This story is over 5 years old.


Conventional Bullshit and Superficial Thoughts Fall Away at Shambhala

We soak up sun, sand, and substances at BC’s most iconic festival.

As many of you may know, we released an article earlier in the month detailing Shambhala's rise as one of the most coveted and celebrated electronic music festivals in Canada. I had been hearing about it for years from friends and after sitting in a local Vancouver café, reading our interview with co-founder Jimmy Bundschuh, I decided that this was my year. I volunteered to head to Shambs (for the team), to ingest some intoxicating substances (for the team), and keep a record of everything I saw (for the team?).


Shambhala is a convoluted paradise where at every turn you find self-expression, unadulterated passion, and above all peace. I knew that I could not tell this story any other way; I had to give the uncensored version. While this article can't even begin to describe everything that happened and all the artists I saw, it represents a chronological record of my experience with musicians, my connections with the community, and my being topless while floating in a river. This is my Shambifesto recap.


6:20 PM: We arrive at the festival on Wednesday evening after driving eight-something hours from Vancouver.

6:40 PM: We are in the campground. Thanks to our crew parking passes, we skip the 12-hour line and safety check. Not to be dampened by the long wait ahead of them, I hear the last of the beers cracked throughout the convoy. Music gets turned up as we sail past them. I almost wanted to join. Almost.


7:55 AM: Wake up in the morning already feeling exhausted. People are trickling in and I hear the sound of a Beavis and Butthead laugh from somewhere in the campground.

8:32 AM: A stranger informs me that Koalas are sex freaks and have high rates of syphilis—adorable little sluts. Perhaps I should reconsider my Koala spirit hood tucked away in my tent. Or nah.

9:00 AM: Duct tape fixes many things, but German automobiles are not one of them. This morning is the calm before the storm and the energy is electric. I have no idea what's about to happen.


10:03 AM: Electro soul is blasting through our quickly growing campsite.  A friend finishes capping her MDMA and I make a joke about it being "knee capped." People laugh politely. Are puns not cool anymore? Were they ever?

1:40 PM: I leave the group with an old friend to walk around and take it all in. If beauty is in the details, then this is the most beautiful place I've ever been. Every structure and every detail of the layout, from the garden by the amphitheater to the bright colorful displays of the vendors invites you in and makes you feel comfortable. Beautiful curvy neon flower sculptures sit high on posts in the air; we pass by a tree that looks like it turns into a glowing wood nymph at the top. I'm about as clean and sober as one can expect me to be, and I still feel like I'm in Alice's Wonderland on acid.

2:00 PM: We walk by the river and catch our first glimpse of the free spirits in their birthday suits. They're easily the best costumes of the weekend.

4:38 PM: Fort Knox 5 vs. Thunderball are playing at the Amphitheater. They drop a glitch remix of "Renegade Master" by Wildchild and everyone starts twerking. I look down at my pathetic white girl booty in sadness.

5:05 PM: It's going to take weeks to wash the dirty hippie smell off me. I will wear this stench like a badge of honor.

6:06 PM: I am standing topless in the river. I look over to a dude lounging with a Prince Albert piercing and we give each other the thumbs up. Neat.


8:00 PM: As the sun goes down and the LEDs light up, the warm, green, natural vibe of the day disappears and you are left with something alien. The festival grounds are unearthly, yet at the same time connected with the earth. Everything is so new and exciting. I make my way over to the VIP camping to meet some of the amazing people that work so hard to make this possible. The care for detail and the efforts made to make people feel happy and comfortable are truly outstanding, and they deserve as many free hugs as I can (or am allowed to) give.


12:00 AM: Bryx has some fantastic drum and bass hip-hop tracks and ends his set with a killer remix of Lorde's "Royals." I didn't think I'd be able to hear that song again without bleeding from my ears, but Bryx pulled it off.

Robot Koch: Like deep house mixed with dubstep, only darker and more ethereal. The ground of the amphitheater is shaking with a base tone that reverberates through everyone's chest, putting us in a trance.

The Librarian: This curly haired little minx can throw down a good beat. My legs do protest.

9:38 AM: The horseflies are on drugs. I get my ass up and chug a litre of coconut water. I decide to jump the barbed wire fence, climb the mountain, and sweat out everything I put in my body last night. My apologies to anyone whose job it is to keep me out of here.

10:30 AM: About halfway up I see a great deal of bear scat and a figure emerging from the woods. I start yelling aggressively and banging sticks together like a madwoman. (You're supposed to do that, right?) A few moments later I realize it's not a bear, but a very confused and slightly frightened man. We decide to hike the final uphill climb together and head into the woods. We find a rock face, do a little yoga and talk about life. He tells me about his struggle with cancer, his healing process and how every year that he missed Shambhala he became more motivated to get better so that he could be apart of it again. He says that this place heals him. We sit together and watch as the campground slowly comes alive in the mid-morning heat. My heart ached with fullness at that moment. I don't know if I'll ever see him again, but I'll never forget him. Hi Matt!


11:48 AM: Life is about Wilfred Giroux and community love. Facepaint, water, Ketamine, group exhaustion and dusty cuddles.

12:12 PM: Peeing in the woods beats a porta potty any time of the day. I will say, however, that if you do find yourself in one of those stinky hell-boxes, at least you'll be entertained by some of the most interesting and creative bathroom graffiti you'll encounter anywhere. Shitter scripture is a big thing here.

12:20 PM: An unfortunate side effect of going out of bounds is potential confrontations with barbed wire. Barb and I had a little encounter and she gave me a little love-scratch down my leg. Why do you have be like that, Barb?

1:00 PM: Can you get tetanus from barbed wire?

3:24 PM: Friends arrive with blotter acid. I want to write everything down, but it gets increasingly difficult. I switch to voice notes.

3:52 PM: The acid is really starting to hit. All I can think about is seeing OPIUO tonight. So many friends have told me not to miss his show and I've been a slave to his SoundCloud for the past two weeks. I'm torn because GRiZ is playing at the same timeslot and the rumor mill around the river is buzzing with whispers that Gramatik is going to show up. I'll believe it if and when I see it.

4:30 PM: I think my favourite sighting of the day has been the glorious man with a massive dick tattooed onto his ass. Perhaps it's a not-so-subtle reminder of where it's supposed to go.


8:00 PM: Stylust Beats brings a trippy vibe the Village. His live mixing is on point, and I'm always down to hear rap goodness. Well done, good sir.

11:30 PM: Stickybuds builds ghetto funk drum and bass like a pro. It calls for a dance where your head and shoulders bop at different rhythms and you feel like it might disconnect from pure funk. I think they call it the two-step flail. My physiotherapist, Andrew, will be receiving a call.


1:00 AM: Opiuo was a highlight for me that night—truly a master of drum and bass. His glitchy percussion and use of horns make me dance like a groovy robot. I mean that in the absolute best way possible.

2:30 AM: Taiki Nu light blew me away. The deep house tech vibe was perfect for the end of my night, and even though it felt like my legs were disconnecting from my hips, the basslines kept everyone moving.

11:31 AM: I guess I brought a sandwich to bed with me last night. RIP duvet.

8:30 PM: A bunch of the people that I'm camping with organized a costume Secret Santa in advance. Highlights include a silk leopard shirt with 'Sassy Kitty' decorated in rhinestones on the back with a matching monogrammed apron, graduation robes with chicken shoes, a full white faux-fur snowsuit, TinkyWinky, Dipsy, La La, Po, and a very tight, very pleather outfit that says 'Bad Boy' on it.

10:00 PM: GRiZ brought his A-game as usual. It was one of the performances I was most excited to see and he did not disappoint. The thing about Grant that sets him apart from so many artists is the look of pure joy and rapture on his face as he performs. It looks like he's blowing his very soul/load into that saxophone, and we can hear it.


11:00 PM: A.Skillz totally read the vibe of the fractal and provided the beats necessary to fuel the party. His live mixing was second to none that I saw in the festival, and he threw down Aretha Franklin, AC/DC and so many other tunes that kept my feet moving.

11:45 PM: Bassnectar's home is Shambhala. He is always invited back because him and his badass hair belong here. Pagoda was perfect and he played like he was at home.

12:30 AM: WHAT SO NOT was a great follow up to Bassnectar. It's clear that Emoh has been doing this a long time and is incredibly skilled at his craft.

1:30 AM: Kill Paris, you romantic son of a bitch. You played some of my favourites ("Baby Come Back" and "Shades of Funk," among others) and the best part was your beaming smile down on all us Shambhaloves.

3:30 AM: My friend and I leave The M Machine and take a break down by the river to dip our sweaty toes in and watch the moon. I swear I could feel the electricity of the moon caressing my shoulders and protecting me as we sat in silence, listening to the muffled thump from the forest.


11:30 AM: The final day. The name of the game is poppers and mushrooms. And sleep. And food. My coconut water IV is in place.

3:20 PM: Once again, I travel across the forbidden fence and set up a hammock in the woods. Hammock naptime is a go. I mostly just stare into the sky while my body hangs awkwardly like a corpse in the trees, aching from the mental and physical marathon that is this festival. All concerns over appearance and worries of routine have decimated over the past four days.


5:20 PM: Everyone is quiet as we halfheartedly pack a little to make it easy on our empty shells of bodies in the morning. I have enjoyed my time here more than words can say, but I also know that I will enjoy my shower tomorrow. I wonder if my skin is tan, or just smeared with dirt or burger juice. Definitely both—and probably some other things in the mix as well.

10:40 PM: Gorgon City was my final goodbye to the Pagoda stage. Their upbeat and fitting track "Here For You feat. Laura Welsh" filled the entire area with a sense of connectedness, and "Ready for Your Love" brought that UK garage sound to the front. I am upset that I missed Justin Martin and Chris Lorenzo, but I will catch up with them at the official after party in Vancouver.

ODESZA in the Grove was an escape from reality. Their beautiful, wavy tones shook the forest and everybody moved languidly together.

11:30 PM: Much of my Sunday night is spent wandering the festival grounds and feasting my eyes on everything I had come to call home over the past four days. I said goodbye to the garden, the river, and the stages. I took my last breath of the art, the people, and the bass that filled the valley.


From August 6th to 11th, thousands of people came home to Shambhala. For those looking at the festival from the outside it's easy to trivialize it as a group of hippies getting together, doing drugs and listening to music in a forest. Like any festival, people will get fucked up, but as a veteran of many, many festivals I can tell you that Shambhala encompasses so much more than that. It's difficult to articulate your experience outside of the environment because so much of what you feel is unspoken, intrapersonal, and profound. Nowhere else could I even comprehend such a grand celebration of music, nature, creativity, art, love, and life. It's a place where the conventionalized bullshit of the day-to-day falls away, and we can bare our souls and let our freak flags fly without fear of condemnation. Shambhala reaches into your chest, pulls your soul out of its neat little bubble, and whispers words of encouragement for it to fly.

If you liked this, you'll love:

From Zero Budget to Infinite Awe, We Sit Down with Shambhala's Founder

Electric Forrest 2014 Recap: Anything is Possible

I Traded Kandi Bracelets For a House at Mysterland