Ok, so I like electronic dance music, more specifically Trance. When I started in the 1990's, the US was a bit behind in that department.
Still, with San Francisco and San Jose nearby, I've had some opportunities to see some great EDM/Trance DJs. Back in the early 2000's, they sadly played club music in the US that was nowhere close to the hits they had composed and were known for, but over the years, as Trance started becoming more popular, those DJs finally started playing their good tunes in the US too, and maybe from 2004 on, it's only been getting better. Popsicle Halloween 2004 was really the beginning of great music parties in the San Francisco Area, and thankfully things have gotten even better since then
As a matter of fact, after another 10 years (2015 and beyond) the good news is that Trance has grown quite a following in the US, and places like the SF Bay Area, and while Trance has been declared dead a few times in the last 10 years, it's still going strong here.
Trance Family SF is definitely strong in the area, we've been getting more big trance parties every year, including many top DJs that come visit us what feels like every other week now (as of 2018-2019), and through those events, I made many friends in Trance Family SF. Thanks to you all.
Over those years, I got the chance to meet a few of my favourite DJs, including Armin more than once, and my last hobby has been to work on lights for my shirt and pants (version 3) and (version 4)
That was my first tomorrowland. Getting tickets was "interesting", I got help from a friend of a friend who got tickets that included camping I had no intention of using, that put the regular tickets at close to $800, which is the price of VIP tickets for EDC. I definitely owe thanks to Larry Lim and David for the help with getting tickets this year.
Given that tomorrowland is 2/3rd during daylight, I brought my older LED outfit that is brighter, and then switched to the better one at night:
We got there in thursday to pick up the wristbands (OMG, that was quite complicated: Tomorrowland forces you to assign tickets to people months before the event, and changing the person the ticket is assigned to, is extremely hard, it requires a signed power of attorney from the original ticket buyer, why so hard, seriously? I guess because they can, but that's not the best way to treat customers who already paid for way overpriced tickets).
Despite the stress related to getting the wristband they could deny despite having travelled across the world, we got in and went to visit Dreamville, the huge campsite where most pepole stay since getting in and out of Tomorrowland is not that trivial, especially when they block all the roads and prevent public transportation from getting there and back (shame!). The 300 city bus from Mechelen kind of worked to get us there if you didn't miss it (otherwise it was a 65 euro taxi there and 100 euros back, ouch). Dreamville was huge, it took 15mn to walk across, which was impressive:
Not Quite a Trance Heaven?
If you're wondering why I'm making a point of saying this, it's a major festival with more than 10 stages and DJs from across the world. There are 3 weekends, and you often don't even know who is going to play when you buy a ticket. Turns out week 3 when I went, was the one that had the most trance, with a Trance stage the first day, and ajnunabeats on the 2nd day, as well as some psytrance running at the same time.
Unfortunately the trance stage on day 1 was very small (Kara Savi), in the hot sun with no shade, and a road with people crossing constantly if you were trying to enjoy the music from the shade of a tree. The sound was actually good, but the stage size was super disappointing, it was packed and it was hard to see the DJ plenty of times. Part of me though they gave it a shit stage because tomorrowland people don't care about trance, but in real live, anjunabeats and psytrance were packed the next day, so they just didn't care and put major trance artists on a small stage that couldn't accommodate enough people, which was sad.
The next day was better with anjunabeats vs psytrance, but then again why the conflict? There was 0 trance on day #3, it would have made so much more sense to put those on different days...
To compare, although Creamfields had problems bad enough that I'm unlikely to go back, it had lots more trance (even if the sound engineers screwed it up badly enough that you couldn't enjoy it much at one stage), and Untold also has a solid trance lineup, solid enough that it's difficult to go see other stages :)
All in all, when I saw some the wonderful other stages, and have fond memories of seeing Ferry Corsten play a huge room with great visuals, it was disappointing not to have our trance artists in any of them.
Day 0: Thursday
On thursday, they opened a very short part of the festival to run one stage for people staying at the campground and we had multiple DJs playing one stage until midnight:
as a surprise set, Vini Vici closed the night
Video summary of Thursday:
Then time to go home and find an expensive taxi back (uber wasn't really an option, too few of them):
nice shaded areas for eating
I should have checked to see how full or empty the bin was :)
Most people weren't wearing any outfits, not a thing in Europe as much, but a few were, including the costumed staff
it was fun to see Paavo just 5 days after seeing him at the Gorge
fun to run into friends again
Day 1: Friday, Trance Day at the Small Stage
Day #1, the entrance was from the tomorrowland side, over 45mn walk away from the dreamville entrance on the other side. It was a bit closer to where the city bus dropped us, so that was good.
We went to the trance stage right after arriving to enjoy the trance lineup, although that was in blazing sun, or far away under a tree, not great conditions. The stage was also small and hard to get around due to a path that crossed past it and some strange one way signs
all day we had people walking by, nice for people watching, but distracting for the set
Sander Van Doorn
Aly and Fila was next
John O Callaghan
Quick look at mainstage to see a bit of Tiesto:
Next, was an attempt at seeing Eric Prydz, but the room was packed as hell. Should have arrived earlier indeed:
Then back to Kara Savi for Alessandra Roncone and Craig Connely:
Hi Aryel :)
Great to see Alessandra after her set
Video summary of Friday:
Day 2: Saturday, Psytrance and Anjunabeats
Time was spent between Youphoria (psytrance), and Crystal Garden (anjunabeats). The psytrance lineup was actually solid, it's just unfortunate that tomorrowland thought it was a good thing to put both tracks in conflict on saturday, and then 0 (psy)trance on sunday.
Ilan Bluestone did a great set
Quick look at mainstage again;
Back to Crystal Garden for Above and Beyond:
their graphics didn't display well, though
I was worried that few people at Tomorrowland cared about trance, and that's why it got a shit stage, but there were lots of pepole during Above and Beyond, and ultimately people seem to care about the stage more than the genre. This does mean they could have put trance in a much nicer stage and they chose not to.
And Finishing the night at Youphoria for Astrix, another enjoyable set that was quite packed too:
The bad part about saturday, is that to cater to the locals, they moved off all the busses and shuttles far away (30 to 40mn walk from inside the festival) and in the process they entirely blocked off the city bus we were supposed to take home. Their staff had no clue about where the bus was re-routed and mostly lied to us to go on a long crappy walk where we then had to take a bus to a parking lot to a taxi stand for another expensive taxi. Not happy...
the walk was so long that they had fire jugglers along the way
eventually you go to a bus depot (about 30 to 40mn from when you left the event), but none of those busses were for us
Video summary of Saturday:
Day 3: Sunday, Exploring Day
Given how bad the transport options from Mechelen, were, we took a cab that tried to get us as close as possible, which ultimately was still quite far because of all the closed streets, but that allowed me to plot an exit route for the way out, direct to the back of the cab line to save time on the way out. It was a 10mn+ walk in, but reversing it allowed us direct access to the end of the cab line, which helped on the way out
locals on the way hard music and drinks for sale
Once in, there wasn't a whole lot on the schedule that looked important, so it was a good time to go around all the stages3108*|interesting to see the stage when it wasn't as packed as with Eric Prydz
Would have loved to see Ferry Corsten here
Tgere was a nice ferris wheel, but the line was a bit long;
Plenty of other stages:
this is the only stage that was always full and I wasn't able to get into
that said this stage was pretty full too
After a good amount of exploring, time to enjoy a few sets:
I had the perfect outfit for infected mushroom at the mushroom stage :)
And went to finish the night with Vini Vici at the library, and it was packed:
luckily, I had the perfect outfit for that set too :)
we got a bit of rain, which made for nice visuals :)
And just like that, the night was over:
Video summary of Sunday:
Time for a long walk out with a shortcut I plotted to the back of the super long taxi line. Although the previous night they screwed us over by making us walk 30mn in the wrong direction just to miss our city bus and take an expensive cab, I got to a place where we were to get a ride and avoid the huge cab line (although it was yet another $100 due to lack of transport to Mechelen, ubers that were geofenced off, and very overpriced cabs). Sure, there were private busses you could book to far away locations, but those looked like they would take you a while to get home too
long cab line that we thankfully avoided
Thoughts and Conclusions
Tickets are had to get, they're expensive, tomorrowland tries to get you to pay for overpriced packages you don't want or need, to secure a ticket, and they make ticket transfer complicated to avoid resellers I assume. However in my case it was very complicated and stressful to get a ticket re-assigned to a new person a few weeks before the event. This is too complicated and unnecessary, other festivals don't do this
Security was more than reasonable. They either didn't check me very carefully, or were fine with my outfit. Ultimately they mostly cared about not bringing food/drinks and weapons, which is fine by me (although a metal cup counted as a weapon, and so did an LED baton).
backstage access was well controlled, except for the occasional backdoor/holes
All in all, given the size of the event, I found security screening to be sufficient without being too much, as well as being efficient (pretty fast to get in). Much better than nearby luminosity for sure with all its over the top rules.
Fake Money/Pearl BS
This is one of the few festivals left that thinks it's still ok to do this fake money BS. With most people having contactless credit cards and pay by phone, they are of course totally useless today, and at least luminosity got the memo this year and switched to those.
I'll add that their fake currency is likely designed to make sure people have no idea what they're spending, and they of course hope you'll end up with left over unspent pearls that you can't get refunded (they claim it's automatic if you put money online before the event, but at the same time, putting money online was broken and they discouraged you from trying it as it could take over a day for your money to show up).
All in all, I'm not impressed and I hope they stop this nonsense, but since they profit from it and have more people who want to go than tickets for sale, they will probably continue this crap unless people complain very loudly that it has to stop.
Putting aside the pearl BS, the food options were quite good:
Even a nice garden with more good food, or actual restaurants:
where is the last festival you had lobster, at?
So, sure, it is challenging, and given that they have to cater to locals and avoid traffic and noise, they went and maybe had to go over the top in blocking streets everywhere around the venue to the point that even cabs had to drop you off 15mn away or more. This does not include the 40mn or more to get the kiss and ride east taxi stand, or city busses (300) being blocked from operating, which was kind of bullshit.
How much better can it really be? I'll honestly say that since I don't have all the variables, I can't say, but seems to me that it can be improved and that it's probably ok for a few residents to have to suck up a bit of noise until 02:00 a few days per year.
I was pretty unhappy with the very overpriced cabs that charge whatever flat rate they want for distances that were not that far, and the fact that the city apparently managed to block off ubers entirely to remove competition, which is unacceptable.
Clearly the festival grounds are very impressive, outside of a couple of stages that were poor, including sadly the trance stage, most were between good to very impressive. Once you're inside the venue, it's actually quite good overall, except for some questionable foot traffic flow + where you were forced to walk around some one way paths.
The Music was good too, although there is the problem that with 3 weekends, you don't always know which artists are going to be playing on a given weekend until after you've already booked it, which is unfortunate.
Clearly it's a nice festival, but it's expensive, complicated to get in and out of compared to let's say untold where you can walk to the venue or take a quick bus or electric scooter.nues/Stages/Music, and even compared to EDC, I got from my Vegas strip hotel room to EDC and back quicker than from Mechelen to Tomorrowland, and for much cheaper.
If you add transport, Tomorrowland is not cheap. I'd say it's on par with EDC Vegas, although EDC mostly doesn't sell out and everyone gets to enjoy the same artists, and I think EDC has a bit more of a whoa factor, even if tomorrowland is quite good too. Tomorrowland does win for nature (park, water, ducks, etc), while EDC is sitting in the middle of a racetrack in the desert, although that also means rain at EDC is super unlikely, which is not true for tomorrowland
Untold though, is probably my favorite in Europe since it's 4 days, big and impressive enough, and has a better feel with all the locals coming to party too, including kids. Untold also ends up being cheaper and doesn't sell out either.
Will I go back? For creamfields, the security and staff were so bad, plus so many other problems, that I'm unlikely to go back. For tomorrowland I'd say maybe, except for the fact that I don't love having to fight for tickets, being forced to buy some overpriced package with a poor hotel room far away just to get a ticket (or hell, now they also sell you NFTs to help ensure a ticket allocation), not really knowing if the lineup will be nice on a given weekend, before buying the tickets, or knowing if my favorite artists if they come, could end up at an underwhelming stage like Kara Savi. So let's say, maybe?