Anytime I attend a new festival I try to keep my expectations in check. Of course when one gets voted best festival in North America my expectations start to shift. I have heard only amazing things from those that have attended Shambhala. They speak to the love in the air, the positivity of the people, the immaculate production, the awesome food, and the amazing music. For 3 days (and a few more if you arrive early) you can experience this bliss. So naturally, I had high expectations.
After 3 days, I came away with a smile on my face and some tears in my eyes, I realized I experienced something special. I have been to some of the biggest festivals in the world (Tomorrowland, EDC, Ultra, etc.) and Shambhala is different. It offers a unique experience than the others. It is more intimate with your fellow ravers. Shambhala frees your mind and opens your soul.
As for the festival grounds, there were 6 beautiful stages of music. Pagoda, The Village, Fractal Forrest, AMP, The Living Room, and The Grove.
Shambhala Music Festival features dance music and its culture at its finest. You will have a new family at the end and be ready to do it all again.
Tucked away in British Columbia, Canada is the Salmo River Ranch. The private campgrounds are also farm year-round. When there are not 20,000 people dancing the night away, there are cows and chickens roaming around. In fact, these animals roam around in the exact place ravers camp out (just in the months outside the festival). I have heard a story or two of farm dogs still running around during the festival though.
I can’t think of a more perfect place for a festival. For the size of the festival, it fits just right. Many camp under trees while some choose to camp in the fields. The fields allow for more space and I saw 20-person decked-out campsites. Most had speakers and some even DJs to entertain us when music wasn’t playing.
There also was an Artisan village with more shopping options than you can imagine. There was so much Rave attire, sunglasses, hats, fans, jewelry, and other festival merchandise. I had a very good time walking around there (my wallet on the other hand did not).
Pagoda was the Main Stage and impressive at that. For the big acts, there were more lasers than you can imagine. Lasers synchronizing with the music will leave your jaw dropping. My eyes were quite happy with the vibrant colors of the stage as well. Best of all, there was space to dance.
The Village was the dedicated Dubstep and Bass stage. The best acts in the genre come to break necks and thrust bodies. My favorite part of it is the tree house bridge that lines the outside of it. If you want a break from the crowd, simply climb some stairs and get a bird-eye view. The stage design is easily the most impressive of any stage with LED-lined columns and trees throughout.
My favorite stage is Fractal Forrest. The production of it was mind-blowing at times. The lights and lasers that lined the trees paired with the total 360 of the crowd is all I needed to stay there most of the time. I found the vibes to be best here and it was a joy to dance with strangers. I have never been to a stage so fully immersed in nature. As a fan of national parks, it felt like I was dancing in one.
AMP is a multi-tiered stage built with a carnival tent. It is a fun one to be at in the daytime being located downtown of the festival next to food and vendors. AMP featured special dance performances that paired perfectly with the music.
The Living Room has a waterfront view of the river. A cute small stage featured more than DJs with live music from various genres. It is known as Shambhala farmily’s home and after you take a dip in the water, kick your shoes off and dance.
Last but not least is The Grove and fittingly the one I found last. It is tucked away behind The Village. It has a really cool tree house deck that fits 30 people to look over the crowd. Also lodged within the trees, The Grove is intimate with the artists.
Great festival food is hard to come by. It usually tends to be overpriced with small portions. At Shambhala, you get bang for your buck. While the food does lean towards the pricy side (you are in the middle of a forest after all) the portions are huge. On top of that, it’s fresh.
Some of the chicken, meat, vegetables, and fruit are sourced directly from the farm. Talk about farm to kitchen. The Shamburger is probably the most popular item. Don’t overlook the Wraps vendor though. I am a sucker for Chicken Cesar Wraps and this was easily one of my favorites I have ever had.
If I wasn’t too hungry I would eat one of the many snack options. Smoothies were my favorite. They were super refreshing and a jolt of energy. I also felt ~healthy~. The donuts were exceptionally delicious when I had my sugar craving.
I can’t say enough nice words about the people there. We were first greeted with “Happy Shambs” from just about everybody on the first day. We didn’t realize it, but people treated Shambhala like a family reunion in many ways. They were overjoyed to hear it was my first time there. Everyone was smiling throughout their campsites ready to offer you whatever you needed.
The good vibes didn’t stop there and overflowed into the festival itself. I felt so comfortable around everybody and ready to dance however I wanted. People were accepting of whoever you were and however you wanted to act. On top of this, everyone cared for each other. If you were in a moment of need, someone you never met would be there for you.
One particular thing I noticed was the lack of garbage on the ground after each night. I had stayed out till sunrise 2 nights and I was baffled. Every festival I have been to there is a sea of trash littered on the floor. Not this one. People have respect for the farm and do not just clean up after themselves, but others.
There were more headliners on this line-up than I could list. But some of my favorites that I caught a glimpse of were Zeds Dead, Dr.Fresch, GRiZ, John Summit, Tchami, RL Grime, Black Tiger Sex Machine, Excision, and Sub Focus. Each of them with their own unique sound that turned everyone feral.
There was one of the best runs I have seen at a stage occurring at Fractal Forest. On Sunday, I stumbled on Neon Steve while walking around and stayed for his whole set. Shiba San was after which fed into Tchami and then Valentino Khan. Dr.Fresch came on to close the run and everyone was going bananas.
There of course was plenty of other talent that made my feet move. Odd Mob might have had my favorite set of the weekend, just something about the sunset set at AMP that gets me going. It was my first time seeing Sub Focus and that DnB had me going let me tell you. I think everyone at the festival was at The Village at that moment.
If you are a fan of dance music, Shambhala showcases it at its best. The culture and ranch are perfect for the music to thrive. Happiness comes easily here. Till next time Shambs.