Another year, another fantastic show of talent by some of BC’s finest new media artists over at Bass Coast Project. After a week of the usual 9-5 desk work I couldn’t wait to get back to Nicola Valley, where the sun was shining despite the insane rainstorm we drove through to get there. (Anyone wishing to get caught up can read last year’s review here.)
I had to leave early on Sunday for a funeral, so unfortunately I can’t offer any insight into the final acts, but read on for a tour of the festival and the first two days’ highlights.
This year’s celebration was sold out months in advance (including early entry!), but with a capped attendance of 3000 people, things never felt too crowded. One of my favourite things about Bass Coast is the size. Getting in and out is a breeze, and so is carving out some room next to your friends if they happen to arrive early. Nobody pays extra to camp with their car which is also a huge plus.
The theme this summer was black and gold, which turned all the festivalgoers into literal eye candy. As if people who attend Babe Coast weren’t sexy enough… that shit had me questioning my sexuality!
La Cantina, Bass Coast’s least stage-y stage, was actually bumping some pretty sweet acts on Friday night with Dubconscious keeping things light in the evening and Goopsteppa‘s deep, bass-heavy set of spacey minimalism closer to dawn.
As much as I love the music at Bass Coast, I think I like the art even more, if only because it’s so rare — a sandbox of pure novelty, perfect for exploring between sets. The forest at the center of the three main stages serves as an interactive playground of multimedia installations. As expected, this year’s crop did not fail to amaze. There was a giant rotating, colour-changing kaleidoscope that you could stick your face into so it encompassed your entire field of vision, and a gumball machine that spat out little capsules containing missions! There was also a cozy black-lit platform painted with intricate patterns, ideal for midnight chillin’, upon which I encountered a HUGE beetle that shimmered like a gasoline puddle! (At least… I think that happened?)
Artist duo Monkey C Interactive deserves a special shout-out for creating two of the most engaging pieces at this year’s incarnation. The Registroid is an antique cash-register-turned-DJ controller that always had a crowd of people surrounding it. Anyone who played with the Registroid for long enough was rewarded when the drawer popped open to reveal a hidden trading post full of treasures to choose from.
Monkey C also turned the railings of the bridge leading to the campground into a DJ controller, with touch-sensitive points triggering beats courtesy of longtime Bass Coast performer Longwalkshortdock. It was always a pleasure passing over the bridge to see people running their fingers along the railings and discovering that even the bridge was interactive.
Aside from La Cantina, Bass Coast has three stages: Slay Bay, Pirate Radio, and the Main Stage. I caught SkiiTour at Pirate Radio on Saturday Night, who are known for filling the air at their shows with fake snow (bubbles and foam!).
Combined with the light show and the incredible dance music SkiiTour was feeding us, I was completely overwhelmed by the mastery of it all. Pirate Radio has a huge net suspended between trees for partiers to relax in (a blessing). In the morning, it offered back-to-back yoga classes.
Slay Bay was done up like a steampunk distillery for DJs to cook up beats behind. Situated right by the water with a newly established bar next door, Slay Bay is the place to be in the daytime. Lighta! Sound hosted the annual reggae jam here on Saturday afternoon.
The main stage provides a platform for some of the more eccentric acts at the festival (I’m looking at you, Blondtron), including those that need the extra space to move, like female dance group Luciterra. My favourite set here definitely had to be Ekali’s on Friday night, a gritty, hip-hop inspired mix that saw even the spacious main stage packed with people.
Bass Coast also hosts a series of thought-provoking workshops throughout the day. Class subjects ranged from tea to music production to how-to’s for successful threesomes ;)
I won’t ramble on too much about logistics, but there are a few things that I feel really set Bass Coast apart when it comes to how it is run. No corporate sponsorship, no price gouging, and no cutting corners around artist compensation. Visual artists receive grants to complete projects for the event. Everyone gets paid. Considering how small Bass Coast is (and how often organizers offer artists “exposure” as compensation), this is significant. They’ve also got a kickass team of people in charge of harm reduction over at the festival’s Sanctuary, ensuring 24-hour access to a wide scope of safety-centric resources.
While I was attending the media orientation I ran into a delightful gentleman, Eamon Armstrong, who was covering Bass Coast for Fest300. Eamon passed on an interesting piece of advice about festival writing: he suggested writing not about the music or schedule of events, but the human condition within the context of that environment. His words reminded me of last year, when I dropped my wallet and collected it 10 minutes later from the lost and found with all $200 cash untouched. Then I thought back to my first year, where I fell into a funk on the last day and reenergized by collecting hugs from strangers until I no longer felt out of place.
Music festivals can be overwhelming at times, but I always feel empowered by the knowledge that everyone is looking out for each other, contributing to a communal good vibe that fuels the individual each time they glance around. There is something that changes in people when they’re given the chance to get out of the rat race and celebrate life at an event dedicated entirely to the beauty of human expression; a kind of fullness that overflows into a desire to give rather than take. Bass Coast is a perfect example of that.
Thank you Bass Coast Project! Until next time!