When most people think about the face of the Shambhala Music Festival, one lovely visage comes to many of our minds. Britz Robins (also know as Britz Bitz) has been an integral part of the festival as both a participant and over the last several years as their social media director and Shambassator supreme! Recently, we were lucky enough to have a chance to sit down with the always engaging Britz and learn about how she managed to get a job with her favourite festival, what goes on in making it happen and a few of her most memorable moments on the farm – including surprise sunrise sets, hazmat suits, and the top of the Pagoda stage.
To start off, I wanted to ask a quick question about some of the history. You have been involved with Shambhala for a while, but before that you were involved in the music scene. How did you originally get started in the scene?
My involvement in the music scene is kind of mostly because of Shambhala. I grew up here in the Kootenays; in Rossland and Trail. Shambhala was this electronic music mecca that was in my own back yard. I think I went for the first time the year I graduated high school. I had already loved electronic music but it really kind of just spurred it further. I became really actively involved in forums online and helped with some smaller parties in Grand Forks. I moved to Nelson a couple of years before I got involved with Shambhala. It was always a goal of mine to move to Nelson. I really wanted to help give back to the party that had given so much to me.
How did that transition from going to Shambhala to actually getting involved and working with Shambhala happen?
I was a very active participant on their forums from about 2003, the first year when I went, to peaking and really being super active on them in 2005. There were a couple of years that I opened up the Pagoda stage, which was called The Main Stage back then with a song I wrote about Shambhala. That got hooked up through Hoola. I did that for 2 or 3 years and there was 1 year when I was actually on the flyer. That was in 2007 which was a really big deal for me!
[quote style=”boxed” float=”right”]It came down to a point where I had to decide what was more important to me, a job that was not respecting my creative endeavours; or did I want to be someone who followed my dreams and creative pursuits?[/quote] That year I secured the time off with by job in January. I told them I’m performing at this music festival and it means a lot to me. Then in June they denied my time off with very little notice. I tried to work out a couple different scenarios with them where I would take less time off to go to the festival, or this or that, and every time it was a no. It came down to a point where I had to decide what was more important to me, a job that was not respecting my creative endeavours; or did I want to be someone who followed my dreams and creative pursuits? So, I quit! Which was a very bold move! [Laughing]
I emailed Shambhala and said I’ve got some time that just freed up this summer, if you guys need any extra office help, office administration and that kind of thing, that’s my background. Within a couple of hours I got an email back saying you start on Monday! They had already recognized me from their forums and everything and it all started that way.
I worked for 2 weeks that summer, Shambhala’s 10-year anniversary. Within a couple of days they had asked me to come back and be their full time receptionist in the spring. I believe I was the first person that was ever-hired full time outside of the family.
Now, I am Shambhala’s Social Media Director. So, I do a lot of updates to our website, Facebook, blog, Instagram, Twitter and so on. I do get a lot of help with those things because even the artist profiles are a huge piece of work. But, for the most part that’s all me!
If people were interested in getting involved with Shambhala what would you suggest is the best approach?
[quote style=”boxed” float=”right”]Seems like many people start out as volunteers for sure.[/quote] We do actually notice people who are super positive, Shambassadors basically. I make notes of people and I often end up being really close friends with people who I see online. Some of them decide to volunteer and some of them don’t. Having grown up here in the Kootenay’s a lot of the people that I know that have been going for 13 or 16 years are all volunteers now. Before I sent off that email I was a volunteer forum administrator for the Shambhala forums. It was not managed for a really long time and it got to a point when they really needed someone to do that. I think I did that for 2 years, 2005 to 2006, it seems like many people start out as volunteers for sure.
Shambhala has brought together many couples. I understand that you and your husband met at Shambhala?
That’s true! Technically we were actually kind of hanging out for the month previous to Shambhala 2008, but it was one of those things that “I’m not really interested, you’re not really interested”, but we spent a lot of time together that month. I had to come back into town on Thursday that Shambhala because my best friend had had her baby so I came back into town to hold a newborn in my arms. I happened to have a ride so I called Elliot up and I said, “Do you need a ride to the farm? I’m going now!” So, he hopped into our ride and we ended up spending all of Thursday night together. It was just magical and we were under the stars. I said, “I think I’m falling for you!” and he said, “Well it’s not a one way street!” We were together from that Shambhala Thursday, August 7, 2008, and got married on September 17, 2011. ShambhaLOVE!
Do you have 3 favourite sets that you have seen at Shambhala?
That’s a hard one! I find that after going to Shambhala after so many years it blends into all one weekend. But, let me think… One thing that really stands out is the Bassnectar Sunrise Set at the Beach Stage, I think it was 2006. Bassnectar had already started playing some of his heavier stuff at this point and for him to go back and to play some of that dreamy ethereal stuff really hit me right in the heart. I loved that; I loved hearing his older sound again. [quote style=”boxed” float=”right”]Every time I hear those songs I am totally transported back to Fractal Forest 2003, eyes wide, totally in awe of this crazy place that I am in.[/quote]
Robb G at the RockPit in 2010, I danced for that one. That was a super fun one. He is a friend of mine and he has now retired as a DJ so that is definitely a special one for me.
Krafty Cuts 2003. I think he was one of the first big headliners I ever saw in my life. That was my first Shambhala and he had some really big tunes that year. Every time I hear those songs I am totally transported back to Fractal Forest 2003, eyes wide, totally in awe of this crazy place that I am in. Yah, That’s defiantly one of my favourites for sure.
What is the craziest thing that you have ever seen in your years at Shambhala?
2006 was the first time we had arial hoop artists and stilts. It is a lot more popular now, but at the time I am pretty sure there wasn’t anything like that making the rounds in interior BC.
In 2007 there was a big plane that came down and buzzed the farm. It was actually a water bomber because there was a fire really close to the festival site that year and it was on route. He thought it would be kind of fun and funny if he buzzed us and so he flew super low. There are some video clips on youtube of it, grainy because of the technology of the time, but that took people back.
Then the Green River! I was working HR that year and I did not leave the HR office very much. I had stubbed my toe or cut it and I was walking over to first aid to get it cleaned and bandaged and there were these first aiders treating this guy who was orange from the waist down in a Hazmat suit. The first aiders were in the hazmat’s because they had no idea what they were dealing with yet and were just trying to get this guy cleaned off. That was the point where I was like “what the heck is going on here?” Then found out there were some guys in the river with dye. We later found it was completely non-toxic, but in the moment it was a pretty interesting experience.
Costumes are becoming big part of Shambhala. Do you see more costumes coming each year?
I cannot comment on whether there is more year-by-year, I remember when I first started going in 2003 costumes were not really a thing. If you look at pictures from the earlier years its people wearing super comfortable rave gear, their fat pants and hoodies and whatever else. I certainly did not have any costumes the first Shambhala I went to. But, I think I bought a couple fun things at the artisan market and that is kind of how my tickle truck got started was actually through Shambhala. As the years went on there just seemed to be increasingly more costumes. It was something that developed organically not even by the direction of Shambhala. That was just how people started expressing their freedom at Shambhala, which I think is super cool.
It seems like the organizers at Shambhala listen to a lot of feedback given on the Shambhala forum and make modifications from those ideas. Do you all sit around and compile reports, how do you develop new ideas for the festival?
We actually gather a lot of our data from surveys at the festival and we do pay attention to online feedback as well. That is usually myself and one other person who takes notes and compiles it and brings it to planning sessions. Definitely a lot of that data comes out of our surveys. So, if someone asks you to fill out a survey onsite please do! We love to hear it. It is so nice to have it all compiled in one place. We use Survey Monkey, it all is entered into there, super easy, I think we actually do it on paper and we enter it in afterwards! It is a volunteer job, with the limited Internet connection we have on site. Survey Monkey puts out such great reports and you have everything in one spot that it is really easy to spot patterns in what people are thinking and feeling.
So, basically fill out the survey if someone asks you on site!
Yah, we want to hear from you!
Do you have a special moment that sticks out in your mind at Shambhala?
[quote style=”boxed” float=”right”]It is such an amazing feeling to be like “wow, we all did this together”. [/quote] I sure do! I do this every year. On Friday after everything is up and running and the sun is kind of going down, around twilight, I go to the very top of the pagoda and I look out over everything. It’s just this incredible sight of a city. It definitely comes pretty close to bringing me to tears every time. It is just so incredible to go up there and look over everything and see the result of all the hard work from basically all my friends and our crews. I am close to so many people that help put this party on now. It is such an amazing feeling to be like “wow, we all did this together”. We need every single one of us to complete the whole. It is such an incredible thing. I love it.
It is amazing the amount of volunteer and staff and people that help out, and participants that make the party. It is quite the interesting community and ecosystem that somebody should come write a masters paper on it. I am sure there would be some good info on there.
It would be a really interesting case study that’s for sure! Even before the crowds arrive we are kind of like our own weird little town. It definitely has it’s own thing going on that’s for sure. Lots of personalities, it’s like being part of a really big family.
Some people say there is more and more garbage left behind each year for the cleanup crews to deal with. Is there anything that you would like to say to help encourage attendees to clean up after themselves?
I have a couple tips of that for sure. With the left over tents it is actually not as bad as it first appears when people clear out, some of that is still volunteers who are sticking around for cleanup. I think we had maybe 15 tents that were left behind in 2012. We collaborate with the Kootenay Eco Society who take those tents and have been up-cycling the fabric and making bags and other little sewing projects, which are super cool.
With the garbage, definitely do not wait until Monday to take your garbage out. This is something that people should be doing periodically throughout the week, taking your garbage bag and dumping it into the dumpsters. The dumpsters are along the main roads and are super easy to spot. This year they got a facelift with some nice graffiti. We cannot actually operate the garbage truck on Monday. I totally understand where people are leaving Shambhala and thinking it is so horrible with so much garbage in piles, but for everyone’s safety we cannot actually operate that truck on the Monday as everyone is leaving. If more people would take out their garbage during the week we would have less buildup and overflow on the Monday and it might actually be a little bit more manageable.
[quote style=”boxed” float=”right”]until you see someone else bending down and picking up the garbage it doesn’t occur to you that you can do that too[/quote] Personally, every year I make a habit of picking up garbage. It takes about 10 seconds until someone to notice what your doing and start helping you. It might be in your mind that it sucks that there’s garbage there, but until you see someone else bending down and picking up the garbage it doesn’t occur to you that you can do that too. We really have the power to change this and make it a better, cleaner festival. Every single one of us has the power to do that. It is just a matter of being a leader, and to sound cliché, being the change you want to see.
So, bring a box of rubber gloves and garbage bags and go to one of the stages in the morning and start cleaning up. Within 10 seconds someone will ask you for a garbage bag and some gloves. It is that’s simple!
I say this in the most loving, light-hearted way, DBDS. Don’t Bitch, Do Something!”
Other than Shambhala, what other music festivals do you attend?
I am a Burner, I love Burning Man! I guess the reason why I love Burning Man is that it reminds me of why I fell in love with Shambhala in the first place. I still love Shambhala but being a worker with 12-hour days, it’s not the same experience I used to get. So when I go to Burning Man it is just this really lovely spontaneous adventure. I start the day not knowing where I am going to go and what I’m going to do. I meet so many great people out there and I get to connect to a little bit deeper with people that I do know but don’t’ get to spend a lot of time with because I’m super busy.
Do you have any final comments?
Party Mom over here says everyone take care of yourselves at festivals. Make sure you drink lots of water, not just water but also something with electrolytes in it while your partying for days on end like little packets of Emergen-C or Gatorade or something like that. Eat lots, sleep lots. Take care of yourselves! That’s my final note!
Thank you very much for your time. I know all of us at AYNiB and our readers appreciate hearing more of the stories from the back end people that make the show go on. We definitely appreciate your time, I know it’s super busy right now, and I look forward to seeing you at Shambhala!
Thanks so much Scott! I love you guys, I love All You Need is Bass and I love all our attendees, totally happy to do this! I cannot wait to see you all at the farm again next year!
*** REMINDER: Shambhala Music Festival 2014 tickets go on sale tomorrow! (Friday, October 25th. NOON PST) For more info or to buy yours hit up their website. ***
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credit: Charlotte Dobre Photography