It's almost 11:30 P.M. in the parking lot of McMahon Stadium and we just missed the first bus. We're not the only ones who took our sweet time arriving; there's a sizable group waiting at the makeshift pick-up location. The bus set to take us to a mystery after hours party organized by a group called BassBus held somewhere outside the city limits reached capacity early and left. So now we wait for the next trip. The after-hours party organized by a group called BassBus held somewhere outside the city limits reached capacity early and left. So now we wait for the next trip.
Before long, the BassBus arrives looking more like an interstellar rave shuttle than school bus; decked entirely in a psychedelic mural that wouldn't look out of place on the cover of Magical Mystery Tour, a cozy interior, outfitted DJ booth, and a full bar at the front. The roar of the bus engine coming to life was drowned out by the combined sound of everyone cheering onboard and techno booming through the sound system. This bus was supposedly taking us to the party, but it felt like we had already arrived. By the time we get to what is, in fact, a poolhouse complete with a sauna and deck, the proceedings were well underway.
'On March ttwenty-fifth we invite you to join us at a secret location for an intimate affair,' read the invitation for "Tell Dawn," adorned with a photo of a swan and "a BassBus late night affair" scrawled across the bottom. It was an invite-only party; a scant 250 invites were sent out for the first 100 who could purchase tickets quickly enough. DJs such as Bambooloo, Arktic, Jah Raven, tkl, Sonny Chiba, Burchill, Miss Hazard and Orlesko were spread out between two stages: one by the pool and the other inside the house. Two series of art installations adorned the surroundings while bartenders went to and from their stations. Mountains of kebabs were placed onto the grill.
"This seems like tight parking but I used to drive a bus," Baran Faber, promoter and BassBus founder, says the day before as he maneuvers the BassBus Band Wagon, a repurposed ice cream truck out of a tiny parking lot attached to Lukes Drug Mart. In the lead-up to "Tell Dawn," we follow Faber around Calgary to some of his favourite haunts and locales in a pitch-black ice cream truck blasting house music. It was a warm day in the city, free of the usual day-to-day complications that came with organizing and coordinating events.
After stopping at Lukes' for a quick coffee break, our sight was set on tacos at Native Tongues. Not long after, we were witnesses to Faber getting an impressive beard trim over at Johnny's Barber + Shop (Shout outs to Karlo for providing the epic service.) At some point, we ended up at one of the city's pub staples, the Ship & Anchor, with the entire BassBus crew and associates.
Of course, when Faber was talking about his past as a bus driver, he was, in fact, referring to the early days of BassBus where he had to get a Class 2 license because nobody else knew how to drive the bus at the time. "It's one of those things when you start a business. You kinda have to do [a lot of it] yourself," he says. "But that's how you learn a lot, too."
Watching him deftly handle the Band Wagon with one hand on the steering wheel and the other confidently clutching a coffee proves he isn't lying about his bus driving skills. There is a button that plays ice cream jingles and we mercilessly take advantage of it as we blast through the city, the familiar sounds of adolescence leaving several children confused, and one mailman bewildered.
BassBus has had a foothold in the city's electronic music scene for a number of years thanks to their parties and most of all, their titular bus/mobile soundstage, seen around the city and at festival hotspots. The group's existence began as a response to what was already happening in the scene—the bus is a way of connecting the various events happening in Calgary. While they regularly sold out their parties during their first three years, Faber credits their real breakthrough to their growing contract event work for other groups and organizations, allowing BassBus to shift their focus to providing services and their hefty black book of friends and collaborators to anyone looking for a little shine.
No longer needing to rely on their parties to suffice as their source of income gave BassBus the means to get daring. Suddenly the parties became small and intimate, more about establishing vibe and less about fulfilling the bottom line.
"I've always said my dream [was] to run a sustainable business ran by a bunch of friends who were really good at what they did." Faber says. "We're seeing that we're on that path. We're just building and we're growing and it's catching up. People love it. Gathering community around music, that's what BassBus is."
At some indeterminate point in the night, the bus returns to take people back home and the long goodbyes began. The DJs and staff paid no mind, but the separation anxiety you get before leaving a party you still can't believe happened was in full effect. The BassBus has a way of leaving you wanting one more song, and luckily it doesn't look this roaming party is running out of them anytime soon.
Presented by New Amsterdam Vodka