The Not So Obvious First Timers Guide to Shambhala Music Festival
WELCOME. WELCOME. WELCOME.
If you had the chance to reimagine and redefine your life over a weekend would you? Are you ready to step out of your comfort zone and transport yourself into a place that blurs the imaginary and the real, the child within you and the adult that you are? If you answered yes, then flip your calendar to 2015 and mark down next year’s Shambhala Music Festival.
Round of applause. Actually, screw that. Here’s a big hug. You have just made one of the best decisions (even though you don’t know it yet) in your life-to-date. Take this next year to plan your journey, do some research and prepare for one of the best weekends of your next 365 days.
Many of our followers have written us, asking if we would create a “survival guide” to Shambhala after last year’s article following our profound experience at the festival. For many that have not been to Shambhala it still holds a strange stigma as a dry electronic music festival. Well friends, let us say this: Shambhala is the O.G. electronic music festival in Canada. They have had seventeen years to perfect their craft and there is no festival on earth that does it better than Shambhala. Oh, and did we mention that there is zero corporate sponsorship? Yeah. Sit on that for a minute. In short – do yourself a favor and buy your ticket for next year.
Whether you’re a seasoned festival goer or a newbie, there are a few things you need to know about your first Shambhala. That’s why we have created the “Not So Obvious Shambhala Survival Guide” – to prepare you for the five days that will redefine your life.
Warning: before you embark on your first Shambhala you need to have an open mind. You need to be prepared to participate in the festival community. Most importantly, you need to leave your boundaries, suit, tie, and overtly socially appropriate behaviour at the door. Thank you – Betty and Kora.
Shambhala Music Festival: more than music and more than a few days to get loose. Shambhala is a community first and foremost. Prepare to participate in the community at large during Shambhala. Look out for others, offer to assist those that might need help, locate where the harm reduction team resides (The Sanctuary), watering stations, safe zones for both women and men and get to know the general lay out of the grounds. Prepare to give and receive hundreds of high-fives and hugs and be open to meeting a massive new group of friends. Sharing is caring. Bring extra food and supplies to share with the community at large, because others will undoubtedly share with you. Shambhala is a festival that takes care of its people and reinforces the sense of humanism and compassion that so many events have seemed to have lost.
Welcome to the porta potty chronicles. The porta potties are the canvass to your pen. A glorious blank slate perfect for when you need some “private time.” Bring your pen and get crafty while on your thrown. I realize that this might sound strange to those who have never been, however my advice is to sit down on the pooper and marvel at the art and scripture on the walls. There is nothing quite like bursting out in laughter by yourself in the shitter. Normally you would feel like a complete social reject laughing on the john, but not here ladies and gentlemen, not here. Now, take out that pen and contribute. You sure as hell won’t be mad that you did. Have a camera? Take a photo. It will last longer.
Get weird. Now get weirder. Good, now you’re ready for your first Shambhala. Shambhala facilitates self-expression in a supportive atmosphere. No matter how weird you think you can get, someone is going to take the gold medal on strangeness. Aside from the mile-long-list of things we love about this festival, the icing on the cake is the people watching and the way that the festival supports each individual in their pursuit of ultimate freedom. Shambhala facilitates each individual to climb out of their bubble and do whatever makes them happy. Prepare for nakedness, incredible costumes, body paint, random flare and people getting down with your bad self. Zero judgement is passed – so my friends, dance like no one is watching, like you did when you were thirteen and awkward looking.
Hey you! Take care of yourself! Drink a ton of water and coconut water and make sure to intake sea salt. Did you know that bottled water doesn’t actually hydrate you? Shocker right? It has zero electrolytes and no matter how much bottled water you think you are in taking – your body isn’t getting the proper amount of salt. Add a small amount of sea salt to your water, or if you want to be extra smart, pack a salt lick with you.
Don’t blow your party load on the first day. Shambhala is five days long and make sure you pace yourself. There is so much to see and do – our rule of thumb is to lay low the first day and pace ourselves the rest. Try and get plenty of sleep. Pre-pack meals so you can dig into it right when you need it. Most importantly, take lots of vitamins while partying. This year we took fish oil, olive leaf extract, multi-vitamins and drank plenty of aloe juice. Be good to your body as much as you can…it will keep you in the game for a lot longer.
Pack and prepare for extremes. Nestled on a farm in a stunningly beautiful valley within the Salmo B.C. mountains, Shambhala’s weather flows from one extreme to another. The day time is characteristically humid and hot, with temperatures sticking around +30 degrees Celsius. Do not underestimate the need for shade during the day at your campsite. Pack shade tents, tarps, a ton of water (don’t forget there are free water fill-up stations), sunglasses, sunscreen, hats and a towel or piece of fabric that you can soak with water and wear on your head for extra comfort. Purchase a battery powered fan and bring a few spray bottles too. Many people that we met from outside Canada underestimated the extreme heat of Canadian summers and found themselves camping alongside strangers just to get out of the heat and under a covered area.
After the sun goes down the temperature changes quickly, with nighttime temperatures dropping several degrees, making for a chilly night. Make sure to pack lots of warm clothing including pants, sweaters and jackets. We typically packed around a backpack full of water and included sweaters so we didn’t have to trek back to camp and miss a show.
Make a beacon for your campsite and for yourself. The festival grounds are large and expansive and having a party beacon for your friends to find you is a definite must. The campgrounds themselves can be a pilgrimage depending on where you settle for the five days. Make sure you bring enough building supplies to create a beacon for your camp site as well as a beacon for your group in the festival. One of our favorite things about Shambhala is to look out into the crowds at the sea of different signs. It adds an element of ambiance that is unlike any festival you will ever experience and makes for the most entertaining photo bombs ever.
Explore, explore, explore! This festival has more places to explore than Disneyland. Actually, Shambhala is Disneyland for adults. Don’t forget it. Shambhala is loaded with incredible art pieces nestled in the woods, festival grounds and amongst the campsites. Take time to check out the installations throughout the entire festival site. They are vast and expansive and will blow your mind no matter who and what you might turn into at Shambhala. One of our favorite memories from 2013 was stumbling through the forest camp area trying to find our friend Danni. Our expedition proved to be the biggest lesson in Nome recovery, body painting and hammock chill’n. We found the craziest art throughout the woods that has accumulated over seventeen years and made for incredible conversations with people we met along the way. Never underestimate the impact of exploration during your festival experience. Getting lost never felt so good.
Jump off the Shambhalog. Bring a chair down to the river and don’t forget your floatie but leave your soap at your campsite. Apart from the obvious reasons to lounge in the river during the hottest parts of the day, some of our favorite memories were made alongside this big beautiful river. People watching, day napping and swim sessions between your favorite sets on the river most definitely give Shambhala festival bonus points. However, if you are caught bathing in the river with soap (even biodegradable) you will be heckled by the entire riverside audience. There are showers onsite for proper bathing and if you would rather not wait in a line purchase a portable sun shower for $10 at your local Canadian Tire, Costco or Superstore. We showered at our leisure every morning by tying the sun shower to our van. It saves time, money and you don’t have to feel like a dirt bag for five days! Win!
Make sure you explore every stage at Shambhala. Each stage at Shambhala is run as its own entity with individual booking agents, stage mangers, themes, sound and lighting teams and staff. Individually managed, every stage is mesmerizingly beautiful and different. If there’s one piece of advice we can give you it’s to make sure you take the time to explore every thoughtful, weird and intricate detail that each of these platforms has to offer. Before heading to Shambhala, make sure to mark down the opening ceremony times for each stage. The opening ceremonies are a great way to get acquainted with each stage…and are a rite of passage whether a seasoned or new attendee.
The Fractal Forest – Enter the heart of the forest and experience mind-blowing visuals bouncing perfectly off of every orifice with surround sound that’ll enter one ear, touch your soul, and slowly find its way out the other. The trademarked Fractal Forest plays host to the infamous “Funk Jam” where all your fave Fractal DJs get together for one big ‘ol jam sesh hosted by none other than Small Town DJs. Beware: some who enter may never leave. Top performances this year included Neon Steve, The Funk Hunters, The Funk Jam, Fort Knox Five, Kill Paris and Neighbour. Don’t forget to head to the Fractal Monday morning for the biggest morning dance party at Shambhala. It’s the last dance and it gets ridiculous really, really quick.
The Grove – Surrounded by Mother Nature’s finest old-growth forest you will find yourself easily getting into the groove of The Grove. Interactive chill zone by day, deep sounds and dancing by night, this stage is truly magical with real live fairies…it’s like Alice in Wonderland meets melodic bass. Yes please. Highlights this year included performances by Emancipator, Odesza and Opiuo. All were beautifully melodic and were just what we needed.
The Amphitheatre – The Legendary “Amphitheatre/Rock Pit”, home to some of Shambhala’s biggest raging dance parties and ‘Legends of House Showcase’ will keep you moving and grooving all day long. Rip off your shoes and get down on the sandy dance floor. This year our favorite performances were from Skiitour and A Tribe Called Red.
The Village – The Village stage is insane… it’s more like a set out of a movie than a stage at a music festival. If you ever dreamed of a tree fort growing up as a child this is one for the books! Connected by catwalks and bridges overlooking a sea of dancing colors and crazy lights, this stage is all about the bass. It’s so incredible you’ll spend hours just exploring. Our favorite sets this year were Griz, Andy C and DJ Nu Mark. Our friend Cody brought a ton of LED balloons to The Village for Andy C’s set. The bass was so loud and intense that no matter how hard we tried, all of our balloons exploded. That’s one for the books.
The Pagoda – The Pagoda plays host to the sacred vibrational sounds of dance music. Ahead of its time in video mapping technology shit gets real when it comes to the sights and sounds of The Pagoda Stage! At times it feels like you’ve left Earth and somehow boarded a ship headed to deep space. Our favorite sets this year at The Pagoda were The M Machine, Beats Antique and Gorgon City, all of which we danced like sweaty messes too and were lucky enough to be invited up to the lighting booth to catch Beats Antique’s set.
The Living Room – Make yourself at home at the The Living Room stage. Located right on the beach alongside the Salmo River this gem stone feels nice and cozy and has a revolving door full of love, hugs, and good vibes! Beautiful and whimsical, you have to check out a sunrise set at The Living Room. Highlights this year included Pumpkin’s sunrise set featuring a performance by EveryMan, Mark Farina’s Mushroom Jazz Set, which somehow turned into a random funk jam as The Funk Hunters “FUNK” sign made an appearance and Afro Q-Ben’s noon performance.
Activities, theme days, workshops…get into it! Shambhala hosts a lengthy list of workshops, yoga, theme days and activities. The best place to look for these is on Shambhala’s Facebook page as well as their website. The Unicorn Stampede, Day Onsie (wear your onsie on the first day), Caturday Morning Disco, morning yoga classes and enlightening workshops put Shambhala ahead of the pack as far as we’re concerned. Prepare to get weird with a ton of new friends and share in the collective festival experience.
Well friends, that about sums it up! Shambhala concluded on Monday, and not even a week later, all we can think about is returning next year. We celebrated our first “friendiverserry” with so many of our now closest friends from our experience at our first Shambhala in 2013. It never ceases to amaze us how much this festival has impacted our lives. Do yourself a favour and share the experience with us in 2015. See below for our full photo album.
“Shambhala strikes at the core of the human spirit and as quickly as it comes and goes, it will undoubtedly change your life forever.” – Betty
A huge thank you to the entire staff and volunteer crew at Shambhala, Camp Moo, The Funk Hunters, Skiitour, Fort Knox Five, GRiZ, Gordon Blunt, Small Town DJs, Britz Bitz, The Confluence Group, Jim Vanderhorst, Rebel Cause Films, Cody Simon, Ceddie Bear, Funderland, Tucker Gumber, Maranda and Jackie, Kristen M, Kelly M, Lauren Y, and every single person at Shambhala. So much love.
Words by Betty. Photos shot and edited by Betty and Kora.
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