By Yasmine Shemesh
It’s Sunday, the last day of Bass Coast, and I’m sitting in the middle of a big, grassy field that stretches out from behind the back gates of Main Stage. The sun is hot and there’s a faint thud of bass in the air. There are laughing, costumed people skipping down the dirt path to my left and a couple making out on a couch to my right. A crowd has gathered up ahead in anticipation of the next deejay’s set. It is in this moment where I realize what this weekend has really been all about: connection.
Now in its sixth year and its second in the idyllic Nicola Valley, Bass Coast is a four-day celebration of sound, art, movement and the mind. The annual multidisciplinary festival is the brainchild of founders Liz Thompson and Andrea Graham, two artists with a vision to create an enriched musical and artistic landscape shaped by an innovative environment. Robbie Slade, one half of Bass Coast darlings Humans, moonlights as creative manager for the event and insists that for him, a large part of the festival’s appeal is due to his admiration for the founders. “I like the ladies I work for,” he says of Thompson and Graham. “Really, they’re the thing that keeps me coming back every year.” The grounds, designed around this year’s mutiny theme by a handful of resident artists, features multimedia installation art, various sanctuaries and three unique stages to accommodate over one hundred carefully curated electronic acts. The masterpiece that is Main Stage is built as an enormous capsized pirate ship with a cockpit used as a deejay booth and strung with lines of tattered sails. Slay Bay is an intimate platform that looks like a psychedelic underwater world formed with barnacle-bitten shell-like structures and the interactive Radio Stage, a rickety wooden shack, has podiums for dancing and hammocks made out of netting for lounging.
Costumed throngs begin to form at the different stages as night falls on the inaugural Friday but the party really kicks off when Humans take Main Stage. With their feel-good contrast of ebullient beats, soulful vocals and barreling bass, Slade and Peter Ricq have become festival favourites since their first Bass Coast in 2011. Slade’s voice cuts through layers of energetic synth like a hot knife through butter and Ricq works over his gear with expert precision, jumping and clapping as the heavy beats drop. When “Possession” hits, the crowd dances wildly and sings along to the infectious groove. The duo thanks the audience for their cheers in between seamless transitions. For the remainder of the night, festival-goers are in a collective state of euphoria, exchanging smiles and hugs in excitement for the impending weekend.
Quinoa bowls and fruit smoothies provide a refreshing take on fare over the typical grease one comes to expect from most festivals. The food court is abuzz on Saturday morning with people digging into the diverse menus of health-conscious sustenance. Tired bodies soak and sun themselves in the river that stretches along the outside of the grounds while others partake in one of the many yoga classes offered in the outdoor studio.
Juno Award winners A Tribe Called Red (ATCR) open their show Saturday night with the beat-driven “Bread and Cheese,” setting the tone for a powerful set that only gains momentum. DJ 2oolman, DJ NDN and DJ Bear Witness’ fusion of electronic music and rhythmic First Nations chanting and drumming barrels through the valley with fervor impossible not to dance to. Sharing the stage is the trio’s talented hoop dancer, who mesmerizes with an impressive performance that blends Aboriginal hoop dancing with hip hop techniques. The hoops, traditionally, represent the never-ending circle of life—the spirit of ATCR’s artistic statement and an appropriate metaphor for the festival, as well.
An additional element of Bass Coast is its array of seminars and workshops. Held in a space called The Brain, discussions are led of topics such as mindful eating, world religions and the science of sound. Speaker Ari Lazer holds a lecture on the latter Sunday afternoon, guiding listeners through the fascinating concept of sacred geometry and the golden ratio, a harmonic number of which all living things use to grow and what the Bass Coast logo is a visual representation of.
Just how Humans got the Bass Coast ball rolling, the marathon that would be the last night of the festival really begins when Slade’s other project, Sabota, hits Radio Stage. Comprised of Slade and Max Ulis, the duo’s hazy and atmospheric sound is the perfect accompaniment to the evening’s expressive pink sky. The group debuts a new song called “Can’t Do Nothing,” a sophisticated, ear-pleasing vibration highlighted with key-like notes and supported by a tribal bass backbone. Hours later, Michael Red’s sunrise set echoes the effects of Sabota’s sunset in a two-hour blur of beautiful delirium.
As the sun rises back up over the mountains and people prepare to return to their daily lives, we are left with our reflections from the weekend. Bass Coast offers moments of joy, creativity, sharing and learning over a multitude of dynamic elements that are collectively rooted in expression. Camping in the forest for three nights with thousands of people will indeed bring down one’s inhibitions, but what’s exceptional is the overwhelming sense of genuine warmth, respect and community we encounter here. More than a festival, it seems, Bass Coast manifests itself as an immersive experience and, perhaps more poignantly, a reminder of how truly connected we all are.
Published on www.ionmagazine.ca