The double-header weekender in Boom, Belgium boasts some of the biggest and most elaborate stages in the world – from giant smoke-billowing dragons, to a huge aquatic main stage, complete with floating mermaid dancers, huge water jets and mist-cannons to cool down sweaty revellers.
This is by no means new news to the temporary residents of Tomorrowland, as that’s exactly why so many desperately try to land a spot at the sought-after festival every year. Trekking across the site to its sixteen – yep, SIXTEEN – huge stages and host of smaller bars is nearly impossible to tick off in a single day.
But the sheer outlandishness of the event doesn’t end with its stages. Fans who splash out for the famed comfort passes unlock a whole wonder of glitzy perks, which make VIP areas at UK festivals look positively bleak.
Perhaps the greatest of these was a raised viewing platform at the main stage, complete with jacuzzis, complimentary swimsuits and free food. Plus massage chairs and screens to watch the action on while you’re relaxing.
Meanwhile, the Organ of Harmony stage slaps a giant swimming pool and bar next to the main stage, along with its own live band and party vibes akin to the swankiest Ibiza pool party imaginable.
But that’s not all. Tomorrowland prints a daily newspaper about the festival’s events, hosts daily West End-style opening ceremonies explaining the year’s elaborate theme – The Story of Planaxis – and even houses a Coachella-esque ferris wheel, overlooking the festival, which is astoundingly free of charge.
Extra flush members of the crowd can also sign up to visit a Michelin Star restaurant overlooking the festival site. Or visit the B-EAT stage, hosted by Las Vegas’ tourism board, which shipped over some of the city’s best chefs with a group of top DJs.
The mini-events included celebrity chef and owner of Morimoto Restaurants, Masaharu Morimoto, who joined a host of others to prep food in hour-long slots for a tasting menu that included waffle sashimi, king crab navet and crab agnolotti.
All of this madness and we have yet to even touch upon the music. Tomorrowland is the premiere dance music festival in the world, so much so that it’s live-streamed to several other cities around the world with their own pop-up stages, including Abu Dhabi, Taiwan and Italy.
Stand-out performances from 2018 included Salvatore Ganacci manic dancing to his own set. Plus emotional tributes to Avicii – who died earlier this year – from the likes of Axwell and Ingrosso, Hardwell and Angemi.
Additionally, Craig David presents TS5 was utterly slick as ever and Fatboy Slim’s Saturday night headline slot at The Freedom Stage had one of the largest crowds we saw during the festival. While Netsky and Armand van Helden both put out very solid sets to masses of dancing fans.
Sadly, the only thing crazier than the stages at Tomorrowland is the prices. The festival has its own magical currency – Pearls – which equated to around 1.60 Euro each, and drinks could set you back anything from 3-12 Pearls, while food ranged from 4-12.
This is forgetting the lofty camping packages, which charges fans extra just to sleep in on-site at Dreamville. Alternatively, festival-goers can opt for Global Journey options, which include dedicated flights, buses or trains to the festival, along with accommodation in very swanky hotels and even launch parties. However, all of these extras will add hundreds or thousands of Euros onto the basic ticket price of 225-281 Euro, or 380-496 Euro for their VIP Comfort Pass.
Nevertheless, the festival has undoubtedly cracked its high-end, albeit gentrified, market with the huge staging, VIP upgrade options and flashy extras and spin-off events, which now include the newly-announced Winter Edition in Alpe d’Huez, France, which will feature skiing options, too.
Another thing that separates the festival from the UK’s scene is the super-friendly mantra and ethos ebbing through it. You’re less likely to find drunken louts throwing cups of suspiciously warm beer and much more likely to be gifted a hug, free friendship band or delightful conversation from another festival-goer keen to chat about the country on your flag, which numerous fans proudly carry on their back.
As numerous UK festivals struggle to sell out until the last minute, or at all, Tomorrowland remains an astounding, inimitable and sought-after event, which is probably even harder than Glastonbury to snag passes to. So if you want to be there in 2020, you better start saving now…