This past weekend we revived the feeling we had during July of last year, when thousands gathered in São Paulo to see David Guetta, live from Belgium, announce that Tomorrowland, known as the world's biggest electronic music festival, would be coming to Brazil. Expectations were that Tomorrowland Brazil would be huge—and it was.
The festival arrived at the Fazenda Maeda in Itu, an area in São Paulo's countryside, and from May 1 to 3, it showed off all its spectacularness and flair, accompanied by a mastodontic structure, it was something brand new to the Brazilian music circuit. The stage design has always been what makes Tomorrowland stand out and in Brazil, no one was left disappointed.
Promoters ID&T estimate they sold 180,000 tickets, reaching the daily capacity of 60,000 people. But those present often felt that there were many more than that. During the headliners' performances the ample space of the main stage became completely crowded, filled with flashing lights, smartphone screens recording every possible second, people dancing and jumping restlessly. Despite all that, there were no reports of any major disorder or any kind of ruckus (despite some local media outlets trying to say there was). The stages as well as the food and beverage concessions were pretty much spread out through the immense space at Fazenda, making it easy for the crowd to navigate around the place.
Even before the festival weekend was over, it was announced Tomorrowland would return to Brazil on April 21, 22, and 23, 2016.
"The investment made here was a long term one because we thought about doing the festival here [in the future]," explained Maurício Soares, VP of marketing at ID&T and the organization's local spokesperson. "We want to stay at Fazenda Maeda as long as it's possible and as long as we're welcome. For the next years, we want to expand the infrastructure and improve access. We're working on how to do it, as well as improving communications, especially internet access and wi-fi."
Some topline numbers reflect the relevance and magnitude of Tomorrowland for the electronic music and festival scenes in Brazil. The audience included fans from 69 different countries, making up 30% of the crowd. Of those non-Brazilians, the most came from Argentina and Chile, followed by Belgium. Dreamville, the festival's campgrounds which serve as a secondary festival after the music stops on the stages, hosted 1,890 tents housing an estimated 25,000 campers (though some say the number was closer to 30,000). All those campers and those who left the grounds at night bought a total of 65,000 liters of beer a day.
Of course the rewards of being part of such a historical moment in Brazil's musical history came with a price. Many people frowned at the prices of on-site amenities. A t-shirt from the event's official store cost around BRL 100.00 (roughly $32 US). A pint of beer something like BRL 11.00 (about $3.50), water at 5.50 ($1.75). In Dreamville, you couldn't even charge your phone for free and a four minute shower would set you back in BRL 16.00 ($5). Not steep, perhaps by North American or European standards but typically a pint of beer in Brazil is the equivalent of $1.50 US.
During the first day, just getting to the festival was pretty complicated. Enormous traffic jams formed around the highways approaching Fazenda Maeda, and some folks waited from three to four hours just to get to Tomorrowland. As the weekend progressed, the promoters and the audience managed to synchronize their clocks, and in the end, that initial struggle felt really distant.
That being said, what made all those people go to the arid Itu in the first place was the star-spangled DJ lineup, especially the dream team of global EDM featuring David Guetta, Hardwell, Afrojack, Steve Aoki, Armin Van Buuren, Steve Angello, Nicky Romero, Nervo, Yves V and so many others who laid it down during the 12 hours of daily partying at the main stage. It was a continual hotspot despite the cool evening temps, a surreal dose of pure raw energy, with immediate effects. Even the most stuck-up rocker couldn't resist the rhythm of the ominous grooves and kicks, throwing their hands in the air during airhorn melodies.
It's interesting to see the direct influence of Danish gabber on EDM as we know it today and how the heaviness of the genre managed to infiltrate and mingle with practically everything aspect of electronic music, from grime (as demonstrated by Afrojack during his set) to funk carioca (a union that has been happening for quite some time in Brazil's urban centers as David Guetta cunningly realized).
Besides the EDM overdose, the rest of festival managed to give an excellent panorama of the Brazilian electronic scene. Aside from the main stage, the six other stages varied their themes throughout the three days of the festival, and those jumping from one to another during the marathon could get a pretty good idea of the plurality and quality of what's going on in the country right now.
On Saturday only you could check out some psytrance, or Dynamic's techno, or the dudes from Colab 011 playing Racionais MCs' remixes, or catch Olivier Weiter at Warung stage. There was also the kick-assery that were the stages curated by Steve Aoki and Hardwell, which, besides driving the hordes to the main stage during their sets, also managed to bring a shitload of people to smaller platforms too.
The festival hadn't even ended when it was announced that it would return to Brazil again in Brazil in 2016, on April 21, 22, and 23. Later reports emerged that ID&T has confirmed annual editions through 2020.
"This time of the year is interesting due to weather conditions, since it rains a lot less", explained Soares. "We have a very positive evaluation of the festival. Even though this is its first edition, we succeeded. Of course there were issues, but we could manage almost everything that came up."
Tomorrowland Brazil is probably the largest window into how the country's new young middle class enjoys life. Even amidst an economic crisis, which generally takes a toll on leisure expenses, hundreds of thousands of people saved enough cash to spend on an event at the top of the global entertainment market. Ignoring the blasé and snotty attitude by the mainstream Brazilian press regarding EDM, the genre proved to be completely embraced here, and even better, with fuel to burn for a long time as it adapts and evolves.
Even with some minor logistical flaws, petty crime, and temporary shortages of vodka (gasp!), Tomorrowland's organization, was the best we've seen in similar events in Brazil. What's more, it's nice to see electronic music make such a huge leap out of the underground and becoming, undeniably, one of the driving forces of mainstream pop culture.
If there's one thing to take away from this weekend, it's that the future of Brazilian electronic music is happening today and tomorrow, and the rave only ends when the beer ends (or when you max out your credit card).
Originally published on THUMP Brasil.
Eduardo Roberto is the editor of THUMP Brasil. He is on Twitter.
Additional reporting by Carla Castellotti.