I’ve been to my fair share of music festivals. From massive events such as Tomorrowland and EDC Las Vegas to smaller scale like WTFestival and Electronic Family… But nothing could prepare me for the Shambhala experience earlier this month.
Located in Salmo, BC Canada, Shambhala is much more like a giant party with your friends in the middle of a forest than the cruder description of ‘festival,’ it was the most welcoming and low-key experience I’ve ever had at an event.
It’s completely unique in its entirety. It’s taken a few weeks for the dust to settle, but I’ve come up with a list of seven things that ensure Shambhala’s cult location in the ever-developing electronic music landscape…
Shambhala is a place where you’ll never feel alone. It’s the most welcoming and understanding group of people that would stop and talk to you no matter who you are. Just take the time to say hello and I guarantee you’ll be adventuring with your new Shambha-lovers in no time. This feels different from other festivals in the sense that you could go to the festival completely alone and be taken in by a family of hippies who all rode down in a school bus together, and they’d treat you like their best friend.
There’s a drug testing tent at Shambhala where you can openly, without judgment, take your drugs and have them tested to make sure they are what you think they are before ingesting them. You won’t be arrested, and it’s actually supported by security as a means to educate and inform people on what they’re inevitably going to take anyway. They supply disposal methods for people wishing to discard their drugs if they are to test negatively for what they thought they were and those discarded drugs are handed over to the RCMP.
It gets HOT during the day at Shambhala, what’s great about this festival site is the opportunity to lounge in the ice cold river along side the beach stage. You can lay in the water while listening to the music and still admire the décor from the Living Room stage, all while cooling off and catching some rays.
You can’t buy a beer anywhere at Shambhala. You can’t bring any kind of alcohol inside the grounds with you either. It’s a completely dry festival with no intention of changing its ways. The atmosphere itself doesn’t suit alcohol anyway. Instead of a beer, buy a coconut and feel refreshed for the next day instead of hungover. It sounds like a crazy idea, but once you try it and experience it for yourself, you’ll understand why alcohol isn’t needed.
Everyone is naked. Everywhere. Literally. Everywhere I looked I could spot a naked person. At first I was startled when I saw a man wearing nothing but a sock covering his junk along with a spirit hood, sunglasses and sparkly paint all over, but you get used to it. This just goes to show everyone and everything is accepted at Shambhala. Express yourself, in whatever way is important to you.
In case nakedness isn’t your bag, you are free to dress how you want. Hells, you can bring what you want, you can have the biggest totems and sport the wackiest lights on your body: Shambhala has no rules.
You can drive down and camp in your school bus, you can ride into the mountains on your bicycle with your tent on your back. Apparently there was even a bouncy castle this year… Try and name another festival that would let you bring a bouncy castle. There are no bans on kandi, hula-hoops, poi or any kind of light toys. There are no restrictions on large homemade signs; it’s just an all around accepting atmosphere that encourages self-expression and creativity. Want to bring a hammock and set it up in the Fractal Forest for a couple hours? Go for it. Want to bring a massive float toy to the river? Do it! Want to walk around completely naked? We already told you that’s fine… You’re almost weird if you don’t.
Most music festivals include art instillations in their production. What made Shambhala unique was it seemed the entire thing was an art project, and it also felt homemade. The signs pointing you into the festival were all hand painted on wooden boards, food signs were hand done, and even the stage art had a unique feel to it. There were artists painting graffiti in the woods, people hanging little hand written notes, ‘wishes’ in the trees, and each campsite seemed to have their own types of art, including one I saw with a little garden set up in front of their RV.
Above all, the best part about this festival is its attendees. The amount of garbage left over was minimal, the amount of fights I saw were non-existent, and the vibe was always positive, welcoming and vibrant. Shambhala is one of those places everyone needs to experience at least once. Just remember to have an open mind; you never know exactly what you might see.