Finding Shambhala: Coming Home For The First Time
Before I set out on my first journey home to Shambhala, I fancied myself a rather seasoned veteran of festival culture. I thought I knew what to expect when I walked through those gates in British Columbia, and that I would have an idea of how to appropriately transfer my experience into words. Thankfully, for the sake of my development as human being and not simply just as a music lover, I was very mistaken.
Prior to setting out on a two week journey that would span over 3,000 miles and change my perspective of love, life and kinship; I wrote a preview piece about my most anticipated moments for this year’s Shambhala in which I touched on my excitement of catching Caspa & Rusko team up at the Village, watching Roni Size & Krust display their legendary drum and bass skills and getting down with Destructo at one of his infamous sunrise sermons. While all of those events were incredible and experiencing them firsthand shattered my expectations, I learned that the focus of Shambhala is not really about what happens on stage. Instead, Shambhala’s magic truly lies inside every single festival goer who makes their way home to the farm each year.
At most festivals there seems to be an almost innate pressure to attend the biggest and brashest sets. It’s like if you don’t catch every headliner then you’re not getting your money’s worth, but that simply isn’t the case at Shambhala. My favorite moments were the quiet conversations shared with new faces while the sun peaked over the verdant mountains during the early hours of each morning. Or stumbling aimlessly across a new artist and making a deep and surprising connection with their music.
Shambhala embodies the essence of what a music festival should be. It feels like a community that thrives and grows organically, building on each successful year with a conscious and sincere appreciation for each one of its members. There is a deep-rooted sense of safety and trust exuded at Shambhala that other festivals don’t quite understand. When you arrive at the Salmo River Ranch you get the immediate feeling of acceptance and camaraderie that allows you to let go of any shackles that may restrain you. Furthermore, while other events can feel exclusionary or even snobbish, none of that exists at Shambhala. Everyone is eager to accept you into the family and excited to illuminate your world with their light.
What Shambhala does better than any other festival I have ever been to, is craft an environment and experience that is geared directly to the betterment and transformation of every festival goer. From the handcrafted decorations dispersed throughout the forest, to the food sourced locally on site, Shambhala makes you feel as though you are a part of something authentic and honest. Intimacy, sustainability and quality are this festival’s hallmarks. There isn’t a cup of coffee or a cracked open coconut that doesn’t feel like it was infused with love and positive intention.
A friend of mine shared a very insightful remark with me while we sashayed through downtown Shambs. He mentioned the starkly different environment that is cultivated at the festival due it’s alcohol-free policy, and I found it incredibly poignant. In my opinion, it’s not that Shambhala wants to prevent you from drinking, but instead they simply don’t want to sell you alcohol. There are no bright flashing signs emblazoned with the words “BEER” or “LIQUOR.” You never have to worry about standing on line to get your booze fix and most importantly you aren’t sprinting to the bathroom every few minutes. Instead, the atmosphere within Shambhala is one of mindful exploration and conscious growth. That is exactly why Shambhala feels like home to every single one of its patrons, it is a place that wants nurture you instead of exploit.
Looking back on my list of “most anticipated moments” I feel a bit silly. When I read that piece now I see a version of myself fixated on a rigid view of what I thought a festival should be. Now I feel refreshed with a new perspective, as though I can see the endless possibilities that the world has to offer for the first time. Many festivals try to throw around the “transformational” tag, but few of them rarely scratch the surface. Shambhala is a place that you leave genuinely changed for the better.
With Shambhala’s twentieth anniversary coming up next year, it’s obvious that the masterminds behind it know exactly what they are doing. By constantly investing in the quality of its experience rather than seeking to only augment profits, Shambhala has created a tight knit foundation that grows stronger with each year. I feel honored to have been a part of something so singular and special.
Stay tuned to my Finding Shambhala series, for more music reviews as well as photo galleries and news about next year’s tickets!