Not knowing what I was getting into, only hearing positive things about the event, it was my chance and opportunity to journey out to the 22nd edition of the Shambhala Music Festival in Canada. Held in the stunning Kootenay Mountains at the primal Salmo River Ranch for one epic weekend. The journey alone is a story of its own, it took two days, three airplanes, one sky-rail train, one bus, and one car ride to get there but everything was all completely worth it. Knowing that the Universe was on my side the entire way, I made it to the festival and making new friends in the process.
For over two decades Shambhala has been one of the world’s all-time greatest music festivals, accepting all walks of life with the best vibes imaginable. Each and year Shambhala strives to make the best experience possible for every person is involved. The weather could have been better however, everyone embraced it. From dusty roads to muddy trails it was a magical experience. It was the first time being in the beautiful country of Canada, it was a culture shock from meeting all the nice and helpful people throughout my journey. Everyone I met at the festival from the people at Box Office to the camping neighbors, workers and security of Shambhala were extremely nice and friendly. They all made sure that YOU had the best experience possible. Covering many festivals in the past, Shambhala was the first festival that had private events for media. It was a wonderful way for other journalists to meet one another and to get to know the people behind Shambhala.
With a no-alcohol policy, security was tight getting into the festival although they made it fun for everyone waiting in lines. Securing my pass and credentials was very simple and easy, once arriving at the grounds we settled at Sunshine Camp. It was fun setting up and getting a chance to meet all of the neighbors. It was extremely hot and hazing pretty brutal during the day, but at night it cooled down it was perfect weather for the annual onesie party. Wanting to pace my energy for a full weekend of festivities, I only explored a portion of the festival grounds by the amp stage.
Sprawled across five different stages the Village, the Grove, AMP stage, Fractal Forest, and the Pagoda stage. With over 200 artists reaching all realms of dance music, this year’s lineup Shambhala Music Festival was one of the best lineups in history. Gearing towards all dance music and welcoming top headliners such as TroyBoi, ZHU, Rusko, Silk City, Chase & Status (DJ set), Dubstep pioneer Excision, and Kaskade.
The first official day at Shambhala Music Festival began on an overcast and humid day with lots of bass in everyone’s face. Waking up to the Lion King - Circle of Life was a great reassurance that this will be a magical weekend. Since it was my first time at Shambhala, the entire day was spent wandering and exploring the festival grounds. From discovering all the vendors, and merchandise, trying some of the delicious food, to finding the rabbit hole and a secret DJ booth. Art installations from interactive light-up drums, and message trees, a wheel where you can discover your spirit animal. It was so easy to connect with people at the festival, no shady people, only people who want to have fun and have a good time.
It was the first day that the Fractal Forest was officially open to everyone. It was Star Wars themed, faces of your favorite characters coming to life with the laser lights and music from the artists. The stage was built like a club-house so the artists and performers were above the crowd. The view from the stage was incredible, seeing everyone on the ground unifying as one by dancing, seeing all the love, the decorations from a different aspect. Dancing away to the funky beats from Wes Please and Diligent drifting over to the Village stage where I met Billy Kenny backstage. Drum n’ Bass was blasting through the speakers, you can feel the rhythm and beats from Ragga Jungle Rinse Out. Everyone on stage and backstage was so friendly. The Village stage was set up like a giant tree-house, walkways wrapped around for more access to get around. Plus in the middle of the dance-floor another platform for guests to dance on and to see the stage from a better view. Later on, I found the Grove stage where tribal and soulful music was being played by Kousk, Friend., and Leland River. Later on, I ran into other journalists and made new friends.
The schedule was set to see House and Techno legends Anna Lunoe and Justin Martin, being a dedicated techno lover I wasn’t expecting so much bass and dub-step. However, I embraced my inner wuk and saw Excision and Ganja White Night then head-banged like there was no tomorrow. Holding my hat so it wouldn’t fly away swaying my body to every dub-step build up and drop. It’s been so long since hearing dub-step, it was the best I’ve ever heard it will be extremely difficult to top those performances. Everyone played their most ultimate set of all time, not sure if it was the festival vibes in the air or being in Canada but it was the greatest ever. Heading over to my favorite stage, Pagoda for the most epic performance from ZHU. Throughout the entire set, hinting and teasing the crowd by playing a sample of Faded, Working For It, and My Life. Mixed with the production, lasers, and being in the crowd with everyone, ZHU’s set was unbelievable. I saw ZHU perform a few times at festivals, his Shambhala set was by far the best ever. Later on, we go near the Living Room to relax seeing the lasers reflecting on the tree by the river was its own light production. It was beautiful seeing that with my new Shambhala friends. Once I separated from my new friends it was imperative to see Be Svendsen and Sabo at the Living Room to close out my night. Since it was dub-step all night long had to redeem myself with some techno and tribal house. Arriving towards the end of Be Svendsen’s set. It was about 3 AM so there weren’t many people at the Living Room it was very easy to move around and to see one of the top techno artists in the scene. Ending of his set beautifully, everyone clapped with approval. Already exhausted from headbanging I had to stay up, it was time for Sabo last time I saw him was in Costa Rica, it was a moving and emotional experience. I was front and center for Sabo, it was the perfect way to end the first night.
It was a relief when hearing about a drug-testing tent so attendees can party safely. For over 20 years, Shambhala Music Festival has been at the forefront of the scene. From reducing all aspects of harm reduction from sexual health, a strong medical team, and various safe spaces, the Shambhala Harm Reduction team ensures that all guests, as well as staff, are educated on how to transform the festival into a safe space for all. Working closely with ANKORS Harm Reduction and Drug Testing, Shambhala Music Festival has taken steps to ensure that all of its guests are equipped with the knowledge and resources to party safely. The festival provides an open-minded and informative approach to all aspects of safety on the grounds. Shambhala’s vet and harm reduction director, Stacey Lock. She has been working with Shambhala for 10 years in the harm reduction field, outside of the festival world. She has created a service for the guests that is barrier-free and aims to meet attendees non-judgmentally while providing safer partying, resources, prevention services, and safe spaces. Comprised of almost all volunteers, the Harm Reduction team depends on attendees who have a passion for assisting in the creation of a safer Shambhala. As Stacey states, “teamwork makes the dream work!”
The second day started with cooling off in the river by the Living Room, for the second annual Floatie party. Everyone brought their giant floaties for one massive party filled with music and snacks. People participated in races and then someone started the howling wave where everyone goes “WHOOO”. It was a magical experience seeing everyone involved. Shambhala Music Festival is best when it comes to press and media. Making sure that everyone from the media team had the best time possible. It was important that I attend the press mixer where other media people can get a chance to learn more about the festival and meet others within the industry. At the mixer, I met other journalists and bloggers covering the festival and met the workers and the people who make Shambhala possible. Adventuring to another campsite to meet other production people, at the site everyone was so giving and open. A few hours went by and then we went to the Pagoda stage to see SLAMIN and DJ Just-B perform. It was a small crowd for the opening of the Pagoda stage, dancing on the stage meeting new people suddenly the rain begins. A friend earlier said that she wished for the rain to wash away some of the dust, it came true. The rain was falling on everyone like a new emotion, people were dancing in the rain and loving it. You can see the puddles being formed and the mud. While on stage I met someone that worked in production, we went off to have our own adventure. Adopting me and letting me be apart of his tribe that night, everyone there was so friendly and open about meeting a new person. Feeling important and loved we all began to talk about life and the secret to Shambhala. Someone said, “the secret behind Shambhala is not about dancing and music but the Human Connections, looking into each other’s eyes, that’s what Shambs is all about”. After that we all huddled into a group hugging each other, feeling everyone’s love and powerful energy. It was so moving and emotional, it was the highlight of the entire weekend. The rain began again so we head over to the Pagoda stage. There was a backstage area where production, press, and artists can hang out and relax on comfortable couches. Being back there I met a few artists, you can hear the music being played at the Pagoda stage. Lost in the sauce from meeting everyone I stayed at the backstage area listening to Grandtheft, Dr. Fresch, and Kaskade perform. Call me basic, but Kaskade’s set was by far the best out of the night. Playing all of his massive hits such as Eyes, Angel On My Shoulder, Llove, and Atmosphere. Hearing all the classical EDM tunes that made me fall in love with the music and scene was an incredible experience. Heading over to the Village for another elite act, NERO. Hearing one of my top favorite acts in the scene at Shambhala was incredible, listening to all my favorite songs and dancing with everyone was the perfect way to end the second night.
The last day was gloomy and raining the Universe knew that Shambhala was going to end soon. Waking up extremely late in the day, I was glad that it happened because of the cold gloomy weather. We went to the AMP stage, it was my first time out of the entire weekend being at the stage. Arriving to end of Milano’s set, he said, “Shambhala is the best festival in the world, best crowd ever”. Being at the stage you can feel everyone’s energy and the love for bass music. Seeing everyone dancing together, headbanging together like one giant family. Wondering over to the Pagoda stage to relax, listening to Philly native, Subtronics. My body was swinging back and forth from headbanging so much to his music. It was so long since I last saw Subtronics perform, but it was the best set ever from him. The visuals for Black Tiger Sex Machine was incredible, it was like as if the stage came to life. The 3-D visual effects were jaw-dropping and mesmerizing. A few moments later I saw my friends we grouped up and spent the rest of the night together. Heading to the Fractal Forest for Diplo and Mark Ronson who make up Silk City. Two pioneer producers coming together to form one musical act, they should have done this a long time ago because it was magical seeing their performance. Mixing all the greatest track of all times, making perfect transitions to every change-up. It was the best performance of the night. Over at the Village stage drum n’ bass duo, Chase & Status were performing. Meeting up with friends from the Heart Beats community, together we were all dancing to drum n’ bass like one tribe. Given that all of us were New York, it was a great feeling being together on Shambhala grounds. Dancing away for a few hours we called it a night and wished each other a safe journey back home. Making my way back to the Living Room for the rest of Doc Martin’s performance.
Stumbling upon a group of people standing around each other, I went over to find out what was going on. There was a giant sandbox with a projector above making an illusion of a desert. The more you play with the sand the pictures begin to change making it more fun. It was the most unique and stunning interactive art installation is all of festival history. Other people were amazed by it, a great bonding experience with strangers each other us playing with the sandbox, we didn’t say it but we all felt like children again. Not having a clue how I was going to make it back for my flight the next time, staying up all night and no sleep. Finally, finding a ride at 10 AM an hr before I had to leave the grounds. A beautiful soul helped and gave me a ride back to the airport.
First a Shambhala virgin now part of the family, completely not knowing what to expect at all. Shambhala Music Festival was the only event I covered this summer, but it was all worth it, the journey getting there was an adventure in its own. Everything was all worth it because of the human connections I made with everyone I came in contact with at Shambhala.