In less than 20 days I will be trekking through the heart of the BC wilderness, up, down and around endless mountains, flowing rivers and long winding roads, to find myself in the one place I can truly call home, Shambhala Music Festival.
Shambhala takes place just outside of Salmo, B.C. on Salmo River Ranch which takes about 10-11 hours if you’re driving from Vancouver and can take up to a few days if you’re adventuring from somewhere else (I’ve met plenty of Shambhalovlies from all across the United States and Canada, and even different parts of Europe and Australia). It’s like the holy grail of music festivals in my eyes and I know I’m not the only one to feel this way.
Imagine going on a camping trip somewhere remote, where you probably don’t have cell phone service (even though I know this may sound awful to a few of you), but imagine that you are somewhere remote enough that the outside world doesn’t affect you. Mountains, a gushing river and trees, oh my god, so many trees. So here you are in the your perfect camping spot, and around you, in various places around the forest (yes, in the actual forest) there are 6 stages with some of the best electronic music pumping out practically 24/7.
And on top of all that, 10,000 of your best friends and family have decided to come too! Because for me, that’s what it really comes down to. The people. Shambhala is more a sense of community and belonging than anything I’ve ever experienced anywhere else in my life. But anyways, enough about the atmosphere, let’s get down to music!
Here are a few of my must-see sets of 2016:
SkiiTour – 3:30 p.m. Thursday -The Amphitheatre
If you’re a Shambhala veteran, you know this set is always a good time, and a must-see for any Shambha-virgins. The duo is based out of Whistler, and they are true to their moniker, showing up on stage decked out in their finest ski gear. And that’s part of what makes their shows so enticing — everyone shows up in their best snow gear. Ski jackets, goggles, snow pants…you better be ready to get sweaty in the mid-afternoon sun. Their sound is eclectic, and hard to put a name to but when I think SkiiTour I think funky bass, and kind of housey. Regardless of what you want to call it, SkiiTour sets are a party and they will have you dancing the whole time. Here’s my personal favorite track of theirs with the Funk Hunters (another Shambhala staple you should check out) — an oldie but a goodie.
Father Funk – 6:30 p.m. Friday -Fractal Forest
What better way to kick off Shambhala than with some funk in the Fractal Forest? If you like dancing, and really, who doesn’t? I highly suggest you check this set out. (Pro tip: The Fractal Forest stage at Shambhala is known for it’s funk undertones, so if you’re looking for something a little less heavy and little more upbeat, chances are this is the spot for you. Whether it’s 6 in the evening or 6 in the morning, Fractal Forest is always bumping great beats for dancing).
If you’re looking to get hyped before the festival, I highly suggest giving Father Funk’s Funk Aerobics mixtape a listen.
Another one for Friday, I can’t help it. There’s just so much good music going on that night. Man oh man, the conflicts are going to have me running like a chicken with my head cut off to see everyone that I want to see. Anyways, I had to put Caspa & Rusko because sometimes you just need some good ol’ grimy dubstep and dnb in your life, and jeez The Village stage is the place to get it. Listening to C+R’s Rinse FM podcast and the set they played at Rampage this year has had me SO pumped to see these guys live. These two mixes have pretty much been on repeat for the last month or so. Rinse FM: http://bit.ly/29LEBpI Rampage: http://bit.ly/29L5XwH
Excision – Friday 1 a.m. – The Village
Immediately after the goodness that is Caspa & Rusko, I suggest you stick around for Excision’s set. Sure, you may have seen Excision before, but have you ever seen him at his hometown festival? I’ve seen Excision a dozen times and every Shambhala I’m always blown away by his sets. Literally blown away. PK Sound does an amazing job with the sound system and if you don’t walk away a little windswept from an entire evening of foot stomping, and head thrashing bass, I’d say you’re doing it wrong.
Sub Focus – Saturday 1:30 a.m – The Village
Because all hail the Lord of DnB. Enough said.
Featurecast – Saturday 3:00 a.m. – Fractal Forest
No joke, this mix (below) has been on loop in my household for the past 5 months. If I don’t know what to put on, which sadly is a lot of the time, I put on this mix. There is enough variety to please most listeners. I love the funk feeling with the dnb undertones. Featurecast easily mashes up different genres and artists together to create a very upbeat, danceable mix, and I am looking forward to grooving out to his sounds at the tail end of my night in the Forest.
Mat The Alien sets at Shambhala are practically a staple. It’s hard to describe MTA if you’ve never seen him, but he plays around with genres, never really sticking to one thing, which is what makes his sets so awesome. There’s something for everyone in there.
The M Machine – Sunday 8:30 p.m. – The Pagoda
Always unique yet very danceable The M Machine has a prime spot at The Pagoda on Sunday night. The Pagoda is the epitome of dance music. There are always hip-swaying beats coming out from this stage, and The M Machine will be no exception. Just Like A Mix is my M Machine go-to. [soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/195761623″ params=”color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]
Slynk – 4:30 a.m. – Fractal Forest
As you may have guessed by the stage, Slynk lays down all the funky, glitchy goodness that the Fractal Forest is known for. Glitch hop, to hip hop, to ghetto funk, to drum and bass, Slynk knows how to keep people dancing. His Shambhala mix from last year is my go-to on a rainy day if I need something upbeat to keep me going. [soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/playlists/155128567″ params=”color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false” width=”100%” height=”450″ iframe=”true” /]
Obviously this is not a comprehensive list of everyone you must see, there are dozens I haven’t included because their names speak for themselves (Justin Martin, Boys Noize, Gorgon City, Opiuo, Mija, Getter… the list is endless). Honestly, it’s great to have a schedule to see who is playing when, but at the end of the day the best advice I can give is to go with the flow. There is so much to see and not enough time (or enough words) to adequately address the awesomeness that is Shambhala.
Lastly, I’ve got some tips for you. These probably go for most festivals, but I think they’re worth repeating anyways.
Shambhala Pro Tips:
Don’t be afraid to get silly. Costumes and fun garments are highly encouraged.
Pack something warm for the evenings. Once the sun goes down it gets cold af. Pack a onesie if you’ve got one. Not only are they fun to dress up in but they keep you warm at night. (Take note: Day Onesie is on Thursday. You can wear a onesie anytime, but you will find everyone else walking around in theirs on Thursday).
Stay hydrated. No matter what I do or where I’m going I always make a pit stop at one of the water stations to fill up my water bottle. On your way back from the bathroom? Fill up that water bottle. Going to another stage? Stop and quickly fill up that water bottle! Lines can get long sometimes and when you’re thirsty it can be a pain to wait in line to hydrate yourself. Save yourself the hassle of running out of water by always being prepared with a full bottle.
Same goes for the bathroom (well okay, port-a-potty, same difference). Those lines can get long too. Make yourself go when you’re going past them so you don’t have to wait in a long line with a full bladder later.
Don’t forget that Shambhala is an alcohol-free festival. So, if you don’t want all your alcohol taken away at security, may as well make sure there is none to be taken away, right? Or at least none to be found. Saves yourself some $$$ too.
Bring Canadian cash. There are ATMs and some vendors take card but you’re better off bringing a wad of Canadian bills for all your festival needs. There are plenty of food and merch vendors at Shamb.
Food. It’s worth noting that Shambhala has amazing food on the farm. Smoothies, burgers, pirogies, tacos, pizza, waffles, bagels… man, I’m salivating just thinking about the delicious selection they have. You can bring your own food too, I usually bring at least some snacks but always find myself hitting up downtown Shambhala for some late night munchies.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Shambhala is above all else a community. Everyone looks out for each other here and you will be no exception. Feel a bad trip coming on? Need a sip of water? Ask someone for help. If they can’t help you directly they will at least guide you to someone who can.
Make use of the Sanctuary if you need it. Shambhala’s harm reduction team is THE BEST. There is a safe space called the Sanctuary that you can hit up if you’re not feeling so hot, or you feel a bad trip coming on or you just need a safe space to chill. They have hammocks and air mattresses set up in shady spots.
Get your stuff tested. If you dabble in the substances there is a tent that will test what you bought/brought/found for free.
Don’t confine yourself to one stage. Make sure you get a chance to check out each stage in all its glory. Sure, you might be a dubstep/ dnb type person so you will probably spend most of your time in The Village, but that doesn’t mean other stages aren’t worth peeping. (Check out the Fractal Forest at night. That is a 100% must do ^_^)
Camp in the forest if you can. It costs extra to camp next to your car, I’m not sure how much as I’ve always opted to camp in the forest. Honestly, I wouldn’t do it any other way. Choosing to camp without your car puts you so much closer to the music and the walk to get to the stages is so much shorter. That being said, if you do choose to camp in the forest/field without your car, maybe consider bringing a dolly or a wagon depending on how much stuff you plan to bring.
Shade is great. It gets really hot during the day. If you have a canopy, or some tarps you can put up at an angle to give yourself a little extra shade, do it! You will thank yourself later.