It's said 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, it's hard to deny Shambhala's magical grandeur at this stage in its lifetime. The event, now in its 18th year, held this year on August 7 to 10, is long hailed as one of Canada's biggest electronic music festivals.
On Thursday, August 6, masses of early birds began spilling into the Salmo River Ranch with parking campers filled with spirit hoodies, animal onesies, and psychedelic decor. The annual Shambs greetings echoed through the campsite. From tent to tent, the cheers let everyone know that Shambhala 2015 had indeed commenced.
By late afternoon, most woodland ravers had formed new-found friendships through group hugs and high fives. The Amphitheatre stage set off the weekend with local Whistler boys, Ski Tour. The neon ravers crammed into the pit and ignited the party with a troop of homemade 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 was created by Vancouver locals Dubconcious, Sam Demoe, and Spilt Milk. The forest's tree-tops were illuminated by the stage lights as the eager campers settled into the nooks and crannies of the beach stage alcove.
By Thursday evening, rumors spread regarding a possible appearance by Justin Bieber. Word on the dust-filled streets was that the Beebs scored an artist guest pass from his dubstep superstar compadre, Skrillex. 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 which elevated 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 as beach balls were tossed over the crowd.
Over at the Village stage, Skrillex fanatics packed into the chaotic dome. Holding their iPhones high, they thrashed to his quaking bass. The bright lights hindered all vision. In typical Skrillex fashion, the OWSLA leader alternated from on-stage antics to dubstep hypeman to Shambhala's personal MC. "How you feeling Shambhala?!" he yelled into the microphone. The mob answered back 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 sigh of the Beebs.
The festival grounds at Shambhala are set up similar to that of a carnival. Lights are strung from tree to tree, toys are scattered around to play with, art sits begging to be ogled, and the blooming Shambhala garden flaunts giant sunflowers and other plant life. In between the stages, attendees spun a massive rotating wheel to discover see what kind of animal represents their personal spirit animal. Some flew to space in spaceship—a simulated one, that is. By sitting surrounded by giant rose gold gongs, the sounds were said to replicate the feeling of being shot into space. Others participated in the yearly Shambhala tradition of writing wishes on little pieces of paper and hanging from the cedar trees.
Daytime at Shambhala is 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 ran free and disco dancing was 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. He was followed by the Fractal Forest staple, A Skillz.
After so much useless banter about the rumoured Bieber appearance, to the delight of many, Toronto's Zed's Dead was confirmed as this year's mystery guest. The duo appeared that night on the Pagoda stage, thrilling diehard fans and relieving the non-Beliebers.
Over the years, each stage at Shambhala has undergone its 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 name and 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 made 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 and dubstep.
At Shambhala, Sunday is the last chance to really let loose—as if we all hadn't already. As the day turned into one final night of mayhem, Living Room legend Tipper returned with his signature glitchy beats. Up at the Grove, Bonobo revisited Shambhala with his melodic trip-hop. Equally satisfactory performances by Birds of Paradise and dubstep badman Biome followed.
Monday brought the festival to a close. 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 their shoulders and blew kisses at the ranch.
'Till next year's grand return.