Arts and Entertainment

Shambhala Music Festival is Fully Legal Now – 2018 Recap

At 21 years old, Shambhala Music Festival is the longest running music festival in Western Canada. And that is no easy feat. Logistics, the falling Canadian dollar and rising gas prices all make putting together a festival pretty daunting task. Not to mention, the B.C. wild fires engulfing nearby areas, closing down roads and cancelling flights to the nearby airport in Castlegar. It’s also challenging that the festival takes place in Salmo (population of 1,130), which is in the middle of nowhere British Columbia. With an attendance of 17,000 (plus a rumoured 7000 more tickets sold this year), that is over 15 times the population!

What keeps this festival going is not only the rising popularity of electronic music, but also the vibe, the production and the cult following of their attendees. Calling themselves “Shambhalovies”, the attendees are happy, go lucky and caring. Upon entering the site, you’ll hear “happy Shambhala!” said amongst each other, followed by a hug or at the very least a fist bump. Basically, over the years, whether it is your first or your 12th, you are now considered, “farmily”.

But of course it’s not always “daisies and unicorns” when you get that many people together. There were reports of theft, a police incident that happened right before the festival, people taking one too many drugs or taking drugs that turned out to quite not what they seemed… But thankfully for the drugs and knowing what they are, there is ANKORS, a non-profit that will test your drugs on site for you to know what is in them and they are as they’re supposed to be. This year, Shambhala had given ANKORS money for a FTIR spectrometer, which is a machine that tells you exactly what is in your drugs.

Another great resource Shambhala offers is the “sanctuary”. Here is a place, in a shaded area, where there are hammocks set up and volunteers aplenty, if you need to talk to someone, did one too many substances, feeling overwhelmed, tired or just need to step away from the party. This year, was actually one of the hottest Shambhala’s on record (41 degrees Celsius!), so a lot of people ended up in the sanctuary or first aid due to heat stroke and NOT drugs.

This year’s line-up was one of Shambhala’s biggest yet. With the festival the largest it has ever been, they decided to bring in some big hitters. With the exclusion of Shambhala Village stage mainstays Excision and Datsik, the organizers brought, for his first time in Canada, Grime legend Dizzee Rascal and lots of drum and bass including Austria’s Camo and Krooked, new up and comers Phibes, notable ragga vocalist General Levy and jungle music legend, Aphrodite. Plus dubstep and grime dons, Kahn & Neek and D Double E (who did a surprise set by MCing for Kahn & Neek). In fact, they didn’t miss Datsik that much, that someone had implanted a tombstone on the festival site, with Datsik’s logo strown across it. R.I.P.

Of course, attendees of Shambhala are electronic dance music fans of both a long time or just recently discovered the genre. That being said, most people come with open ears and open minds, so what better way to put some names on the map than to have a label show case. Two notable labels included 1985 and Chord Maruders, and while not a label showcase, there was a Dirtybird Records label takeover. On Friday, Dirtybird brought their own style of house starting with Fisher, and then Kyle Watson was up next.

Kyle Watson, hailing all the way from South Africa, this young one to look for kept Pagoda, Shambhala’s main stage packed from start to finish with his brand of house and bass music. Then, of course, you had label heads Justin Martin and Claude Von Stroke (with extra dose of Barclay Crenshaw on the side at another stage), who played a really fun set to a crowd full of people in Dirtybird garb and Dirtybird totems. Ending the night was the other Martin brother, Christian, who kept the party going into the wee hours of the morning.

1985 records is a drum and bass record label based out of the UK, started by Shambhala alumni, Alix Perez. Saturday night at the Amphitheatre was taken over by Perez and some of his best mates (Monty, Skeptical and Chimpo) for some straight up drum and bass, and grime. Up and comer Monty started the night off, followed by Skeptical, label head Perez, and finish up the show case, Chimpo.

The lastly, closing out the festival was the Chord Maruders, A collective/label consisting of FLO, Congi, B9 and Jafu, they brought in the early morning with their version of soothing, warm dubstep that was fitting for sunrise and the best music to play on the Funtkion One system in the wee morning.

Some yearly traditions were brought back again this year, including the Sunday afternoon Fractal Funk jam with the Smalltown DJ’s and other special guests (this years guests included Mat the Alien, Slynk and Skiitour) playing the best in funk and old school house on 45’s, the Black Tiger Sex Machine Sunday night “church” set where their fan club (and regular attendees) would all come together for a sort of a sermon (which packed the main stage Pagoda to the nines) and the Destructo sunrise sermon, that has been a ritual at the festival for the past three years.

Some artists were back on the line up this year, Adventure Club and Rezz, (who by the way brought the biggest crowd the Pagoda stage has ever seen before) making up for last year and some artists (DJ EZ and Joker) who couldn’t make it, also due in part of the wildfires. But the one of the biggest draws of the weekend was the Glitch Mob, a collective of edIT, Boreta and Ooah (and Kraddy, who has since left) from L.A. who got together and formed at this very festival in 2006.

Shambhala is a festival that is getting larger and larger by the year. This year saw an inclusion of a wedding chapel, which a few lucky couples get married, along with countless number of proposals and engagement photos. After seeing it evolve to from a 500 person birthday party, to one of Western Canada’s longest running festival is truly something. Much like buying someone $400 worth of poutine in a wheel barrel for someone’s birthday (like someone did for an attendee early Monday morning on the dancefloor), you have to see it to believe it.

And yes, while there may have been a logistical problem getting out of the festival (with some people waiting 6+ hours to leave the actual ranch itself and being encouraged by the minister of transportation to stay an extra night) would this author do this festival again and again? Absolutely. For the love, the people, the lights, the sounds and that big, dirty, stinking, bass.

By Michelle Swami and Ryan Rose
Photos: Ryan Rose

Surrey604 Staff
Surrey604 is an online magazine and media outlet based in Surrey, BC. Through writing, video, photography, and social media, we secure an intimate reach to the public. We promote local events and causes.