Words by: Richard Saxe Coulson
Photos by: Tomorrowworld
When planning to attend any festival, one thing many do not prepare or plan for is rain. All of the other festivals we attended this year were sunny or cloudy each and every day and there happened to be no rain whatsoever until we attended Tomorrowworld. Many festivals in Europe including Tomorrowland experience rain nearly every year. It is just something that is expected and anticipated (or at least it should be.) Electric Zoo happened to cancel out on its last day in 2014 due to rain but as many attendees of European festivals have come to know, rain is just a minor annoyance and playing in the mud can be a lot of fun.
The journey to Tomorrowworld was a long one, we opted to rent a van and carpool all the way from Pennsylvania to Georgia. Although the festival grounds are not far from Atlanta – Chattahoochee Hills is still located in a rural area and most hotels and any accommodations are still a 30-45 minute drive from the festival. Although there are signs directing you to the festival – following GPS can still have you veering off route and away from the ranch. Upon first arrival you quickly realize how massive the grounds actually are. There are numerous parking areas and lots and figuring out where to setup camp or just find a parking space can be daunting. Security has no idea where anything is and doesn’t know the difference between Lot A or Lot B (we actually ended up driving past security into the festival itself when they were still building some of the stages.)
When you finally find parking and unload all your gear, you are greeted by workers with bikes and carriages offering to give you a lift for the same cost that Uber might have charged you to get there. We end up arriving on Thursday and are greeted by pouring rain. Many are forced to setup their tents in the rain and are sporting colorful ponchos with some even equipped with decorations. Some just bare the rain and head over to the pre-party to dance and shuffle to the music. Rain continues throughout the night and morning and eventually subsides leaving for a very muddy trail.
Intricate details were placed throughout Dreamville with stringed lights aligning a boardwalk leading up to The Gathering Stage. You also notice flags from almost every football team in the NFL as well as colleges, countries, and tons of very colorful people. Our camp is next to a wooden overhang and a random bread shop next to an orange lamp which we nicknamed the ‘The Orange Distict’. After meeting with past and new festivalgoers and making new friends, we embark on the official first day of this massive festival.
Multiple entrances to the festival grounds are located throughout the various areas of Dreamville in addition to the main entrance. A smaller but nearly identical version of the even larger Tomorrowland festival in Belgium, the ranch that plays host to Tomorrowworld has a lake that separates stages 1, 2, and 3 and you are forced to cross over a walking bridge to get to them. Colorful lilypad fountain like structures are scattered along the lake and signs are everywhere warning festivalgoers not to go swimming (although a few do). The mainstage is massive and equipped with pyrotechnics, visuals, waterfalls, and VIP viewing booths on both sides that offer bottle service and specialty drinks. A restaurant, post office, Belgian beer café, and even a pool are all present and although there is quite a bit to see and attend to at Tomorrowworld, the corporate feel is clearly present. Many manufactured structures, intricate details (that look like they have been etched in a factory), and massive stages take away from the authentic feel as some of these other festivals are able to portray.
Tomorrowworld hosts people from all over the country and the world and it can be so overwhelming that you might run into someone from Arkansas at one point but then meet someone from Brazil or France at another. Venturing from one stage to the next you realize that tastes in music really do bring people together – you could be talking to someone for quite a while before realizing that you are headed to Drumcode while she is headed to It’s A Trap. The sense of community and true familial vibe that some of the smaller boutique festivals strongly purvey is difficult to grasp. There are also those that come to prey on others in a vulnerable state and aren’t there to catch the vibes or the music at all – which is inevitable at some of these massive events.
With 160,000 people in attendance, some amazing people and lifelong friends can be found. We encountered a couple from Belgium who had visited every Tomorrowland since the first one and told us their favorite set of all time was Jeff Mills who took them on a magical journey. We also met a woman from Toronto who had just left from working a 38 day sports festival to travel alone around the world for 2 years – Tomorrowworld provided an extremely diverse and vibrant atmosphere but unless you got her number or knew where he was camping at…then it was very easy to end up separated from the group. Even if you did have their number – that didn’t always help either at a festival of this magnitude
On Day one, we found ourselves making our way towards the backend of the festival to The Drumcode and Smash The House Stage. Le Youth first caught our attention providing some less than commercial sounding house music before heading over to catch New York techno extraordinaire, Victor Calderone provide some techy beats to set the pace for the pounding techno that was surely to come. After delving into some of Victor’s set, we took the journey back over to the main stage to catch part of Benny Benassi’s set – a 20-30 minute walk from the Drumcode tent. Benny started off with some old school house before quickly turning into the all too familiar electro sound followed by Dubstep and then we just left. I don’t think he had any idea what the hungry ravers wanted to hear but they were all still jumping up and down regardless.
After getting a bit of a taste of the main stage – it was time to dive back into Drumcode and catch Joseph Capriati play some heavy eclectic techno flair. The beats were a bit monotonous and the energy throughout the crowd was a bit drab but Adam Beyer then picked it up a notch closing out the night. Adam delivered as he always does playing an iconic three hour set to an intimate crowd of Drumcode fanatics who were definitely not from the south. Although there were many that attended from all over the world and America – you can clearly see a heavy rural southern influence throughout the crowd and then there was Shaq aka DJ Diesel (who we unfortunately failed to witness).
Opting to stay at a friend’s place in Atlanta on Friday – we had little difficulty getting through traffic and making our way back to Atlanta. We easily located parking on Saturday and we made our way back to the campsite before visiting the 8 stages that were all switched up. Smash The House was now Mythical Frames, Drumcode was turned into the Trance Addict stage, and Full On which previously featured artists such as Pierce Fulton, Andrew Bayer, Cosmic Gate, and Ferry Corsten had been transformed into the All Gone Pete Tong Stage. Maybe an attempt to confuse people or allow us to discover new artists? We first headed over to the All Gone Pete Tong stage and found that hardly anyone was there while across the water, Mythical Frames was packed with eager ravers anticipating Shiba San only to find that the time slots for Shiba San and Oliver were switched. No notifications on the app or announcements were made and the confused lady behind the stage thought Oliver was Shiba San and kept trying to convince me of this before verifying that Shiba San had gone on before Oliver.
Bixel Boys, Seven Lions, Gramatik, and Bassnectar all followed Shiba San and Oliver and we decide to head back to the more mature sounds of Pete Tong and his friend’s Justin Martin and Get Real. The area is much more dense at this point as it gets later in the evening and continues into the early morning and Claude Von Stroke plays alongside Green Velvet to an energetic crowd that is clearly feeling the music. We head back to the campsite early to avoid the rush and attend to the numerous after parties happening within the vendor booths and the one massive one right next to our camp. Unfortunately cars aren’t allowed into the campgrounds and lack of DJ and sound equipment is prevalent – much unlike Electric Forest where you find DJ and sound equipment all over. A few vendors host DJs and music and the bread factory blasts the hits from mediocre speakers that sound blown. Once again…nobody seems to mind.
Unfortunately there were 100,000 festivalgoers that opted out of camping and as they walked back to their cars or tried to find an Uber…they found out many of the roads leading out of the festival were closed and Uber at 2am on a Sunday morning in rural Georgia was impossible. Although many tend to blame the festival organizers, the groundskeepers, or the festival staff – it was the local authorities and police that put a hindrance on transportation. 1000s were left stranded without proper medical care or supplies and festival promoters were then instructed to disallow access to the festival grounds for any of those that were not camping. Luckily we camped!
With 10s of thousands of festivalgoers denied access to the festival, Sunday presented itself to be one of the best days. The stages were transformed once again and the far stages across the lake were shut down. After trekking through the mud and making our way back through the entrance, we found ourselves catching an absolute astounding set by the magnificent Haywyre at the Terminal West Live stage. Haywyre played a unique bass-ridden jazz ensemble on a synthesized keyboard to a small but enthusiastic crowd. We then quickly headed up on the hill to The Future House stage after finding out that the number one live act in the world, KiNK was showcasing his skills and talent – he keeps getting better and better. He allowed a couple festivalgoers to tinker with his equipment by lowering it down from the unnecessarily elevated DJ booth letting them create a beat of their own. KiNK then played off that beat utilizing nearly every electronic instrument on the table. Truly astounding.
Future Classic was originally planned to host their event on the boat but the small area instead played host to Jamie Jones’ Paradise and his line-up straight out of Ibiza. Matador, Guy Gerber, Maya Jane Coles, and Jamie Jones himself were able to entice the familiar and unfamiliar. The vibe and energy was insurmountable with many naming Jamie and Maya as their favorite artists of the festival. This gave us hope during the monotony and chaos taking place during Tomorrowworld before we packed up all our gear and trekked through the mud utilizing the little energy we had left to struggle back to the van. After a few tows from a friendly tractor driver we were back on the road and on to the next adventure. We are hoping with less neon and more familiar faces
Dates and tickets for Tomorrowworld 2016 have yet to be announced.