The love has stayed the same: The man behind the Amp Stage spills the beans on Shambhala Music Festival over the years and what comes next
Blood. Sweat. Tears. And love in the ground.
That’s what Mike Stewart, producer and the man behind the AMP Stage, says sets Shambhala Music Festival apart from the rest.
23 years ago he remembers skateboarding by day and raving by night.
It was a simple idea, he says, born of necessity, that took a grassroots party in the forest and turned it into Canada’s longest-running, premier Electronic Music Festival.
“Our area was lacking a good summer-end party,” said Stewart, fondly remembering the year 1998. “A group of us came up with the name and direction, postered around the area and crossed our fingers that people would travel to attend.”
A lot has changed since those early, heady days, but what hasn’t? The Shambhalove that has continued to grow and kept this grassroots party on the farm true to its roots, says Stewart.
We sat down with the OG Farmily member to chat about stage direction, Shambhala over the years, the AMP stage, what’s changed, and what’s stayed the same.
How did you get involved with Shambhala Music Festival in the first place?
In the West Kootenays, there were a small group of partiers that fell in love with electronic music very early on. DJ Adept arrived from the UK with crates of records around the same time it was hitting the bigger cities in North America. Word-of-mouth raves would happen monthly with the same crew of people and oftentimes, in the start, the same records. We connected and it just grew, word of mouth.
How did you end up building the Amp Stage?
In 2013 I came on to start a record label for Shambhala and as Music Marketing Director. Shortly after I was asked to take over the AMP Stage, which had previously been the Rock Pit. The pit was a few tiers lower and smaller, there were no fences, no wood and a very limited backstage area. While it is still just a hole in the ground, it is quite a bit bigger, flatter and sounds more full. PK Sound has really nailed the sound in the space.
Which artists and what performances stick out the most in your mind, over the years?
Mike Relm in the Village, Crying Over Pros in the Living Room, Mr. Scruff, March Forth Marching Band, Josh Evin, Vinyl Ritchie, Andrea, Wreckage Inc., Andy C, G Jones.
Do you have any prominent memories of artists' experiences on the farm?
It happens every year. First-time artists are blown away by the site and the vibe. Superstars are humanized, a great escape from the regular tours and shows. Blending in is easier at Shambhala. The site, the sound, the laughs and the ego-check that mostly strips people down at the gate.
Has your approach to curating artists changed over the years?
No. It is still about booking good, experimental new music and that’s it. We will not compromise. Our team needs to genuinely enjoy the music first-off. Quality music is the first requisite. We generally book prolific producers, a few DJ’s and we try not to believe the hype.
What kind of music do you think resonates the most with your stage and audience? Why?
I think because of our location, having such a wide variety of music will draw everybody in at some point throughout the week. We are very central, very exposed, so we strive to create an atmosphere of inclusion and a brighter space than most. Crowd participation is valued at the AMP. We want everyone to be a part of the show. While we are known for trap and bass music, we’ve had a huge amount of house, drum and bass, UKG and everything in between over the years.
What has your relationship with and experience of Shambhala taught you about yourself?
Stamina is key. Health maintenance, patience, comedy, rest, coffee and a balanced diet will enhance every aspect of the experience. Don’t neglect yourself or wait until later for self-care. You can easily leave the farm more charged than when you arrived.
Take the energy with you and spread the word and spread the love. It’s contagious, so use it wisely!
What is it about Shambhala that makes it so unique, special and different?
It has to be the site. It’s a magical place that has so much sweat, tears and love in the ground. Other parties take their party down when they’re done. We lock it up and come back and build more.
What’s next for the Amphitheatre?
Ohh, well, I can’t talk much about that right now. But rest assured, big things are in the works for 2020 and the future.