Surviving TomorrowWorld 2013

There are two things I am certain of after my TomorrowWorld weekend at Chattahoochee Hills in Fairburn, Georgia: you will survive and you will have a freaking blast! Despite my initial cynical outlook on how the fest would go, TomorrowWorld was one of the most incredible festivals I have ever been to. It was incredible in so many ways, too. There were hundreds of countries and cultures represented in a beautiful collage of humans. There were hundreds of artists who represented the expansive music genre that is electronic dance music. There were hundreds of workers who were happy to help and genuinely happy to be there. It was a magical thing to be part of. So much joy. So much love. So much music.

There was also so much walking….which brings me to my first pointer when preparing for TomorrowWorld. Bring and wear comfortable shoes!!! You will walk miles and miles and miles. I heard one guy wore a pedometer and found that he walked 18 miles on Saturday alone. This seems extreme but it was easily a mile walk for my crew from our campsite to the main stage. One kind of awesome thing about TomorrowWorld…everything was ‘paved’ with wooden walkways. There was a lot of moister in the air at dusk and dawn because the site was situated on a small lake. So, had there not been the walkways…there could have easily been a good amount of mud on the ground.

Also, while we are talking about the moisture, make sure you bring and use a rain cover for your tent. This dew was serious. By the time we got back to our tents each night, there was a solid layer (well, I guess it was a liquid layer) of water covering everything. Luckily, I had an idea that this might happen. So, I made sure to close up all of the tent flaps and the rain cover flaps because those are what really keep the water out. It was also at this time that I would have to grab some warm clothes because it got cold once the sun went down. Usually, we were leaving the camp site when the sun was high and it was hard to imagine it would get cold in a few hours…but Georgia has her ways of going from 80 to 60 degrees in an hour. So, when leaving camp for the rest of the day and night, definitely take a minute and think about your situation when you will be returning.

Ear plugs were something I made sure to stock up on, as well. I think I saved my friends a few good years of hearing. Electronic Dance Music festivals know how to make music sound great and LOUD! Many festivals are starting to offer temporary/one-time-use ear plugs to patrons. TomorrwowWorld teamed up with our friends at We’re hEAR For Youand protected the ears of hundreds of ravers by giving out ear plugs at the info desk.

One issue we had with our campsite in Dreamville was that we didn’t have access to running water near us. We had to walk to the entrance and go into the festival to refill anything. The same with ice-you had to buy it inside the festival. Or at least, that was our closest option. Luckily, we had enough people bring large jugs of water so that was never necessary and a couple of outside ice bags were brought in on Saturday. That was one nice thing about the camping situation (not having your car with you)-the ease with which you could get your car out and go to a close gas station or convenience store. Despite this, I was blown away with the availability of water throughout the actual festival grounds! At every group of port-a-potties (which were at every stage), there was a FreshPoint station where you could wash your hands and fill up water bottles/camelbacks. Another note on that, the facilities were in much better shape than I have seen at some large festivals and I NEVER HAD TO WAIT IN A LINE!!! It’s these little things that really stand out to me about the festival organizers.

This brings me to the overall impression I got about ID&T (those crazy Belgians who put on TomorrowLand every year): their EXTREME attention to details. Everywhere you looked, you were reminded of the magic that was brought to this land that was already a prime representation of Georgia’s natural beauty. The park was completely transformed. Fountains and lasers and fire-spitting fish lined the bridges on the lake. Mushrooms and giant candy and in-costume workers were around the food and drink areas and information desks. The stages were sights to behold. The Book of Wisdom stage was shipped over from its original appearance at the TomorrowLand 2012 festival in Boom, Belgium. (I was ecstatic about this news because it is easily my favorite stage I have seen from festivals over the past few years) There was an incredible Scorpion Stage, which was home to Q-Dance and the hardstyle genre. Not really my cup of tea but we had to make a couple of trips back to that scorpion to see it come to life at night, complete with torches and fireballs. There was also a stage built on the pond that CounterPoint attendees might remember from last year to the left of the main stages.

Two large tents full of mystical decorations were also present and full of music. And of course, there was a stage on the edge of the lake that was built of LED screens that alternated between various custom designs and castle visuals. The smallest stage was the Kitsuné stage and it was daintily tucked in the woods and decorated with giant candy, books, and crochet-wrapped trees. It was perfect for theinnocent house music that constantly played there. What was even more impressive was that the sound engineers did a perfect job mapping out the exact locations and orientations of each stage area. There were only a couple of spots that had some crazy confusing crossing sounds but once you moved closer to one stage, it’s speakers drowned out the competitors’ at a nearby stage. When you were within the general area of one stage, proportional to the size of the stage, you were only consuming music from it.

TomorrowWorld was quite the festival for sure. City planners were happy with the influx of people and compared the event to the impact that the 1996 Olympic Games had on Atlanta. I am so proud to call Georgia my home state. She put on a beautiful, graceful show for the world to enjoy!

Once we arrived at our home for the weekend, we started to set up.  We were in the RV grounds, so setup was pretty easy.  One issue that occurred was that the RV power hookups were a different size than the Lockn’ website recommended.  This could have been a major problem had the festival staff not been at the ready with adapters for everyone.  It was quite a while before we found any staff to help us, but once we located the electric guy, he was super polite and helpful even though many people with already frayed nerves were screaming at him.  He brought over an adapter and we were all set. All camping areas, including ours, seemed to have plenty of space to set up.  Once all the hoopla of getting in and setting up was out of the way, we were more than ready to hit up some music!

By the time we entered the festival venue, things were in full swing.  Govn’t Mule was in mid set and Warren was tearing it up, when the lovely Grace Potter graced the stage for an amazing version of Dear Prudence, right into Gold Dust Woman.  What a fabulous way to kick things off!  The shows continued to delight until about midnight when they packed it up for the night.  For all the trouble with traffic, I can say these promoters did not skimp on sound quality one bit.  The music came through crisp and clear all weekend, and the roadies seemed to run like well oiled machines.  As soon as one band ended, another began on the second stage without missing a beat.  Some festivals that have been around for years still have problems with sound quality and timing issues, so to see a first year fest excel was impressive.  From anywhere in the venue you could hear the music perfectly as well as see the performances on all of  the 4 huge screens.

With bands of that caliber hitting the stage, great sound was a must.  I still get chills thinking about some of the sets I had the pleasure of witnessing over the weekend.  The only thing better than having Furthur, Widespread Panic, String Cheese, and Trey Anastasio Band  in one place is to see them all sit in with one another.  It was truly an execution of the interlocking music experience that the promoters had in mind.  I could not even breathe when Trey came out with Furthur and performed a whole block of “greatest hits”, or watching Zack Brown get so nervous when joining Furthur for a few songs.  It was humbling watching a performer who has enjoyed great personal success, sold out huge arenas, and headlined tons of shows, get choked up at the prospect of sitting in with some of his idols.  As far as once in a lifetime covers, jam sessions, and collaborations, I dare any fest to live up to what Lockn’ served up.  Check out the set lists to pick your favorites, but how can you even pick between John Fogerty sitting in with Panic, Trey with Furthur, Cheese doing Talking Heads, Panic doing Neil Young, Zack doing Van Morrison, Gov’t Mule doing the Beatles…my head’s gonna explode with awesomeness overload if I continue, but you get the picture.  Every band stepped it up and put on stellar performances that will live forever in our memories.

The music was the biggest win of the festival but the overall organization of the fest was well done, more specifically the bathrooms and camping situations.  The festival did a very nice job of keeping the porta-potties inside the venue clean and well kept.  The entire weekend I did not have the displeasure of stepping into a disgusting porta-potty or waiting in line even once.  This may not seem like a big win to all, but to me it’s the little details that make a festival really great and I was glad to see that this detail was not overlooked.  Some of the campgrounds faced a problem of having no nearby bathrooms.  My friend was in Car camping and unfortunately the nearest bathrooms were about a fifteen minute walk, which was less than ideal.  Luckily, they brought one of those portable camping toilets which ended up being one of the “lifesavers”, as he put it, of the weekend.  All campers seemed to enjoy plenty of space to spread out and make a very comfortable site.  Tent only camping was right down the hill from our spot, and the cars only seemed to be parked a matter of feet from the campsite, making setting up much easier than expected.

With the exception of entering the festival, security went very smoothly as well.  A quick check of your bags and pockets occurred when walking into the venue, then I do not remember seeing many if any security personnel inside the venue.  They seemed to search much more thoroughly as the weekend moved along.  For example the first day they may have just patted down your pockets, but by Saturday night you may have had to show your waist band and open your pack of cigarette’s.  They seemed very efficient and polite though, which is always appreciated.

The festival offered a nice variety of yummy food and cool shops to cruise.  The price tag on food and beer items were pretty standard for the festival scene, food around $7-$10, beers at around $6.  Shops were set up providing shoppers with everything from hoops and clothes to artwork and stickers.  Some bands also had trucks set up where attendees could grab some free swag and music downloads.  For those on the straight and narrow, there was a Sober Lockn’ tent for that little extra support.  My favorite shop was set up by a non profit group called Eden’s Rose.  They offered really cool items, all with a story, all with proceeds going to various charities.  One item I purchased was from the “Women’s Empowerment” line of bracelets from The Macrame Project.  To sum it up, the organization provides materials to women caregivers of impoverished children in Ecuador and teaches them a craft, then sends all proceeds of the sale of those crafts back to them to provide basic care and sanitation for the people of that region.  It’s really a beautiful thing and it’s great to get something cool for a good cause.  Conscious Alliance has a similar method, providing original festival art to those who donate non perishable food items or money to help replenish local food banks.  Bringing fun and charity together is a wonderful thing to see in our festival community.

After experiencing this event first hand I have the highest hopes that Lockn’ will become a yearly tradition.  I know I will certainly be looking forward to next year! Hope to see you all there!