June saw us at EDC Vegas, and July had us heading for Belgium and the multi-award winning festival Tomorrowland. I have been itching to get to this bad boy for years, although tickets are like rocking horse shit. But… finally…
The Model and I boarded our plane at 14.25 and settled in for a short flight… Aaaaand an hour and a half later we were still sat on the runway because the plane could not find a tug to pull it into position. The Captain issued several apologies, and although I do not mind delays, we knew that the camping shop in Belgium we were aiming to get our equipment from closed at 19.00 (Belgian time).
Step forward The World’s Greatest Belgian Ever™… Sander Vanrapensbusch.
Sander had visited me on Isle of Wight a few years ago. I met him through a friend called Darren Boynton. (Darren deserves a special mention as he often champions my blogs for me, and was also the man who introduced me to the fantastic Professor Ben in Las Vegas), but the coming together of Sander and I may be Boynton’s greatest work yet.
To recap; the plane is late, and the camping shop closes around half an hour after we are scheduled to land in Brussels. Things are going to be tight, and The Model starts to fret. It is time for me to step up to the plate, and do something to alleviate her anxiety…
So I fall asleep.
When I woke – just before take-off – I checked my phone and Sander had text me saying that he was picking up his girlfriend – Mylene – and then they were heading for the camping shop to pick up all our equipment for us, and then drive us the 80km to Tomorrowland!
Greatest. Belgian. Ever.
We landed and Sander told me that they were at the store buying camping gear, and would be an hour until they reached us at the airport. So we did what all the best English Pigs do… and got steaming drunk. Sander and Mylene picked us up from the airport and drove us to the Dreamville campsite at Tomorrowland, but my recollection of the journey is a little hazy. I know it involved stopping at a pub where a Belgian girl confused the shit out of me by speaking Italian, and there was lots of red vodka, pissing in bushes, and a brief stop at a former Nazi prison camp called Breendonk. The latter part sobered me a little. Sander and Mylene got us to Dreamville and after much hugging and thanking we parted ways.
Dreamville is the ‘public’ campsite of Tomorrowland. There is also the ‘comfort’ zone, but I’ve never been posh in my life, and I was not about to start in a field in Belgium. The private-school-educated Model, on the other hand… well, I guess her poshness took a dive when she hooked up with me.
The campsite was on a ‘first come, first served’ basis, but I assume that having arrived on the Thursday – a day before the festival proper – we would get a spot nice and near to the entrance of all the action. I was wrong. Very fucking wrong. We walked for miles to find our allocated place. I once walked across the Isle of Wight – 26 miles – and my feet were in better condition then than they were after five days of festival fuckery. My feet are still a mess. I’ve managed to save the nails on two toes, but am resigning myself to losing two on my other foot. I would show you a picture, but you could just go and friend Erik Bruce on Facebook, as I like to plaster them all over his wall. The reason is because it was all his fault I bust my toes at a gig in Bedrock a couple of years back.
We arrived late and drunk on that Thursday night, just as most of the early festival goers were partying at a specially-built area called The Gathering. We kinda missed that, as the tent was fast becoming my nemesis and hampering any notions that we had of throwing shapes with the other partgoers. I was too drunk and too tired to figure the thing out. It lay before us like a giant-green-deflated-dinosaur condom, and I was about ready just to throw our sleeping bag on top of the mess and go to sleep…
…when a group of French and Germans appeared, crawling in and out of our wrecked tent like wondrous little elves. But with torches on their heads instead of pointy ears. They spoke quietly in French as they busied themselves inside our tent, lights bobbing up and down within. It took them ten minutes to erect our new home, and they all disappeared as quickly and as quietly as they arrived before we could thank them properly.
The next morning I got out of the tent and was greeted with a ‘hello, English‘ from one of the French guys whose own tent was nearby. I thanked him and one of his compatriots by buying them bottles of water later that day. You might not think that’s much in the way of a gift, but when you party and camp for five days, water becomes liquid gold…
Friday; first day of the main festivities. Here is the main stage filling with ravers, Martin Garrix playing a set – his first of three that weekend:
We walked around the entire site – feet already suffering – and were enthralled by all that was on offer. There are fifteen stages in total. FIFTEEN. And all played live sets from midday to 1am (midnight on Sunday). Actually, I lied. All stages played live music apart from the majority of the main stage, where they reportedly played pre-recorded sets from the weekend before (Tomorrowland was two weekends this year due to its tenth birthday). And the first weekend sets were also pre-recorded.
I guess it’s a matter of preference, however. Some people go for the spectacle and to be involved, uncaring whether their ‘idols’ are playing live or ‘performing’, while others of us go to see favourite DJs, and discover new ones. I spoke to a guy in a Tomorrowland Facebook group and told him that I felt sorry for those people that stayed at the main stage all weekend, missing out on new sounds or new DJs, or experiencing more of the festival while encountering new people and cultures.
He replied that he felt sorry for me doing all that walking.
If I wanted to listen to Avicii, Tiesto, etc, on the main stage I could just stay at home, shit in my hands, and then stuff it in my ears.
I did check out the main stage, but only for the crowd. They looked like they were having a fantastic time, and there were moments where the LEDs in our wristbands all flashed in unison. It was a hell of a fucking sight.
The grounds of Tomorrowland include a lake, a maze (which would have proved disastrous if I had found my way there while off my face), the multitude of stages already mentioned, foot-murdering banks and slopes, ice-cream wagons, and food courts that thronged and throbbed with every nationality in the world.
There was even a Ferris wheel that I was determined to get a blow-job on but I could not quite work out the logistics of it [ie, was too fucked to get there].
I won’t list all of the countries we saw, but I was amazed at how many Canadian, South American, and New Zealand flags I saw being proudly displayed.
The intermingling of the whole world was a pleasure to be a part of. Everywhere people were talking in their mother tongues, or communicating in neutral English, and I saw cell phones blazing Google Translate. We spoke to several people, and even if the language was a mix of our German, their stuttered English, French, Portuguese, or whatever else we could conjure up between us, the majority of people were welcoming and friendly.
The first people we met were Germans, and me being a massive Bastian Schweinstieger fan, I thought I’d regale my European cousins with my vast knowledge of all things kick-ball… And a German youth proceeded to tell me about the history of the English leagues, the founding team, etc… so I shut the fuck up.
The Model and I immersed ourselves in the occasion. Using a timetable/map as our guide, we ticked off the DJs we wanted to see. As there were not any particular ones that we wanted to check out until Nicole Moudaber at 16.30 on that first day, we took a leisurely walk around and soaked in the sites and the stages. We also decided to soak up some alcohol… and things got hazy…
In my last blog about EDC Vegas, we missed Moudaber and it bugged the shit out of me, as she is a DJ I really admire, so I was determined not to miss her this time. Alas, Sander had introduced us to Red Vodka, and this stuff was in every bar. It’s what we got steaming on during our first night before being rescued by the Great French Tent Engineers.
We missed Moudaber. Again. I hope she does not think it is anything personal.
While our EDC trip was mainly to appease The Model – as it was more her sort of music – Tomorrowland was for me. I’ve been trying to get there for years, and Tomorrowland was throwing pitches that I was desperate to catch, especially on the first night at a stage called Carl Cox Presents The Opera. That night Moudaber, Umek, Loco Dice, Adam Beyer, and the big man himself – Carl Cox – would all be in attendance. I don’t care who you are, but that is Techno Heaven in any music-lover’s book. As I said, we missed Moudaber, but Loco Dice were a must after seeing them at EDC Vegas. We got there early and caught most of Umek’s set which was a belter. It was around this time that my alcohol-stream started to thin out, and it was time to move onto something a little more divergent.
Everyone at Tomorrowland seemed to be on a narcotic of some kind. Everyone. And the Europeans are very open and honest about it. The majority that I spoke to took one or two with them to each day, and took them to enhance the music and dancing. Sure, I’ll get the usual people saying ‘you don’t need drugs to have a good time!’ and they are right… But shit gets a lot better when you are on them, as Tomorrowland or any other dance event proves.
The pills/E’s/X’s in Europe are fantastic. They’re not chopped and watered down, or ‘strengthened’ with whatever the ‘chemist’ has in his garden shed. These babies are pure, clean, and a fucking pleasure to partake in. I did not once suffer a comedown, and the nights were a heavenly blur of dancing and meeting fantastic people.
A French guy (yup, another one. These boys were really saving my weekend) was busy ‘chewing a brick’ beside me as we danced, so I asked him if he could ‘help me’. ‘Of course,’ he said, and then we hit a snag. His English was shite, but my French was worse. I needed a translator, and fast.
And this, ladies and gents, is how I met Koen AKA The Greatest Belgian Ever Mark II. I asked him if he would translate for me, and he did perfectly. The Frenchman ‘helped me’ and then left, and I continued talking to Koen. We hit it off straight away, and the next thing we knew, he took us under his wing for the weekend. He was lively, friendly, talked to EVERYONE within two foot of him, and bought us drinks and danced everywhere we went. He introduced us to his friend Tom, another man who made my weekend by continually smiling and nursing me the whole way through it, and – would you believe it – turned out to be The Greatest Ever Belgian Mark III.
Belgians are easily the best people on the fucking planet.
By now The Model was steaming along on Red Vodka, and I was doing my best helium balloon impression as I floated
blissfully away over the land of Boom. I spent my nights dancing wherever I was led; either by the hand of Tom, Koen, or The Model, or an amalgamation of the four of us, looking like a fucked-up-human-elephant-train.
It was great. I live for times like these.
Loco Dice was superb as usual, and I got very excited to see Adam Beyer again, but found myself being whisked away by Tom to the ‘I Love The 90s’ stage where we found DJ Ward in a musical battle with a robot called Droidzie. Lucky for me, I was already sky-high otherwise who knows how this could have turned out.
We returned for Carl Cox’s closing set and it was phenomenal. A tirade of beats, loops, and fireworks that moved your body and cradled your ears. A great set.
The weekend was full of astonishing music. Carl Cox was my highlight of the first day, but I feel he was slightly bettered by three others I saw that weekend;
Rebekah – in the words of one of my closest, and most respected friends, Anthony Yarranton – is ‘hard as nails’. Her set was full of big techno tunes, with loud, fast bass and energy that ricocheted around the Kozzmozz tent. Have a listen. Be warned, it may be a bit too heavy for a lot of you wimps:
I am embarrassed to admit it, but I do not recall ever having heard any of DJ Rush’s sets or music before. Tom and Koen insisted we check him out, and we were more than willing, as the Belgian Boys were proving to have impeccable Techno Taste. American-born Rush was as much of a showman as he was a DJ. Again, like Rebekah, his tunes were belters. Sure, it helps me loving a bit of heavy techno, but the records he was playing were crisp and clear, with bass that shook the wooden ‘Tarantula Cage’ around us. Rush even threw in by MCing to some of his own tracks, and the crowd lapped it up.
It was during this set that we met another Belgian called Erick. We chatted and danced for a while, before he slipped me a slice of his stash just because we were ‘such nice people’. I assume that he meant my awesome personality, charm, and wit… or maybe it was The Model’s double-Ds. Either way, the Belgians loved us and we fucking loved the Belgians.
DJ Rush definitely found himself a couple of new fans during that set. Check part of it out here: [with thanks to Steve Kempo for his video]
I’ve been listening to Marco Faraone’s music and mixes for a couple of years now, and I am a big fan. Earlier in the year I wanted to go to Tomorrowland. When I found out Faraone was playing I NEEDED to go to Tomorrowland. His set was early on the Sunday, and I was going to see him no matter what state I was in after the events of the first two days. Fortunately… and strangely… I was clean and sober by midday Sunday. The Italian DJ was playing to barely any people – such was the earliness of his set – but those that were there he interacted with and smiled at as he bounced behind his turntables, playing real vinyl. Take that, pre-recorded main stage! More Italians flocked to the call of his techno, and he acknowledged them all as they danced before him. One threw him an Italian
flag and he wore it around his neck, and when the group had a photo taken in front of him, he posed to be in the picture. He was a fantastic showman, and exactly what I like in my DJ. It is rare that I dance a whole set sober, but this was one of those times.
His music was perfect. Faraone’s energy and enthusiasm are encapsulating, and he sings along with each record; enticing the crowd with his shouts of ‘boom b-boom b-boom’. It is very refreshing and enjoyable, and by the end of his set the arena was packed.
A big man and a big talent.
We also bumped into him later that day, and he was as friendly and likable as his onstage persona led us to believe. I admit I went a little fanboy on him, and told him that the main reason I came to Tomorrowland was to see him perform, and he clapped me around the shoulder and shook my hand. It made a fantastic weekend even better.
And the picture we got was made even more priceless by the security guard over The Model’s shoulder…
Honourable mentions have to go to Green Velvet, Seth Troxler, Gregor Thresher, Phi Phi (looked bored out of his fucking mind, but played a good set), Chris Liebing, and especially Dave Clarke for bringing our techno-heavy weekend to a close amid a cacophony of fireworks, lights, and heavy fucking music.
As we departed for the long walk back to the tent, we passed The Rave Cave; a dungeon-like creation that hosted some heavy music all weekend. It was not the biggest of places, and was always filled to the brim. But now, at gone midnight on the last day, it was empty… empty except for four die-hard ravers, holding Nerf guns, shuffling their feet as they danced… to NO music. Take a bow, boys.
If I had to find fault with anything at Tomorrowland it would be the bracelet and ‘the bridge’. The bracelet you wore to gain access to the festival and Dreamville, and they were basically a £2.99 watch sprayed with cheap paint that fell apart if you breathed on them. Yes, they did light up, but they were also supposed to link you on Facebook with anyone who pressed the ‘heart’ button the same time as you. Thankfully, that did not work at all, as I’m not sure anyone wanted 180,000 potential friend requests.
The Bridge was shite. You paid 10euros to have your message engraved on a plank of wood with which they made the bridge to commenorate Tomorrowland’s 10th birthday. Most of the messages on the planks were totally indecipherable, and when we tried to find the message I wrote for The Model, we were told that the part of the bridge is was to be on was not even built yet. Fucktards.
Since returning from Belgium, I’ve been asked almost every day ‘what was Tomorrowland like’ and the strange thing is, I don’t like answering that question. We had such a great time, and met such fantastic people, that it almost pains me to think about the festival in Boom, and how lucky we were to get tickets this year. We are going to try and go back, but – as it returns to a one weekend event in 2015 – it will be harder to get tickets.
Tomorrowlands has announced that the dual-weekenders will be hosted every five years, so maybe again in the future…
It is rare that once I have experienced an event or a place that I want to go back to, but hopefully my broken toes and I will tread the turf of Tomorrowland once again. Until then, I shall have other adventures…