There are so many articles you read about festivals and what these events hold inside. The articles talk mostly about the greatness, the journey, and the endless flow of incredible music each one of them hold. After going to many festivals myself, I have experienced some pretty incredible moments... but there was something so different about Shambhala.
There was something so raw and real; a vibe exists there that I didn't know mankind could reach. Shambhala is a true awakening of life. Shambhala is not just a festival, it is a soul that you become a part of. Shambhala is with you every day. Shambhala, year after year, is our journey home.
My boyfriend Jerrett and I head to the farm Friday afternoon, pretty anxious to say the least. Not many words were said on the drive up. About 20 minutes past the Canadian / U.S. border we come to a bright orange traffic sign, reading: "Shambhala Music Festival", letting us know that we have finally arrived! In that moment, I remember my heart sinking through my chest. I felt 6 years old again going to my first concert, but this time I was 22 going to an even better musical experience that I have waited years and years to attend. Finally our time has come.
We turn into the woods and drive down a road about 5 miles long. As we drive, our nerves seem to heighten to their full potential. Inside we know that soon the world of Sham is going to open up and we will finally be a part of it. When we get to the end of the road it "opens up" - but in a much different fashion.
As the trees divide, Jerrett and I see happy baby cows and baby pigs eating their life away without a care in the world. That makes us so happy right off that bat – who doesn't love baby pigs and cows?! We then drove a little further down to where the historic Shambhala line starts. We got lucky and arrived somewhat late in the day and only had to wait a couple hours instead of 12 to get in, but as everyone around us said, the wait is worth every second. Additionally, everyone hopped out of their cars and got to know one another to make the wait more bearable. It's definitely the party before the PARTY, so why not get to know some awesome Canadians around you before the real magic starts?
Finally we get in, park, and just like that our journey home has officially begun! Sham is still a pretty small festival (WHICH IS SO AWESOME), so the grounds were easy to navigate around. Even if you're at the furthest campsite from the stages, you are only a couple "blocks" away to the actual festival grounds.
As we walked into the festival, we pair up with this girl and her boyfriend with balloons attached to them (so you could see them from anywhere) and just like that we met our first Shambhala friends!! They walked with us the entire time as figuring out who we were and where we are from. They keep filling us up with excitement letting us know what we were about to walk into is fucking out of this world.
As we continue to walk with them, we start to notice the campsites around us; this was our first real glimpse into the personality Shambhala creates. I could try and describe in detail what we saw but, since you would be here for days if I did, just imagine the most home away from home feeling as possible. Everyone is one at Shambhala. Everyone around you wants you to feel safe and know they are there if you need them. We are all in this together; why not sprinkle some extra fun on top with great camp ideas/names/decor?
A huge archway welcomes you into the festival grounds. We take our first steps in and can already feel that we have found the holy grail of festivals. Everywhere you look is beautiful - the people, the nature, the woodwork. If you love amazing woodcarvings, Sham is your home baby!
As we walked further into Shambhaland, we instantly smelled FOOD. Yummy, yummy food! After waiting in line for 3 hours in our car, we were starving, so we headed straight to the smoothies. Of course, we are gifted with dank fruit and veggie deliciousness. Since this was our first year attending, we walked everywhere and anywhere we could. I remember sitting down for a moment but Jerrett kept pulling me to get up so we could explore more.
We went from the Pagoda to the Fractal Forest, the Village to the Amphitheatre, and finally the Living Room stage, which I liked to call the "river dancing stage". In that moment we both didn't remember that there was an entire stage we missed, but I will get to that later.
One of my favorite realizations walking around Sham was that any stage we went to had incredible music bumpin' from their speakers. Luckily this amazing realization was my reality for the rest of the weekend. Note to yourself: Shambhala has the dankest, grimey-ist, most in-your-face bass music the world has to offer. If you've been searching for it, you will find it here.
The first artist of the night we fully dedicated ourselves to was Cause & Affect at the Pagoda stage. They were part of the Dirtybird takeover, so of course the stage was poppin'! Anywhere people wanted to dance, they did. We both personally love to look over the crowd and see the entire stage so we walked to the highest point at the Pagoda on their man-made balconies.
SIDE NOTE: Another AMAZING part of Shambahala is that they have created so many places for you see the stage from. You can be in the pit, or standing on the wooden structures circling in and around the stage's perimeter, or 5 feet away from the stage - literally anywhere your heart desires.
We had an incredible time; we couldn't stop watching the Pagoda's lasers reflect off of everything! As it grew dark, their visuals were starting to become apparent on the forest behind the stage. Around 8:30pm we headed back to the almighty Village stage. My saying for this stage is, "If you can't take the dubstep, stay the hell out of the village" and I mean it…
Once we arrived at the Village, we walked as close as we could to the DJ booth... because up next was ill.Gates & KJ Sawka (Space Laces)!!!! Shambhala really knows how to book the right time slots because HOLY SHIT, these two were the perfect start to our weekend. Going back to back in a live DJ battle just destroyed our minds. KJ was commanding his electronic drum set and ill.Gates was throwing down on his CDJ/drum pad live set up.
As the night progressed, artist after artist took to the decks to kill it, one right after another. The first night we definitely made the Village stage our home. Real, raw dubstep was constantly entering every fiber of our being; it felt so good to be back at a place where bass music is still so alive.
Fast forward to the end of the night, we finally lay our heads down and try to sleep as we say goodnight to night 1. We feel we've learned a lot but we know we have so much in store over these next couple of days.
Alright folks, day 2 time! Buzzing from the high of yesterday we know today was going to be even more epic, mainly because the X-MAN is tonight! We get into the festival a little earlier than the day before because Saturday was "hip-hop showcase day", and since the lineup was dropped, I knew I wouldn't miss it for anything. We head to the Village... and instantly walk into a beat boxing battle.
We stay here for the next couple of hours smoking our wax pens and enjoying life on so many levels. After a bit, we decide to check out the Living Room stage. This stage is literally on the shore of Salmo River so Jerrett fell in love instantly. We decided to go and chill, and become one with the river. We took some time to reflect on our trip so far, our love and our schedule for the rest of the night. And, because why not, we decided to go skip rocks across the river; trying to get them to jump to the beat playing at the living room stage. So many simple, beautiful, moments of life are created here, it's beyond words.
As we sit together embracing all the beauty this festival has to offer, we suddenly realize there was a stage we still haven't seen – the Grove! Little did we know, this stage is the best kept secret of Shambhala. You have to walk through two stages to get there – the Fractal Forest and the Village. Once we finally found our way through, we both felt that finding the Grove was like is finding the heart of Sham. This stage is fully engulfed in the forest. They have live art and music, hammocks everywhere, gnomes with disco balls, fountains, a poeTREE (a tree that had hand written poems by attendees and hung on the leaves) and so much more. This stage also plays that in your face but mellow, deep bass, Liquid Stranger type of music. It's definitely a genre of bass music America has forgotten about, so it was really amazing to hear that sound again.
Our Saturday night lineup was super stacked. Once we finally had the will power to leave the Grove we headed over to the Fractal Forest to see Mix Master Mike... and HOLY BALLS, the Fractal Forest at night is something out of an acid lover's dream. There is something going on from every direction, and the energy there is so on point. We get down HARD for the next couple hours. A highlight for me was when I got to hear DJ Jazzy Jeff play the "Fresh Prince of Bel Air" theme song that he created with Will Smith! At that moment, I knew my heart was forever invested in Shambhala.
When midnight struck at the Village stage, Terravita was playing - and WOW,did we underestimate them or what?! Their set is still one our favorites from the weekend. Jerrett just kept telling me how he didn't know if Excision could top it, but I knew he was the dubstep king! Finally, the clock struck 1:30am, and the squirrel king (as they call him there) is about to go on. Excision was hanging at the Village stage all weekend, so it was really awesome seeing him there constantly, but it was finally his time to grace us with his iconic set we waited all year to hear. His intro plays through, and the first track I recognize him playing was Headbanga by him and Downlink. I have loved this track since the first time I heard him play it, but it never felt more right then in that moment at Sham.
After Excision’s set we find ourselves weaving in and out of the stages, somewhat sticking to our schedule but not really. Shambhala allows you to go wherever your heart desires in that moment. We close out the night at the Amphitheatre to some really dank trap. The Amp is where the trap music is at in Sham. It was like our little part of our real home (Cali) away from home.
As we reached Day 3, we felt so happy, yet sad at the same time. At every festival I have ever gone to, I've always felt like day 3 is the hardest to pull through, but not with Sham. Since we can't stay and live there year-round, we knew we had take in everything we could.
Of course, Sunday couldn't have gone more perfect. Other than being stung by a bee for the first time in 10 years, everything was spot-on magical. We got to fall asleep in a hammock, we met some REALLY incredible Shambhala veterans, and from them we got to learn so much about the festival and its roots. It felt like a perfect finish to our amazing Shambhala experience.
As I said earlier, Shambhala is the awakening of life that all us new age optimists have been longing for. We live in a world full of judgment and hate, and even when festivals say that everyone is there for one another, no one has really been able to fully own up to it like Sham did. So my hope for you all reading this, who haven't been able to attend, is that you take the chance and visit this life- altering place. Shambhala is our happy place. Shambhala is home.
Photos courtesy of Shambhala Music Festival - Charlotte Dobre, Leah Gair, William Selviz, and Louis Bockner - as watermarked on each photo.