MAGAZINE

The 15 Best Festival Stages of the 2015 Season

Photo by: Jody Hartley
by Chris Hong Mon October 05, 2015 | 12:00 AM

When we go to a festival, we want experiences we can’t find in our daily lives. We desire fantasy – and often, that goes way beyond just the music. We want to be inspired by art and creativity. A well-designed stage can fulfill these desires and fully immerse festival-goers in the moment. With that said, we’ve compiled a list of 15 stages with the most creative and artistic designs of 2015 – ones that heightened our entire festival experience.

EDC Las Vegas's kineticFIELD 

Electric Daisy Carnival 2015 Marc Van Der Aa For Insomniac 1

Photo by: Mark van der Aa for Insomniac

Pasquale Rotella constantly pushes festival production boundaries, and EDC Las Vegas’ every-evolving kineticFIELD is an ongoing testament to his imagination and artistic vision. This year, Rotella drew inspiration from the four elements – air, water, fire, and earth. kineticFIELD, which is the largest stage design in North America, spans 480 feet wide, stands 100 feet tall, and features a multitude of special effects that gave 60,000+ festival-goers (at this stage alone!) a multi-sensory experience. One thousand lighting fixtures, 40 lasers, 22 pyrotechnic units, and 15 confetti cannons contributed to the jaw-dropping production that melted faces throughout. But wait, there’s more: Waterfalls and geysers added that extra oomph to the spectacularly designed set piece, which included two Egyptian-inspired owl statues, a fire-breathing dragon, and the large owl head whose piercing eyes hypnotized crowds into the night.

Boomtown Fair's Bang Hai Palace 

Boomtown Fair 2015   45
Photo by: BoomTown Fair

Boomtown Fair is a wild, dystopian frontier town with surprises in every corner. The crown jewel of DSTRKT 5, an apocalyptic wasteland where androids roamed the streets, the nine-story Bang Hai Palace was the beacon of the citizens’ revolution, its giant screen constantly flashing the words "KEEP CALM THE REVOLUTION IS COMING." Commissioned by Boomtown’s mayor Comrade Jose, the Bang Hai Palace was built to show grandeur and strength of her power. It was no wonder festies found themselves rocking out to heavy bass, hard-style electro and drum n’ bass nonstop; there was no resting at this rave palace. Drawing influences from neighboring Boomtown-built districts like Chinatown, Bang Hai Palace was conceived by the festival’s production team, who worked with several Belgium design teams, including those who collaborated in Tomorrowland’s main stages, to execute and finish the stage in its entirety. 

Defqon.1 Australia's Red Stage

Defqon.1 Australia 2015 Q Dance

Photo by: Q-Dance

Defqon.1 Australia’s main stage, known as The Red Stage, is a power temple to drum n’ bass, electro, and hardstyle. This year, it drew inspiration from gothic castles with a façade beaming a gargantuan skull staring down on the stage's dancers and the crowd beyond. Gray pillars stood tall and were capped with red roofs, while yellow-filled windows added stark contrast to the overall design.

Mysteryland's Q-Dance

Hero Mysteryland 2015 Mysteryland

Photo by: Mysteryland

Q-Dance is no stranger to amazing stage design, and this year’s stage at Netherlands’ Mysteryland continued that legacy. Drawing on an animal theme, the Q-Dance stage featured a larger-than-life, intricately rendered baboon that elevated the music-filled atmosphere. Smoke billowed out of its nostrils as flame units spat fire from above its head. Hundreds of lights illuminated the stage, intensifying his luminous glare.

Tomorrowland's Main Stage

Tomorrowland Jennica Abrams 2015 64

Photo by: Jennica Abrams

The Kingdom of Melodia served as this year’s theme for Tomorrowland, with a super detailed fairytale castle, known as the Castle of Melodia, which formed the main stage. Multi-colored stained glass windows shimmered in the daylight and the façade shone like silver. With lush trees framing the castle, you truly felt as if you were in a fairytale land. The 138-foot castle, in collaboration with several production design teams including Phixion Creation, took nearly one year to design and create, and four weeks to build with 100 workers per day. Even more impressive was its fully functioning restaurant hidden within the castle, with chefs like Sergio Herman, Peter Goossens, and Kobe Desramaults cooking for dozens of artists and their guests guests each day.

Coachella's Do Lab Stage

Coachella 2015 Daniel Zetterstrom   17

Photo by: Daniel Zetterstrom 

The Do Lab stage at Coachella is always the hottest place to be when you’re at the desert festival. This year’s colorful, so-called Big Fish stage featured multi-paneled gills flanking the stage's two sides, providing much-needed shade from the hot sun. The structure is designed by Do Lab Creative Director Josh Flemming, who is also the co-founder of Lightning In a Bottle and is responsible for the entire Do Lab visual aesthetic.

Mysteryland USA's Main Stage

Mysteryland Usa 2015 Danilo Lewis For Mysteryland   20

The Trojan horse-inspired main stage one-upped last year’s House of Cards with its exquisite design of two colorful, mirror-imaged horses , which were meant to reference good versus evil. Traveling from Holland, the stage boasted 240 pyro blasts from seven flame units and laser beams from 16 multi-colored units. While an already amazing spectacle in daylight, the stage became a menacing feast for the eyes at night as its bright lights enhanced hidden features and production details. According to Mysteryland’s Brand Director Lotte Anna Lebens, the main stage took five and a half months to construct, paint, and finish, and a week to ship to the venue.

Central Bristol's Arcadia Spectacular

Arcadia Spectacular 2015 1
Photo by: Luke Taylor

This giant metal alien spider/ DJ booth hybrid crawled its way to several festivals this year, including Glastonbury. Jam-packed with 50 tons of recycled military hardware spewing everything from fire to lasers, the Arcadia Spectacular (which starred in its own show in Bristol) is truly so spectacular that the DJ booth landed a rightful spot on this list. Drum n’ bass, dubstep, and hard techno fuels the spider’s high-intensity show. Its main event, the Arcadia Spectacular Metamorphosis show, features acrobats swinging from its robotic legs and pulsating lights from its glowing orbs. At its climax, enormous flames shoot from the top of the spider.

Electric Forest's Ranch Arena

Electric Forest 2015 Keith Griner Stage

Photo by: Keith Griner

The Ranch Arena is Electric Forest’s main stage. Intricate Victorian and Asian-inspired graphic elements embellish the stage’s beams, leading your eyes to the focal points of the stage: The Electric Forest fan (inspired by Asian culture that served as this year’s artistic direction) and the chandeliers at its center. Flanked on both sides of the stage, as well as in the stage's center, are LED walls decorated with steampunk ornamentation. Six silver chandeliers fill the stage’s empty space, completing the overall look and adding that extra glimmer to catch festival-goers’ eyes. The design team behind the Ranch Arena, along with other stages and installations throughout the Sherwood Forest, is Atomic Design, led by Executive Producer Jeremy Stein and designer Tom McPhillips.

Electric Zoo's Riverside Stage 

Electric Zoo 2015 Courtesy Of

Photo by: Electric Zoo

Working with ID&T to improve the festival’s creative direction, Made Event presented two new stages this year to fully immerse EZOO attendees in its animalistic spirit. Near the Phoenix Main Stage, the Riverside stage depicted a white and black-striped octopus whose tentacles curled in multiple directions. Its massive head housed the DJ booth, and an LED wall served as the backdrop for the cephalopod’s head, adding stimulation to laidback party vibes.

Envision's Luna Stage

Envision Zendo Andrew Jorgensen 2

Photo by: Andrew Jorgensen

The San Francisco-based artist and sculpturalist Ernest “Hoodie” Salinas, in collaboration with Tigre Bailando and Ari Makridakis, was the mastermind behind Mama Jaguar, the Luna Stage's focal point at Envision Festival. The sitting jaguar, made out of reclaimed wood, was flanked by lunar discs that project entrancing visuals to its audience.

Ultra Music Festival's Main Stage

Ultra 2015 Galen Oakes   063

Photo by: Galen Oakes

Ultra Music Festival never fails to please with its stage design. This year’s rig involved the creative collaboration of lighting designer Steve Lieberman of SJ Lighting, creative designer Richard Milstein, production director Ray Steinman and lighting director Patrick Dierson. The 200-foot-wide by 88-foot-high main stage captivated Ultra's attendees with its massive video walls, pixel-mapped effects, and electrifying projections. Intense light from the 124 Legend 230SR Beams from CHAUVET Professional illuminated the structure, giving life to the structure and to the thousands of dancers who came to this stage.

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Alfa Future Festival's Main Stage

Alfa Future Festival 2015 Alfa Future Festival

Alfa Future Festival definitely turned up the festival production game with its main stage, a genius combination of LEDs, lasers, projection mapping, and flashing strobes. Inspired by the futuristic 1927 film Metropolis, Alfa Future’s main stage resembled a giant cyborg’s head as the focal point that is flanked by two others. 30-plus pyrotechnic units shot flames into the night sky while LEDs framed and illuminated the three robotic faces. Many festival stages take you back in history or transfer you to a fantasyland, but Alfa Future Festival transported festies to the future.

Lief Festival's Main Stage

Lief Festival Joni 2015 Main Stage
Photo by: Lief Festival

It’s all about color and creativity at Netherlands’ Lief Festival. Bright colors and modern design elements drove the creative direction for all of its stages, not the least its main stage, which was reminiscent of Disneyland’s “It’s a Small World” ride, with buildings inspired by different countries and locales. XSENSE is the production company behind Lief Festival, and prides its production on captivating and appreciating youth culture.

Shambhala's Fractal Forest 

Shambhala 2015 William Selviz

Photo by: William Selviz

Shambhala’s Fractal Forest is a “show within a show within a show”: a truly immersive stage that cradles you at the heart of the dance floor. Shambhalovlies frolicked to the middle of the forest for a wickedly fun time, surrounded by 360 degrees of ethereal forest creatures like gnomes, fairies, and pixies. Towering overhead were cedar trees, onto which psychedelic graphics were projected, creating a magical experience that can only be had in the Fractal Forest.

Did you favorite festival stage of 2015 not make it to the list? Tell us in the comments below!