A dragon’s darting eyes watched over ravers wrapped in international flags and flower crowns as fire shot up into the sky. On an island surrounded by giant pink lily pads, bubbles fell on a DJ dwarfed by building-sized books. A giant carried weights and a bearded lady posed as clowns strolled on stilts. Up on a hill, people wandered in and out of a hair salon, tattoo parlor, and Belgian chocolate shop. Campers fell asleep under the stars after fireworks faded and acrobats landed. This was the mini civilization the EDM festival Tomorrowland created in Boom, Belgium the last two weekends of July.
Every set piece, sign, and table was placed with the same intent: to unite those of different origins, different lifestyles, and even different musical tastes. People stood side by side waving flags from countries on opposite ends of the globe. A world map decorated the Staub cocottes at the festival’s world fusion restaurant. Each board of the bridges connecting the stages was engraved with the name of a Tomorrowland guest who selected it.
The DJs ran the gamut from obscure techno and trap to mainstream EDM and house. Within an hour, you could dance under the Freedom Stage’s flashing lights to Axwell’s infectious funky house, cross the forest to Core for Loco Dice’s upbeat tech house, and duck into the House of Mask for Nico Moreno’s industrial techno. On the way, you might get lost in conversation. As I wandered through the fantastical maze, strangers approached me to ask where I was from, dance next to me, and talk about everything from past lives to the singularity.
Though Axwell /\ Ingrosso closing the main stage with “More Than You Know,” Jauz mixing The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Otherside” as everyone sang along, and Alison Wonderland playing “I Want U” and “U Don’t Know” will go down as my favorite musical moments, what I’ll remember most are the people. The Dutch man who stopped me from killing the bee next to my pineapple melon vodka smoothie because all life deserves a chance. The Brazilian man who hugged me when my stuff got stuck in a locker I didn’t know the code to. The Mexican women who told me to tag along with them when they saw I was alone. The LA guy who spent an hour trying to fix my phone when it wouldn’t turn on. The Australian woman who showed me how to stand up to a rude man’s harassment. The Cambodian man who walked me back to my shuttle when I was lost.
People don’t go to festivals just to hear music and dance. They go to expand their worlds, and in the process, expand their minds. After retiring to my hotel bed at 4 a.m. Monday after a heart-to-heart about friendship, depression, and travel, my mind and the world it encapsulated felt far vaster.
-Suzannah Weiss for The Untitled Magazine