By Jim Tremayne, Chris Davis & Chris Caruso
Chattahoochee Hills, Ga. – This past September 27-29, ID&T brought its famous mega-production to the Bouckaert Farm outside Atlanta and showed American audiences what’s been missing from its already-massive festival market.
The event’s multiple stages each featured an engaging theme—from the mainstage’s massive “Book of Wisdom” motif to the Hardstyle stage’s scorpion monstrosity. Even a walking trip through the woods to visit a pair of faraway stages brought surprises, like the “firebreathing fish” stationed throughout a nearby lake.
Over 140,000 fans made their way to the deep-in-the-woods venue about a half-hour southeast of downtown Atlanta. Many camped, most partied and everyone danced. It went like this:
Our Friday experience kicked off with an extended visit to Ferry Corsten’s “Full On” stage. Alternating between solo guest sets and back-to-back transitional sets, Corsten performed with trance superstars Shogun, Solarstone, Sied van Riel, Audien, Cosmic Gate, John O’Callaghan and Aly & Fila. Ferry closed out the night with a solo set following this frenetic game of trance musical chairs.
We were lucky enough to experience Sied van Riel slicing into us with his anthemic arena-ready beats, and recovered shortly afterward with Audien’s boat-party trance set. The stage, shaped like the TomorrowWorld/TomorrowLand butterfly logo, was a unique one. Representing the Cyclops eye portion of the logo was the round, open-air stage, while the white sections of the logo created a moat and pool areas. Attendees danced on the purple solid ground.
Post-Full On Ferry we devoted most of our time to the “Deep End” stage, which featured an all-star cast of deep-house, tech-house and techno jocks. Lee Foss was our first act, slamming us with his cold-blooded deep funk in front of a beautiful waterfront backdrop. The stage, adorned with lily pads and screens displaying electric waterfalls, sat on the shore of a large lake located on the 8,000-acre Bouckaert Farm. Later, Damian Lazarus dropped a mesmerizing set of tweaky, trippy tech-house—it was part groove-fest, part alien landing.
Saturday: The Fools Gold Clubhouse offered some of the afternoon’s most unique offerings. Australian-native Anna Lunoe’s set featured a trap-based approach to house, which included a rousing bass bootleg pitting A-Trak and GTA’s “Landline” against the classic vocals of Groove Armada’s “Superstylin’.”
Style of Eye stunned the mid-afternoon crowd with relentless, obliterating bass throughout his uptempo set, with the highlights being Carli’s “Look Up” and a mash-up of Nom De Strip-produced Kylie Minogue track “Skirt” and its GTA remix. Bag Raiders closed out the afternoon with a sundown set full of bright indie dance tunes that packed out the waterfront stage with a grooving disco feel.
The night belonged to Pete Tong, whose All Gone Pete Tong tent was one of Saturday’s most atmospheric stages. Decorated with monstrous forest mushrooms, the tent played host to Maya Jane Coles in the early evening, whose deep basslines and mysterious soundscapes left the crowd completely entranced. Once Pete Tong took over, though, the night was taken to another level. Playing a two-hour set, Tong took the sea of ravers on a musical journey that spanned a variety of styles that never let the crowd lose even a part of its frenzied energy.
By Sunday, we could tell how weary festival-goers had become, with a sparser, slowly gyrating crowd trying their hardest to keep up with Sander van Doorn’s late-afternoon Mainstage trope. As the sun set, we were drawn to the Dirtybird stage where a slew of oddball house DJs and producers from Claude VonStroke’s label performed. Dusky kept the vibes relaxed, while Justin Martin destroyed the tree-shrouded dancefloor with booming hip-hop-flavored deep house.
At the Owsla stage, Alvin Risk dropped a crowd-pleasing effort with tracks from Disclosure and Skrillex. Meanwhile, Diplo set it off at the Mad Decent stage: On command, booties were shaking when he dropped “Bubble Butt” and fists were pumping to the well-worn Crookers remix of AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck.”
Closing out the festival was Armin van Buuren, or as one cheeky festival attendee described, “The God of All Gods.” Recognizing the significance of this particular Sunday for these American festival-goers, Armin walked onstage wearing a “Los Pollos Hermanos” T-shirt from the hit TV series “Breaking Bad,” which aired its final episode during his set. As usual, he took the crowd out to the stratosphere and back with a gorgeous set punctuated by ascending keys and crushing beatdrops—plus his ubiquitous hit, “This Is What It Feels Like.”
By the time the throngs made their way back to civilization, everyone knew that they’d had an experience they’ll never forget. .