Its 9:30 PM on Halloween night in downtown Vancouver and 350 freaks and ghouls are patiently waiting to board the Bass Coast Halloween party boat known as the "Magic Spirit". There she stands bobbing in the water, lit up, decked out, and ready to take this motley crew out for a wild ride.
For weeks now, hype surrounding the party had been steadily building. On Oct 15th, tickets for the party went on sale and then sold out within minutes. Those who were lucky enough to get one had been hanging onto them like golden tickets from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as others frantically put calls out on the Facebook event page desperately trying to acquire any that may have been floating astray.
Ushered into a single line for security checks, one by one we walk the dock and enter the vessel; an underworld wedding themed zone for us to lose ourselves in for the next four and a half hours. Fortunately for us the West Coast rain has let up, saving our costumes from complete destruction before the night is through. I breathe a sigh of relief as I look down at my handmade newspaper skirt, the focal point of my Cyndi Lauper "true colors" outfit, it had all made it in one piece.
Boarding the ship we are met with hand crafted decor that is quintessential of the Halloween West Coast underground festival culture. Hanging skeletons wearing white lace and bridal veils surrounded by pumpkins.
At approximately 10 PM the boat finally sets sail and cruises out of False Creek. It doesn't take long for the underground festival scenesters to get rolling, and by now the party is already cooking up a storm. Downstairs, J.F. Killah is baptizing the space properly with a deep, rhythmic pulse. Wearing a medusa costume, she calmly holds the reigns of the turntables, luring those looking for heavy beats to come onto the dance floor and feel the weight of the bass.
Shortly after her performance, I catch up with the Vancouver based DJ to ask a few questions about her set and what the Bass Coast community means to her. "I had a lot of fun," she says. "I just love the vibes that I feel every time I go to Bass Coast and I'm surrounded by all the amazing people that attend. I just feel like everyone is so connected, and its really unlike a lot of other communities. It's hard to put into words, but its just unreal. I love it. I'm totally blessed to be a part of it."
After J.F. Killah is none other than Self Evident, one of the few holding it down for the grime scene on the West Coast. Playing a few original tunes mixed in with some hip-hop classics, he kept the crowd jumping despite technical difficulties with his equipment.
While the crowd raves, I take the chance to duck into the DJ booth to speak to Crystal Precious, well-known MC and burlesque performer within the scene. She informs me about how her night is going and her thoughts on the community. "Pretty fucking excellent considering the fact that upstairs is a full-on techno house party and downstairs is evil, scary, cave bass music," she tells me with pride. "This is a small community, and a grassroots festival that highlight the local stuff. Here, we get the support. Here, we're going to be able to make art and share with our communities. That's what Bass Coast means to me. Fuck being mass marketed."
After my chat with Crystal Precious, I head over to the Dexter-esque, serial killer workspace themed photo booth that the organizers have created for our party pleasure. Situated in the bow of the boat, a space lined with blood-splattered plastic awaits those who desire to pose for the camera and show off their costumes.
Although I have been running around, checking out the decor and costumes like a kid in a candy store, it's time for me to head upstairs and really take in what Max Ulis and Lorne B are concocting at the house and techno stage.
When I arrive on the second floor of the vessel, its nothing short of magic. People are getting down to their four to the floor beats like there's no tomorrow. A couple of Jokers from Batman, a Waldo from Where's Waldo, a "drum and bass" Energizer Bunny, and a bunch of other hooligans already bouncing like they too have their own self-powered batteries implanted in their bodies.
Yet despite the crowd, Lorne B and Max Ulis remain cool as cucumbers. Masters in the DJ booth playing back to back, they kept the dance floor bumpin'. Taking us on a journey through various house and techno varieties within the realm of acid, deep, and soul.
"Anytime I play with Lorne Burlington, we play all night, it's a beautiful thing," Ulis says. "Like a blip in time." And when I question him about his feelings on the Bass Coast community, "That's a tough one," he exclaims. "They are our buds!" I could see he was feeling put on the spot, so I turned to Lorne B for some answers. "That's an interesting question," he tells me. "It means friends." "Friends?" I ask. "Friends. Lots of friends doing talented things," he explains.
Last but not least, it was crucial that I speak to one of the founding members of Bass Coast and main staples of the West Coast underground electronic music scene, Andrea Graham, aka, The Librarian. Downstairs she played her own set as the boat headed back to the city. Always one to draw a large crowd, The Librarian is the most unassuming badass DJ you'll ever encounter. Often noted for her quiet demeanor yet heavy, gangster sound of the bass music genre, her shows are a guarantee win.
I had heard of the legendary Bass Coast Halloween parties aside from their summer outdoor music festival, but I wanted to hear more straight from the source. "Our first Halloween party was in 2008 in Squamish. It was a crazy, steamy, sexy Halloween party that became legendary," she says. "That first party was pre-Bass Coast and was a big motivator behind launching the festival in 2009. Since then, we've thrown a Halloween party every year with the exception of 2013. We've always hosted the party in really unique locations like North America's largest teepee, an abandoned 5-Plex Cinema in Squamish, and now on a 150' Yacht in Vancouver. People go all out with their costumes and we do our best to transform the rooms into a fantasy world."
Its 2:30 AM, and unfortunately we have docked and all must evacuate the ship. Plenty of others and I are slightly in denial that it's time for us to stop partying. However, in true raver form, the majority of us jumped in cabs and headed to our next destination. There's no way that we are heading home after such a great party. The show must go on.