Tomorrowland 2012 – Romero,Guetta,Fatboy Slim & More Take Over Belgium
Rather than force anyone to wait until the end of this review in order to hear a verdict that will be obvious throughout the summary, I feel it’s better to lay my opinion on Tomorrowland out up front. It was epic. And that really is only the beginning of how to describe it. Epic covers everything though, the sheer scale of the event, the organisation, the acts and even the food! Anyone who has attended any Irish festival, as both myself and my girlfriend Sarah have several times, will just be amazed at the scale of the event. On the second day of proceedings we did two or three laps of the layout itself and were exhausted by it, it really is just never ending. The event comprises of 15 stages, encompassing over 400 acts and runs for three days. Comparisons with any other festival are pointless, not just in our collective opinion but also in that of the visitors from around the world we met whilst there. There simply is nothing like it. Upon entry to the gig you are greeted with what can only be described as Wonderland come to life. Staff members abound dressed in regal and fantasy outfits, props such as massive toadstools and water spurting flowers abound. Before you even come close to a stage the entire set up and representation of the recreation area in Boom is magical. What’s more is you then notice how relaxed the entire place is. There’s security alright, but they’re casually strolling around the venue, not much work around for them to do. Keep in mind that mere weeks before this we had been in attendance at the now infamous Swedish House Mafia concert in Phoenix Park and whilst I was personally adamant that the poor organisation played a major part in what transpired, there is also the case to be answered that everyone in attendance at Tomorrowland, that we saw anyway, was mostly interested in having a good time, nothing more.
First act up on our itinerary was John Digweed on the Carl Cox & Friends stage. Though Digweed himself was slightly disappointing (his set was a little too laid back for a middle of the day slot where some tempo was needed), the stage itself was incredible. Most who have seen videos or images from the gig will firstly note the stage with the sun face including moving eyes and video screens surrounding it, this is the stage in question. It transpired to be one of the coolest spots of the weekend, allowing us to grab some food and a drink, and just check out whoever may be playing at that time. Through the course of the weekend we caught Digweed, Ferry Corsten, Paul Van Dyk and more at this spot and for sound and comfort it was best by far. If I had only one gripe to mention it’s that not enough people ventured this direction during the day which led to unfortunately sparse crowds for the djs performing.
The next stage to pique our interest was the Q-Dance stage. This time around we were treated to Noisecontrollers and it was fun for a fleeting visit, although after a while it started to feel like being back in a teenage disco and we decided it was time to scarper. Still though, another great sign of how much variety is on offer at Tomorrowland.
On we went then to the Samsung Galaxy Secret Forest which was a gazebo placed out on a floating pier and seemed aimed towards anyone who wanted to chill out on the water, have a drink and take in the sun. It was a nice spot for retreat in the sweltering sun of the Friday let me tell you, as Belgium was reaching highs of thirty degrees on the first day of the festival!
Next stop was the main stage where we arrived in time to hear Thomas Gold finish off his set, a nice surprise it has to be said. Main stage it would be for the rest of the night, not including a few detours every so often to check out some other acts, and we were treated to Alleso, Fatboy Slim (who put in the set of the weekend it has to be said, showing all of his many years’ experience with large scale audiences) and Avicii, although the latter it has to be said did not in any way live up to the hype his recent chart success created, with his set lacking cohesion in the transitions and he generally seemed out of his depth. All in all though as first days went it was a good one, and thankfully the weather was only to get cooler as the weekend went on.
Saturday we kicked things off back on the Carl Cox stage, which was now the Paul Van Dyk & Friends stage, starting our day with Ferry Corsten. He gave a solid set, throwing out the seemingly unwritten rule that the day time sets had to be laid back and chilled, as did Kyau & Albert before him. Both churned out up tempo hard hitting sets that set a good mood for the rest of the day. Hitting the main stage a bit earlier than the previous day then we took in Chuckie and Martin Solveig. Chuckie gave a solid showing, throwing out all the right lines to the masses in front of him, a sight to behold from the hilltop. Solveig capitalised on his set from the previous year with a powerful showing, although it has to be said he did wain slightly mid set, losing the crowd momentarily. Rain intervened and found us moving on so we wandered a bit only to return to main stage for Skrillex. Though we both agreed it wasn’t a set entirely to our tastes, there was no denying that the light show and involvement from the crowd made for an incredible sight around the packed main stage. What we didn’t do was hang around for Swedish House Mafia however, taking their appearance in Phoenix Park as enough for now. Instead we headed over to another of the many off the beaten track stages, Cocoon Heroes to see Sven Vath. It was Sarah’s call as I wasn’t familiar with him, but a call I’m glad she made as once again, the diversity of the event kicked in and from one minute experiencing the hyperactive adrenaline fuelled Skrillex set, we were then chilling out to a vastly different showing. Set under a large big top with a bitchin light show to couple it, Vath was another one of the nice surprises for myself and capped off night two well.
It’s at this point I should mention one issue with Tomorrowland and a word of warning for anyone planning to attend in future years. Unless changes are made soon, transport to and from the venue is a nightmare! Heading in the first two days, we had to endure more than an hour each time on a bus with zero air conditioning in sweltering heat. It is fair enough that Belgium wasn’t prepared for a freak heat wave, but that there wasn’t even open able windows on the buses was unbearable. Travelling back to Antwerp then the buses were very limited and though we tried to leave ahead of the crowd each night, the lack of buses meant we always ended up lost in the swarms trying to board. A small complaint, but an important one after having spent entire days, mostly on our feet, in attendance.
On then to the final night and we were main stage bound for the day. We started off with Nicky Romero, who is now firmly slotting in to my playlists for the time being, followed by Yves V who gave a serious set, mostly prompted by him having to squeeze it into an hour, with no time for lulls. Being a local boy helped too! Afrojack next then and he served as a fantastic warm up for the main event to come, Mr. David Guetta himself. Though it would be somewhat accurate to say that Guetta suffered from slight Avicci syndrome – more hype than proof – it can’t be denied that he drew the biggest crowd to the main stage we saw all weekend, the lower levels literally turning into a mash of people. His massive intro, which then dropped into Titanium, got a massive response and when he appeared on stage, headband camera included, he received a massive reception and it was clear why he is one of the top djs around at the moment. Unfortunately, just as he began to churn out some of his recent cross-over hits such as “Sweat”, the heavens opened. Not wanting to be fair weather fans we survived it as long as we could, but when you’re dressed for a summer festival, there’s only so much can be suffered! We decided it was time to head on, though at our own pace as we took in one or two more acts on the way out, then headed once again for the rarest of buses. An early end; but a good one to what had been three incredible days of music.
All in all it has to be said that Tomorrowland has to be experienced to be believed. Even with all the waffle above, I couldn’t come anyway close to what we experienced in there. The entire thing is designed to leave you breathless and that’s exactly what it did. Any Irish revellers still lamenting the lack of Oxygen definitely need to look into making the trip to Belgium, though we would suggest camping or staying in Brussels which we found out all too late is actually twice as close to Boom as Antwerp. You live and learn!
Follow the link below for some pictures from the madness!