Why Shambhala Is the Ultimate Music Festival: 2019 Recap
Shambhala possesses a culture and community that is unlike any other in the festival world. Since its inception 22 years ago, the festival has been tirelessly building and expanding upon its unique strengths with the help of its dedicated crew and family. This year I finally committed to making the journey to this fabled festival myself after wanting to go for over 4 years. The time I spent there made me fall deeply in love with Shambhala’s essence and opened my eyes to the way all festivals should strive to operate.
The moment I approached the grounds, I began to understand and see firsthand just how exceptional and meaningful Shambhala is. It wasn’t long before I realized that I had found a one of a kind music destination that feels like exactly like home. Not only was it an unrivaled artistic and sonic journey, but I also gained invaluable knowledge and life lessons during my time on the ranch. Shambhala encompasses what it means to be a transformative and progressive event that is capable of creating major shifts that people seek within their own lives. Whether you observe it from an artistic or spiritual standpoint, there was so much to appreciate about this year’s event so let’s look back on exactly what makes Shambhala the ultimate music festival.
Discover Jaw-dropping Music Around the Clock
Credit: Caspian Kai Visuals & Photography
One of the first things I noticed about this festival is that there is an abundance of international and upcoming artists compared to other events. Shambhala’s lineup consisted of a balance of heavy hitters that frequent the festival circuit such as Rusko and Excision, along with newer artists that are on track to dominating the music scene themselves. No matter how well you think you know electronic music, you are guaranteed to come across new sounds that will simply blow your mind and open you up to unheard frequencies. I witnessed this at the Amp stage preparty on Thursday night when I unexpectedly discovered the massive sounds of upcoming producer Abelation and the theatrical performance of Shambhala staple LWSD.
I quickly realized that the best way to approach the music at Shambhala was to see as many new undercard acts as you can because you can genuinely enrich your music taste and make the most out of the event that way. Of course, I made sure to catch the Shambhala favorite artists that are known for their performances at this festival as well. Some unforgettable moments included Stylust’s wild party at the Village, and El Papachango and Dakini Star’s eccentric late night Living Room set, and Skiitour at Fractal Forest.
Shambhala also encouraged the discovery of new music by having perceived set conflicts on the schedule. While it was a little challenging to decide which acts you wanted to see at times because of all the amazing options, I found that it was ideal to catch as many as I could instead of staying for the entirety of every set. Not only did this keep things interesting, but I encountered so many breathtaking performances while walking through the grounds that I wouldn’t have experienced otherwise because of it.
Many festivals shut down their stages after a certain time so renegade campground sets are the only option for night owls, but Shambhala allows you to continue to enjoy its mesmerizing stage production well past dawn. This year was home to some of the most beautiful sunrise sets I’ve ever seen, such as at ATYYA’s delightfully melodic set at the Grove. The music even went on until Monday afternoon for Shambhala fam that stayed on site and took advantage of the rest day that the festival graciously provides.
The Shambhalove is Palpable
Photo Credit: Don Idio Visuals
Out of all the positive qualities that Shambhala embodies, the one thing that truly brings it all together is the loving community which is the driving force of the entire event. It was clear that this festival was profoundly special to everyone there, particularly because of its transformative nature and nurturing atmosphere. I heard countless stories about how it changed perspectives and the direction of people’s lives. Many artists kick-started their careers from playing there because of how Shambhala recognizes raw talent at any level. The enthusiasm of the crowd was boundless and everyone seemed to have a mindset of spreading the ‘shambhalove’ and gratitude that brought even more joy into every moment.
As a first timer who has attended many major festivals, I’ve never seen such a diverse community as this one. I met many people who had traveled all the way from places like Australia, France, Germany, and much more. With such a multicultural community, it was not uncommon for me to walk past people who were speaking in other languages. It was a testament to how people from all over the globe recognize Shambhala as a paramount music festival that they are willing to make the journey for. Regardless of their backgrounds, there was a strong sense of unity through the appreciation of art and music we all had.
Shambhala Spearheads Festival Permaculture and Harm Reduction Movements
Shambhala exceeds every other festival I’ve attended in its ability to successfully integrate principles of permaculture and harm reduction into every aspect of the event. Attendees are consistently encouraged to respect their environment through thoughtful actions and consumption choices. Because the event takes place at the magnificent Salmo River Ranch, organizers discouraged the use of glitter or other harmful products there to respect the water source which the locals rely on. Workshops were also present for those that wanted to dive in deeper into how they can collectively protect nature. Sunflowers and gardens amplified the beauty present and was another way that nature was celebrated as a central theme. When it came to food options, you could order farm to table meals and use wooden utensils that were readily available in place of plastic along with recycling and compost bins.
The extra effort Shambhala makes to preserve a clean space based on renewable resources made an immense difference in the events overall footprint. The festivals community holds these values close to their hearts, which was evident in the lack of littering and overall cleanliness of the grounds which I have not seen at any other music event. Shambhala was the greatest example of the leave no trace movement I’ve seen after a festival ending. It was honestly shocking how weIl attendees cleaned their campsites up and left nothing behind while moving trash and camping gear to designated spaces. It was truly inspiring to watch and be a part of, especially when you think of all the disheartening viral photos of campsites left in shambles we are used to seeing online. The best part was that the Shambhala veterans I talked to were always eager to educate others on the importance of respecting the festival grounds which helps spread those values even more effectively.
The festival is also known for its world class harm reduction efforts that are led by ANKORS, which is an organization committed to keeping attendees safe, healthy, and educated. The Ankors booth was located in the heart of the festival and was advertised on signs around the venue as a spot with accessible drug testing. The entrance featured a detailed yet easy to understand chart about drug composition and interactions.
Credit: James Coletta
Once you step inside the booth, you are greeted by friendly volunteers who are eager to answer any of your questions and provide you with resources, including educational handouts you can share with your friends. On demand drug testing is available at the booths which could be used by anyone without the fear of legal consequences. It is all a part of Shambhala’s extensive effort to keep attendees as safe as possible while ending the stigma that comes with openly testing substances at festivals.
Along with harm reduction, there were multiple safe spaces on site that went above and beyond in providing attendees comfort and safety. Whether you wanted a small break to unwind or someone to give you comfort and listen to your safety concerns, you could find something to meet any of your needs there. One of the safe spaces was an all gender area that maintained an inviting atmosphere by offering snacks and fresh coffee. The most impressive part was that there were multiple tents set up for anyone that did not feel safe at their campsite or had trouble finding their way back. Whatever your needs were, judgement free staff were there to assist you and make sure that you felt welcomed.
There was an additional female only sanctuary space designed to help feel women as comfortable as possible and have a place to turn to with any concerns. Having a sanctuary filled with supportive women is another shining example of Shambhala’s outstanding commitment to safety and compassion.
Impeccably Curated Stages and Sound Systems
Anyone that’s been to Shambhala knows that the 6 stages and their distinguished ambiences play a major role in keeping the festival experience so dynamic. They each exhibit imaginative stage designs that are complemented by illustrious sound systems. The Amp stage was where I ended up spending the bulk of my time since its huge striped tent provided much needed refuge from the pouring rain throughout the weekend. With such a colossal lineup and PK sound to match, I almost didn’t even want to leave. From superstars like Troyboi, Mija, to the cutting edge talent of Mersiv and Alix Perez, the stage was bursting with phenomenal music from various facets of electronic music.
Credit: Britt Rose Photography
The mesmeric dancers that accompanied the musicians made the performances that much more riveting, and added a special touch that you couldn’t experience anywhere else but at Shambhala. The Living Room was another stage using PK Sound which overlooked the river and served as a relaxing retreat with furniture and lights elegantly incorporated throughout. It was the destination for upbeat house and exotic sounds with artists such as Meowmix, Poolside, and Mat the Alien.
As I went deeper into the grounds, I finally got to step foot into the Fractal Forest which was even more surreal than the stories I had heard about it. You are encircled by enthralling production and trees from every angle, with funk fueled bass of artists like Defunk, SNBRN and K+ Lab as the focal point. Attendees could always count on the Village for renowned bass music with a jungle vibe. This was another PK powered stage which I felt held the most intense sound and bass, particularly during the legendary Wakaan Takeover, Ganja White Night, and Downlink sets to name a few.
The Grove had a rustic vibe and sounds to match from the likes of EARTHGANG, Danny Scrilla, Goopsteppa, and much more. There were plenty of optimal viewing spots thanks to elevated areas and benches. When it came to lasers and visuals, the Pagoda was the prime spot for shows with otherworldly production. The gorgeous white temple inspired structure was illuminated with projection mapping and hypnotic lights. Zeds Dead, Kaskade, and Justin Martin were some of the iconic artists that people couldn’t stop talking about. LSDream’s ethereal sunrise set at the Pagoda was a truly powerful way to wrap up the last night of the festival.
Shambhala is already fully immersed into its plans for its following installment, with July 24-27 set as next year’s date that its farmily will reunite on the farm. This is the event that every festival lover deserves to experience at least once in their life, so if you are considering make you the trek I encourage you to wholeheartedly do so. Change is already on the horizon for 2020 with the Village stage revampment announcement and potential campsite changes, which is all a part of Shambhala’s mission for consistent innovation. I will be forever thankful for my first time on the farm, and am already looking forward to future adventures at my newfound safe haven for years to come.
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