Live Review: Bass Coast Festival 2018 in Merritt, BC – July 6th-9th 2018

This summer I was privileged with an opportunity to attend the 10th Anniversary of Bass Coast in Merritt, BC. With countless mainstream music festivals under my belt, along with a handful of more intimate gatherings, I felt as though I had a pretty good idea of what to expect. Little did I know that I was about to stumble tail-over-totem into the most thoughtfully curated and inclusive festival I have ever been a part of. Indeed, what makes Bass Coast so special is that we were all a part of it, integral components of its complex equation. Notions of quaint ‘attendees’ and crude ‘concert-goers’ have been scattered to the quantum winds, and what remains are collaborators, creating art in its purest form, as far as the eye can see. This is the vision held by Andrea Graham and Liz Thomson when they conceived this festival so many years ago, and after a decade of growth in the fertile Nicola Valley, the feelings of pride and community are stronger than ever.

With world-class music and dance performances scheduled from dusk til dawn, and a heavy focus on local talent, there is no better place to showcase the spirit of BC and give thanks to everyone who helps shape its identity. Just like the Coldwater River, which flows graciously through the middle of the festival grounds and offers respite to run-down revellers, Bass Coast is fluid. The stages have been set with care and finely crafted art installations run rampant through the woods, but it is participation from the weekend’s forest dwellers which brings it all to life.

I walk into the main festival area, past a dizzying array of artisan vendors touting talents that I will never fully comprehend, and the heart of Bass Coast unfolds before me. A group of rainbow warriors cycle past, grooving to the improvised beats created by a few people touching a futuristic looking triangle. To my left is a shaded spa oasis, to my right a pile of newly acquainted souls share a pillow-filled tub and giggle sweet nothings to a colony of canopy dwellers suspended in nets high above. I overhear half a conversation on a telephone which connects to the other side of the clearing, somebody is trying to order a pizza, and a hastily written sign reads: Lost – tiny top hat, please return to lost and found. I laugh at the thought of how many tiny top hats have surely been turned in by the end of the weekend. This is but a modest snapshot, a majestic moment within the interactive beauty of Bass Coast that would take more than a lifetime to experience in its entirety. Given just a few days per year, all we can do is surrender ourselves to the flow of the festival and let the music guide our souls.

Of course, there is always a method to what may first appear as madness. If you seek nirvana through knowledge, The Brain is a one-stop shop for holistic workshops encompassing such far-ranging topics as colonialism, turntablism, psychedelic research, and tinnitus. If enlightenment comes to you from exercising more than just your mind, there are countless movement-oriented sessions lead by experts in diverse fields including yoga, hooping, and good old-fashioned twerking. Guaranteed to put you in touch with modes of thinking and muscle groups you may have never had the pleasure of being introduced to before, and ideal for working out tension from the day and night dance-a-thon which blessed the stages all weekend long.

Speaking of stages, this year they were a frill-a-minute, surrounded by immersive infrastructure, adorned with mesmerizing projection mapping, and all held together by BC’s favourite PK Sound. Whether you found yourself in the thick of things up front at Main Stage, hiding from the elements under Slay Bay’s awe-inspiring dance floor canopy, sitting comfortably in the well-adorned library at Radio, or letting ethereal soundscapes wash over you in the intimate Cantina, there was surely a place for everybody. Whereas many festivals designate a particular type of music for each stage, music at Bass Coast was dynamic, so you could enjoy your favourite beats while hopping between all of the amazing settings on offer. Complete with the perfect crowd of friendly faces, comprised of individuals from all walks of life, and united by a desire to simply be there in the moment. I doubt anybody could think of a place they would rather be.

On the surface, this festival is just a big group of people who all decided to go out into nature and do whatever they want. In general, this type of environment could be hinting at disaster, but by organizing everyone around a singular, unwavering commitment to goodness, amazing things can be achieved. I am thankful for every single person who has ever come to Bass Coast, all the hard-working groups and individuals who have spent even a moment to think about what they can do to make this weekend special, and then did it. It is simply all these ideas that have added up over ten years that make Bass Coast the spectacular we see today. Free from excessive corporate sponsorship, from inequality, from hate of any kind, Bass Coast is the distillation of the human spirit, and it is beautiful.

Photos © Joseph Rootman

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