-Guest Post by Sean Panganiban – firstname.lastname@example.org
Do you have any drugs or alcohol in the car?” says the gatekeeper with a friendly, but serious undertone. “Just this bag of mushrooms and little bit of weed”. This is the first conversation we had at 8am Friday morning, after the 9 hour drive overnight to Salmo Ranch. Alcohol is not permitted at Shambhala, nor is an excessive amount of drugs. I choose my words carefully with the young worker, because I have at least a dozen mickey’s and beers scattered in different crevices of my Mazda.
You can tell he’s feeling us out like a boarder security guard, except, he’s wearing wrist bands from the last 5 music festivals he’s been to. He’s deciding whether he should send us to line 1 (no car search) all the way up to line 4 (3 security members ripping apart your car). He’s looking to see if you’re the “trouble maker type”, the “trafficker type”, or the “over-the-top-junkie type”. “Head on over to line 1, you won’t even get searched. And by the way, Happy Shambhala!”
Shambhala has been around for 18 years and this year was my third year. In the last 8 years, I’ve been very privileged/lucky/fortunate to have had the chance to attend over 20 major music festivals around the world. I would like to consider myself a “music festival connoisseur”, but a “declining music festival junkie”, is more like it. Out of all the festivals I’ve been to, there is something different about Shambhala. You can see it and you can most definitely feel it. There’s something odd and very weird about it. Whatever it is, I love it. “Shambhala is a weird place, and if you’re not down to get weird, then this isn’t a place for you”, says a first time Shamb-go’er, as I encourage him, that what lay before us, was in fact, real life.
Let’s start with the overall vibe. Those of you who have attended a music festival know about the festival “bros”. There are several types, but let’s chat about the “juiced-up-tribal-tatty-with-the-man-purse-bro”. This particular species seems to exist at all festivals, but more abundantly at EDM shows. A VERY small percentage lingers at Shambhala, but they’re different. They’re tamer, they’re wearing costumes and it’s almost as if they’ve assimilated to the existing culture that Shambhala has encompassed for the last 18 years. The culture seems to be what I like to call the “Space Age Hippie”. The same ideologies and smell of petrulli as the 70’s Hippie, but for some reason, they’re in love with electronic music. Maybe it was one too many Grateful Dead remixes over the years, but this culture is very friendly and welcoming in comparison, to say, the “Pretentious Hippie” of Coachella. They’re very much interested in the peace, love and unity of people. Another similarity you’ll notice to the flower power era is the nakedness of the people. This year the nudity predominantly favored the ladies; however, unlike the flower power era, sans hairy armpits.
Salmo is located in the interior of British Columbia, and the weather is very hot in the day time and it cools off substantially at night. The best way to beat the heat in the day is to chill out on the river that flows right through the festival. There’s a stage right near the river called the “Living Room”, and minus the leather couch and TV, it’s as comfy as it sounds. By 6pm the sun sets enough that it gets blocked by the BC Mountains and the calm before the storm makes an exit. You can almost instantly feel everyone’s attitude and aura flip a switch, as they prepare for the upcoming night’s rager.
If I can describe the night life at Shamb, I would say it resembles Halloween for 4 straight nights. My go – to costume of choice this year was an Afro with leopard print pants. My effort level was nil and it consisted of me looking through my tickle trunk (Canadian reference) and trying things on. Unlike my lackluster costume, I’m always amazed at everyone else’ effort level for their costumes. A ninja made purely out of glow sticks, or an almost movie-like Beatlejuice. You name it, you’ll see it. Not only that, I’m astounded by people’s creativity as seen by their home made totem-pole-like signs. Even the graffiti banter in the porta potties make for a good chuckle to pass the time, “I came here for 2 reasons and 1 was art, but now I’m sad, I can only fart”, was a favorite of mine.
There are 6 stages at Shambhala, all decked out with the best sound system in the business, PK Sound. Each stage is filled with different versions of electronic music, a “pick your poison”, if you will. Back in 2010, a staple for my friends and I was the Village, which fulfilled our Dubstep lust. This year, we mostly stuck to the Fractal Forest to groove to the funky beats. The stages are pretty close together, that within a minute you’re doing your best James Brown shuffle, to doing your best Optimus Prime during Excision.
Shambhala promotes safe and responsible partying. It’s inevitable that people will consume drugs at festivals, why not know what’s actually in the drugs? There is a harm reduction tent that promotes drug education and even tests your drugs, so you know what you’re ingesting. In the event that you’re having a bad trip, you can always visit the Sanctuary for medical help and emotional support. No judgment, just unconditional love, help and good vibes.
I’ve gone to Shambhala with friends who don’t even listen to EDM, but wanted to experience what all the fuss was about. They enter the festival a skeptic and leave vowing to come back again for another year. As I close in on 29 years of age, I was hesitant in going to Shamb this year. I knew the shenanigans I’d get into and I knew the “piece of shit” state I’d be in when I returned to my 9-5 office job. After coming back and battling my “Shambhala withdrawals”, I can say that none of that matters. It’s a majestic place that lets people express who they really are, with no judgment and an escape from our regular lives. Even though I did come back in a “piece of shit” state for a couple days, Shambhala has rejuvenated me for another 365. I’ll see you next year on the farm