Tomorrowland 2012: Independent Philly Goes International

We’ve been very busy over the past two-plus years bringing you concert and festival coverage from Philadelphia to Miami, California to New York (and much of the rest of the United States).

After hitting major U.S. festivals like Coachella, Ultra Music Festival, Global Dance Festival, Electric Daisy Carnival, Firefly Festival, Sweetlife Festival, Camp Bisco, and many others, it was time for a new milestone. In late July, we took members of Independent Philly’s coverage team to Europe to cover the world’s largest Electronic music festival, Belgium’s Tomorrowland.

After arriving in Brussels and taking a few days to adjust to the time difference, we boarded a series of trains and buses that would eventually drop us in Boom, Belgium. The trains and buses were jam packed with fans heading to Tomorrowland, lugging tents, backpacks, cases of beer, and just about everything else you can think of.

After a bit of confusion we finally found the media area and checked in on Thursday, July 25th. After stowing our gear and meeting members of the media from all over the globe, we headed across the road to Dreamville (the camping village of Tomorrowland) for the opening party. The production value for the opening party alone was larger than many full-scale events in the States. As we  watched tens of thousands of international party people dance in front of flaming fountains, lasers, smoke machines, and a gigantic tent and stage set up, we knew the next three days were going to be special. We just didn’t fully grasp how special it would be.

Friday was the first official day of Tomorrowland and the gates opened at 3pm (Saturday & Sunday began at noon). There would be plenty of time to appreciate the world-class music over the next 72 hours so after entering the festival we decided to take in the visual aesthetics of Tomorrowland. The stages (especially the Main stage which is over 150 meters long and weighs over 150 tons) were on another level from anything we’ve experienced before. The huge storybook on the Main stage opened for the first time during Thomas Gold’s set on Friday and stunned everyone with a face (made out of words) that spoke to the crowd. The Main stage had flame throwers, cyro-blasters, fountains, and many other incredible special effects.

From the hot-tubs over looking the Main Stage to the giant Ferris Wheel that scraped the sky behind the Carl Cox/Paul Van Dyk/Dave Clarke stage, from the swimming pool on the lower VIP deck to the Church of Love on the hill-top, there was endless visual stimulation. There were fairytale creatures, gigantic bubble-shooting mushrooms, swings, and fireworks.

Multiple food and beverage tents dotted the vast landscape of Tomorrowland. There was standard food like pizza, fries, and burgers as well as fresh fruit smoothies, kebabs, BBQ, Chinese, Italian, Tapas, and beyond. There were beer gardens, mixed drinks, fresh mojitos, and bottle service in the VIP areas. The food and drinks weren’t cheap, but they were decent.

The weather was Schizophrenic for all three days to say the least. It would be hot and sunny one moment, and down-pouring and chilly the next.

It soon became clear that above all else, Tomorrowland would be defined by the fans. Party people from countless nations, the majority of whom represented their homeland with flags (or flag adorned items), came together in glorious fashion over the three days in Boom. We met amazing people from all over the globe. It was a melting pot on a grand scale. The chance to share such a special festival with people from all over the planet made the experience greater than we’d ever imagined. It was like a fairytale.

Once you got past the sights, the tastes, the smells, the people, and the electricity that hung in the air, Tomorrowland was, of course, all about the music. The talent level was so vast, and the stages numbered so many, that it was literally impossible to see everyone we wanted to catch. Sometimes we had to listen to just 15-20 minutes of one DJ/Act before rushing off to catch 20 minutes of another. In the end, it was worth it. And of course some sets were so good, we couldn’t pull ourselves away no matter who else it meant we would miss.

We took in so many different acts (some of whom, admittedly, we can’t even name) but here are some of our daily highlights (in no particular order)…

FRIDAY: Fatboy Slim, Bloody Beetroots, Thomas Gold, Zedd, Felix Cartel, Carl Cox, Gabriel & Dresden, Above & Beyond, Alesso, and Trolly Snatcha.

SATURDAY: Martin Solveig, Hardwell, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, Nervo, Swedish House Mafia, Porter Robinson, Paul Van Dyk, Sven Vath, Jeff Mills, Laidback Luke, Swanky Tunes, Superman/Batman/Spiderman (which turned out to be a triple tag team by Laidback Luke, Chuckie, & Martin Solveig), Pendulum, Goldie, Yves V, and Dave Seaman.

SUNDAY: Steve Aoki, Dirty South, Sander Van Doorn, AN21, R3hab, Cassius, Pete Tong, Fake Blood, Eats Everything, Green Velvet, Dave Clarke, Richie Hawtin, Steve Bug, Josh Wink, Joachim Garraud, Chuckie, Gareth Emery, and what we considered the best set of the entire festival, the three-hour triple tag team between DJ Sneak, Derrick Carter, and Mark Farina.

It’s rare, if at all that we say this, but there are no words, or even pictures that can fully capture the magic of this festival. The one and only way to truly experience Tomorrowland is live and in person. We hope that if you haven’t had the chance to do so before, you will in the future. You can view our expanded photo gallery below (click on thumbnails to enlarge):

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