I wish I could say that Tomorrowland in Belgium was the biggest and best music festival I’ve ever been to. I also wish that statement didn’t cost €272.02. Of course I had heaps of fun. But the heap was not as high as I expected.
It was the festival’s 2012 after movie that sold me the fantasy of attending it one day. I got chills watching it. The scale was mind-blowing, and so were the stages, props, and lasers. The video portrayed the euphoria of being at a music festival perfectly with a list of uplifting, catchy electro tracks, and I was determined to get my ass there soon enough.
The plan for a Europe trip with my best friends came up casually over dinner at Ghim Moh market, but it didn’t become concrete until we actually managed to get our hands on 4 Full Madness Tomorrowland Passes and Dreamville camping in February (after several heart-stopping moments and waves of cold sweat in front of our laptops).
We were shitting in our pants with excitement, and the plan, come July, was to congregate at my sister’s home in Antwerp, which is pretty near (only if you’re driving, we realised later) to Boom, where the festival grounds were. Team Singapore consisted of Priya and I, and team England was made up of the scissor sister pair, also known as Ade and Steph.
Had a good long sleep that night, and planned to hit town for some lunch and shopping while waiting for team England to arrive. They were setting out on a morning bus, and would arrive in the late afternoon. But, alas, we got a shocking text from Ade saying that her bus doesn’t exist (she figured it was a scam ticket that she bought online), and all the other subsequent buses were full. We panicked on Whatsapp, but Priya managed to secure them seats on the Eurostar from London to Brussels in the end.
So we went about our shopping in town, and team England managed to make their way straight to the festival smoother and quicker than expected. They got a connecting train from Brussels to Boom, then a shuttle bus to the camp site. They arrived while we were only halfway back home from town.
I’ve only been to 1 other music festival before, and that was the amazing T in the Park in Scotland. It was fantastic and I had such high hopes to re-live the magic of festivals at Tomorrowland. TITP also taught me to pack as much food for breakfast as possible (to fill up your tummy in your tent before heading to the main arena where you’d have no choice but to spend on over-priced meals), and be equipped with lots of wet wipes (you always need them somehow).
All this while, I thought Boom was “30 minutes from home”, according to Sis. Half an hour by car, that is. But we took the public transport (tram then bus), and it took us almost 3 fucking hours to finally set foot at the campsite. Well at least we didn’t have to help team England pitch the tent. Muah hahaha.
And so… WE ARE FINALLY AT TOMORROWLAND GUYS. Sorry for the lengthy prologue.
So here’s what we gathered even before the festival really began. 1) The median age is 18. 2) The look for Tomorrowland is “half naked buff prepubescent white boy not blessed with a nice face”. 3) The pre-party’s awesome music and props were great teasers for the main event, and it got us all extremely excited for tomorrow(land) to commence.
We were extremely let down, however, when we discovered that showers close at 10pm, even when the last act ends around 1am. We had to resort to wet wipes and crawl into our sleeping bags feeling sticky and dirty. It was seriously the worst part of this festival.
Crawled out of our tents at 6:30am to catch the happy hour showers. It cost 1 token instead of 2 if you shower between 6am to 8am (it cost €10 for 7 tokens). The shower cubicles were nice and clean, and the mirrors had power points beside it — a big plus for style-conscious beauties like us. We went back to sleep after that, and it started to rain quite heavily during our nap. My side of the tent leaked, but it was no biggie.
When we got onto the festival grounds, we did a quick walk-through of it to orientate ourselves. It was spread across a huge area, and I was constantly in awe of the effort needed to create this completely self-contained pop-up town.
The way the main stage unveiled itself to us was pretty dramatic. A short walk from the entrance, you go past some lockers, food stalls, and toilets, and you can start to see the tip of the main stage. We first commented that it doesn’t look big at all. But as we approached it, we realised that we were standing on an elevated plateau, and the main stage sat at the foot of it.
Tomorrowland’s main stage is its highlight, and this year’s was pretty impressive up close. It was filled with entwining magical foilage, windows framed with vines, and Victorian balconies. The volcano spouted steam (and fire towards the night) and there was also built-in waterfalls lit with tacking coloured lights. Too bad the whole stage was done in shades of mossy green, making it unphotogenic.
And the rest of the festival grounds looked like this…
After the walk-about, we settled down for lunch. The heat was enervating, and we were extremely put off that water cost 2 tokens for a small bottle (around 330ml). And they took the caps off before handing it to us so that we couldn’t refill it with tap water after. It’s a lousy way to handle the water situation at a rave — especially when temperatures in the day hovered around 30°C. Complaints aside, I had a really good giant ham and leek meatball with stew-like insides (4 tokens).
Now, on to the music. I can’t say I’m a huge fan of dance music because even though I enjoy a good hard rave, I don’t keep tabs on the newest songs or DJs in this genre, and Tiesto, Laidback Luke, or Swedish House Mafia are not part of my daily playlist. So why did I come? I just couldn’t miss the “biggest dance festival in Europe”. So unlike other music festivals where I’d be stressing out over which bands to see, I just went with the flow at this one. My friends are better dance music fans than me, so they made the decisions.
First up was Nervo. Their full Tomorrowland set can be found here, and I highly recommend it as the background music while you scroll through the rest of this post. We went out into the blistering 3pm sun, took a spot on the slope, gathered all our tolerance for the heat, and started to party. The view of the massive crowd moving to the same beat remains one my best memories of Tomorrowland.
It took a lot out of me to dance in the insane heat (umbrellas make a huge difference), but there were moments of euphoria that made the Nervo set really special. It was during this set that made me think, DAMN I FUCKING MADE IT TO TOMORROWLAND AND NOW THE EPICNESS BEGINS!!! It was bliss. A huge part of that was due to Nervo’s happy tunes, which made it impossible not to smile while you moved to their music.
The rest of the day’s acts were a blur. We saw Digitalism, Steve Aoki, Sebastian Ingrosso.
There was a massive downpour in the evening, and it really felt like we brought Singapore’s weather here. We were praying very hard for our tent to survive the rain. Then God realised that Tiesto was about to play, and cleared the skies. I’m a big fan because he knows how to work the crowd and never fails to make us dance so brutally hard. His sets are always brilliant.
They went all out on the theatrics, and I loved every second of it. I’ve never raved to so much lasers and lights and smoke and fireworks. It was truly a wonderful celebration of the love that music brings to all of us.
It was such a pity that Tiesto’s set came with a bloody idiotic crowd that spoilt the entire experience. We were surrounded by douchebags who didn’t understand how to rave, and kept trying to chat us up. It’s fucking irritating when you want to lose yourself in the music, and a creep comes up to you and says, “Where are you from?”, or tries to dance with you. Priya said after the set that she should have worn a “Fuck off, I’m raving.” sign.
My thoughts about Tomorrowland after day 1 revolved around the lack of a connection with the crowd. It was made up mainly of loud dumb jocks, who were obviously not very fun to be around. The festival was also a little too big to have an identity — it felt nothing like the lovey-dovey euphoria as portrayed in the previous years’ after movies. Everyone kept mostly to themselves.
It started off with a mighty thunderstorm in the morning, so we slept in and munched on the snacks we brought. These included Belgian waffles, Nutella, strawberries, sausages, and grapes. We only headed out at around 4pm in order to escape the afternoon sun.
Took the ferris wheel ride to see the view from above.
The best act of the day went to Laidback Luke, whose 1.5h set got us so pumped up. It was so, so hard and good. The crowd, thankfully, was also a lot older today, and every one around us was politely raving.
We returned after dinner for more Laidback Luke, joined this time by his Superhero friends. And the butterfly stage looks even more gorgeous at night!
The festival took on a very different mood after sunset.
Gotta love the guys and their coordinated outfits.
We soon positioned ourselves once again at the main stage, and got ready for Armin van Buuren. Apparently the skies were getting ready too, and decided to pour mercilessly on the defenceless crowd a few minutes into the set. It drizzled, then rained, then poured. At first I huddled under the umbrella Steph and I shared. But I decided to put my faith in the cheap H&M poncho and braved the rain to rave properly (the poncho worked well!). You simply can’t not jump around during Armin! It was extremely liberating to splash about the wet floor even though I could feel my drenched socks going squish squish squish in my Dr Martens.
Can you imagine how gross it was to not shower after getting drenched in the rain? Well it wasn’t so bad actually. Since we were already showered on.
Review after Day 2? Very thankful for the older crowd that permeated the festival. It made the energy so much more relaxed and better looking. One very odd thing that we experienced throughout the festival so far was how ignorant the white people here were. They looked at us as if they’ve never seen Asians, and one guy even told Priya she had a nice tan. She’s Indian, you stupid boy. One idiot even insisted on taking a picture with us together with his Japanese flag. And when we told him that we’re Singaporeans and that it was the wrong flag, he pulled the slitty eye look on us and said, “All the same.” Way to go, Tomorrowland. I’ll never talk about my Tomorrowland experience without bringing up the ignorant fools in it.
And just like that, we’re on to our last day.
It started with Joachim Garraud, the only DJ we caught that played an instrument live. Plus points for bringing out that keyboard guitar! But more minus points for Tomorrowland because during this set someone ran past me and pulled my bikini string loose. It’s OK because I always have it double knotted. But I wanted to bring this up to show what kind of fucktards there were at this festival. Before you think I’m a stuck up high-strung conservative Singaporean, let me explain that I love crazy people. I love people who do silly things at festivals for a laugh. But this is just not funny.
Steve Angello’s set was fun, but by this point we were extremely sick of hearing songs by Swedish House Mafia because every other big DJ we saw remixed their tunes. They have great songs, but it was way overplayed, making them the Black Eyed Peas of the electro music genre.
The best show today was by Showtek, no competition. Firstly, it was in the shade. Second, it was fierce! Unapologetically loud and fun, it was damn shiok to dance to. Then we moved on to the hippie tent for Richie Hawtin. I always think it’s not easy to do a minimal set without boring the crowd, and he nailed it. It was deep, dark, calm, and sexy. The sound system was great too, and I loved the vibrations in my stomach. I want to see him again!
We left his set halfway to catch the closing shows at the main stage. I don’t know what’s the big deal about David Guetta, honestly. His slot, including special guests, stretched from 8:30pm to 10:45pm. I guess this is evident of how radio-friendly Tomorrowland is. The set was boring as expected, but as we were standing very high up the slope, we could properly appreciate the spectacular light show. We also stayed on for Steve Aoki‘s set, which was so much better than Guetta’s. And we were so damn appreciative that it wasn’t a rainy night.
Basically, all 3 days went down like the song Eat, Sleep, Rave, Repeat. Just add the word “sweat” in that chant. All the memories mashed up into one very very long party in my head. That’s the thing with me and raves. It’s all in the moment, and once it’s over I can’t recall most of the songs that was played. Haha. Sounds like I wasted a ton of money right? Well, I had a blast but I’m definitely not travelling across the globe for another dance music festival. My heart and soul belongs to “proper” live bands, and the next festival I’m buying tickets to has to have a good mix of dance, rock, pop, and indie music. Bigger really doesn’t mean better, and I believe that there are many other better festivals out there.
Woke up damn early to pack up the tent, and headed out of the camp site without showering. My brother-in-law was so kind enough to pick us up at Boom station, and it only took us half an hour to get back to my sis’ place. OMG the feeling of a long shower in a nice bathroom was such bliss.
It felt as beautiful as this picture of Coquin sitting pretty out in the backyard.
Next stop, idyllic Amsterdam!