The 11th and largest installment of the Bass Coast Music and Arts Festival, successfully occurred over the weekend of July 12th-15th, 2019. Organizers, Andrea Graham and Liz Thompson started the Bass Coast Festival in 2009 with a vision to provide an inclusive and collaborative platform for local musicians, artists, and attendees. After a decade of successful renditions, Bass Coast holds true to its original vision and remains an independent, artist-run, boutique music festival. This collaborative and inclusive platform provided by Bass Coast Festival has developed a passionate fan base with a high percentage of attendees who return annually and thus create a tightly knit community. I feel incredibly fortunate to have attended the Bass Coast festival for the first time and experience this inclusive and intimate party community.
Upon arrival to the festival in Merritt, British Columbia, you descend into the picturesque, Nicola Valley, and are immediately treated to a stunning mountainous backdrop. The Coldwater River carves through the center of the valley, providing an oasis for partiers and a natural barrier between the campgrounds and the festival grounds. Unlike most four-day music festivals I have attended, logistically everything at Bass Coast was painless and easily navigable. Bass Coast Festival employs a relaxed approach to camping, with ample space spread across three campsites, allowing attendees the freedom to set up immense camps however they desired.
Walking through the festival is a journey in itself. As the evening descends, the true artistry of Bass Coast comes to life. The forest is illuminated with every color of the rainbow, while lasers frolic above your head painting the mountainous backdrop. Larger than life art installations cover every nook and cranny of the festival ground, and as you travel between the stages you can’t help but get transfixed ephemeral surroundings; sitting in a treetop canopy with newly acquainted friends, taking in projections mapped onto a wooden UFO that appears ready for takeoff, then all of the sudden a two-story grim reaper on stilts strolls by. Continuing my exploration, there’s a carved wooden mask portraying multiple human emotions. A telephone rings nearby, and upon answering I am greeted by a stranger on the other end, letting me know to enjoy the sunrise and stay hydrated. The epicenter of the festival is the perfect place to let your wandering mind explore while giving your mangled legs a break from the marathon of dancing.
Bass Coast’s lineup is meticulously curated to keep you dancing all night long while providing enough variety for any fan of electronic music. Bass Coast selects a diverse lineup of local talent that’s on the rise rubbing shoulders with some of the most well-respected artists the industry has to offer. All four stages at Bass Coast have a unique stage design, and character. The larger than life LED dome at the Main Stage encapsulates the DJ, aerialists, and dancers all performing simultaneously. The curvy, color evolving structure at Slay Bay is sheltered by the canopy shifting in the wind above. Personally, my favorite stage was the two-story pirate-themed, wooden shack Radio Stage, nestled in the woods. Finally, the Cantina Bar, a cocktail bar turned stage, collaborated with the Boiler Room party series to stream performances from Saturday and Sunday. Boiler Room is a popular YouTube party series that is renowned for allowing a more interactive crowd and DJ experience by placing the stage in the center of the room and allowing for attendees to surround the whole stage. This seemed like a match made in heaven as Bass Coast is at the forefront for blurring the lines between performer and attendee. However, I felt this had its share of drawbacks, such as having to wait in line at times to enter the Cantina stage as well as the cameramen filming distracted from the music.
There’s so much more to discover at Bass Coast than just a group of people dancing in the woods for four days. Once you’ve danced all your legs could stand, take a moment to expand your mind at the Brain, where an abundance of interactive workshops and seminars on a variety of topics from environmentalism, cannabis and psychedelic research, to mixing electronic music were available. Or find your inner balance and get in touch with your body through the daily yoga and movement classes offered each morning. There were options for all skill levels, from the ultra-beginner, stretching and foam rolling seminars to highly advanced partnered acro-yoga balance workshops. Bass Coast Festival truly cares for the well-being of their attendees, partnering with the non-profit organization Ankors to provide world-class harm reduction. Ankors gives attendees access to a state of the art drug testing facility and education about safe drug use, safe sex and the meaning of consent. Offering such a plethora of beneficial workshops and services is why Bass Coast exceeds all expectations of a music festival.
The community behind Bass Coast Festival was developed through the collaboration of everyone involved pouring their passion, dedication, and love into this festival. In the end, the volunteers, fellow attendees, artists, and performers, who are perpetuating Andrea Graham and Liz Thompson’s vision, have created an unforgettable music festival experience and one this reviewer will undoubtedly attend again.