As a pair of festival goers who attend a list of festivals that could ware you out just looking at, Betty & Kora offer up a unique take on BC’s free standing independent fest. The one and only Shambhala. Being known as nurturer or family, community and warmth stands it apart yet again as a leader in what many know as PLUR. One of Electronic music’s defining characteristics. And so we open up the Shambhala 2014 interview series with one of the pair of the best suited judges to describe what Shambhala means the community in which they themselves play a vital role in.
How much of an inspiration has Shambhala been to.. Betty? Since Kora is at burning man at this point.
Betty: In all honesty, Shambhala Music Festival has changed our lives indefinitely for many reasons. The team over at Shambhala really gave us our ‘start’ in what we’re doing today. Gordon Blunt, Britz Bitz and Corrine were instrumental in giving us one of our first official media passes and were incredibly supportive with the content that we created after our first Shambhala in 2013. Fast forward to 2014, Britz and The Confluence Group along with the stage managers, Gordon Blunt (VJ of the trademarked Fractal Forest) in conjunction with several media outlets (The Festival Guy and Fest300) who we met during Shambhala both in 2013 and 2014 have supported, shared and posted our content. Our motto is that “we all work better together” and the crew at Shambhala really exemplifies that.
On a more personal level we met our friend and current Videographer Jim Vanderhorst who has been such an incredible team member, creating all videos and interviews over the past year. I met my current roommates at Shambhala and most of our new friendship circle met at Camp Moo in 2013. We’ve traveled with/for and are incredibly close with Steve and John from Fort Knox Five, Skiitour, The Funk Hunters, Slynk, GRiZ, Whiskey Chief, Neon Steve, Odesza, Neighbour, Sam Demoe and The Gaff…it’s insane how the artists you love suddenly become your home boys at Shambhala. No festival on earth brings people together like this one.
How does Shambhala stand apart from other festivals?
Betty: The first thing that stands out in my mind is they have zero corporate sponsorship and they own the land. This allows them to build what they want where they want and don’t have to answer to financial backers. It’s incredibly rare to find a festival of this size without corporate backing. Second, they put an insane amount of work into the art and ambiance, creating the most insane staging and infrastructure I have ever seen. The Fractal Forest is trademarked for gods sake!! It’s that good! Third, harm reduction is a top priority for Shambhala and it shows. Water fill-up stations are everywhere, they have a safe zone for women and men, The Sanctuary for those that require individual attention, a massive medical task force, signage everywhere from ‘safe sex and mutual consent’ to ‘have you drank enough water today?’ They take peoples mental, emotional and physical incredibly seriously and work hard to take care of their family.
Why has Shambhala been so successful in being a part of our piece of Western Canada’s music scene?
Betty: In all honesty Shambhala should be commended on keeping it real for the past seventeen years. They’ve never strayed from who they are, even back in the day when electronic music was considered by many as this fringe rave culture – Shambhala embraced it. They are the platform that many electronic artists got their start on and have been instrumental in developing the Canadian and international electronic music scene.
If you had to narrow it down to one thing that the festival best represents for local artists what would it be?
Home, leverage and support. Barnone. For many Western Canadian artists Shambhala is like the original school yard stomping ground for electronic music. It’s been instrumental and supportive and is a homecoming for veterans and newbies alike. Talent buyers not only book huge headliners but actively seek out up-and-coming artists that will blow your mind.
Being as involved in the festivals culture as you are you are sure to have seen what Shambhala has instilled in the music community over the years. Can you list a couple of things in the local scene(s) that are Shambhala that last year round?
Betty: The biggest lasting impression that Shambhala creates year round and worldwide is the sense of family and community that spans out far after the festival closes its gates. In every city there seems to be Shambhala reunion parties and special Shambhala shows featuring artists that have played years past. In Vancouver the new monthly that started in February 2014 called “Home” showcases Shambhala talent and is organized by Sarah and Hoola the managers of The Living Room Stage. People celebrate the festival year round which not only maintains the excitement for the following year but builds the connection between those that go back ‘home’ year after year. I don’t know any other festival that is this celebrated, it’s awesome.
Have you tried to incorporate favourite aspects of Shambhala into your own festival, Tall Tree?
Betty: Tall Tree Music Festival, although different from Shambhala in many ways exemplifies a similar mandate. Our tag line is “Tall Tree – there are no strangers, just friends that haven’t met yet,” which is most definitely the same vibe as Shambhala. Tall Tree has evolved into its own entity all together based on the hard work and dedication of so many amazing people, but with that said has been influenced by several festivals including Shambhala. We are definitely moving towards creating a stronger visual art presence and have taken a huge step towards implementing a strong harm reduction task force. Gordon Blunt who is one of two masterminds behind the Fractal Forest ™ also works with us at Tall Tree and many of our crew and attendees are also apart of the Shambhala family.
What does Shambhala mean to you?
This is tough because Shambhala exemplifies so many things. It’s a community of like-minded open individuals, a place to freely express yourself with zero judgement. It’s the pillar of a new age pilgrimage in my mind. It’s a visual, emotional and sonic masterpiece and is a place that cares for its people and its people care for it. It’s one of a few ‘homes’ that I have, including Tall Tree, Punta del Diablo in Uruguay, Vancouver Island and my current home in Vancouver. When Kora and I really love something we give it a double high kick…I’d give Shambhala at least ten double high kicks. That’s saying a lot.
What were your highlights of 2014?
Betty: Do you have ten hours to spare? Just kidding…actually not really, so I’ll try and create a top five list:
Blowing up these crazy LED balloons with my friend Cody during Andy C’s set at The Village. The bass was so intense that all of our balloons kept blowing up right in our faces. I wore double earplugs and ended up on Cody’s shoulders most of Andy C’s set since I’m vertically challenged. So good.
Interviewing GRiZ. Not only is Grant incredibly lovely, hilarious and charming, his answers to our questions were moving and very thoughtful. It gave us seriously insight into his world and life in Detroit. What’s better? We had Tucker (The Festival Guy) and Britz (Media Manager) get involved by showcasing our favorite dance moves on camera.
Celebrating our “friendavirserry” during Pumpkins sunrise set at The Living Room Stage. Last year, we met and befriended Steve and John from Fort Knox, Pumpkin and Every Man, Britz and Tucker during Pumpkins set. That morning was so magical…so many hugs, stories and love. Priceless.
Emancipator and Odesza’s set at The Grove. Such incredible music from both artists in a beautiful setting. The Grove upped their sound, lighting and ambience tenfold this year and it really paid off. Oh – and Odesza were rocking their custom shoes. That was pretty dope.
We created these “Official Licenses for Being Cool” that we give out to people who are doing something funny, ridiculous or just look awesome. Several times in the Fractal Forest we would hand out these licenses…peoples faces light up. It’s so rad to make someones moment that much more special with these things. We love spreading the vibe.
See Betty & Kora’s “The Not So Obvious First Timers Guide to Shambhala Music Festival” article and photo album HERE.
*All photos by Betty & Kora