Legend has it that Shambhala Music Festival is situated on a bed of quartz, a collection of crystals imbued with mystical powers and healing energies. Regardless of whether this information is true, you cannot deny the magical grandeur of Shambhala at this stage in its lifetime. The event, now in its 18th year, held this year on August 7 to 10, is hailed as one of Canada's biggest electronic music festivals.
On Thursday August 6, masses of early birds began spilling into the old Salmo River Ranch, building tents and parking campers filled with spirit hoodies, animal onesies, and psychedelic decor. Like a tidal wave, the annual Shambs greetings thundered through the campsite. From the inner crannies of the grounds, to the forested premises, the cheers let everyone know that Shambhala 2015 had indeed commenced.
By late afternoon, after most woodland ravers had connected through group hugs and high fives, the Rock Pit stage set off with local Whistler boys, Ski Tour. Crammed within the pit, the neon ravers ignited the party, dancing with a sea of totems. As day turned into night, G Jones led the early Shambhala circus animals through an energetic trap explosion.
Down by the river at the Living Room stage, a slightly more calming atmosphere encircled fans thanks to Vancouver locals Dubconcious, Sam Demoe, and Spilt Milk. With the nearby forest silhouette illuminated by the stage lights, the eager campers settled into the nooks and crannies of the beach stage alcove.
By Thursday evening, rumors of a possible appearance by Justin Bieber began spreading. (Dead serious.) Word on the dust-filled streets was that the Beebs scored an artist guest pass from his dubstep superstar compadre, Skrillex. A broken telephone chain began permeating the event. Some Shambalovelies responded in complete dismay while others chuckled, shrugged, and sighed with 'Oh, Shambhala.'
Friday brought another influx of festival attendees into the grounds, elevating the party to yet another level. By early evening, the San Francisco-based Dirtybird crew began their Shambhala take-over at the Pagoda stage. As the bass-house energy skyrocketed, the dancefloor bounced and boogied, tossing beach balls over the crowd.
Over at the Village stage, Skrillex fanatics packed into the chaotic dome. Holding their iPhones high, they thrashed around to quaking bass sounds as bright lights hindered all vision. In typical Skrillex fashion, he often swapped between jumping on the decks and yelling into the microphone. "How you feeling Shambhala?!" The mob answered back tenfold with screams that rivalled the monstrous sound of the PK Sound System rigs. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) there was no Beebs in sight.
The festival grounds at Shambhala are set up similar to a carnival. Lights are strung from tree to tree, toys are scattered around for play, art sits begging to be checked out, and the blooming Shambhala garden buds with giant sunflowers and other plant life. In between the stages, attendees spin a massive rotating wheel to discover see what kind of animal is their personal spirit animal. You could also fly into space via spaceship—a simulated one, that is. A massive dome encircled by giant rose gold gongs are said to create the feeling of shot into space when played at once. And of course, you could participate in the yearly Shambhala tradition of writing wishes on little pieces of paper to hang from the cedar trees.
Daytime at Shambhala is also always a good time for a refreshing dip in the river. While the party continued onshore, inner tubes and pool floaties carried Shambhalovlies carelessly downstream—despite a noticeable drop in water levels due to BC's recent droughts.
On Saturday night in the Fractal Forest, funk runs free and disco dancing is a must. The Fresh Prince of Bel Air's DJ Jazzy Jeff drew in crowds with classic hip-hop and old school pop remixes. After Jazzy Jeff, Mix Master Mike rinsed out some tunes of his own, followed by the Fractal Forest staple, A Skillz.
After much useless banter about rumored Bieber appearances, to the people's' delight, Toronto's Zed's Dead was confirmed as this year's mystery guest.
Over the years, each of the stages has seen their fair share of upgrades. One stage in particular, now known as the Grove, has not only gone through various visual alterations, but it has also changed its title and music theme. This year, the Grove had undergone another noticeable transformation with new cartoony décor that made it illusionary of a forest fantasy pop-up book.
An unfortunate cancellation by Leon Switch provided space for New Zealand dubstep all-stars, Truth. Following some classic dubby delights, Manchester-based Synkro brought the audience on a journey through a multitude of BPMs and varying levels of sonic consciousness with both techno to dubstep.
At Shambhala, Sunday is the last chance to really let loose—as if they hadn't already. As the day turned into one final night of mayhem, Living Room legend, Tipper, made a return with his signature glitchy beats. Up at the Grove, Bonobo revisited Shambhala with his melodic trip-hop, followed by equally satisfactory performances by Birds of Paradise and dubstep badman, Biome.
Monday brought the festival to a close and the exhausted and bliss-filled Shambhalovelies slowly put themselves back together and headed off the grounds. Another year, another notch on the Shambhala belt. As they traipsed through the Salmo gates and back into reality, they took one last look over our shoulders and blew kisses at the ranch.
'Till next year's grand return.