One of the elements lacking in my every day life out here is a sense of community and support. It is something that comes with time, but the familiarity of it is something I knew I would miss, even before moving. However, I didn’t quite understand just how much until I finally returned to the farm.
Many who experience Shambhala Music Festival often recall it to be one of, if not the best festivals they have ever attended. Those who have not been often ask me why this is, or what it is about Shambhala that makes it so special. Having been depraved of its richness (for just long enough), I have drawn the conclusion that it boils down to a couple of things, the first being that it is housed in a rather intimate setting yet boasts a very high production value.
Taking the Pagoda stage as an example, Robbie Campbell was wise to invest so much time in a local Canadian visual team. From the group to bring you the mind-bending Executioner stage for Excision, Beama Visual Environments continue to raise the bar for projection animation and visual jockeys alike as they lit up the Pagoda in such a way that was nothing short of a spectacle. The animations themselves birth an alternate reality within the compounds of the stage area, and illuminate the artists in ways that are truly exquisite. The VJs are ever masterful at their craft, their timing impeccable and mixing impactful but tasteful. It appears that the iconic laser isn’t the stage’s bread & butter anymore either. The grounds themselves have seen the development of leisurely additions enjoyed by all, such as a water fountain, a watch tower dressed up in local art, and a permanent slushie machine: perfect for the hot weather that the festival consistently enjoys. Even the subtle touches like the dragon carvings encapsulating the infamous circles frontside, and new graffiti each year on the surrounding walls gives the stage a satisfying look in the daytime. In turn, the Pagoda sees heavy-hitting headliners including Pretty Lights, Claude VonStroke & Zeds Dead (to name a few) and in recent years, stealing the festival’s notorious & highly sought after Bassnectar.
In the eyes of the community, I am admittedly still an adolescent but it has been a real treat to see the development of the festival over the course of my years involved with it. This magical evolution has been observed at all of the main stages, as if each year they are not only trying to outdo themselves, but each other- a friendly competition where everybody wins in the end. In turn, there is no question that no matter where you roam, you will encounter a world that is excitingly weird and wonderful.
Shambhala is not only an experience that inspires love and support for each other, but also allows the individual to thrive and explore themselves. There is no question that you will experience an amazing sense of belonging and acceptance from most, if not all that you encounter. This is the other fundamental aspect that makes the festival so special: the community. Whilst I’m sure it exists elsewhere, I have yet to experience another festival with a stronger sense of family than Shambhala (and I have been to my fair share of them). From VIP treatment for the crew to the air-tight artist liaison team to ‘punters’ parading out and about, the sense of artistic community and unconditional support speaks volumes, and is probably the single thing that I have missed the most. I suppose it isn’t referred to by some of the veterans as the ‘farmily’ for no reason. Whether you find yourself huddled in the hammocks within the forest, raging to the deadly drops of those PK subs, meditating to mid-tempo grooves, bedazzled by all the pretty lights, or whispering sweet nothings to your love on a star-blanketed walk back to camp, you feel the love. Be it with someone you just met or your closest friends.
Before I continue to sound like a starry-eyed Shambhalover, I would also like to mention how impressed I was with the consistent and lengthy lines at this year’s Harm Reduction tent. This is a great example of how the festival promotes safe partying, be it through testing drugs or educating people about safe sex. The roaming Shambassadors (that I personally encountered several times) and the ‘Sanctuary’ (that I know for a fact has saved many from a bad time) speak to how the festival has engaged with its audience properly, providing support and further encouragement of a safe and fun environment for all.
Shambhala Music Festival is where I was first inspired to do what I do today, and where I find myself a little bit more with each year that I attend. Every year is more exciting than the last, rich with experience and full of splendid memories to take away. One place that I can count on to feel accepted and inspired, as well as engaged with the world around me. A candidness that cannot be replicated or replaced, and an adventure that I encourage to be experienced by all. Please visit my high-res album in full here.