“You need to go there,” a friend of mine had been telling me for years. “It will change your life,” I have heard several others say of it. This summer, for the first time, I finally heeded such words as these and ventured to the Kootenays for the legendary Shambhala Music Festival.
Up a dusty road I drove and strolled in through the gates on Sunday morning. This was the final day of festivities that had so far included acts like Moby, Bassnectar, and dozens more. Most people in attendance had been going strong since at least Thursday, but the overall momentum showed no signs of fading. Energy was everywhere as I explored the Salmo River Ranch with eyes and mind wide open.
After a lengthy meandering I had encountered a myriad of the ranch’s subtly integrated nooks and fixtures (though I would continue to discover countless more throughout my wanderings that day). I now knew the basic layout of the place and had met many of its wonderful people, but still I awaited one key element: the music. As morning shifted into afternoon it soon began.
My first true induction to the spirit of the festival occurred in the Fractal Forest, where the Fractal Funk Jam was in full action. I stepped into a sunlit cartoon space walled high by cedars, where people grooved on wooden benches and danced before the stage. Some were costumed, a few had decorated staffs or signs or props held high above their heads, and everyone was smiling. I joined in bouncing with some moves and a grin of my own, setting a positive tone for the
rest of my maiden Shambhala experience.
A path from here through woods led me then to the Village. There I ascended a set of steps onto a structure of interconnected platforms, seeming almost to float across the walkways as the talent of the hour (Infernal, perhaps?) switched to something heavy on the bass and deeply atmospheric. I leaned against the railing and gazed at the area below. Beneath a geodesic dome, two horned young ladies jerked enticingly upon the stage, while those on the ground bobbed and swayed. Climbing back down, I was again compelled to match the movements of the crowd.
The act came to an end and I circled around to the Living Room, where I alternated between rejuvenating solar rays and the shady refuge of a tree fort. Amidst creek bathers and people lounging on beachside couches, I watched a woman twirl acrobatics on a ribbon suspended from the stage. All the while the sound kept booming through the valley. At this point I had only seen three of the place’s six main attractions in effect, but I remember already thinking “I see why people love this place so much.”
Eventually the sun went down, the full moon rose, and lights of green and purple began spanning through the trees and across the sky. All of a sudden everything was aglow, and the forest’s hidden intricate wonders became even more profound. I spent the night weaving through captivating soundscapes, catching sets of B Traits, Beardyman, G Jones, and more. Along the way I exchanged high fives and hugs with strangers, watched people spin tricks with flashing hula hoops, and conversed upon bridges strung with lights. Every moment was a separate magical experience that I am glad to have had.
My only regret, other than missing what sounded like an epic set of days leading to this last hurrah, was choosing to lie down back at camp before A Tribe Called Red performed. By then I had been roaming around for so many hours that my legs felt near collapse, but I was assured the next morning that the group’s infectious brand of First Nations influenced beats would have leant further movement to my feet. Now all I can do is play Electric Pow Wow Drum in my headphones, close my eyes, nod my head in rhythm, and imagine I am in a hidden enclave of forest where bulbs and lasers fill the night, music permeates all, and vibrant souls perpetually dance and wander. A piece within my memories stays there, and it will keep on riding those dreamy vibes of Shambhala.
– Cory Stumpf