The theme for Bass Coast Music Festival, this year on July 10 to 13, was Tentacularrr; a peculiar word that makes little sense. Created by the Bass Coast crew, the word Tentacularrr means to "reach out and explore the world through feeling" and to "extend beyond oneself." As the weekend began to unfold, it became evident that there was no better way to describe the magic of this year's festivities.
On Friday morning, 3000 festival attendees poured into the open Nicola Valley of Merritt, BC. Walking about the festival grounds, you could hear people wishing each other a "happy space toast." Yet another vernacular invention by Bass Coasters, "happy space toast" is an endearing nickname that, over the years, has become widely used by attendees and volunteers alike.
Every year, the Bass Coast team enhances the festival's infrastructure, location, and general ambiance. This year, a new addition called The Café was constructed between the main festival grounds and camping sections. The Café provided the perfect little spot for Bass Coasters to stop, have an espresso, and bop their head to some tunes as they headed to and from the main events. The Cafe line-up over the course of the weekend was an eclectic mix of music from artists such as Nathan Zahn, Barlee, An-Ten-Nae, Mooves, Ryan Daley, and TheNakedDJs.
Down at the Slay Bay stage, the Ambient Architects, a California-based design team, designed a swanky, multilayered fabric canopy that hung above the DJ booth and dancefloor. At night, the stage design came alive with an ever-changing projection of kaleidoscope colours and textured imagery.
Adjacent Slay Bay was another new addition to the festival, the Yarr Barr, which supplied festival attendees with a range of cocktails, ciders, and beers to sip by the river. Plus, admission to the Yarr Barr was a mandatory high five from the friendliest doorman you'll ever meet.
Across the forest stood the Radio Stage, which beamed its neon lights onto its dancefloor, wooden platforms, and seating areas. This year, both the Slay Bay and Radio Stage dancefloors were covered in sod; a clever idea from the Bass Coast crew in an effort to overcome last year's dust complaints.
By early evening, the Radio Stage was in full swing, bouncing from the likes of footwork/ghetto tech crew the Philthkids and surprise guest, Homesick. Following some serious booty shaking came the heavier and relentless sounds of Self Evident, Greazus, and Taal Mala.
At midnight, members of the illustrious Dirtybird crew took over the main stage, beginning with Ardalan. Under a canopy of shimmering streamers, Ardalan took no time in making sure that the entire dancefloor was throbbing along to his shameless, bassy house. Furthering the already mesmeric visuals, gigantic glowing tentacles lit up the DJ booth and surrounding area. "Everything is on point," he said of the festival after his set. "It's stellar!"
Next on the Dirtybird line-up, Justin Martin raised the levels of blissful house euphoria, yet kept us within the boundaries of the label's signature energetic party vibes. Behind Martin, West Coast wild woman Blondtron cruised around the stage on inline skates, Chewbacca danced up a storm, and MC Think Tank continued hyping the crowd on the mic. Afterward, J.Phlip closed the main stage by laying down some serious breakbeat infused tech house.
Back at Slaybay, for the first of the weekend's sunrise sets, local Vancouver DJs Woodhead and Neighbour ushered in the morning with some scrumptious four to the floor. Woodhead played deep house that glistened, and Neighbour paid homage to days gone by with some new disco boogie.
Saturday got off to a fine start with some light rain; a blessing for BC, which has been under a province-wide fire ban due to record-breaking temperatures. Enjoying the change in weather, Bass Coast attendees down at Slay Bay enjoyed the annual daytime reggae from the lighta! crew.
Bass Coast is a festival that emphasises art installations, so there is no shortage of interactive media to play with, pieces to marvel at, and beautiful imagery to get lost in. Among them, a refurbished cash register was jimmied to operate similar to that of a Kaoss Pad, and a gigantic glowing deer skull made to read a person's heartbeat and blink lights to match. Much like a playground for adults, it was easy for Bass Coast attendees to get caught up and lose a couple hours within the interactive art section in between shows.
At Main Stage on Saturday, Bass Coast co-founder, The Librarian took her audience on deep journey through the sonic sounds of bass. While she led us into her musical realm, aerial performers hung from the stage surrounded by cartoon puffs of smoke. House of La Douche later warmed the stage for Zebra Katz, who gave an electrifying performance. She straddled the tentacles statues on stage while removing layers of clothing and the crowd screamed in delight. "The people behind the festival have really made it something to be marvelled at," says Zebra Katz. "There are efforts to make this happen and the payoff is amazing to see all these really happy people here."
This year also marked the return of UK based living legend, Om Unit, who brought us through higher levels of consciousness with his signature genre melding and bass heavy rollers. Afterward, Detroit rising star, Sinistarr, smoothed out the rougher edges while stayed within the similar lines of blending footwork, jungle, and drum and bass.
Over at the Radio Stage, lighta! crew member Max Ulis preached the good word of soulful, deep house. That night he played five-hour sunrise set, breaking Bass Coast's personal record. Ulis unified the morning ravers with his very own gospel hour as they headed back to their tents repeating the words, "House. It's a spiritual thing."
By Sunday, things felt a little softer—a marriage proposal took place in the afternoon followed by a giant group hug at DJ K-Tel's annual Sunday Soul Sessions at Slay Bay. But as the last day turned into the last night, attendees prepared themselves for the final headlining shows. At Slay Bay, Barisone, Danny Corn, and G Jones set the tone for our final night of unabashed, West Coast gangster sound. The highlight of the evening came from non-other than Sam Binga, whose mind-boggling high-energy mix of juke, jungle, and dancehall had the crowd jumping with pure joy.
Over at Pirate Radio, Detroit Swindle played an all vinyl set, bringing their audience on a sojourn through the more refined house music sounds. Local Calgary favourite, Isis Graham, kept the spirit alive before passing the torch to Sabo who brought in the morning light with a funky finale.
Now in its seventh year, Bass Coast remains a pillar of not only innovative electronic music and art within the West Coast festival culture, but an event that stays true to the spirit of community building. Although it continues to increase in size and diversity, the Bass Coast team continue to create an environment for all to feel fully comfortable in. Feeling sick? Someone is there to hand you a bottle of water. Lost? Someone is there to direct you to where you need to go. Distressed? Someone is there to offer you a hug. And in the morning, you may just find yourself having a heart to heart with one of your very own musical heroes. Whether you are with friends, acquaintances, strangers, or a gigantic anglerfish named Angelo, at Bass Coast you are in good company.