Shambhala Music Festival is a finely tuned machine, bringing a ranch in Salmo, B.C. to life for four days each year. People are well taken care of as they blast around from stage to stage (each so unique as to create the illusion that each is a separate entity) dancing their faces off. The sound, provided by Calgary’s PK Sound, is literally organ-rattling, pounding rhythms deep inside the body of each and every goer. There are obligatory vendors selling a range of crazy shit, including holographic paintings, ubiquitous leather utility belts and illuminated feather boas. There’s a kick-ass coffee bar to feed our ever-growing addiction for fancy caffeinated beverages. But what is any of this without people to fill all this stuff up?
My journey to Shambhala was defined by a need to dig into my friendship with Hingle McCringleberry and his ever-growing (and, to me, somewhat terrifying) love of electronic music. Not only did Shambhala provide the means for me to achieve these things, it brought me fantastic new friends as well. People make the Shambhala festival what it is, and people were certainly what made my experience so damned memorable.
I was partly terrified when I turned to McCringleberry, my Guide to the Cosmos, on the third night of the Shambhala Music Festival and said, “Hingle, you are one of my favourite people in the world.” A wave of warm goodness washed through my body when he turned to me with a smile and responded, “Likewise, Blake.” Shortly thereafter, Hingle’s better half, and another good friend of mine, turned, completely unsolicited and simply said, “Blake, you’re one of my best friends.” (I’m getting a bit teary typing that last one down.) Hell, new friends I’d only met a few days previously told me things like, “You have a good spirit,” and “You seem like a righteous dude.” And I found myself saying things to those people like, “You are a truly inspiring person,” and “You’re a fucking awesome cat.”
These are simple moments, nothing more than a few words exchanged between friends. They are things we probably already knew but rarely, if ever, take the time to express to each other. They are important things to let people know though. Everyone wants to know they are loved, and hearing these things aloud does something inside of us. It reminds us that the most basic human interactions are the most important and sometimes are the easiest to forget.
So, my biggest takeaway from Shambhala was this: I need to express the feelings I have about people more often. I will hug my friends when I see them. I will tell people when I had a nice thought about them. It’s not hard to do these small things and they go a long way. But that’s enough of my namby-pampy flower crap. Let’s get to some festival details!
Favourite Stage – Fractal Forest
This wasn’t really even up for debate in my mind. I quickly discovered that I could deal with anything in the realm of electronic music as long as it had one thing — FUNKY BASS. Apparently all I want is some heavy groove to shake my ass to and the Forest did it for me pretty much every time. Whether I was watching Krafty Kuts or Stanton Warriors during peak hours or dancing my afternoon away to Stevie Wonder and Otis Redding records during the annual Fractal Funk Jam, there was something here to keep me going.
Favourite DJ – Wick-It the Instigator
Seeing Wick-It obliterate the Forest on Friday night was undoubtedly the DJ highlight for me. The fact that he’s clearly rooted in old-school hip hop was probably a big factor in this result, though his electric-guitar shredding certainly didn’t hurt the cause. Armoured with a thick gold chain, Nashville’s Wick-It possessed a Jay-Z-like swagger, grabbing various smoking products from around him with aplomb and drinking from his signature “Flabongo” (a plastic pink-flamingo-come-beer-bong) like some kind of Ultimate Party Champion. The impression he left on my ears was so indelible that he was the first act I looked up upon my return. Wick-It also provided my most hilarious misunderstanding of the weekend, as I attempted to point out a painting of Chewbacca at the side of the stage to my Star-Wars loving friend Hingle. He thought I said, “Who are we watching?” as opposed to “Hey, that’s Chewy!” To which he responded with “Wick-It!” So I said, “No! Wicket is an Ewok, that is a Wookie!”
Moment that made me question my existence
As I’m a hip-hop head through and through, one of the factors that has tempted me before is the Shambhala’s yearly delivery of a sort of “hip-hop headliner,” and this year was Cali underground hip-hop troupe People Under the Stairs. Shortly before the festival, while digging through research listening, I came across Detroit electro-soul DJ GRiZ’s album Mad Liberation and was hooked. But I would not be able to see him because he was on at the same time as People Under the Stairs. However, right before both acts went on, a compromise was struck amongst the group: I would go with them to catch the first half of GRiZ’s set and they would accompany me to the final half of People Under the Stairs. Maybe it was watching GRiZ dance wildly behind his DJ gear, or maybe it was when he came out to the front of the stage with his saxophone, but something magical happened: I didn’t think twice about staying to watch the entirety of the DJ’s set and skipping the big hip-hop act of the weekend. GRiZ was so talented and amazing that I haven’t regretted the decision even once.
Moment that reaffirmed my skepticism
As previously mentioned, Shambhala taught me that I can work with any music that kicks my ass with funky bass. Shambhala also taught me that drum ‘n’ bass is not for me. Metrik is apparently some kind of drum ‘n’ bass champion, and his set was unanimously declared a top-tier highlight amongst my group. But all it did for me was leave me baffled and agitated. Listening to that music made me wish for ravens to come take my heart out. It was seemingly devoid of fun, attempting to recreate the experience of being roommates with Pinhead from “Hellraiser.” Though, I must give a shout out to the awesomely named ill.Gates for giving me just a bit of drum ‘n’ bass with groove.
P.S. Breakfast poutine was not available this year, much to Hingle’s chagrin. Maybe next year…