Rave Mom Britz Robins Discusses Shambhala Music Festival’s 20th Anniversary
Nestled away amidst the natural beauty and mystique of the Kootenay Mountains, Shambhala Music Festival has been attracting music lovers and festival enthusiasts for over 20 years. From very humble beginnings as a small get together in the woods amongst friends, Shambhala Music Festival has blossomed into one of the most well-respected and lauded festivals in North America. There is a wide array of reasons as to why Shambhala has become the innovative and internationally renowned event that it is today. From assembling an astounding mix of globally recognized artists and local legends to blazing a trail in harm reduction initiatives, Shambhala has made a name for itself as a truly unique and groundbreaking festival.
Moreso than any other factor, what makes Shambhala so special is the people at the very heart of the operation. The Bundschuh family has surrounded themselves with a hardworking and creative group of people who deeply care about the well-being and authenticity of Shambhala. No one more fully embodies the ethos of Shambhalove than the festival’s press/media maven Britz Robins. Since joining the team in 2007 Britz has worn countless hats and has become an absolutely integral part of what makes Shambhala tick.
In this very exciting and exclusive interview, we got the chance to ask the infamous Shambhamom a few questions about her Shambhala roots, her advice for first timers and what she believes Shambhalove is all about.
Sensible Reason: When did you first become a part of Shambhala and what is your personal history with the festival?
Britz Robins: Shambhala has been such a formative part of my life. I first heard about the festival when I was 15 from a friend who’d transferred to our school in Rossland from Salmo. I couldn’t believe something like Shambhala was happening in our area, bringing International DJ’s into the middle of nowhere for a camping festival. I was fascinated. It was two years later, 2003, when I finally made it out to the festival. It was before the festival had age restrictions – I was 17 and had just graduated. The festival absolutely blew my mind. It was love at first sight.
I attended for a few years as a ticket holder, became the volunteer administrator of their forums in 2005, and then eventually started working for the festival in 2007. This is my 15th Shambhala, and my 10th year working the festival. It’s been such an honor and pleasure to be part of this team, and help facilitate it’s growth from teeny tiny little rave in the woods to the iconic North American festival it is today.
SR: Shambhala has come a long way from its humble beginnings. What do you think the key to that success has been ?
BR: A lot of things have contributed to Shambhala Music Festival’s success. Not least of which is the entrepreneurial spirit the Bundschuh family instilled in their kids.
Jimmy Bundschuh, the festival’s Executive Producer, was just 17 when he started the this cultural phenomenon back in 1998. Jimmy’s vision was the major driver behind the festival’s success and growth. His parents supported by providing the venue, and many other ways over the years–from milling lumber for the stages, to helping with accounting and so much more. With his sisters Corrine and Anna by his side for many years, the production was a family affair. Though his sisters have since moved on to other things, they played a large role in the festival’s growth and development. Today, that legacy is carried on by Jimmy and his partner Jenna Aprita.
Another major factor is the creativity and passion of so many local artists, performers and professionals who have come together to create the stages and all the other moving parts. One of our mantras is “It’s all about the people on the dancefloor.” But really, that can be simplified even more–“It’s all about the people.” So many people have contributed to the magic over the years and built this festival into what it is.
SR: What advice would you give to someone coming to their first ever Shambhala ?
BR: Have no expectations. Be open. And don’t sweat the small stuff. There are lots of things that will probably go wrong – no road trip is perfect.
The first year I went, I was helping someone get their keys out of their trunk in the lineup and my ride (whom I had only met through the ride share) drove in with my ticket when the line started moving. I didn’t have anything with me–no cash, no ticket, no food, no water. In a moment like that, you have a choice. You can either react negatively, or you can surrender and go with the flow. I ended up stuck outside the gate for about six hours. But I took that time to befriend the volunteers and workers, helped out by picking up trash, and just generally kept myself busy. When one the crew finished their shift, they made it their mission to find my “lost” ticket. As he was about to leave, I ran into someone who knew my ride, and they went in together to sort things out. Within the hour, I was finally in.
That’s a bit of an extreme case, but you’ll run into all sorts of roadblocks and weird experiences on your way to, and at festivals. How you choose to react is everything. You are the creator of your experience, especially in places like Shambhala where there’s a lot more openness and free-flowing connection among people than “every day life”.
In the realm of more practical advice, #RaveMomSays drink lots of water, remember to eat, and for goodness sake, get some sleep! You don’t win the rave by not practicing self-care. Trust me, you’ll have way more fun as a human than as a zombie.
SR: You carry the title of Shambhamom. In your own words what does that mean to you?
BR: My role has shifted a bit over the years, but when I was the social media manager, and even back to when I was the forum administrator, I always felt this very maternal role toward the festival and it’s attendees. That manifests as a lot of nurturing and a little bit of tough love.
In a way, you say that I’m probably the original Shambassador – when I was the festival’s social media manager, it was really important to me to make individual connections with people, nurture them, make them feel like there was always a friendly ear for them at the festival.
At one point, some of the folks I interacted with on a regular basis started calling me “Mom”, and it became this whole thing. Haha. Like I said, I was always a bit maternal before, but when “ShambhaMom” / “Rave Mom” stuck, I began to embody that role a bit more.
My primary focus at Shambhala these days is Press & Media, but I’m still Mom to so many of our festival-goers. When I was stuck in SFO for a delayed connection a couple weeks ago, I actually had three people run up and yell “Hi Rave Mom!!” and give me a big hug. I think regardless of my role, our attendees will always be my “kids”. I love it. They’re such a great crowd.
SR: During the festival do you find time to actually enjoy yourself or do you have so much to do that it’s hard to catch your breath?
BR: Even when I’m working myself to the bone, I always find a ways to enjoy the festival!
After working in this industry for a few years, you’re usually able to find a bit of a balance. Shambhala is actually one of my easier ones to get out and enjoy because I’ve been doing it for ten years now and there’s a familiar flow. My average work day is about twelve hours, which leaves plenty of time to shake your booty a little and get a good amount of rest for the following day.
I don’t often see the big big headliners since I’m often in bed around 2am. But I have also pulled some pretty strange sleep schedules to see specific artists that involved naps and getting up at some ungodly hour to shake my booty to a sunrise set before starting my day. I will say–dancing yourself awake is actually better than coffee.
SR: What are some of your favorite installations and additions that Shambhala has added over the years ?
BR: Actually, I think my all-time favorite installation was the “bone garland” on the old Rock Pit stage (now The AMPhitheatre). It was literally a garland strung across the front of the stage that was made of cow bones. I always found it hauntingly beautiful. More recently, I’d have to say that I love all the little nooks and crannies behind the Grove stage. There are too many to mention… it’s just a great place to go get lost for an afternoon. So much to see and do.
SR: Shambhala is very unique in the fact that each stage is a semi-permanent structure. How do you think that element effects the feel and vibe of the festival?
BR: Being able to work with semi-permanent structures definitely has an affect on the feel and vibe of the festival. It gives us the opportunity to build upon what we’ve already created each year. It creates this sense of newness but also familiarity. It feels like coming home every year, but everything has a fresh, new sparkle to it. But there are challenges as well. There’s a lot of wear and tear from the weather, and a considerable amount of rebuild each year.One of the most exciting things, though, is when you get to the point that you do a huge stage overhaul, which we’re lucky enough to have two of happening this year. In 2017, festival goers will see a brand new Pagoda Stage, as well as a brand new Living Room Stage. We can’t wait to unveil the new stages!
SR: Do you have a favorite Shambhala stage or do they all hold a special significance to you ?
BR: This is actually such a tough question. I’ve been going to Shambhala for so long that I think every stage has been my favorite at one point or another. Originally, it was The Village Stage that captured my heart. Then it was the funkiness of Fractal Forest. Fractal was actually my favorite for many years–the music played there tends to be most in line with my personal tastes. Last year, I spent most of my time at The Living Room. Who knows which it will be this year… we’ll see!
SR: From ANKORS to Camp Clean Beats to the work of the Women’s Safe Space, Shambhala has been at the forefront of music festival safety. What are you personally most proud of when it comes to Shambhala’s innovation in harm reduction?
BR: I’m just really proud that we have been such a vocal advocates of Harm Reduction, and have been leaders in that public conversation throughout North America. Shambhala’s Harm Reduction model proves that this the most effective way to keep participants safe. No fear, no judgement. People feel safe in accessing both information and emergency services at our festival. And it saves lives. That’s what I’m most proud of. It literally saves lives.
One great example is Stanley Arthur, The Festival Addict, who overdosed at Shambhala 2014. He was given the highest level of care by our Harm Reduction and Medical staff and survived. Since then, he’s gotten clean and sober, contributes at Camp Clean Beats and has written a book about his recovery. Stanley is with us today and using his story to help others because of the level of service we have available at Shambhala, and that definitely makes me proud.
SR: Can you tell us about the importance of the Shambhala Greater Good Contest?
BR: Absolutely! The Greater Good is our way of showing how much we appreciate everything the Shambhala community does for *their* communities–not just while we’re at the festival, but in the world at large. There are so many inspiring people in our community, and to celebrate our 20th anniversary, we’d like to honor their efforts and contributions. Most of us don’t get the opportunity to donate large sums to causes we care about. At Shambhala, we’ve been lucky enough to be able to do this for many years–we’ve helped out the local college, skatepark, hospitals, foodbanks, low-income housing and more. Whether the participants are fond of causes close to home in their own communities, or aboard, we want to give them the experience of giving from their heart in a big way. We can’t wait to see how people participate, and what they choose to support.
SR: Finally what does Shambhalove mean to you?
BR: Shambhalove means so many things to me. It means bringing our best selves. It means loving and nurturing ourselves as well as others. It means being open to connection where you least expect it. It means bringing playfulness, and kindness and generosity. It means pulling down the veil between one another and having the courage to be ourselves. It’s definitely something that begins within yourself, and reflects out toward other people. When we’re all on that same page, it creates something truly powerful. I think that’s one of the reasons the Shambhala “vibe” is as beautiful as it is. 🙂