#festivalseason - Atmosphere Gathering - Eclectic grooves and community vibes.

Nestled right in the middle of beautiful, tiny Cumberland, BC in Comox Valley on Vancouver Island is one of BC's music festival gems, The Atmosphere Gathering. It's a place where community can flourish, a family-friendly camping festival that's quickly established itself as one of the most sonically diverse musical events this side of the Rockies. It seems like an oxymoron, but the Atmosphere Gathering is a laid-back rager – perfect for those who wanna dance in the day and get to bed at a reasonable hour, or those who wanna dance their faces off late into the night. If you're looking for the perfect cap for the summer festival season in BC, there aren't too many better choices than Atmosphere. Last week the festival released its first line-up announcement, featuring 20 acts, live and electronic, crossing genres but keeping its roots in rhythm and groove. There's a lot for a music-lover to get excited about but here are the first four acts that jumped out to my groove-seeking soul.

Atmosphere Gathering takes places Aug. 18-20 in Cumberland. Tickets and more lineup details HERE.

Applecat

I had heard and seen the name Applecat popping up at events all over the West Coast, until I finally got the chance to see her incredible set at Rifflandia 2016, here in Victoria. I hadn't heard anything like it and I don't think I have since. It was an enthralling set of dense, earthy bass music that at the time I couldn't describe. Frankly, I still don't think I can do her music justice. It needs to be experienced. All the Soundcloud tags say “dubstep” but her music is more atmospheric, theatrical and sexy than any dubstep I've ever heard. It's impossibly deep and shadowy sounding music – I imagine that if smoke pouring through a keyhole could make music, it would sound like Applecat. The worldbeat flourishes she uses to pepper her music help her beats stand out, leap out of the speakers with an intensely unique flavour.

Slynk

I've lost count of how many times I've seen Slynk. I've also lost count of the number of times I've been utterly impressed with Slynk. (Take this, for example, from the first ever time I saw him rock the party.) Over the last few years he's evolved from his Ghetto Funk roots, adding more and more influences and weapons into his arsenal. Just stroll through and sample his already ridiculous output from 2017 – a hard hitting drum 'n' bass track “People Get Up” (w/ Granular Sumo), a straight-up old-school hip-hop track “So Cool” (w/ Illvis Freshly), the ultra-slick nu-disco groover “Disco Operator,” to name just a few – and you'll get a glimpse of the scope of the good homie's many talents. On any given night a Slynk set will traverse a staggering array of genres, but it'll always be funky and bouncier than a trampoline. There's a strong possibility of this being the most straight-up fun set at Atmosphere this year. Do not miss this.

CloZee

Hands down, CloZee is the most exciting glitch-hop producer on planet Earth right now. Her tracks and mixes are sure-fire body-movers, across the board. The French producer is an expert at mining for the deepest of grooves. There are few DJ sets I've seen that have engaged me so quickly and easily. Watching her engage with the music as she moves and sways behind her midi-board, pounding out those groovy, thumping, tribal beats is something indescribably special. Her debut performance at the legendary electronic-Mecca Shambhala was the most captivating thing I saw at the festival last year, a set that I've been sending to anyone who will listen. Pick an EP, a single, a mix...it doesn't matter. If it's got CloZee's name on it, either your body is swaying or your head is bobbing. If you listen to CloZee, you will move.

Astrocolor

In life and in music, I am a big supporter aggressive weirdness. Hence, I'm a big supporter of Astrocolor. I mean, how many times do you become aware of a band because they put out an album of all-original Christmas music? A Christmas album that sounds great at any time of year? What even is that? The Victoria outfit makes live, vibrant yet atmospheric dance music, perfect for those of us who enjoy the rhythms of electronic music but the engagement that comes from watching a live band. This is an enormously talented group of cats together making utterly unique, completely enthralling and ridiculously slick dance music.

#festivalseason - Shambhala dropped the lineup for Year 20. I am immediately discombobulated with excitement.

Deep in the Kootenay mountains, on the Salmo River Ranch, Shambhala Music Festival has grown from a small party to a six-staged, laser-reinforced party Voltron, powered by the thousands of beautiful, open-minded, peace-seeking dance enthusiasts that flock to it every year. About to celebrate its 20th Anniversary, Shambhala has once again put together an over-stuffed lineup of the finest in international and local electronic artists, covering nearly every imaginable nook and cranny under the “electronic/bass music” umbrella. With two of the six stages set to under from-the-ground-up reconstruction, the physicality of the festival is ready to take a change, even after some really nice upgrades from last year (ie: Next-level lasering and that huge garden upgrade right in the middle of the Festival. Lovely.).

Photo by Joffrey Photo.

Photo by Joffrey Photo.

There are a lot of familiar names coming back to celebrate the big 2-0 and really, I wouldn't have it any other way. Familiar faces like STICKYBUDS, EXCISION, JPOD the BEAT CHEF, NEON STEVE, SMALLTOWN DJs and SLYNK return back home for their annual throwdowns, while old vets like KRAFTY KUTS, DEEKLINE, STANTON WARRIORS, MARTEN HØRGER and ED SOLO all make triumphant returns to the FARM. Fresh faces like REZZ and HAYWYRE (Okay, they both debuted last year, but that's still pretty fresh considering we're at year 20), POMO (The man responsible for the beats on “Dang!” and “Am I Wrong?,” two of the best songs of 2016) and, the dance gods have looked down upon me and blessed me with my #1 Shambhala wish for 2017, THE POLISH AMBASSADOR finally makes the trip up to the Farm to hold court for all us deep-groove seekers. To help make things just a little bit easier, Rags Music has compiled a short playlist to help power the early steps of sonic research, or really, just some tunes to get you groovin' and in the mood. This list will surely continue to grow in the coming weeks and months. Only the top of the pyramid has been revealed thus far.

Your Shambhala 20 Headliners... More artists to be announced when stage-by-stage lineup releases start on April 17.

Tickets are sold out, because they sold in a mere 16 hours last September! If you are buying resale tickets please be careful and take precautions to avoid scammers! And Good Luck. If you were lucky and smart enough to get your tickets back in that short window, GET YOUR DANCING SHOES READY. IT'S GONNA BE A SPECIAL YEAR.

Photo by Xavier Photography. 

Photo by Xavier Photography

#festivalseason - Memories of Shambhala, unearthed.

It's hard not get personal when I'm writing about Shambhala. It set off such a chain reaction in my life, in so many areas, that it's mark is just burned into me. It might even be annoying to read or hear about, but I don't really care. You're free to stop reading at any time. The really great thing about this is how other Shambhalovers brighten up and beam when you bring it up to them. I've made a point to ask a lot of the Djs and personalities I've interviewed in the years since my first visit to Salmo River Ranch about their memories of the festival and what it means to them. I've gathered up some of the best quotes to get you all either psyched up for the trip back Home, or get you dripping with jealousy that you won't be there this year.

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DJ Nu-Mark (Jurassic 5), on why he keeps coming back to Shambhala

I keep coming back because it seems as if I'm the only not playing electronic music? The first time I played, I thought I was at the wrong festival. I saw the line-up and was a bit freaked out because everyone was playing dub-step...Hey, remember that? Dub-step? Anyway, I enjoy playing a variety of genres – Soul, Funk, Reggae, Hip-Hop, Oldies, etc... They give me room to express myself and I rarely get the hippie chick yelling, “Hey! Can you play some Persian Anthem Trance?!”

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#festivalseason - 6 stages, 6 acts to get down to at Shambhala 2016. (And a bonus warm fuzzy feeling.)

There is no place on the planet like the Shambhala Music Festival. Each year, along the life-giving Salmo River in BC - clearly Canada's most beautiful province - thousands of people gather around the semi-permanent stages that have waited all year, to build a colourful, loving, excessively fun community for three-to-five days (Depending on how you Shambs). The setting, the people, the music...it's been the basis for an entirely new part of my life. I have forged stronger friendships with old friends there, I have met new beautiful friends that I talk to near-daily and, last but not least, it opened me up to the thrillingly diverse world of electronic music. The learning curve is steep and I wouldn't have even started the process if I hadn't stepped onto the Farm for the first time a few summers ago. So, as we prepare to return Home a mere three weeks from now, I present my first batch of must-see (that-I-will-probably-get-distracted-from-seeing) picks.

Actually, first off, let's get mushy. Remember those new friends I mentioned earlier? Well, thanks to the lovely people at the Pagoda, they were able to have the most perfect wedding, early Friday afternoon last year. The day was a Pinnacle of Life. Two giant rainbow people, bursting with love, combining their powers once and for all in the heart of the most loving place I've experienced in my short time on Earth. To you two, to everyone who was there, to everyone who stopped by camp for a dance and to everyone who makes that wondrous place go, THANK YOU. I'll stop now.

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Russ Liquid Test

(Grove – Friday, 4PM)

This is the year I spend more time in the Grove and Russ Liquid is where I'm going to start. I don't really know what this “Test” thing is all about. I don't know if the homie is testing new stuff, playing with guests or whatever else, but it really doesn't matter, because if I've learned anything over the last few years of musical digging, it's that anything that has the name RUSS LIQUID on it is going to be of some major quality. It doesn't matter if he's working with heavy-hitters like Gramatik and Opiuo or working on his own, the guy clearly knows his music and, more specifically, he knows his grooves. Armed with his incredible trumpet abilities and a seemingly unquenchable thirst for sultry, hip-winding rhythms, Russ Liquid is guaranteed to be the perfect start to your first night of ultimate partying at Shambhala this year.

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#festivalseason - "Tall Tree was *pretty* fun. I guess," he said sarcastically.

The setting of a festival is of the utmost importance. Think of all the memorable festival experiences you've had and how each festival's setting added, morphed or amplified the music in a way that you couldn't predict. Maybe you made it through the wasteland of Bonnaroo, or soothed yourself in Old Man Rivs at Shambhala, or felt the cozy community of Atmosphere Gathering or <insert your amazing festival memory here>. No matter what memory of your surroundings you have, it's probably a safe bet that you didn't wake up to this every morning. Welcome to Brown's Mountain.

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