It’s one week until Shambhala officially starts! Perfect time to have a little flash back to last year…. Enjoy!
The Road to Shambhala
This year was my fifth Shambhala experience. As it was my first ever festival, it will always hold a special place in my heart. The difference in this year from all the rest is that I was going with none of my core festival family. Until a couple of days before I left for Salmo I didn’t even have anyone to drive up with. Of course, in true dance music community fashion I managed to retrieve a couple of acquaintances to share the ride to the festival with last minute (acquaintances who, I might add, have become great friends).
I felt butterflies in my stomach as we approached the ranch, more than I had since the first time I ever pulled up the dirt road to the farm. This is mostly because I’m the kind of person who is very good at being alone, but who is not very good at being alone in a big group of unfamiliar people. This is something I knew I would be doing a lot of over the course of the festival. I did try to tell myself several times on the way as I babbled on and on to my car mates to dispel my nerves that: “this is Shambhala we’re talking about here, it’s the place where I learned how to be warm and friendly,” yet still, the butterflies persisted.
Upon arrival at the gates I nervously went to obtain my press pass. As is usually the case when I’m placed on any sort of guest list anywhere, my name was not initially on the list (I’ve been nicknamed Murphy after Murphy’s law by my friends). Eventually, after a bit of walkie talkie action and my “pretty legit email” this situation was sorted out and my car-load of humans made our way in to the festival.
This was the first year I didn’t rock the line party at all which, by the way, if you’re planning on going to Shambhala for the first time you should definitely do. Yes, the line is long. Yes, the line is dusty. Yes, the line can be roasting hot during daytime hours. But damn that line party is a good time. The excitement builds, music is played, lasers are projected on the mountain and beers are liquidated. In my humble opinion, it’s all part of the full Shambhala experience.
That being said, traveling with a person in my car who had a talent pass which meant we got a golf cart escort all the way to the camp site to unload our gear was pretty sweet too. Luckily, my trusty co-pilot Dave drove this portion of the journey. Raver dodging is not a game I like to play under any circumstances.
By the time we got everything unloaded and parked the car it was about 2:00-2:30 AM and I’d dealt with my share of frazzled chaos and FOMO (for those of you unfamiliar with this term it’s an acronym for the Fear Of Missing Out) for the day and was ready to get down to the stages and check everything out.
I made my way down to the newly renovated AMPhitheatre (the stage formerly known as the Rock Pit) just in time for Goosebumpz’ set at 3:30. It was nice to see some changes made to the dancefloor. I’m excited to see what is done in the future in terms of video mapping on that new stage. I’m the consummate glitch-head so Goosebumpz in all his melodic, midtempo, psychedelic stereo goodness was just what I needed to break in my dancing feet.
After an epic sleep in the shade provided by the friendly cedar overtop of my tent I woke up to get down to the serious business of organizing my camp. First stop: filling water cubes. I was delighted to discover that just beyond my campsite an exemplary Shambhalite had set up his own water station. He had brought one of those culligan coolers and was going back and forth from the water station in town with a dolly in order to accomplish the feat of making everyone’s day and putting a smile on everyone’s face. Mission accomplished sir. You are indeed the spirit of Shambhala.
The best part about this story is that there are many other people doing inspiring, kind and generous things all around you and gleaning just as much joy from it as you are at any given point during the festival. For me, that will always be what Shambhala is fundamentally about.
I spent much of Friday just relaxing on the beach by the river (a place also known as paradise). The Salmo River is one of the things that sets Shambhala apart from other festivals. Nothing jolts you alive when you roll out of your tent in the morning quite the way this brilliantly cold, glacier fed river does. Not to mention the fact that you can enjoy this delightful experience all while listening to beats pumping out of the Living Room Stage at the same time.
I also hit the Ragga Jungle Rinseout for a solid hour and a half at The Village; this is an annual favourite event. The Village looked incredible this year. It looks incredible every year but somehow they managed to kick it up a few more notches this time. I would try to describe it in words but I’ll just let the photos I took do the talking.
Friday night was a marathon of excellent music. It was the most stacked Friday night I’ve ever seen at the festival. I strapped on my camera gear, attached my water bottle and went forth in to the night. My first stop was Stickybuds at the Fractal Forest. To say it was packed in there is an understatement. Stickybuds’ Shambhala sets have always been an annual favourite of mine. This year I wanted to snap some photos and so the crowd literally boosted me and all my camera gear up and held me against the DJ booth so I could grab some shots. Thanks guys, you kick ass.
At 11 I headed to The Village from the Forest for Minnesota’s epic melodic brand of dubstep. It was such a pleasure to hear his music on the Village system. As Gramatik was not able to make it, I headed to the AMPhitheatre to catch the end of VibeSquaD’s high energy set. If you’ve never had the pleasure of seeing this man perform live, you must figure out a way to do so. He’s a talented producer, DJ and a performer of boundless energy.
Next up was Opiuo. I’ve seen him perform in clubs a few times but was really looking forward to the opportunity to see him play in a festival setting. I was not disappointed. Funky, funky goodness and a live aspect to his set to boot. The AMPhitheatre stage managers did an incredible job with the lineup this year. I stuck around for a little bit of Love & Light’s set but needed to head back to camp to re-fuel, have some snacks and you know, maybe find some of the friends I’d lost all the way back at Stickybuds.
After regrouping I headed by the AMPhitheatre to catch a little bit of Headtron’s Chris B’s melodic, sexy, crunked out beats then I was off to The Village. Due to Gramatik not being able to play, Calgary (and PK Sound’s) Treblesum got the opportunity to fire up The Village with Melo.Nade at 3:30. I of course could not miss the opportunity to support our local boys as they lit up the crowd. Definitely one of my highlights of the whole festival. It was all Western Canadian bass family vibes, a flailed coconut bra, platform dancing, top notch music and a beautiful sunrise. Can’t really ask for much better than that.
Saturday night was a Living Room kind of night for the most part. Starting at 6:00PM Kootenay DJ Organic Mechanic laid down a mellow, psychedelic glitch set to a crowd who was all about the large-scale group hug. The Librarian at the Pagoda at 9PM was just what I needed to warm up for the rest of the evening. As always, she killed it with her intelligent and thoughtful future bass selections. After she was finished playing, I headed to the beach to catch some of Westerley’s deep classic dubstep. Westerley was followed up by Truth; my favourite performance of the festival. It was deep, dark, soulful and haunting. The dance floor was more like a bass mosh pit than a regular dance floor. I got right up by the speakers for a little while and just let that bass rumble my soul.
Post-Truth involved hanging out by the wishing tree for a quite a while listening and watching the delightful perfomer Super Tall Paul. The combination of his comedy, gentle whimsy and incredible musical talent make him someone I easily could have stayed and listened to all night. The space around the Wishing Tree is a great place to escape the madness for a little while and just enjoy the magical atmosphere and twinkly lights.
I finished out the morning at the AMPhitheatre dancing to Kastle who was followed up by Gladkill. Kastle delivered his usual forward-thinking set fusing elements of house, dubstep, future garage, and hip-hop. As a long time fan of Gladkill’s productions he was on my list of ‘must-sees’ before the festival. He played the perfect sexy music to bring in the sunrise. He laid down a combination of crunky glitch, dubstep, deep basslines and soaring melodies. Yes, you guess it: bliss.
I won’t lie to you. I was completely exhausted by Sunday. It had been a long festival season of lugging twenty pounds of camera gear with me to every single dancefloor I visited (and I visited many). I spent much of the day conserving my energy. I did pop by the Fractal Funk Jam for an hour to get my groove on. As badly as I wanted to nap, I wanted to soak up some funk more.
Once evening rolled around I checked out The Human Experience at the Labyrinth. I then headed to grab a bite to eat from the Crêpe vendor (if your life needs saving I highly reccommend the breakfast crêpe). I then went and lingered at the back of The Village for Ill.Gates followed by catching Justin Martin laying down some of Dirtybird’s deep, funk driven house at the Pagoda before heading back to The Village to catch GRiZ (another one of my ‘must-sees’). I have a special place in my heart for the saxophone. As a saxophonist myself, mad respect for that live element in his set. The Village was completely packed and Griz delivered the soulful, high energy sounds I’d been banking on.
His set was my last hurrah in front of the bassbins at Shambhala 2013. Weary from all the excellence I had experienced over the last few days (and months), I headed to bed. In my defense I did set an alarm to get up for Random Rab at the beach at 2:30, however my brain and body had other plans. I didn’t wake up again until it was time to pack up and leave Monday morning.
As much as I missed my usual Shamb family this year, Shambhala 2013 taught me that no matter how shy/nervous you are feeling, you’re going to be surrounded by wicked people, immersive music, art, excitement, nature and magic. Cheers to another great year at the Salmo River Ranch. Thanks to the festival for having All You Need is Bass and continuing to make the festival better and better each year.