Skip to content Skip to footer

This Was: Tomorrowland 2023 W1

The 17th edition of Tomorrowland kicked off this past weekend from July 21st to 23rd. This festival is so massive that it takes place over not one but two weekends in the small town of Boom, Belgium. Since its inception in 2005, Tomorrowland is world renowned for being the largest electronic music festival in the world. This year Tomorrowland welcomed 400,000 people representing 200 nationalities, with 750 artists performing across 16 stages.

Getting There
Getting to Tomorrowland from the Netherlands was easy (about three and a half hours from my home in The Hague to my hotel by Brussels Airport). Going back and forth from Brussels Airport to Tomorrowland varied day by day between driving and organized shuttles but it was an easy trip once you figured out where to go! Leaving the festival each night after the end show was a bit of a journey, but that’s to be expected with 400,000 people heading in the same direction.

Tomorrowland is held annually in Boom, a small quiet town situated about 30 minutes outside of Antwerp and 40 minutes outside of Brussels (driving). Each year this picturesque quaint European town is transformed into an electrifying hotspot for electronic music. The charming town embraces the people of Tomorrow as they descend upon Boom with countless Tomorrowland flags in the windows of homes and locals selling snacks and drinks along the route from the parking lots into the festival.
The juxtaposition between the quiet sleepy town of Boom and the massive festival grounds of Tomorrowland is astonishing. From the moment you enter the festival you’re filled with the electrifying bass pumping through the speakers, lasers shooting out into the sky, and incredible art and water installations.

Food & Drinks
What sets Tomorrowland apart from countless other electronic music festivals around the world is their commitment to fine dining. Their dedication to providing visitors not only with high quality food but with exceptional dining experiences. Between two actual restaurants, 12 chefs, 38 different food caterers, 100 food stands, there is something for everyone. Tomorrowland is also committed to the use of pure ingredients and exquisite attention to detail. Some examples of the food options were Greek cuisine from Dimitri Vegas and Like Mike, Vietnamese food, loaded fries, sushi, authentic pizza, and pasta.

Tomorrowland has a cashless system when it comes to buying drinks and food. Unlike the majority of European festivals I’ve attended where tokens are used to purchase food and drinks, guests can load money onto a wristband Tomorrowland or on a cashless card. The wristbands and cards can be topped up through the Tomorrowland app or by one of the top up stations. The lowest denomination you could load on the card was 20 euro for about 11.5 pearls, one beer was two pearls and cocktails were between five and six pearls. The prices didn’t shock me, but the pearl system does make it much easier to blow through money on drinks so keep track of how much you load (or don’t and worry about it after the weekend)!

Visuals, Sound & Theme: Adscendo
Each year Tomorrowland implements a new unique theme while simultaneously embracing the magic from previous years. This year’s theme was Adscendo, a fairytale world that took visitors on an encaptivating journey of sight and sound. Adscendo is more than just a theme but rather a fantasy adventure novel: The Rise of Adscendo.

In my 14 plus years of attending raves of festivals this is the first event I’ve attended where the theme was incorporated into a novel, or rather a novel was incorporated into the theme (not sure which came first the chicken or the egg in this case but love this idea)! The concept of creating an actual fairytale world around the festival is unique and almost reminds me of how Marvel has created a cinematic universe that encompasses all the characters we’ve known and loved. Tomorrowland seems to be implementing the same approach which is something that makes Tomorrowland such a special festival.

Here is a short excerpt from the book taken from the Tomorrowland website:
Let me tell you a remarkable story…There is a place, located on a unique, remote location. Where humans and birds have inspired each other for centuries. Living together in wonderous harmony. Where almost everything is directed upwards. A group of guilds came together, to embark on a sacred mission. Follow the thread of this ancient tapestry. And prepare to be astonished. Anything is possible…if we work together on this divine mission and believe in our true destiny. ADSCENDO.

When it comes to sound, Tomorrowland has a state-of-the-art sound system and there were no issues with sound bleed or any technical issues that I heard throughout the weekend. The sound at each stage was crisp and high quality. As explained throughout this review, Tomorrowland has by far some of the most amazing visuals between the lasers, LED screens, art installations and performances. One other notable experience was Eric Prdyz Presents HOLO which is a groundbreaking holographic live experience that collates holographic visuals with pulsating techno. From inside each tent to outside of every stage and around each corner there was something astonishingly beautiful to see at Tomorrowland.

As previously mentioned, there were 16 stages at Tomorrowland, however as I did not camp and one of the stages was at the campsite, I will only be covering the 15 stages that I experienced. Each stage represented a different aspect of the electronic music genre from the mainstream sound to the underground warehouse raves, to the new up and coming talent in the scene.

The Mainstage, 100% crafted from in house décor made by the Tomorrowland atelier, was a massive Cinderella style castle comparable to that of Disneyland (maybe even bigger than the one at Disneyland!). On top of the stage were large hot air balloons that illuminated the sky at night. Additionally, around the stage were fountains, water shows, and art installations. At times there were even people on large stilts wearing bird wings gliding through the air above the crowd. All in all, the Mainstage this year was a testament to Tomorrowland’s commitment to pushing the boundaries when it comes to over the top stage designs and incredible tension to detail.

Freedom Stage
The Freedom Stage was the place to be for some of the most incredible visual performances from acts like Eric Prydz presents HOLO and Tale of Us. As you step into this stage equipped with a massive LED screen, giant dragonflies and spotlights pouring down from the ceiling, you are taken on a pulsating journey.

The Atmosphere was another one of the indoor areas filled with the best the world of techno has to offer. Lasers shot from side to side and from ceiling to floor with LED images spanning across the wall behind the DJ booth. Stepping outside the tent was disorienting during the day as the vibe inside was 100% four AM underground nightclub vibes and then it was bright and sunny outside.

If the harder, darker, faster side of electronic music is your vibe then this stage is for you! This stage was representative of the warehouse side of electronic music. Where this music all began before you could hear it on the radio or attend festivals with 400,000 people!

The Rave Cave
Tomorrowland’s smallest stage, is as the name describes, a rave cave! Entering the Rave Cave is quite an experience as you squeeze through a tunnel, despite Tomorrowland being known for its massive stage designs, the Rave Cave is a staple that draws visitors in each year!

Constructed along the water and inspired by the 2016 Tomorrowland theme Elixir of Life, Elixir now has its own stage at Tomorrowland. The Elixir stage is a tribute to Tomorrowland’s past while simultaneously embracing the theme of this year.

Rose Garden
My personal favorite of all the Tomorrowland stages was the Rose Garden! Protected by a giant dragon (think of the dragon from the Shrek movies), the Rose Garden stage is set upon the water at the heart of the festival. Throughout the festival the dragon would move its head and open and close his mouth releasing smoke in perfect harmony to the music.

Nestled in the forest up a large set of stairs, through a bride, you enter a mystical world. I’ve never been to Tulum (yet!) but I can imagine this is what it looks like. An enchanted forest that illuminated at night with lasers and fog through the trees, CORE is really something special, a place where nature and electronic music unite as one.

Crystal Garden
Floating on top of the water is the Crystal Garden stage. Looking up from the dance floor there are beautiful plants descending from the ceiling. Along with this, directly behind the DJ booth are fountains shooting up into the air as smoke rises from the water into the air.

The Library
The Library stage was decorated with larger than life-size books depicting the beautiful history of electronic music. One of the books included in the design was dedicated to our beloved lost but never forgotten Avicii. This stage is representative of the long history of the music we love so dearly and the journey it’s taken to get here.

The mystical Youphoria stage is where colossal mushrooms overlook the crowd. This stage gives 100% Alice in Wonderland vibes. At night the mushrooms lit up for an insanely psychedelic experience.

Terra Solis
The Terra Solis stage is in honor of Tomorrowland’s one of a kind desert experience in Dubai. Garlanded with desert inspired décor this oasis of a stage was sure to bring the exceptional experience of Dubai to Boom, Belgium.

One of the newer stages, Rise, located between beautiful plants encompassed a stained-glass DJ booth. This stage was dedicated to sustainability and innovation and also was home to the up-and-coming talent in the scene in collaboration with the Tomorrowland Academy. The Tomorrowland Academy is a DJ & Producer school focused on inspiring and empowering both children and adults to pursue their passions in music. The Rise stage gave some of the students the opportunity of a lifetime to perform at Tomorrowland.

Moose Bar
Last but certainly not least is the Moose Bar. Located by Dreamvillage (the campsite) this small stage is the place to be for aprés-ski music. This wooden hut is the place for silly party music, even if you can’t understand the lyrics!

Let’s dive now into the music, although Tomorrowland is so much more than that. With three days and 16 stages (and even a DJ in the bathroom with a disco ball by the Mainstage) it was of course impossible to cover it all but here are my most memorable sets of the weekend.

Ben Nicky
When I saw that Ben Nicky was on not once but twice at Tomorrowland despite the 300+ DJs performing at the festival you bet your bottom that I was at start to finish at both sets. Ben Nicky is the quintessential bridge between trance and the harder styles, the final piece of the puzzle that seamlessly blends two genres that I so dearly love. Talk about two worlds colliding! All of this coupled with giant light up mushrooms in the background left me wanting more (let’s be honest I would have attended a third set by him!).

Steve Angello
In 2009 I went to my very first rave and heard electronic music live on real speakers (rather than my karaoke machine) for the first time and that DJ was Steve Angello in a club that has since closed in Washington DC. For this reason, Steve Angello holds a special place in my heart and to be able to see him on the Mainstage of Tomorrowland was one of those full circle moments. As the sun started to set on the first day of Tomorrowland and Miami 2 Ibiza blared through the speakers a light drizzle fell from the heavens, I was reminded why I love this scene and about the journey I took to get here.

Lilly Palmer
On Saturday afternoon I found the perfect spot on top of the hill at the Mainstage for Lilly Palmer, it was my first time seeing her and it was even better than I expected. She went SO hard with tracks like Crave. Fusing melodic techno, groovy beats, and her magnetic stage presence she had the crowd in the palm of her hand for this epic set.

Martin Garrix b2b Alesso
The dancefloor was packed for the highly anticipated set of two legends Martin Garrix and Alesso at the library. The set was a mix of the classics we know and love like Lions in the Wild, Animals, Under Control, and For a Friend. What was interesting about this set was these two legends both closed out Tomorrowland on Saturday (Alesso) and Sunday (Martin Garrix) so to see both powerhouses go back to back on a smaller stage was something really special.

Cosmic Gate
On the final day of Tomorrowland, we were hit by torrential rain, good thing I brought a rain jacket and left it in the hotel (oops!)! But that didn’t stop us from going hard to the sounds of Cosmic Gate. As the rain poured down on the giant mushrooms at the Youphoria stage a crowd of ponchos swayed to Emotions of Colour and Mirador.

W&W threw down a special set with classics from the golden era (my opinion) of EDM, 2010-2012. I’m proud to say I not only knew every track but all the words to each banger that was played as W&W took me on a journey back to my youth, to when I first started raving. The moments that made me fall in love with this music and with this scene. W&W has the extraordinary capability to take us on a musical journey while still combining temporary sounds and staying relevant. With favorites like This is What it Feels Like, Cannonball, Flashlight, and of course my personal favorite God is a Girl I didn’t want this set to end.

Atmosphere & Organization
Tomorrowland is 100% a one-of-a-kind festival experience, it is by far the most beautiful festival I’ve ever been to.
That being said it is extremely large and crowded (of course 400,000 people, what would you expect?!) however, if you’re not someone that can handle crowds or a lot of walking then this festival is not for you.

At times (especially following the end shows each night) it was incredibly difficult to exit the festival and at times felt unsafe with the amount of people pushing. At the end of each day security would block off routes to streamline the flow of traffic. However, this created a situation where hoards of people had to walk at the same time on dimly lit paths on sometimes uneven terrain. Exiting the festival each night was very difficult and of course you didn’t want to miss the end shows (and neither did anyone else). The walk from the festivals to the shuttles or to the parking lot was a journey so that is something to keep in mind when determining what shoes to bring to the festival or where to stand for the end show!

The crowd at Tomorrowland was of course diverse with people hailing from all over the world. I met some amazing new friends and partying with people from all over the world is always a special experience. However, because of the large quantity of people at times there was a lot of pushing, shoving, and aggressive people in the crowd. My tip would be to find somewhere with extra space to dance, find a solid party crew to go with, and come up with an exit strategy and easy meeting points for the end of the night (note we did not do this, and it was very man for himself so I learned my lesson!).

End Show & Overall Impressions
At the end of each night fireworks lit up the sky to close out the festival. Sunday especially was a beautiful ephemeral display in the sky. The end show reminded me how special this music is to me and how amazing it was to have the opportunity to share my experience with others. Cascading colors, breathtaking patterns, a cacophony of explosions was the end to the captivating tale of

Tomorrowland Adscendo.
In conclusion this festival is something everyone who loves electronic music, especially if you’ve been in the scene for a long time should experience once. This festival is truly a kaleidoscope of experiences that captivates people from all corners of the globe and I’m looking forward to future editions of Tomorrowland perhaps somewhere else around the world!

Leave a comment