In the sprawling wake of this new millennium, there is no shortage of gargantuan music festivals. There is no shortage of eager weekend warriors looking to be the first to penetrate the festival gates. There is no shortage of trailer park chemists looking to take advantage of festival patrons. There is certainly no shortage of adept writers that can criticize the day to day of these elaborate affairs:
The music was amazing. The stages were incredible. The adoring community of concert-goers displayed a “PLUR” like affinity toward each other that cleansed their minds, bodies and souls. There. That sums up just about every festival critique you will ever read from across the blogosphere and beyond. As to not waste the time of our readers on the redundancy of routine festival reviews, we decided to take this opportunity to walk you through the experience of one such low lying festival known as TomorrowWorld.
The following is a recount of several experiences compiled by an avid festival attendee on various routine walks around the festival. Those experiences were pulled from all three days of TomorrowWorld and stitched together to follow a repurposed linear timeline. Call it a literary remix. Each individual scene from this narration will then lead to a comprehensive statement on the electronic community as a whole.
Take a walk with us.
We had just completed the complimentary media tour of the festival grounds and the sharp pain of hunger boiled in my lower stomach like the bubbling brew of fire contained in the volcano stage behind me. The overcast sky had turned my surrounding into a bleak greyscale as if the volcano’s imminent eruption had blanketed the world in a lifeless depletion of chromaticity. I stood on the later half of a portal that passes Dreamville residents through a transformative theoretical membrane which altered their beings into a sentient cosmopolite worthy of the TomorrowWorld logo and took in the scene like an ancient pinhole camera.
From the mouth of the festival grounds, I watched their faces while waiting for the network that controlled the infamous cashless system was resurrected and the day’s first edible purchase could be made. They looked anxious like a sorority girl doing the potty dance at a frat house. They looked hungry. They looked ready to satisfy some burning desire and put their raging appetite to rest. We certainly had that in common, in one sense or another.
“So where are you working,” asked a portly young man donning the traditional yellow garb of the local second-hand security. He was holding a stack of festival maps and displayed an inquisitive expression that suggested he was ready to spend the weekend tallying new experiences and the people that made them.
“I’m a reporter. No where specifically. Everywhere I suppose,” I responded.
He proceeded to recount hazy memory shards from the night before when early arrivals were admitted into the camping area and met by an abbreviated lineup of recognizable artists on an adept stage. By his account, the evening was less of an organized pre-TomorrowWorld congregation but, due to the exorbitant number of premature arrivals, became an added appendage that shared a vital life blood with the main festival grounds (early estimates suggest there were about 30,000 Dreamvillains attending The Gathering).
His story was interrupted by a distorted voice that spoke through various walkies resting on the shoulders of the security staff. They froze and directed their attention to an individual who wore a polo with similar markings as the others but in a light blue color which distinguished his rank. “Alright. Let them in.” said their supervisor.
A cheer erupted through the crowd on the other end of the gate that emulated the reaction of free pumpkin spice lattes at a Hollywood Zumba studio. Suddenly there was a multitude of hands raised in the air and yet no DJ was commanding the horde to do so. The environment was no longer defined by the dreary sky, but the vibrant people that walked underneath it. The first wave of dream-villagers entered the grounds and so marked the commencement of a sensory starburst that would forever scar the cerebral cortex of 2014’s people of tomorrow.
With the gates open, it was proper to assume that the cashless networks had also been reconnected and it was time to quell the unpleasant roar of stomach acid that burned up my belly. In order to load one’s wristband, a quick stop by a reload station was necessary. A placard displayed the conversion of TomorrowWorld tokens to dollars at the rate of nine tokens for twenty dollars, which remained the same no matter how much was spent. There was even a suggestion of spending $500, as if that amount would make a reasonable deposit at the unforgiving rate. The hot breath of SFX‘s (TomorrowWorld‘s parent company) shareholders whispered against the back of my neck, “It’s three days. Go ahead and drop the lump sum. You clearly won’t miss out on a larger prorated deposit.”
It became wildly apparent of the charade that was taking place. The wristbands were advertised as a convenience for alleviating the need for paper or plastic tender, although you would still need one or the other to re-up, but the real purpose of the cashless system was to act as a charlatanic credit card for that specific time of the night when temptation out weighs an accountant’s stated counsel. Of course, patrons were given provided with their dwindling available balance with each transaction, but this acted as less of a bulletin and more of a reminder that you would be adding more money shortly.
After an almost $9 cereal bowl of brown rice and steamed vegetables, it was time to stretch my legs over the grand landscape and wash down a late breakfast with the day’s first libation. I meandered up toward a reserved deck that faced the main stage and was a good hit to center field’s distance from the DJ. The private patio sat on top of a slight incline and looked out over the primary dance floor like William Wallace hovering over the lush greenery of an inevitable battlefield. The center of the patio deck was indented with a chest deep pool and filled with inflatable beach balls. Wrapped around the pool were hightop bar tables that brushed up against the guardrail which contained the partitioned area. The grinding beat of electro house sent vibrations through the deck’s flooring like a Brookstone massage chair and I watched as festival-goers trickled in by the dozens. They displayed a magnetic pull toward the stage like loose electrons to a uranium atom.
I inquired with the bar at the back end of the patio as to acquiring a drink and once again, the purchasing system was down. Out of curiosity, I asked about the price of a drink to which an animated female bartender replied, “I’m not sure but I think a Red Bull and vodka is 12 tokens.” I was not prepared to spend upwards of $25 dollars on a single drink, nor did liquor sound appealing for an all day affair, so once the system was restored, I bent over, took my lager and moved on.
Upon exit of the consumer rat trap, it seemed appropriate to follow the flow of traffic, which lead me to a gravel pathway that brushed up against a wooded forrest. At this point, the sun was starting to sever the clouds and impose it’s mighty beams on the temperate landscape like a TomorrowWorld pixie decided to flip a switch. I followed the flow of pedestrian traffic, which lead to a dirt trail littered with people looking like worker bees scurrying in both directions. Archways above us read, “Yesterday Is History, Today Is A Gift. Tomorrow Is Mystery.” Terrestrial dust floated through the air making the trail resemble an aqueous stream that had been bombed by golden food coloring in order to dissipate and distort our vision by a cruel overseer.
A short trek gave way to a wide metal platform with three lanes that carried people across a causeway. A yellow shirted employee stood by the middle lane and attempted to direct traffic but the citizens were too enthralled with the anticipation of what was to come.
The bridge had a much different soundtrack than else where on the festival grounds. The clanking of marching ravers reverberated across the water while open fives were met by respective palms and followed by a “Fuck yeah! PLUR!” The sun’s heat had fully taken command of the environment and every movement was answered with varying levels of perspiration. Floating floral fountains shot river water into the air and a slight Georgia breeze brushed the stream against our already damp bodies.
A gaggle of raver booties waddled across the bridge in front of me. One link in the chain had fallen back as her attention was occupied by the hammering away at a digital device. She wore a carbon copied uniform of fluffy boots, a bathing suit-like top and bottom and lime green ribbons that wrapped up her legs in a cross hatch pattern. From behind, her olive complexion and slender frame left much to be desired by any male. As I made a moved past her she broke her concentration to look up at me with a confused expression made out of bronzed facial features.
She quickly disposed of her phone and made a few yippity skips to rejoin her friends. She interrupted their conversation to ask, “Wait. So Kaskade is only one person? But why?” In my eyes, the warm hue of her epidermis drained to a pale grey and all assumptions of pursuable interest had been removed.
The bridge reached a finish line and the funneled traffic emptied into a hodge podge cluster of bodies coming, going, waiting on their friends, and those that were just generally confused on what was to happen next. A fenced off cabin rested on the left side of the commotion as native Belgians stood on the porch and welcomed festival goers to their envisioned tableau. It was not every day that one would hear such exotic accents in Georgia and it became clear that TomorrowWorld was not an Americanized version of Tomorrowland, but an entire transplant of the European festival to the states.
It was about that time when my first beverage begged to make a speedy exit, so I wondered through the enormous crowd that gathered at the nearby stage. Much like the previous dirt trail, dust littered the air like a baby shaking a clay-filled snow globe. The aforementioned stage was set at the far end of a small field and was cradled by a steep hill on the left and a fence along the right. Dancers gathered on the ridge like an impromptu club balcony and amongst the trees, gave the stage the impression of an intimate inclosure with natural lighting.
I made my way backstage in order to utilize the portable facilities through a partition in the containing fence. The stall was as ripe as any of the other public bathrooms throughout the grounds, though hosted a much more desirable wait time. I watched as the sub frequencies of 808s rippled through the urine and bounced off the mounds of regenerated food products to create unique overlapping shapes that would not be observed by anyone else in the same way. Although unpleasant to the nose, there was a deep seeded beauty in witnessing music come alive in the most unexpected of places and I closed my eyes to relish in the rare moment of fleeting privacy.
With engines flushed, I left backstage to slice through the crowd and catch the next set. It didn’t take much to weave up to the front gate. I stood before a carnival colored stage garnished with onion domes like a Russian cathedral. I was soon enveloped by a herd of male 20-somethings that had taken a one time break from the gym to visit with us. They had all misplaced their shirts and it appeared as though before entering the festival they had raided their fathers’ closets for 1970’s crotch hugging basketball shorts and matching knee high socks. Their attire said, “ready for the championship” but their overworked bodies implied they were hunting for a different kind of game.
One individual lead the clan by wearing a neon colored fanny pack around his waste. He unzipped the pack and produced a small baggy that was sold as a sealable pocket for jewelry but today, contained crystals of another variety. The indiscriminate powder was followed by a Barbi sized spoon and a quick flocking by the other members of the shirtless fraternity.
I watched them pass the utensil and product between the lot of them and wondered what routine tasks of their everyday required such an advanced degree of physical fitness. Their bodies, as the most natural utility in a human’s arsenal of tools, surely served a practical purpose. Were they warriors on a weekend off? Were they lumberjacks from another time, or maybe they had recently escaped labor camps where they were forced to carry boulders up mountains?
Clearly they had missed the memo that TomorrowWorld was a “No Flex Zone,” as stated by many of the DJs’ sets.
One by one they put the spoon to their nose and backed off while beating their chest and letting out a lion’s roar. Once they rejoined the bouncing crowd, two inebriated females locked on to their scent and swam in for some hyper-masculine attention. It then dawned on me…they had no actual plan for using their strength. They would never have to rely on their bodies in order to fend for their lives or to clear a field. They spent their year in the gym specifically for TomorrowWorld. Their bodies were still a utility but contained no physical aspiration; only an accessorized attraction that could easily be lost like augmented breasts or a pair of Louis Vuitton stilettos.
While the two girls and the wolf pack intermingled, a 16-bar build was surfacing in the current track and rapid snare rolls rattled through my head like a .22 bullet bouncing around the interior of my skull turning the grey matter to scrambled eggs. The end of fifteen bars came, a vocal sample dropped and the entire audience proceeded to leap in a syncopated movement like professional pogo stick dancers.
The testosterone tribesmen started bouncing off each other like lottery balls waiting to be picked and one of them attempted to get me involved in their mockery of a moshpit. Their rudimentary shoving while bouncing at 128 leaps per minute made me embarrassed of my youth, which was defined by seedy basement punk rock shows. Their aggressive dancing was another flexing of peacock feathers. It did not touch on the teenage angst that fueled the countless bloodied pits from across the country, and as a veteran of that scene, I felt awkward to be in proximity of this failed attempt to rage.
After a few sets, it was time for a change of scenery. I retreated to the back of the field and with the cabin and bridge behind me, I followed a path that was wooded on the left and kissed by a pond on the right that advertised a warning of cyanobacteria. The sun had just settled past the horizon and it was that majestic hour when the freaks came out of hiding.
The pathway lead to a plateau and two large stages. One of which was straight ahead and roofed by a purple tent. The other was at the bottom of a leftward facing slope. It was an amphitheater styled stage, which comprised of giant angled picture frames. Colorful images slithered through the various LED screens within the frames and brought life to the stagnant structure. The dance floor before the stage was glittered with specks of luminescent raver accessories and glow sticks amongst the darkness. The crowd bobbed and weaved in a miainstage manor and I was looking for a more visceral experience so I followed my instincts to the large circus tent. The tent was populated by a small group of dancers that shared a need for the same innate affair.
“There are a lot of DJs throwing down right now but you came here to get down on some real music,” shouted an MC with a microphone bushed against his lips. “Now, who loves those grimey wobbles? Say hell yeah!” The statement was met with a flash of pyrotechnics and a sudden strobing of lights, which gave way to a heavy kick drum and the subsequent beat.
I nested up on a comfortable spot a few heads back from the gate. Meandering through the meager crowd was effortless while elsewhere brand name DJs attracted massive crowds like metal filings to the pen of a Wooly Willy toy. The wooden planked flooring was strewn with aluminum skeletons that once contained liquid courage. At my chosen location, the planks had come undone from their foundation creating an uneven bowing in the floorboards. As drops hit and the crowd responded in harmonized elation, the floor flexed in rhythm with it’s human occupants. It only took a few seconds to figure out that a greater level of entertainment was accessible by following a delayed polyrhythm that turned the floor into a makeshift trampoline.
My neighbors and I played out the amusement of the faux bouncy castle for a few tracks until my attention was diverted to an unwelcome sensation pounding against my waist. It was a young man who was wearing a plaid shirt and a bandana wrapped his neck. His friends were poking fun at us as they encouraged him to fake a candid photo of himself bouncing around us. While they found celebration in spotlighting individuals that were out of the general rhythm, those around me relished in the heavy osmotic bass wobbles that passed through us as if we were nothing but semipermeable membranes.
After finding the intimate setting I was looking for, it was time to cross the festival grounds once again and catch the main stage’s volcano live up to it’s advertised potential in the evening’s climactic conclusion. I retraced my steps along the lakeside trail. I passed the miniature Putin palace and eventually descended on the causeway. With the sun in slumber, the bridge took a different persona than earlier in the day. There were the rhetorical inquiries as to where “Carl” had wondered off to. One could only assume he was out looking for an acquaintance named “Molly,” for her presence was heavily requested along the bridge as well.
I started out on a snail-paced trek through the wooded dirt trail amongst a sloppily conversing amalgamation of characters that claimed to have “reached their peak” or had complaints of so and so’s set containing too much big room or not enough moombahton. For a moment, it felt like we were herded cattle making our way toward an formidable doom but then the familiar sound of a pounding four on the floor beats brought the scene back down to reality. I slinked and slithered through selfie breaks and “let me get your number” stops and arrived back at the pool wielding patio lounge.
At this hour, the deck had transformed into an electronically inspired bacchanalia. The centralized pool was bustling with displaced beach bodies, the bartenders were slinging drinks like an alcohol induced avalanche, and melodies floated through the air creating a hum that mimicked the buzzing of sweeping social interaction.
I took a spot amonst the high top tables and bar stools while waiting for the night’s closer to commence. A stern looking couple approached me from behind and asked that I not attempt to drink from their bottle service. This notion had been a thought in my mind, but I was happy to accommodate their request. Our conversation resolved in a seemingly amicable fashion, until the female component grew wary of my presence.
“Who is he? Why does he need to be here?” I heard her ask from behind me.
“It’s fine. He’s just standing there,” affirmed her gentleman caller.
It was not worth being a catalyst to their private conversation, so I moved on while I offered a white flag by waving toward the couple. He shrugged his shoulders in confusion that suggested an apology, and I found another hightop with a more sporadic gathering. The lights of the main stage had bowed, which signified the completion of the previous DJ, an anticipation rattled through the patio deck like the night before your chosen December holiday.
Starting from the people brushed up against the main stage’s gate, a roaring cheer broke out as they watched the final DJ take the stage. The sea of festival goers below the patio had been rendered black by the darkness of the night and an ominous veil of smoke crept out from the crater of mount TomorrowWorld.
Then it hit. That one single note that signified something great had just begun resonated through the speakers.
“Geor-gia.” The voice of Ray Charles rang out as one of his most powerful ballads took grip of the audience. The weekend’s wanderings boiled down to that exact moment when a blind man cried out over the speakers and we were stripped of our worldly ubiquity.
This catalogue of TomorrowWorld episodes lead to a specific statement on the festival and the broader EDM culture. If we were only to focus on the ecstatic masses that flocked to the foothills of Atlanta, then only one story would be told: The communal credo of PLUR was very much alive. Positivity and a sense of social betterment ran rampant across every stage and campground. People displayed love for complete strangers and the collective zeal inspired a glowing aura around the forrest. One can attribute this to the calling for PLUR at these events, but aren’t these ideals kind of obvious? Sure PLUR sounds sexier then The Ten Commandments, “common” sense, or a bumper sticker that says Mean People Suck, but they all encourage the same core values.
If one chose not to be intoxicated by the PLUR fairy dust and got down to reality, it was apparent that this euphoric kinship with thy neighbor was a temporary treatment for those three days and come Monday, many citizens of tomorrow would be back feeding their ego an assortment of narcissistic Nilla-wafers. The macho moshers, the trampoline mocking photographers, and the bottle service betty all came with the intentions of finding a unifying experience with their fellow partiers, though when tested, showed cracks in their commitment. This is not to make a generalizing statement about the entire community based off the actions of a few, but it is worth considering how easy it is to preach PLUR at the show. Who out there lives it Monday through Friday while waiting in line at the DMV or tipping their overworked server? Who else rejects the notion of living for the weekend and is prepared to live in the now?
The conclusion of the above story ends on Skrillex opening his set with Ray Charles‘ “Georgia on my Mind.” This was a perfect moment of realization that TomorrowWorld was not about worldliness, tomorrow, yesterday or the next weekend. It was about that specific second and the environment that influenced it. In every second, as they are lived and breathed, do we acknowledge the needs of our community through compassion and reverence for the whole or are we still stuck thinking that this Earth only exists to serve as a poker table that will grant us some idealistic fortune if the individual plays their cards right?
To truly experience the advertised love found at these festivals, one must be prepared to represent their true self and offer their strongest qualities to the concert going commonwealth. No masks, no costumes, no temporary body paint that will wash away after the weekend. Don’t come to a festival to find that PLUR life, come to a festival because you want to share the respect for your fellow man that you’ve already displayed outside the concert grounds. Come having displayed a concern for your community by making an educated vote this November or by volunteering your time to those in need. If you want to reap the benefits of this community, don’t confine your love for your neighbors to an isolated weekend here and there, but make that love a defining characteristic of who you are.
If we are to ever progress and live up to our full potential as a human species, we must acknowledge the lessons our ancestors laid out for us. Therefore, it is prudent to revisit the following lyrics by the iconic punk rock outfit, The Dead Kennedys, from their song “Halloween” (1982). If one simply replaced the word Halloween with TomorrowWorld, EDC, Ultra, etc. than the entire electronic festival scene is described perfectly:
And you feel like dancin’
And you feel like shinin’
And you feel like letting looseWhatcha gonna be
Babe, you better know
And you better plan
Better plan all dayBetter plan all week
Better plan all month
Better plan all yearYou’re dressed up like a clown
Putting on your act
It’s the only time all year
You’ll ever admit thatI can see your eyes
I can see your brain
Baby, nothing’s changed
[repeat]You’re still hiding in a mask
You take your fun seriously
No, don’t blow this year’s chance
Tomorrow your mold goes back onAfter HalloweenYou go to work today
You’ll go to work tomorrow
You’ll brag about it for monthsRemember what I did
Remember what I was
Back on HalloweenBut what’s in between
Where are your ideas
You sit around and dream
For next HalloweenWhy not everyday
Are you so afraid
What will people say
[repeat]After HalloweenBecause your role is planned for you
There’s nothing you can do
But stop and think it through
But what will the boss say to youAnd what will your girlfriend say to you
And the people out on the street they might glare at you
And whadya know you’re pretty self-conscious too
So you run back and stuff yourselves in rigid business costumes
Only at night to score is your leather uniform exhumed
Why don’t you take your social regulations
And shove ’em up your ass
Nobody actually needs PLUR or even a spiritual credo to conclude that compassion for a bystander is more valuable than concern for oneself. It really is common sense. We ask that you use your common sense more frequently and help us elevate this culture to the “beacon on the volcano” that it deserves to be.