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 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.
Let's get to the music.
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.
And boy howdy! I was going to give you a completely different track, but lo and behold, the good homie has blessed us with a new track in the last 24 hours! REJOICE!
Sunrise Liquid Jam hosted by Spiral Architects
(Village – Saturday, 4:30AM)
The appearance of the Sunrise Liquid Jam on here may startle longtime friends and followers who are well aware of my aversion to drum 'n' bass. But, I'm learning and lately a couple of Canadian acts, including Spiral Architects have accelerated the process. These fine people have helped open a world of drum 'n' bass that I find accessible and not as intimidating as some of the harder, “machinegun” sort of sound that I associate with a lot of the biggest drum 'n' bass acts. This is really a matter of taste, as I tend to like my music heavy on groove and light on aggression for the most part, so I require sonic breaks in the jackhammering to get my wind on. I just discovered Spiral Architects and was overjoyed to see their name in the hosting duties spot here. So, if you're like me and have a hard time getting your mind around a lot of drum 'n' bass but you want to start with something a bit groovier, this might be the key to opening a few doors. If you're still up...(I have failed to find a single track, so here's a mix to enjoy by scanning through or listening whole!)
(AMPhitheatre – Thursday, 1:30am & Living Room – Sunday, 2:30am)
You might say to yourself, “Dude's here every year. I'll get a chance.” That's what I said the first few times too and I kept putting it off and putting it off. Thankfully, last year I got separated from my peoples and decided to finally take the chance to indulge in a set from El Papachango. My gawd, there's a reason my friends had been going on about this cat. His latin-flavoured rhythms are a yin/yang of bright/grimy, and more crunkalicious than they have any right to be. Now, dude seems to specialize in amazing mixes that don't stop, nay they can't stop, so rather than a track, here's one of the many mixes that I've been blasting in my headphones since last August.
(Pagoda – Saturday, 2:30AM)
Like I said earlier, I'm not huge on a lot of aggression in my music most days, but when I really need something heavier lately I find myself firing up REZZ. I'm not good with the mountains of labels in electronic music (Mostly because of stubbornness) so I don't know what you'd call her beats other than “fucking awesome.” Her tracks move along a very human pace, but sound like they were made by a humanoid/cyborg-type entity. It's often that good hip-hoppy/house tempo with all the goodies and swirls and treats stacked on top. A resident of mau5trap (Guess who runs that label), Rezz's tracks and mixes are of consistently absurd quality and are goddamned relentless. With a prime Saturday night spot on the Pagoda, this set promises to be some serious business so don't even bother coming around unless you're ready to truly GET THE FUCK DOWN. (Response to the follow track from my electronic guru: "Angry.")
The Gaff ft. Mat the Alien
(Fractal Forest – Saturday, 6:30PM)
Before you go get your ass kicked on Saturday night by Rezz, why not gather your strength and get filled with mirth and joy in Fractal Forest? Nobody delivers the capital-H Happy, good-for-the-soul tracks like the Gaff. Earlier this year he and west coast legend Mat the Alien gathered up a bunch of 45s and hit the road, playing those classic soul and funk grooves for the dancing masses and, tragically, I couldn't make it to see them. I can't say with 100% certainty that this will be that set, but I have a hunch that it will be and if it is, it's not to be missed by anyone who's looking for something extra warm and soulful at Shambhala this year. It's the beginning of a truly remarkable scratch night in Fractal and with two top-shelf west coast DJs doing their thing, the set promises to be something pretty damned special. (And because I will NEVER be able to post this track enough times...)
Fort Knox Five ft. Qdup
(AMPhitheatre – Thursday, 5:00PM & Living Room - Friday, 2:30PM)
I've written extensively (Here and here and here) about Washington, DC, funk legends Fort Knox Five because they've been so instrumental in my development as an EDM fan. They are an important gateway for anyone trying to find the opening in the path towards musical enlightenment. The perfectly accessible, endlessly entertaining group returns for their 11th appearance at Shambhala and this time don't appear in Fractal Forest. (Maybe this has happened before? Not in the years I've been going. Feel free to correct me!) But instead there are TWO chances to see the beasts of funk this year, including an appearance at Shambhala's designated Chill Zone, the Living Room. I'm so interested to hear what such an aggressively funky act like Fort Knox Five does with all those chill vibes, right in the middle of the afternoon no less. Such a reasonable time for such a monstrous act. I am already pleased. If you don't like the groovy delights of Fort Knox Five and/or the funky brother QDup, you're probably a monster of some kind. LONG LIVE JON H. AND LONG LIVE FORT KNOX FIVE!