Official Day 1: Unleash the Bass!
It’s finally here! Thursday: the official beginning of music at Shambhala! I was awoken to the incredible sound of a valley full of voices cheering in anticipation of the opening ceremonies. Those that got a full rest emerged already dancing from their tents while the accidental all-nighters put their shades back on and dutifully began shuffling towards The Rock Pit. The Rock Pit is a spectacle in itself: literally dug into the landscape, The Rock Pit is a moderately-sized stage nestled into the terra, with a sand dance floor, elevated grass walls forming the pit, and a massive carnival tent overhanging and containing the entire soundscape.
Luciterra played first, combining several EDM genres and tempos, and the music-hungry crowd was exceptionally receptive, screaming and jumping with joy at every pause and dancing in reflection of every musical switch-up. Timothy Wisdom followed up, playing a nearly-originally produced set that was as diverse as it was poignant. Backed up by Dash of the Roots Cellar, Timothy effortlessly showcased his abilities as a producer, DJ, emcee, vocalist, and musician, hopping back and forth between behind the tables and the front of the stage. Him and Dash reciprocated verses, rallied the crowd with chants and actions, and eventually pinnacled the crescendo with a shot-for-shot harmonica duel. By the end of the set, the crowd was raving and screaming for more, and although Mr. Wisdom was finished, music continued to play in The Rock Pit stage and The Living Room stage until 6 in the morning. We were lucky enough to sit down with Timothy Wisdom for an exclusive backstage interview, which will be up as soon as we’re back in Vancouver.
After the Interview with Timothy, I traveled over to the Living Room stage. The Living Room stage is located half in the forest, and half on the beach, and the open and pleasant setting combined with laid-back EDM music makes this stage a beautiful contrast to the heavy elements of the Rock Pit. Some people danced front row, while others swung in the hammocks of the natural refuge area behind the stage, while others simply sat in the river and let every sensation wash over them. I spent a few hours dancing and roaming the beach side, still in awe over the kind energy the community shares, literally talking to everyone I meet, knowing that I would undoubtedly become friends with them within minutes.
After beaching it for a while longer, I followed a rowdy crowd back to The Rock Pit just in time to catch Dehli 2 Dublin. Being a VanCity local, I admit guilt in having never caught one of these Vancouver-based band’s sets. With two percussionists, a mandolinist, a violinist/vocalist, and two other vocalists, Dehli 2 Dublin is perfect for The Rock Pit: a primal, earthy sound backed by the organic rawness of analog instruments with rallying frontmen all combine together to create a musical experience that rattled the earth from the inside out. The energy was beyond incredible, and at one point I realized I had been looking at the crowd in sheer amazement for several minutes: those in the center stomped barefoot in the sand to the tribal guide of the drums, while the costumed creatures and the first-timers all pressed centerwards in the bowl-shaped stage, spinning their shirts, hoola-hoops, and water bottles in the air, all raising their hands for more. At one point I looked to my right to see a man skillfully juggling amidst the crowd, bobbing his head in tune with the music, and smiling with a concentrated satisfaction.
It was one of the stranger things I’ve ever seen someone do on a dance floor, but expressive joy seems to be a staple in this community, and everyone’s unique self-representation only adds to the unhindered theatrics of the show. It was in this moment that I realized the crowd at Shambhala is as captivating and energetic as performers, but instead of competing for attention, they couple together with the hyperreal environment to create an elevated holistic experience.
I was ecstatic after these shows, and spent the remainder of the night relaxing near the beach stage, and determining just how far up the river festival goers situated themselves; turns out that some people were posted up nearly beyond the sound proximity of the stages, still having an absolutely incredible time together despite being removed from the actual music of a music festival. This once again enforced the notion that Shambhala is more than a music festival, and someone’s experience at the festival is as unique their own personality. Then I caught the tail-end of The Killabit’s crushing set; the duo played aggressive dub infused with melodic electro elements, and ended the set by inflating a water raft, jumping into the mad crowd and riding across a sea of hype.
I went to bed beaming with positivity and excite for the next day, wherein all six main stages would be opened, and nearly all attendees would be present in full force.