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Daniel Barabasi | Monday, September 30, 2013

Where do you go when one supersized, unbelievable and absolutely stunning music festival taking place in one of the most beautiful countries, both based on people and landscapes, isn’t enough for your inner beat? You go to its carbon copy a few weeks later outside Atlanta, Georgia, of course!

This past weekend TomorrowWorld became the Dolly of Tomorrowland, in all but name and location. Just as the original attracts the cream of the crop artists in EDM, House, Dubstep, Trance and most other electronica genres, TomorrowWorld premiered the go-to names of these genres, such as Afrojack, Steve Aoki, David Guetta and two of the three former members of Swedish House Mafia.

On top of the repeat performers (which are acceptable considering there’s only one permutation of every famous artist) the TomorrowWorld main stage kept the design of the Belgian equivalent: a giant, semi-circular bookshelf where performers DJ from a central open book, the “Book of Wisdom.” This doesn’t mean the opening of the book at the start of the festival was any less amazing, only less original.

Although I was originally disappointed that the festival adopted the same theme as Tomorrowland, the Toadstool mushrooms really worked with the Georgia landscape, and the side stages gave an American feel to the festival. I personally loved the shout-out to the evolving American side of electronic music through the “It’s a Trap” stage, which showcased the southern hip-hop roots of trap music. 

My biggest worry when I first heard about the Tomorrowland expansion was that the artists would go all out, releasing new tracks at the Belgium location, and then only have second-rate new mixes for the Atlanta crowd. I wasn’t relieved either when Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, mixers of the Tomorrowland anthems since 2010, announced they were using “Ocarina,” a song that has been on YouTube since 2012, as TomorrowWorld’s anthem. Once the festival began and DJs stepped up to the turntables, new music began appearing on YouTube minutes after they ended on the live stream, and even Calvin Harris dropped a few highly anticipated new tracks.

On the topic of artists, TomorrowWorld did an amazing job with the headliners, even with the lack of Kaskade and Avicii (who, in my opinion, gives a sub-par performance when placed next to the giants of the mainstage). The lack of Dada Life broke my heart, but mostly I was hoping that TomorrowWorld would reach out to medium-sized artists as well, such as Showtek, Tommy Trash, Prydz and Zedd

Overall I was disappointed by one main aspect of the festival: the attendees. Though the par on creative costumes and inflatable palm trees was high, the decrease in international attendees was definitely noticeable via the live stream. Instead of the rainbow of country flags being waved from skimpy shoulders, I saw frat and university flags acting as, at times, as attendees’ only defense against the sun. 

The loss of the international crowd is an unbelievable disappointment for someone who’s been to a festival abroad. Some of the best times I’ve had were trying to bridge the language gap with a mix of Spanish, English and the few phrases I’ve picked up in other languages. Spoiler: it never works (try explaining the “Obey” clothes line to someone from Amsterdam who’s only heard of a feminine product of a similar sound).

In the end, the best part of TomorrowWorld was not waking up Monday morning to news of “We Found Molly!” after the Electric Zoo fiasco of a few weeks ago. TomorrowWorld prided itself on safety, with free cool-down tents available on-site, and fliers on “safe” dosages of common drugs being passed out.

“Yesterday is History, Today is a Gift, Tomorrow is Mystery.” This motto resonated throughout this past weekend’s festival, and all I can hope now is that the mystery of tomorrow includes a few festivals spreading closer to South Bend.