4. The Second Day of Music and the Friday Night Neon Lights
After a solid late night Thursday, I woke up Friday morning around 10am to the familiar sound of blending music and spirited cheering. It’s amazing how quickly I adapted to this sound: sitting in the tent I can hear the sounds of several stages rise up from the trees and rest in the valley. Each stage is constantly playing incredible music through the best representing sound stages on earth, and the artificial sound of the music has quickly become a familiarized sensation, like tenting beside the ocean and becoming conditioned to the crash and pull of waves. I woke up feeling grand, and Team Toxic member Johno and I went down to the cold river for a swift caffeine-subsidizing hop, and then made our way over to The Living Room beach stage.
The Living Room stage is a dynamic display of function and beauty: behind the stage is an ultimate chill zone, fully equipped with hammocks, lounges and a tea bar, and the front of the stage blends naturally into the river. The day time scene at the living room stage is a full-on beach party, with some people dancing on the sand stage, but many posted up in chairs and towels in and along the river. I caught the last half of Czech’s set, which was a deep dub underlined blend of hip-hop and step. After that, I headed directly to The Rock Pit to catch one of my personal heros, Chali 2na (of Jurassic 5 notoriety, known for having one of the most iconic voices in hip-hop). Chali brought his full band, The House of Vibe, and together they played a blend of J5 classics and new material from Chali’s last couple releases. This was Chali’s first time playing Shambhala, and just like every other first-timer, he was overcome by just how much passion and energy the festival goers have to offer. Like the night before, I was awestruck by the intensity of the crowd, all just pressing forward in hopes of creating something incredible. Chali, an undeniably seasoned vet, was also overcome by the energy while performing a sentimental song about his family, and he broke down emotionally mid-verse. He stepped back from the mic, slowly raised his head towards the sky, smiled, and began clearing tears from his eyes. He recovered composure and jumped back in on time, but the crowd held the moment, embracing each other and sharing tears. Chali’s performed that song thousand of times, across the world, but the contagious emotion and lack of reserve at Shambhala transformed it into something much, much more that afternoon. People talked about this moment the rest of the festival, and it still gives me chills.
After this, I made my way over to The Ewok Village to catch Stylust and Emotionz’s set. PK sound outdid themselves this year: boasting over 100,000 watts of beef, the controlled clarity of frequencies in the Village provide a viciously vivid representation of sound, and the sonics are enough to lose control to alone. Stylust and Emotionz took full advantage of this world-class pedestal of sound, playing a diverse set of bass music and hip-hop, moving from trap, to dub, to funk with ease and cool momentum. With an on-stage entourage of nearly 40 people, and a packed house of hundreds of raving voices, it’s easy to recognize this pair as iconic representative of the festival–heads-of-states in a removed world of elevated experienced.
The next set I caught was Erica Dee, backed by Honey Larochelle; the pair delivered a primarily hip-hop set that shook the crowd into manic dancing, while simultaneously holding their attention with pleasant melodic harmonies and constant classic B-girl crowd interaction. After this, night began to settle, and the creatures came out in full force. At one point I was walking through the multifaceted artistic displays of the Labyrinth, and I passed by a 10 foot tall, 4 legged white furry creature with a long snout that looked like an awesome alien juxtaposition of a giraffe and an ant-eater. This dude was putting in work: dancing on all fours, leaning forward atop stilts, dedicating all his physical strength and fitness to becoming a visual and tactile spectacle. It was at this point that I realized that not only do festival goers dedicate all their passion towards the music, but many also strive and sacrifice to make the entire experience a full sensorial phenomenon for everyone else, so that everything between the incredible music is equally breath-taking.
I could write for days about small crowd-driven highlights and spectacles that were scattered throughout the night, but for the sake of brevity, I’ll stick to the acts and mention the performances of LongWalkShortDock and Datsik. LongWalk played in The Rock Pit, to an absolutely insane crowd buzzing in anticipation for one of their Shambhala heroes. LongWalk did not disappoint, wailing on synthesizers and samplers and raging with a jurassic intensity that would make the heaviest of metal-heads raise the devil horns in approval.
The crowd praised him like a savage wizard priest, chanting his name and screaming along with him wildly. All of this culminated in his iconic synthesizer smash, followed by him tossing every last key, circuit, and piece of plastic into the crowd. The Rock Pit held his praise for several minutes after his set and I couldn’t help but walk away feeling like I had finally witnessed a true rock star in his natural territory. After that came Datsik in The Village. Datsik is a beast, and his world-wide acclaim has earned him the type of crowd intensity that guarantees a massively riveting experience. BIG is the best word for Datsik’s set: his production has helped push sonic limits, and his compositions mix these spectacular elements seamlessly. He worked the crowd up to an ecstatic frenzied rage, and I caught myself at several moments howling to the sky with my fist in the air overcome by the primal intensity of the deep night in the forest.
Again, I’m amazed at how balanced the passion of the performers are with the passion of the festival goers, and still marvelling at how well this has created an open and safe experience for everyone involved. The staff, onsite first aid, harm reduction and security are world class, and you feel completely safe meandering from spectacles across 6 simultaneous main stages. The aesthetics of the entire constructed landscape are perfectly matched by the artistic self-representation of the festival-goers, and I was very impressed by how many independent artists, vendors, and merchants are supported by the festival. Shambhala is more than a music festival: it is an epicenter for music, art, and culture, and the result is an amazing atmosphere of support and self-expression. Shambhala is the beating heart of bass in B.C., and I can’t wait to live the next 2 nights.