The Shambhalovelies have all packed up and left the farm after the 21st edition of Shambhala Music Festival. Neatly nestled in British Columbia’s Kootenay mountain range, the Salmo River Ranch transforms into a four-day immersive world of electronic music and art. Attendees were treated to a diverse and well-curated festival, defined by six unique and intimate stages. Upon arrival, there’s a feeling of excitement that’s pretty neat, the countless hours of preparation, travel, and researching new artists finally about to pay off. There’s an energy that’s felt by the whole festival from the second you arrive to the moment you leave. Nothing but silly ear-to-ear grins on every beautiful person, even those volunteers in parking enduring dust bowl conditions and extreme heat. The farm and forest transform overnight into an endless sea of intricately set up camps with lounge areas nicer than your living room. You can tell this isn’t most people’s first rodeo and most certainly not your typical mainstream festival.
The days are spent hanging out, beating the heat and laying by the river, or heading into the festival early for countless workshops from yoga to music production. It is an environment where people truly break out from their shells and are open to connecting with anyone. The freedom of expression is unparalleled in this environment as people create themselves to the extent of their imagination. You’ll see the whole animal kingdom show up for ‘Day Onesie’, along with intricately designed costumes or, well, nothing at all. If you want to stand out, wearing normal street clothes does the trick. While world-class musicians, visual artists, and stage performers lead you through a musical journey, sometimes it’s the hidden artists off stage that can be the most captivating and memorable.
Besides the gorgeous human beings who make this festival an unforgettable experience, it’s the festival creators who return year after year from set-up to tear-down that puts Shambhala over the top. Every year they add more details to the stages themselves and their environments. This year the Living Room stage got a brand-new LED wall, providing a colourful and ever-changing backdrop for a long night spent at the beach. Psychedelic art is scattered throughout every nook and cranny of the festival grounds, one could spend an eternity getting lost at The Grove stage alone. Digital artists flex their strength on a three-story Pagoda canvas, making each night more captivating than the last. The Village stage’s light technician works his mixer with the precision and speed of a virtuosic concert pianist. Canada’s favourite loudspeaker company, PK Sound, powers five out of six of Shambhala’s stages, and the world-famous Function 1’s adorn the sixth. The sound quality at Shambhala is the icing on the cake, there is no better way to experience electronic music, when close to the subwoofers the bass shakes the ground and is more than powerful enough to provide a full body massage. While the bass teeters perfectly on the verge of being overwhelming, the PK sound and Function 1 audio engineers, help provide the ideal balance, to the rest of the sound system, so that the audience stays dancing all night.
A special moment for the Concert Addicts team was sharing the Pagoda stage with Dirtybird Records legends. We had the pleasure of talking with founder Claude VonStroke after his set about Shambhala’s sound quality. When asked if he had ever performed at a louder festival, Claude responded, “No, never, but the sound is perfect here, you can still hold a conversation.” Dance music connoisseurs revere Shambhala for many reasons, but the sound quality is the most prominent. As for the music itself, Shambhala’s line up is curated by the stages themselves and always includes has a wide variety of underground Canadian talent intertwined with young artists rising to stardom and legends of the craft. It’s nice to see a music festival support a high percentage of local musicians from British Columbia with annual appearances that provide a platform to develop and display their individual style.
Shambhala Music Festival has been a family-run operation for 21 years and you feel as if you’re an integral member of the festival. I was a part of the lifelong memories being shared while dancing along with organizers who were all celebrating another successful year at Rich-E-Rich’s closing set in Fractal Forest Monday morning.