Words such as “wonderland,” “DreamVille” and “escapism” are frequently invoked when describing TomorrowWorld, the sophisticated electronic dance music festival making its US debut this weekend in south Atlanta.
For nearly a decade, the massive EDM event – part music parade and part otherworldly lifestyle experience – has commandeered the city of Boom, Belgium, under the name TomorrowLand. In July, more than 180,000 fans flocked to hear the techno-awesome sounds of top names in the genre including David Guetta, Afrojack and Steve Aoki when they headlined there.
This weekend, those same marquee acts, as well as more than 300 other DJs and EDM stars, will perform on eight stages staggered around 500 acres of scenic land at Bouckaert Farm along the Chattahoochee River in south Fulton County when TomorrowWorld arrives.
Project director Shawn Kent, a marketing veteran who spent 10 years working with Cirque du Soleil, believes the comparisons to the French-Canadian entertainment company renowned for head-spinning creative works are apt.
“TomorrowWorld is the only outdoor festival experience that comes close to Cirque,” he said last week, standing in a hard hat and day-Glo vest while construction workers scurried behind him. “They transport you to a whole other world. They control the environment completely, so you go into an imaginary zone for 90 minutes. Here, for days, you’re transported to another world with the decoration, the 3-D elements we put on the stages, the design elements, the performers.”
Hundreds of staffers have been creating this Cirque-like city since Sept. 5 and last week, they buzzed about the property on golf carts and rumbled down dirt pathways in pickup trucks and vans.
In one spot, divers in wet suits constructed bridges over the farm’s lakes to help accommodate the 50,000 people expected each day.
Several hundred yards away, construction workers shimmied up the towering scaffolding that evolving into the main stage, a jaw-dropping monster that spans 400 feet wide and 90 feet tall and is designed to look like a book shelf with spines that bear titles such as “Beauty of the Beat” and “Happiness.”
TomorrowWorld seeks to produce a feeling that life’s possibilities are limitless – but that also means there is a tremendous amount of information to decipher.
Here are 10 things to know about what TomorrowWorld will bring to the Atlanta area.
1. More than 30,000 people are expected to remain on site in the posh camping zone dubbed DreamVille. Those who purchased a ticket that includes DreamVille lodging will have access to a marketplace, special food vendors and a Thursday night welcome party called “The Gathering” (which is being produced by the folks behind last year’s much smaller CounterPoint EDM festival, held on the same land). DreamVille residents will also receive a 32-page daily newspaper informing them of TomorrowWorld events and produced by a six-person staff.
2. Food at TomorrowWorld is a bit beyond the usual greasy chicken fingers and canned sauce pizza that are the norm at most festivals. While ubiquitous concessionaire and catering company Levy Restaurants is managing the food supply – along with 800 of their employees – attendees will find specialty items such as Belgium crepes and beer, freshly baked treats, barbecue and ethnic foods among the offerings.
3. While there is parking available on site, consider a shuttle pass. “We want to eliminate the car from the equation,” Kent said. Shuttles will run on three separate lines – from airport hotels (Sheraton Gateway Airport, Marriott Atlanta Airport and Westin Atlanta Airport), downtown south (Embassy Suites Centennial Park, Westin Peachtree Plaza Downtown and Ritz Carlton Downtown) and downtown north hotels (Marriott Marquis Downtown and W Atlanta Downtown) with multiple shuttles on each line. Visit www.tomorrowworld.com/hotel-shuttle-passes for details about times and pricing.
4. As fans who attended Music Midtown last weekend can attest, sometimes the weather mucks things up – and we are talking about farmland at TomorrowWorld. Organizers have learned from their years of producing the event in Belgium about the benefits of plastic flooring. Hundreds of feet of sturdy flooring will blanket the areas in front of the stages. Additionally, the TomorrowWorld team created its own wooden flooring — more than 100,000 square-feet of it — which will be spread throughout. “We want to respect the farmland as much as possible,” Kent said, adding that it’s an investment in a site they plan to use for the festival for the next decade.
5. There is often a pre-conceived notion about some festivals –dance music festivals in particular – that where there is music, there will be illegal substances. TomorrowWorld producers aren’t naïve, but they also take every precaution to ensure a safe environment. To that end, patrons must be 21 and older to enter the festival – the only festival in America with such an age restriction, Kent said. “We aim to bring people who are more responsible, more aware of their bodies.” Along with security check points, including car checks, TomorrowWorld employs a zero tolerance policy for drugs. “On site, we are keeping a very good eye on people and watching for unusual behavior and will remove people from the festival site,” he said.
6. While this is TomorrowWorld’s inaugural spin in the States, Kent said more than 75 nationalities will be represented among the crowd. The majority of tickets have been sold to Americans and to Europeans – the prime market for EDM – though fans from Canada, Mexico and “a sprinkling” from South America will also be among the music worshippers. The economic impact of TomorrowWorld is estimated at about $5 million.
7. Each of the eight stages will carry its own musical theme and decorations. This included the impressive tents with cotton-candy pink tops that were shipped from Europe in 80 containers, so TomorrowWorld can retain the visual magic of its parent festival.
8. The area that accommodates the main stage has been hollowed out to make it more of a natural amphitheater setting. “When we saw the large hill, it reminded us of the iconic large space we have in Belgium,” Kent said. “That main stage is one of our trademarks.” High-end LED lighting, fireworks and lasers will accompany the music and there is a special effects surprise awaiting guests during the main stage performances.
9. In an effort to streamline, attendees receive a TomorrowWorld bracelet, which is used to access the festival and DreamVille. A confirmation email explains how to activate the bracelet, which will be the only means to enter the festival and campsites. Hang on to it, because if it’s lost, stolen or damaged, it won’t be replaced and access will be denied.
10. Oh yeah, how about the music? In addition to the aforementioned EDM superstars, fans can revel in the sounds of acts including Tiesto, Alesso, Cassian, Dimitri Vegas and Like Mike, Nicky Romero, Wolfpack, Diplo and BT. Visit www.tomorrowworld.com for a full schedule.
When: Friday and Saturday, noon-1 a.m.; Sunday noon-midnight. Entrance gates are open until 10 each night. Bouckaert Farm in Chattahoochee Hills, about 20 minutes south of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. This is a 21 and older event.
Tickets: Tickets start at $127. Add-ons include a comfort pass, which gives access to comfort zones that include primo views of the stage, a selection of hors d’oeuvres and the opportunity to purchase bottle service and speedy access to on-site parking. Visit www.tickets.tomorrowworld.com for details.
Parking/shuttles: Parking passes being at $20 and are required. They can be purchased online (www.tomorrowworld.com/parking-passes) or for cash only at the event. There is no car camping allowed. There are also options for hotel shuttles (some can be accessed even if not staying at the hotel) and Kiss & Ride/taxi drop-offs.
More coverage from the AJC: Visit our TomorrowWorld Atlanta page for stories, links, photo galleries, videos, updates all weekend long.