Night & Mornings: A Full Day at Shambhala
A lot can happen in a day at Shambhala Music Festival. So much to do in what feels like so little time to do it all. Do you spend the whole afternoon at the river? Or do you head for the vendor section and scope out some unique items? Maybe it’s day three of six and you are feeling the afternoon hammock nap until sundown.
A full day can have you exploring the woods, meeting new friends or getting amongst the stages from sunrise to sundown. My personal favourite day at Shambhala is a day spent wandering. Just meandering from place to place with the sun on my back and an open mind to meet and talk with anyone who ends up catching eyes with me. Coming from Toronto, making eye contact with passersby was usually a rare occurrence. A lot can happen when you open yourself up to those around you just by being there; open to the world and it’s millions of potential adventures. I implore you to find yours.
Cover Photo: Insomniac Media
Photo: Insomniac Media
Awake (or so I’m led to believe.) I was magically able to find my temporary forest oasis of a campsite sometime around 05:30 earlier that morning. Stumbling through the foggy haze of lasers and lights, totems and tall trees, bodies and bass, I managed to find my tent and snuggle inside to fend off the remainder of the bass music that spilled into the early morning daylight – pushing and moving the air through the woods that surrounded me. Now, the delicate summer sun shined strong through the treetop canopies above and pierced into the open flap of my tent. It was a burn that both tempted and tormented me; if I must go out into the world again (and I must), I’m going to need coffee.
Photo: Insomniac Media
I shambled through the now sun-drenched dirt road highways connecting my forest paradise to the stages and vendors that twisted like a series of arteries pumping blood through a circulatory system; I know my place in this metaphor. I am the bad blood, looking for sustenance. I found myself wandering past the Spirit Animal wheel and could not walk by without giving it my best ‘Price is Right’ spin. I got Blue Heron, which made perfect sense to me as I started flapping my lanky arms into the wind… but I forgot how to fly. Finally, a coffee shop. A much needed boost of energy and life to my current groggy existence. A short wait in line, and now a large Night Owl Canadiano in my hands… Life is good, all is well in the universe.
Photo: Akailah Yocom
A short sit on the grass by the Amphitheater enjoying a warm brew and the day completely changed from grog to great. Newly energized, I walked through the pathways that were filled with beautiful people from all over the world. Eye contact and energy, we all stumbled along looking for the next fun thing. Cloud watching and bass chasing, these are the summer days you remember forever. You can never walk by the Fractal Forest during a sunny afternoon and not stop in for a quick boogie while the gettin’s good. Sunshine and dirty feet, kicking up dust clouds and moving to the music. Breathe. Everything is going to be alright. Staring across the dance floor I noticed a girl with a pink headband and golden blonde hair bursting out from all sides, flowing.
The way she danced to the music was mesmerizing. The feeling of insecurity and shyness bubbled to my surface until she looked back at me and smiled. She danced at me for a moment, all the while maintaining eye contact. I flapped my arms like the Blue Heron I was, and after another moment or two she waved me over with a smile.
Photo: Brie’Ana Breeze Photography
Wow, time flies when you’re making memories. Her name was Annika, and she’s from Sweden. She heard of Shambhala through friends who travelled around Canada and found this place back in the early 2000’s, when it was much smaller. She made a point to get here eventually. She manifested this moment, and here I was completely taken aback by everything happening around me with no thought or plan. She studied music, and had a degree in business, but most importantly (for some reason) she liked talking to me.
“I don’t usually act on impulses like this” she said. “But this place makes you do things you don’t normally do, in the good way I mean.”
I agreed. A long walk ensued, ending at the sparkling Salmo river. I watched her kick off her sandals and jump right in. I hesitated for a moment, not completely sure if I was hesitant of the water temperature, or hesitant to stop watching this person who I just met. She burst out of the water like a Scandinavian mermaid and laughed at me standing there watching her. I shook my temporary trance and jumped over her and into the water behind her, splashing some fellow river-rats sitting along the banks. Be in the moment. I emerged out of the water and there she was, smiling. She laughed because I’m tall, and I laughed because she laughed. She called me a beanpole, and I did my best impression of one.
Annika said she promised some friends she would meet them back at the campsite for lunch, and she proceeded to invite me along with her. I said that I was also meeting some people at my campsite around the same time, but that we should meet up at the Village later, once the sun started to set. She smiled and agreed, she wrote her phone number on my hand with a marker she kept in her tie-dye fanny pack, and I wrote mine on hers. She signed it with her name, and a heart above it. I said thank you, which immediately sounded dumb to me, but she laughed and pranced away. I swear I watched her leave for too long, but it was one of those scenarios where you know you’d regret doing any other thing. Back to reality, what time was it?
Pathways that trotted through the green forest were lined with various groups of people, all talking about anything and everything. Voices carried and yelled, wind rustled the leaves and the clouds were barely visible through the tree canopies. People laughing, dancing, hugging, sleeping, everything. It was a vast collection of human experiences in one of the most beautiful settings this world could offer. I wondered what Annika was doing? Was I just another person on her list of 100 people she met that day? What is special anyways? Did she feel how I felt? Wait, shake it off; focus on the now. I approached my campsite and saw all my friends gathered around in a circle. My chosen family. A smile ripped across my face. Let the games begin.
“ALLEN!” I heard in the distance. “ALLEN!” again from now another part of the forest.
This went on for a solid 30 seconds before the perfectly timed, “STEVE!” was shouted back from some other campsite. Laughter erupted, woo’s were woo’d and times were had. It’s the little things.
Photo: Brie’Ana Breeze Photography
A few sandwiches, lots of water, and a cat nap later, it’s time to start stage hopping. Now fully rested and recovered from the night before, the chosen fam and I rallied up and made our way out into the dusk-lit pathways that would lead us to our experiences. Just before we left we heard it. The distant roar of the Shambhala Roar. It started off quiet and distant, but grew with ferocity and volume as it made its way through the forest and finally to us. We yelled and screamed at the top of our lungs, representing our area of the forest with honour and joy. It echoed on past us and into the woods; the spirit of the festival was alive and well. The greens were the greenest greens that you could ever imagine, and were made all the more lush by the evening twilight that was slipping through the trees and making everything shine with a certain slippery shimmer. We staggered down the pathways, both dirt and sand, on a mission to have fun and make memories. Happy. Share these feelings, and take them with you in life. Spread the love you feel here everywhere you go, no matter what you do.
Oh shit, I forgot to call Annika. Straight to voicemail (I already missed her accent.) One semi-coherent message later, and the crew found ourselves at the Amphitheater. Our friend was playing a set for his first time here, and we promised we would be there to support.
You can feel it. The air begins to bite at you a little bit. The bass seemed a little louder than before. The sun was being chased beyond the misty mountains by the moon, and a dark purplish orange hue painted the sky above. Furry folks and onesies, totems, red lip gloss and glow sticks, bandanas and birthday suits. Happiness and smiles were the currency now, and I was a rich man. We all were; these were the times. The wind picked up a little, or maybe that was just the energy of the people. Living our lives throwing high fives, and on to the next. We meandered on as a unit to the next stop. Checked phone; no missed calls. My stomach tightened for a second, but I smiled and carried on.
Photo: Banana Cam Photo
Dark and dirty dancefloors were where we found ourselves. Dirty in the good way; dirty in the best way. Dust kicked up from thousands of like-minded bassheads as Perkulat0r dripped gooey bass into our eardrums. Moving in unison with everyone around us, we were all one in those moments. United by bass, divided by nothing. One mind, one place. Right now is everything. Trees illuminated in all the colours our brains could create and the music echoed through the mountains. Through all this enjoyment and action I didn’t notice my phone ring. Luckily, intuition took over and I got a thought to see if Annika had reached out. I pressed the home button and a new message appeared. Through all the noise and movement, I managed to steady myself for a moment, long enough to read the text that came through.
“Beanpole! Where are you?”
I laughed a laugh that would be impossible to hear over the droopy bass being kicked through the PK system, and I texted back my location. I happened to glance up at my battery life and it said 12%. Slight worry. Don’t panic. Shifted into low-battery mode, turned screen brightness down, and back to playing.
New places, new vibes. Water break. Off to refill our water bottles and reorganize the plan. Checking the music schedule, we adjusted our gameplan a little bit and found ourselves heading to the Fractal Forest for some groovy bass. I checked my phone on the way there and there were no new messages. I gave Annika a call, but it rang and went to voicemail. I opted not to leave a message that time. Was I falling? Had I been hit by the Shambhala love bug, and now my vision was tunnelling in before me? Shake it off. Roll with the family and dance the night away. The lasers sliced through the trees and the night’s sky began to illuminate stars back down to us little earthlings. Mosey on, feel the music.
Battery life = 7%.
Eagerly awaiting Mixmaster Mike to come on and issue a dose of hip hop and scratch beats to up everyone’s spirits. The warm summer air blew across the dancefloor, reminding everyone of the beautiful utopia we found ourselves in. Wavy bass music filled the air and manipulated the space all around us — bringing us in and pushing us away. The bassheads rocked their heads against the giant subs at the front of the stage, and the rest of us enjoyed it from increasing lengths. I somehow felt the buzz in my pocket, and I checked my phone… one new message.
“Looking good Beanpole!”
I looked up, and scanned around me in a 360 degree circle, but didn’t see anyone resembling Annika. I got another text.
“A little higher! :)”
I looked up towards the stage, and I saw her smiling back down at me. She waved for me to make my way to the stage. I started trying my very best to maneuver my lanky self through the waves and waves of happy, sweaty people, and eventually made my way there. She met me at the stairs and got me up to the top (friend of a friend who knows a guy who is dating a girl who has a +2 kind of story.) We can barely hear a thing the other is saying, but we spoke in smiles and existed in music. Let the good times roll.
Photo: James Coletta
Smiling. Laughing. Dancing. Existing amongst these beautiful spirits and bound by our love of music. Encased in this beautiful place; this forest of sound. Out of water though, I leaned in and told Annika that I had to get some more.
“Perfect!” she yelled back in to my ear. “We’re going to see Malaa at Pagoda and you’re going to dance with me there.”
More perfect words couldn’t have been spoken. That feeling in your heart and soul where you feel special to the world, and special to someone, ignited and burned a beautiful white and purple-ish glow inside me. I took her hand, and we wiggled our way through the maze of bodies and found ourselves on the glow-lit pathways heading towards the water station.
House of the deepest variety. Annika and I somehow managed to get ourselves into one of the two viewing towers in the middle of the pagoda dance floor. Smoke and Lasers, colours and cat-costumes, bright lights and striped tights; everything flowing together. The groove was shared amongst everyone, and everyone shared themselves with the groove. Lost in each other, but lost in everything else. Moments are had and shared. Love is not just a feeling, but a state of mind. I love. We love. Shambhala is love.
Hard to believe this was the last night, until next year. Already came and went so fast. Back to the moment, live in the moment. Be the moment.
Photo: Matti MC
Shady morning wanders through the chilly, fog-smoked pathways that lead to the river. We stopped at the wishing tree and both had our own moments writing down our words to put into the universe. Sharing stories, laughing and stumbling. Morning glow trees and mountain tops; cool morning breezes. Finally glad to have a sweater tied around my waist; I covered it around Annikas shoulders. We laid on the beach and looked at the stars that slowly faded into orange morning lit skies. What’s it all about? Why anything? The usual morning contemplations, but this time with another human to bounce them off of.
Another year, another Shambhala. Another beautiful experience shared with friends, new and old. Music, art, culture, love, happiness, unity. I plunged my face into the cold river water, and come out anew. I dried my face on my sweater, and laid back down. We laughed, we cried, we shared, we told truths, and we talked about things that scared us.
Photo: Banana Cam Photo
When you make a big & beautiful bubble, it’s normal to want it to last forever, but you must not be sad when it bursts. For it existed, and I saw it and felt it. We saw it, and felt it. Later that day I would be going back to my life, and Annika back to hers. This festival shows you things. People, experiences, life. It teaches you things, and makes you appreciate the little everythings that might just go unnoticed if not for this new clarity. Birds flew from tree to tree, and we laid close under a new days eventual sunrise. In the sand. The music faded into the background and the world made sense, if only for a moment.
Another year, another beautiful year. And next year, we do it all again. Mad love.
|By: Nick Christian (Solid Creative)|
I’m Nick, but everyone calls me Solid. I’m a Writer/Wildland Firefighter. Originally from Mississauga Ontario, I’ve spent the last 11 years traveling and working in the surrounding forests of British Columbia. I have been residing in Nelson, BC for 6 years, and love all things about this mountain town. I like my music loud, my coffee strong, and my pages filled with words.