Tomorrowland is Disneyland for adults!
Tomorrowland has arguably become the fairy tale destination for any DJ around the world. This year South Africa’s go-to DJ (and promoter) for big events, DJ Dean Fuel, was invited along as a guest of the organisers to see how they do things over there.
In this feature Dean gives us an interesting insight into the world of Tomorrowland through his eyes…
With so many BIG festivals around the fashionable thing to do is to go to Ibiza this time of the year, what swung it for you to attend Tomorrowland?
DEAN FUEL: Timing is everything as they say and the timing came together beautifully for this! Being invited as a guest to attend was an incredible opportunity. Besides, its Tomorrowland – without a doubt “THE” global festival at the moment! And I got to be there two days before the festival opened its doors to meet the people behind the scenes, as well as learn and share with the best in the business.
Logistically was traveling from the airport to venue easy enough? Are they well equipped for travelers arriving?
DEAN FUEL: They have planned for literally every single eventuality… It is a superbly run and managed festival. From the airport, to the train stations, to the taxi ranks, to the hotels… the entire country and its service industry are aware, excited, and geared towards making the festival globally and locally accessible. A smooth success from top to bottom.
Arrival: You’ve attended enough festivals to be able to assess things from a pros perspective. What were your first thoughts once you got there?
DEAN FUEL: H.O.L.Y.S.H.I.T…. the scale and organization is on another level! Those Belgians know what they are doing! Kudos. Tomorrowland is Disneyland for adults!
Give us a bit of an overview of how and where you settled in, and what you were drawn towards the most?
DEAN FUEL: I was based in Antwerp, 20minutes away from the town of Boom where the festival is held (you can’t make this shit up!). Every day there are buses and taxis running in and out of the festival, and I’d pretty much spend each and every full day on site.
Most days I’d start out by going to the control center (it’s like NASA’s mission control), greet the various crew and organizers, and then usually kick-off with a quick tour of the grounds – to soak it all in! Then I’d simply grab a drink, use the Tomorrowland iPhone app, and figure out which floor to go to next. I loved walking around the festival, watching and meeting people from all over the globe. You can never get tired of that!
The decor, the setup – it’s all pretty mammoth. Naturally one sees a lot of footage of the MAIN stage. What’s the setup like at the other floors and were they well attended?
DEAN FUEL: All floors have killer decor, staging, sound, and production. They are all extremely well attended, and most are full from start to finish. Only the main stage and the Q-Dance (Hardstyle) stage remain the same each day, all other stages rotate who hosts them, so each day has something new and fresh to offer the festival goers – i.e. the Butterfly Stage hosted Carl Cox and friends one day, Martin Solveig / Laidback Luke the next, and then Jeff Mills and Dave Clarke the last. The techno heads gravitate to the techno floors, the trance heads to the trance stages, and the masses to the main stage… there really is something for everyone at Tomorrowland!
Performances: What were the highlights for you? And who, against expectations, did not do it for you?
DEAN FUEL: My highlights include: Carl Cox, Sven Vath, Gaiser, Richie Hawtin, and Eric Prydz. I found Porter Robinson a little disappointing, but then I think his inexperience as a DJ might have shown up on the main stage… he is a producer (extremely talented) first and foremost, and a DJ second. I also enjoyed Steve Angello‘s set – especially in the ‘darker’ moments when he wasn’t dropping the mega SHM hits … you can get a sense of his real ability beneath the super-stardom. Armin Van Buuren also killed it, but he had just had a new baby, so played what I would call a ‘proud papa’ DJ set. One of my real ‘moments’ was Sven playing while this hectic lightening storm came down, and as it rained harder, he played better, and the crowd screamed for more… loved it!
DEAN FUEL: No swimming! [Laughs]. They don’t allow people to swim in the dams surrounding the dancefloors! I can’t imagine that happening in SA! Also, the festival closes down each and every night at 1am, only to re-open at 12 midday, in that time the grounds are cleaned, re-stocked, and freshened up for another day. It also gives the crowds a chance to recover and come fresh for the next day. Not a bad idea for a crowd that size!
As a professional DJ, what’s been the biggest lesson learnt at Tomorrowland?
DEAN FEUL: The old school DJ’s do it better. They work a crowd using underground music, unreleased tracks, and know how to hold long sets of actual “DJ” style mixing. The new school of the mega-pop-star “producer” DJ’s are there to play their hits, and to use bootlegs of vocal tracks to get the crowds singing along. Not that there is anything wrong with that, they do it well, but it’s more like a concert than a club. I’m an old school kinda guy, a DJ’s DJ if you will, so I love watching the greats doing their thing, creating those ‘moments’ on the floors where everyone goes crazy, and its not because they “know” the song playing [smiles].
And as a promoter?
DEAN FUEL: Not to be intimidated by size or scale, but to embrace it! Have great teams concentrating on what they need to do, and then delegate and manage your teams well. Keep the customer as your priority and never rip them off – that’s the key thing about Tomorrowland, its absolute value for money! For all the money it must generate, you feel (and know) that its being re-invested back into the festival to keep it breaking ground, to keep it at the front of the pack, and to keep the fans leaving having life changing experiences!
Who was the most underground act you managed to catch?
DEAN FUEL: Hmmm, hard to define “underground”… bit of a dirty word these days! [Laughs]. But I did get to see the following: Dave Clarke, Paco Osuno, Maceo Plex, Tale of Us, Jeff Mills, Matador… amongst others… [smiles].
Dean Fuel Details