are in it purely for the bonding experience: close friends become closer, old friendships are rekindled and new relationships take shape within minutes. And still, there is a generous handful of devoted fans who perceive festivals as an occasion to express themselves, to love and to be loved, and to find themselves as they journey through what could arguably be one of the most magical experiences electronic music has to offer. Today, the music festival has evolved into much more than a 3-day party – it’s a community – and over 140,000 young individuals, representing all 50 states and more than 75 countries, formed their own in rural Georgia: TomorrowWorld.
Like last year, the 2014 edition of TomorrowWorld returned to its Chattahoochee Hills, Georgia home. The European-turned-American festival was situated on Bouckaert Farm, totaling in at 8,000 acres – only 500 of which were utilized for the event itself. Fittingly, the Brouckaerts are a Belgian family who live on the gargantuan property and who allowed TomorrowWorld’s parent company, ID&T, to enter their estate and transform the “equestrian paradise” into suitable festival grounds. Had we not been exposed to the site’s history, we likely would not have thought twice about its true identity as farmland.
Of course, Chattahoochee Hills is surely not the most convenient. Those ill-equipped for camping in Dreamville were in for a 45-minute drive to the venue, prone to getting stuck in traffic or finding themselves lost amongst the twists and turns of local roads as they made their way further from the city. Cell service was nearly non-existent, making it difficult for attendees to reunite with their posses. Most heartbreaking, perhaps, was that many fans were forced to choose their loyalties and stick with them, as traveling from the Main stage to the further-most stages were as long as a 30 minute trek across dusty hills, pathways and a footbridge – but a scenic trek, nonetheless. Despite Brouckaert Farm’s downsides, the site did succeed at maintaining a similar ambience to that of its original home in Boom – so much so that iPhone users, due to ID&T’s terrestrial signals and imported equipment from Belgium, found themselves “located” in Boom, Antwerp. “Authentic” doesn’t even begin to describe the atmosphere.
It is undeniable that fan sentiments toward TomorrowWorld 2014’s theme were mixed. Some felt that the recycling of Tomorrowland’s ‘volcano’ structure from 2013 was underwhelming for the festival’s second run in the States, whereas others were taken aback by the grand spectacle that required more than 80 shipping containers and about 6,000 miles to import directly from the source. It would have been foolish to not appreciate a configuration, a piece of history, that had stepped foot on American soil especially for us.
The pictures, though, did TomorrowWorld’s Main Stage little justice. “Gigantic” is an understatement; one could expect a 10-15 minute walk simply from one end of the computerized, pyrotechnic formation to the other. A large LED screen was housed between glistening waterfalls, rugged boulders, mile-long lasers and the inscription, “Tomorrow is mystery.” Meanwhile, fiery skies would develop in the background as Kygo performed his famed remix of Coldplay’s “Midnight.” At night, fans watching Zedd, Skrillex and Kaskade were graced with ravishing fireworks shows and an erupting volcano that would, at perfectly-timed moments, spew bursts of fire from its tip.
One year ago, TomorrowWorld was commended for its attention to detail, and 2014 was no different. Candy canes, unicorn pops and horse statues permeated the artist village, while mushrooms and the festival’s butterfly logo adorned structures throughout the its open pastures. Red and white arbors reading “Yesterday is history, today is a gift, tomorrow is mystery” and white string lights embellished what would have been a bleak stroll through the woods as pedestrians made ventured from one section of the festival to the other. Most captivating, though, were the intricate water shows along the Chattahoochee River that lined the footbridge adjoining both ends of the site. Bursts of water surged from opened flower petals, complemented by monstrous flames that afforded the river a particularly warm glow.
Alongside Miami’s annual flagship event, Ultra, TomorrowWorld raises the bar as one of America’s most prominent, international music festivals – possibly even more so than its Miami-based competition. While it is not surprising to see flags of nearly each country being waved around on poles or draped around shoulders at Tomorrowland, the sight is far less common in the US. But it wasn’t until we immersed ourselves in the company of not only our American peers but electronic music faithfuls from abroad that we fully realized how wildly passionate the EDM community is. The love was real, and I met fans who braved the overnight drive from states like Wisconsin, Florida, Washington DC, Illinois and more. More extraordinary were the representatives I saw from all corners of the world, including Canada, Brazil, Germany, Spain and France, who contributed their individual flavors to the ever-growing melting pot that is EDM.
As one of the select few 21+ festivals in the US, TomorrowWorld stood tall amongst its 18+ competitors, allowing for the most pleasurable and free-spirited experience for all. The impressive amount of diversity and sense of family witnessed in just its second year surpassed that of any other music festival, attracting a benevolent crowd of all races, genders, personalities and tastes. Now with an even more established reputation, TomorrowWorld demonstrated that it is not simply a musical mecca or a gathering of sorts; rather, it is a sacred space void of judgment – one in which the ‘People of Tomorrow’ could dress, act and feel however they wished. Over 140,000 fans joined together to help write the second chapter of TomorrowWorld, further illustrating that dance music is not a hobby, but a way of life.