For fans of underground electronic music, the annual Shambhala Music Festival is as good as it gets. Playing out over four days across six uniquely themed stages, Shambhala is a mix of dance music, performance art, and sheer ethereal spectacle. Tickets for the August 7 – 10 show went on sale November 1st, and were sold out by July.
It’s been 18 years since this grassroots arts and music party debuted at a 500-acre, family owned river ranch in Salmo BC. Now one of the most venerated outdoor festivals on the electronic music scene, this year’s Shambhala welcomed 10,000 fans to a treasure trove of world-class entertainment bathed in Shambhalove.
Here’s how they do it in the Salmo:
Surrounded by tree forts connected by suspended catwalks, this supernatural, sci-fi Tiki town was an extra-terrestrial extravaganza. The main stage, nestled underneath an 80-foot half geodesic structure, featured Skrillex, Zomboi, DJ Anger, Dua, and a showcase of hip-hop talent. Aerialists and acrobats performed alongside a parade of dancing fans as the forest reverberated in time to heavy jungle drums and a montage of super-slick turntablism.
Marcus Visionary was a Monday afternoon favourite, but one of the highlights of The Village stage this weekend was Eligh who dazzled everyone with an eclectic mix of electronica and his masterful rapper gymnastics.
Welcome to the epicentre of audio visual enlightenment. Fractal Forest is a burnt out, cedar stump amphitheatre with a mind-blowing pastiche of disco balls, pyramids and a 70’s style spaceship journey to and from the 12th dimension. DJs pumped out layers of laser-sharp melodies and rhythmic downbeats while a psychedelic light show pulsated across the forest – you could almost taste the colours and smell the bass lines. Concentric circles of nimble dancers pointed the way to woodland pixies and magic mushrooms galore while the main dance floor came alive with a sea of afro embellished, sequin-coated fans.
Mix Master Mike from the Beastie Boys, DJ JazzyJeff, Skratch Bastid, A. Skillz, and a 5-hour fractal funk jam hosted by Small Town DJs, kept the energy high and the cosmic party going.
The Living Room
The ultimate chill space on a sweltering August afternoon, the Living Room is located along the banks of the Salmo River. There’s a shared sense of nostalgia at this stage, which was punctuated with a full day dedicated to the vinyl. DJ Harvey, owner of what has been described as “the greatest record collection of the modern era” headlined a 4-hour set of world music from old school notables to the best in contemporary house, hip hop and EDM.
Picture a protracted centre stage enveloped in a towering cloth canopy. The Amp looks like a giant clam that’s just opened up to deliver some of the freshest trap and bass beats that ever exploded from the guts of a technicolour mollusk. CRNKN, GANZ, heRobust, and Mr. Carmack head-lined an innovative line up of urban producers.
The music was all about state-of-the-art producers and their ultra-modern sound, while the venue stayed true to its traditional Koots Roots. Something for every Shambhala fan at this stage.
Formerly known as The Labyrinth, this newest addition to the festival was a palpable crowd favourite.
Featuring both a dance platform shaped like a bird’s nest hovering at the back of one floor, and a giant birdhouse, big enough to camp in, that dominated a second floor, The Grove delivered a gently Kafkaesque feel to our forested surroundings. Dancers and acrobats from Omnika in Motion lathered up the crowd with fantastical displays of contortionism and pure whimsy before J-Pod and Liquid Stranger laid down a kaleidoscope of funkadelic dubs.
A perfect counterpoint to techno production perfection was Big Wild, a multi-instrumental band that wowed the crowds with their gamelan and bamboo flute sound, and high-energy performance.
The Pagoda Stage
Surprise headliner Zeds Dead’s 2:30am Sunday morning show sent shivers of solace up the spines of a flood of fans who believed Justin Beiber was about to debut a cross-over sacrilege. Fans poured into every available nook and cranny along the Pagoda Stage corridors, bouncing and swaying to a mix of drum and bass embellished dubstep.
More was more at the Pagoda Stage, where a visually saturated spectacle of art, music, lights and video thrilled a throng of Shiba San, MOWE and mija loyalists.
Widely accepted as the epitome of EDM celebrity, production, and aerial theatricals, Shambhala is the product of a shared sense of community. From the Bundschah family’s 500-acre river ranch setting to the volunteers who never seem to need any sleep to a carousel of super-stoked DJs and bands. It’s a colossal production that can feel as intimate as an indie production at a local park. True to its grassroots mission, Shambhala does not accept corporate sponsorship or advertising of any kind. Not bad for a show that captivates thousands.