Introduced to EDM in college I was immediately hooked on the upbeat music genre, but it was years later before I attended my first big music festival- which turned out to be even more addicting. The large festivals are like playgrounds for adults with numerous elaborate stages and performers, carnival rides, and obviously the main draw of some of the world’s biggest artists. Watching Youtube videos from previous years provides a good idea of what to expect in terms of the massive crowds dancing to the energetic beats along with the lightshows and fireworks. These massive music festivals are amazing events even for people that are not big fans of EDM because attending one of these fests is an incredibly unique experience for the sense of unity that they promote for people across all walks of life coming together to celebrate. As the EDM scene has exploded over the last decade, there are numerous massive festivals offered in all corners of the world. Here are my experiences at three of the biggest:
Electronic Daisy Carnival, Vegas
Starting in the late afternoon and going full force until the sun rises the following morning, EDC Vegas was my introduction to festivals. This is the mecca of EDM concerts with a no-expense spared mentality that boasts 6 stages with over 300k attendees and approximately $36 million spent on setting up the event each year. The 116-foot main stage reportedly cost $3 mil alone to build! The event planners do an incredible job of transforming the Vegas Speedway into another world consisting of massive elaborately designed stages, electric forests, and a variety of interactive and constantly moving performers and pieces. There is endless entertainment captivating audiences for the duration of the three day fest. I was absolutely blown away by the effort put into the event and felt like a kid at my first circus watching all of the glitter and excitement.
The clothing worn as costumes is minimal and sleep is even less as most people rotated from long hours at the festival to afternoons at the famous Vegas pool parties. Every day we made it back to the hotel as the sun was coming up, yet by that night we were getting pumped again for the list of performers scheduled for that evening. An app that has all of the stages and artists listed helped keep us on track so we did not miss any of our favorites, but just exploring the festivals grounds, people watching, and going on some of the carnival rides kept us fully entertained the entire fest. The experience was truly indescribable and definitely had us all excited to attend another!
After EDC, we started looking for another one of the large EDC festivals to attend and decided to go on Yacht Week Croatia which culminated with Ultra. This big three day festival was also headlined by some of EDM's biggest names including Steve Aoki, Martin Garrix, Tiesto, and a host of others. We were all a bit exhausted from an entire week of non-stop going during yacht week, but were still amped up to go see Ultra Europe.
While the fest itself was smaller than EDC, the performers there were still some of the best. The most memorable part of Ultra for me was completing a grand scheme to sneak back stage and meet the artists. After our friend Omar told us about his previously successful endeavor at a different fest, my friend Steve and I were determined to have our own story and make it backstage. Following some extensive low-crawling around the top of the stadium, climbing over two walls, and sneaking up the crew ladder backstage, Steve and I managed to find ourselves in the VIP section hanging out with DJ Snake, Axwell ^ Ingrosso, and Tiesto. However, neither of us had our phones with us and the next day no one quite believed our far fetched story until one of the new friends we had met texted several a few photos of proof. Overall Ultra was definitely the icing on the cake for a long and epic yacht week.
Hosted annually in Belgium, Tomorrowland is one of the original music festivals that is certainly one of the most popular. This is evidenced by the difficulty in purchasing tickets to the festival as many people try for multiple years without success. The tickets sell out in a matter of minutes and the site is notorious for crashing moments after the tickets go on sale due to the extremely high volume of website traffic. Therefore when the anxious count down resulted in actually getting a ticket confirmation number, it felt like winning the lottery! For the next several months, excitement grew as the dates got closer until it was finally time to pack up.
From the initial greeting at the train station where a welcome bag and tickets were delivered by elaborately dressed characters, it was clear the high level of detail put into every aspect of this event. Finally, we arrived at the grounds and were given tents to set up in the camp site. However, this “camp site” called Dreamville included its own stage, stores, numerous types of restaurant booths, a yoga center, a gym, a chill zone with hammocks and bean bags, etc. Yet far more impressive than Dreamville were the full fest grounds itself. If the attention to detail had impressed me before, the fest grounds blew me away. Over the multi-day fest, we went to as many of the stages as possible but it seemed like there was still so much more to see.
While the enormous yet carefully designed stages were stunning and the performances keep the masses dancing the night away, it was truly the people and atmosphere of Tomorrowland that made it stand out so much from normal music fests. There were some people there proudly displaying their bracelets from the last decade of attendance and it is no wonder that there are such dedicated fans! People from nearly every country on earth come together proudly bearing their country's flags, but they put aside all their differences despite the many conflicts around the world. Seeing this unity and togetherness is quite mind-blowing and so amazing to see how something as simple as music can overcome so many differences and cultural barriers. Tomorrowland was one of the most amazing things that I have had the opportunity to attend and I certainly hope to get the chance to return several more times!