Bass Coast Festival: Where Electronic Music Meets West Coast Culture
The stars don’t always align, but when they do, the result is magnificent. Cowboys do rodeos. Politicians have highs. Superhero fans have Comic Con. But for us lovers of deep electronic music, we had Bass Coast – a three-day show set in the vibrant Nicola Valley in Merritt, British Columbia from August 2-4, 2013. The avant-garde intersection of Bass music and West Coast culture was an inspiring manifestation of creative minds, moving hearts, and – of course – the best cross-pollination one would expect from a festival focused on the lower end of the musical spectrum.
The year of the zebra was upon us, but I didn’t know it yet. It was the day before Bass Coast opened and I was in the sweaty depths of a small downtown Vancouver nightclub when I ran into Nardwuar the Human Serviette soaking up experimental trap music. Naturally, our conversation turned right to Bass Coast.
“I wish they had it again in Squamish,” he said, referring to the spot on the Pacific where the annual jam had been delayed until it passed its digs. ‘last year. But expect big things, said the man with the checkered tom.
The meeting shed light on two major questions swirling around the festival. First, could the enchantment from previous years be transferred to the new inland location? And number two, with trap music supplanting dubstep as a popular electronic genre of the day, would the festival end up being multiple stages of trap-infused sets, as producers strive to make a splash and DJs struggle to stay relevant?
Joined Whistler’s daughters Heidi and Nicole and got kitted out at Value Village before hitting the 30 mile per hour traffic jam on my way out of town which took all the way to Abbotsford. When we got to the festival gates there was no line to speak of, and I wondered if this year’s event was going to be quiet after all. We signed waivers and were initiated into the field by volunteers who brought us into a goldfish eating contest. Then Zebra stripes began to emerge, emblematic of this year’s Bass Coast theme. On sofas, bikinis, scarves, onesies – you name it – a plethora of equine and other African prints have appeared. We set up the camp and quickly realized that while there was a lot of space on the site, there was no lack of people. As Disclosure’s invigorating house track “When a Fire Starts to Burn” floated above the river, the place came to life. It was on.
Four stages served as platforms for the myriad of musicians to deliver their creations. Slay Bay was a jungle theater with a “roof” made of interconnected striped fabric and what looked like a cross between colorful Ikea lamp shades and dangling icicles. The Bassment was the large stage supported by an octagonal and diamond pattern background that gave the large outdoor venue a true large hall club feel. Because it wasn’t that big, the radio scene had a more intimate feel. But the open space for dancing encouraged mass movement while the surrounding artisan stalls added a DIY aesthetic. The Bigger Brain was a geodesic dome to stop between locations, showcasing moody mixes at night and offering a range of classes during the day – from morning yoga to lucid dreaming workshops.
“It is sometimes torture to decide which stage to go to, because it’s divided so evenly,” said Mandeep Ubhi aka Wax Romeo. “Obviously you can’t tri-locate and be like three different places.”
The Calgary DJ said he would never miss another Bass Coast, adding that he had a little fun with his Friday night set at Slay Bay.
âI was playing some really dark serious music, but I was just livening it up with silly jokes,â he said. “Keep it a little light, you know? Even if the music isn’t.”
The setting itself was surreal. The mountains have ushered in the full spectrum of weather conditions. Festival-goers experienced a climate that ranged from scorching sun to blazing lightning. It gave the place a powerful mystique. You might be totally enveloped in fog at one point only to wake up in a hammock under a blue sky as water droplets mist your face the next day. As he drove to the festival for a passionate performance, Justin Martin was stunned as he looked up to see a double rainbow. Ravers touted the virtue of beaming happiness through dancing until an awesome reboot of The Beatles’ âGood Day Sunshineâ at a daytime dance party.
The landscape provided fertile ground for reuniting with old friends, budding romances, and creating new points of connection. Many travelers would take a break before setting off on one international expedition or another. Others have built up emotional energy before making their way up to excavation bitumen or pumping natural gas from oil fields. Bass Coast may have been smaller than Shambhala’s Free For All Massif, but the more manageable numbers allowed the organizers to cultivate the vibe, sowing visual installations throughout the property and encouraging plenty of room for them. expression and introspection.
Korean River enjoyed the more intimate setting. âShambhala is like your manic joy,â he said. “Bass Coast is just sweet beauty.” It probably has a lot to do with the feminine touch used by conservatives, he speculated.
âAlso, I love the amount of art installations there are and how much this festival pushes people to contribute. An attitude of non-judgment permeated the pitch and the feeling of complete acceptance ran deep.
Over the weekend, attendees were treated to some of the best electronic formulations the world has to offer. Eschewing the needlessly mundane elements found in genres like euro-trance and happy hardcore, Bass Coast has firmly established itself in the British worlds of funky, grime, house, drum n ‘bass, dubstep, ambient and oldskool rave. There was no shortage of trap in the equation, but it also didn’t get the festival vibe under control. It was obvious that each DJ had spent weeks, if not months, preparing their offers for the big show. The crowd devoured each piece voraciously, dancing the night away in ridiculously amazing costumes until the sun had long risen.
After a big banger from a show on Saturday, Mat the Alien released a relaxing set the next night. JPod got an incredible response for his Sunday morning gospel influenced Blues & Bebop creation. JETS said their ride behind the bridges later that night was the âbiggestâ of the tour so far.
One of Ben Ulis’ favorite memories was lying in the water with a good team after playing an energetic set as DJ Self Evident the night before.
âA lot of people are a little disappointed to be moving away from the Squamish site – and the reasons are good reasons,â he said. “But personally, I really appreciate this Merritt site.”
The chillout tune continued behind us with uplifting tunes as the festival he played each year began to wind down. Ulis smiled thinking of all the amazing musicians who had contributed.
âThere are so many suitable people for chefs,â he said, savoring the moment. “It’s fantastic.”