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There’s big, then there’s TomorrowLand. Quarter of a million people descended on Boom, an aptly named Belgian backwater, for the 9th installment of this Dutch-organised dreadnought. elektro arrived into a press pit hot with anticipation and perspiration - photographers, journalists, artists wiping sweat whilst on every wall of the vast center screens showed live streams of the event delivered via an army of crowd, stage and helicopter based cameras, giving a hint both of the scale and slick organisation of what lay beyond.

Entering the site over a bridge flanked with backlit playing fountains and dry ice and the temperature and vibe rose by degrees. 5pm and already John Digweed is laying down a driving house groove on the Carl Cox & Friends stage: a 60 foot high strobe-covered butterfly that’s just one of the 15 stages surrounding the lake that makes up this testament to techno. Wandering through a vast maze of nationalities, smiles and energetic dancers we arrive onto the Tape stage where Bl3nd is blasting an EDM-flavoured combination of post-electro and dubstep, routinely diving off the stage into the crowd and spraying delighted clubbers with champagne.

Around 8pm the heat and close air finally crack and an epic thunderstorm hammers the crowd: fat raindrops interspersed with bubbles and smoke. Unperturbed, shufflers keep shuffling, jumpers keep jumping and Brits grab a pint. As darkness falls, we head to the main stage: a vast bowl facing a cliff-like installation complete with dancing fauns and a real waterfall to watch Tiesto play to perhaps 35,000 glowstick wielding, ecstatic ravers. The icon comes to the front of the stage, shouting “TomorrowLand, you guys are the best!” as Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, Belgium’s own, take over the decks to a crowd that categorically loses it in a multi-coloured, smoke and strobe-drenched sea of madness.

The only thing as striking as the scale of this place is the attention to detail: cannons gently spray water onto the crowd when the sun gets hot: everywhere you look, trees, grass, water is backlit, decorated. Walkways are lit with fire cannons and water jets that synchronise as you walk past. Every stage, from main to the smallest installations, has it’s own theme, every venue is comfortably packed from mid-evening onward with easily the friendliest crowd that Elektro Daily has ever encountered. Flags, backpackers, lads on tour, students, 30-somethings, an entire city of people is at play here, and they know how to party.

Stay tuned for the recaps of days 2 & 3!

Photos and words by Ally Byers