Thanks to William Selviz Photography for all photography!
In the world of summer music festivals, it’s not difficult to realize all festivals are not created equal. Whether it’s the shit overflowing, a toilet paper shortage (bring your own), sound system issues, overcrowding, lack of water (a big no no), schedule issues, or general disorganization. Every festival tends to have their own conundrums. While it’s nearly impossible to throw a rager that involves 10,000+ people without a hitch, some do it way better than others. Tucked away in the beautifully forested hills of British Columbia, Canada, there exists a festival that many a festival goer make the journey to every year. They experience the closest thing to the perfect festival: Shambhala. They do it so right. So right in fact, I would venture to say Shambhala ought to be the role model that all North American festivals follow. Yeah I said it, ALL of them.
In the current state of the music industry, it’s incredibly hard to ignore all the massive, corporate sponsored events that seem to care solely about profits. Shambhala is a family- run operation on private property, and has never accepted any corporate sponsorships. While many of us have grown accustomed to corporate sponsorship in our everyday lives, there is something to be said about how the lack of such sponsorships allows an event to better define itself and grow into its own unique entity without the taint of the outside world. This, in turn, fosters an environment for maximum creativity. Of course, creative and unique vibes cannot exist without people. I’m not sure if it has to do with almost everyone being Canadian, but people were in extremely good moods at this festival and everybody wanted to be your friend. Of course, this is pretty congruent throughout most of festival culture, but there is just something unique in the air at Shambhala that is hard to pinpoint. I think I even caught myself saying “eh” a few times. Throughout my entire experience, I kept thinking to myself and saying to people around me, “Why can’t festivals in the states be like this?” Almost everyone was in costume. Shambhala’s “rage stick” game (totems for us Americans) is on lock. My favorite totem was one that had a built in projector and was constantly morphing. People know how to party proper at Shambhala; it is truly a sight to behold. While this festival can certainly be considered a transformational festival, let’s not get the wrong idea here. This is a masterfully curated outdoor party, pure and simple. Go.
In terms of infrastructure, most festivals in natural settings pack in and pack out every year. Shambhala is not “most festivals”. Since the organizers have the luxury of owning their own land, much of the infrastructure remains in place. This allows the organizers and volunteers to upgrade and maintain the various stages from year to year. Moving from stage to stage was like going from one reality into an entirely different one. Each of the six stages are managed by a stage director that is in charge of the theme, vibes, and the lineup. You could really feel that each stage director treated his/her stage as their own little festival, contributing to the highly creative and organized nature of this festival. That being said, depending on who was playing at the time, there were moments where some of the stages felt a tad crowded. As we walked by the Village stage when Skrillex was playing, there was absolutely no way for us to even get close. That was fine by us though, as Mr. Carmack was playing somewhere with more dance room 😉 As far as porta-potties go, Shambhala excels. Never have I been to a festival where nearly every single porta-potty is illuminated and ventilated with tubes and a fan system. The slight breeze on your bottom as you’re getting business taken care of is a nice touch, air bidets are the future people. 10/10 would use again, and I will look forward to it next year.
Ah yes. The music. That’s why we go to these types of events right? If I had to choose between PK and Funktion 1 sound I would typically learn toward Funktion 1, but after after going to Shambhala my ears have been completely opened to the magic of PK sound. Shambhala is a PK-dominated festival, and since PK is based out of Calgary, this is where they like to showcase their products. With the PK sound crew on site, everything was sounding absolutely amazing. Crispy highs and the lowest lows were the norm throughout the weekend. One of the musical highlights of the weekend (at least for people who arrived early) was for sure Thursday. Space Jesus was the first act on our personal docket to see, and completely exceeded my expectations. I had seen him in Portland a while back, but after listening to his set at the Amphitheatre I am 100 percent sold. A few hours after Space Jesus, Bleep Bloop and G Jones were each scheduled to play hour and a half sets, but instead surprised us by playing an hour each followed by one of the dopest back to back sets I have ever witnessed. The Ampitheatre stage was the only stage running that night, so EVERYONE there got to witness the weirdness. Typically I am more of a G Jones fan, but Bleep Bloop definitely took the best set of the night. Peep the video below.
As I mentioned earlier, every stage tended to have it’s own vibe, thematically and musically. I personally spent much of my time at the Grove Stage and the Ampitheatre. The Grove catered to more (but not solely) glitchy, shanti vibes, and the Ampitheatre leaned more toward modern beat music type of stuff. The entire weekend was chalked full of amazing music that could satiate almost any electronic music fan. My crew’s favorite sets throughout the weekend were Space Jesus, Bleep Bloop, G Jones, Goopsteppa, Ekali, The Librarian, Mat the Alien, Perkulat0r, Tipper with Android Jones, Liquid Stranger, Truth, Synkro, Barisone, Tiger Fresh, and many more not listed.
The beautiful thing about Shambhala (there’s more than one) is that it brings together scenes that might not mingle otherwise. We’ve got the PLUR kids, the bros, the heady kids, the rejects, the cool kids, the hipsters, etc. Everybody is welcomed with open arms at Shambhala. There’s nothing more that I am looking forward to next year. Join us.