On this second installation of my Bass Coast adventure, we drop straight into Saturday evening where my dawdliness back at camp results in missing the Righteous Rainbows of Togetherness set, which I overhear continuously for the rest of the festival as having been the best thing ever. Sorry guys. The campmates and I head to Slay Bay around 9 for Sam Demoe’s set, followed by Max Ulis. These two Vancouverites both deliver a sound that tends to lean towards tribal and industrial house formats, if I had to pigeonhole them into genres (a hard task, especially with electronic stuff), but they also stray from the ordinary by incorporating a lush variety of unexpected samples and percussion. Not moving ones body is not an option. The fire of Saturday has been lit.
A friend and I break off from the Slay Bay pack to catch Skii Tour, a funky, hunky duo from Whistler, who have gained a sort of iconic fame within Canadian ski-bum culture. They absolutely kill it. Deep house stacked and spliced over breakbeats, and familiar tunes overlaying a mischievous bass that keeps the energy building even when it seems impossible for it to peak further. The fake snow blasting from Pirate Radio stage is a nice touch, transforming the crowd into a blurry blizzard, and as I spin around I spy the odd person dressed smartly for the weather in a neon beanie and goggles.
On our way to the Main Stage I go greet an old University pal selling necklaces at ‘Third-Eye Pinecones,’ in the vendor village. The Bass Coast vendors offer for purchase a variety of esoteric and imaginative art, jewelry and clothing akin to the treasures one may find in a pirates tickle trunk. Aside from providing fancy neck adornments, Third-Eye Pinecones could also be dubbed an unofficial stage, for it is a social hub blasting the most pleasant of hippy-electronica tunes for the small yet perpetual crowd of dancing hooligans gathered there. One of the hooligans who I don’t recognize on account of the gargantuan mask the width of my outstretched arms covering his face, turns out to be my new friend from last night.
Now a trio, we dance over to the Main Stage where The Librarian (who remember, is actually Basscoast’s birthmama Andrea Graham) is mid-way through her set. Her meek, horned-rimmed library-dweller appearance contrasts with some truly badass production skills. Rider Shafique, an emcee who has collaborated with some of dub music’s finest, adds earthy spice and decadence with his snare-drum linguistics. The whole set was heavy and infectious. Ivy Lab immediately follows, taking us deeper into the dream state. A trio composed of UK producers Sabre, Stray, and Halogenix, this set is all kinds of euphoria and gloriousness, undoubtedly the peak experience of Saturday for me, and quite possibly my favorite thing of all Bass Coast. (Also I confirmed with my vet-friends that this wasn’t just my unrefined, noob ears getting lusty over novel sounds. They too agreed this set to have been top notch). Ivy Lab’s resonance bubbles over with an enigmatic sexiness that makes my hairs stand on end. Production and musicality are notably intricate, while remaining clean and tight for the most part, and alternate between down-tempo, minimal moments, to heavy drum and bass spasms. The energy of the compact crowd gathered is incredible. There is no simple head bopping to be had. People groove in the dreamiest patterns. A crazed crowd of starlings, collectively we shimmer.
As the Main Stage closes, we wander the neon night a bit longer, but inevitably end up back inside The Brain, somewhat vacant in comparison to the rushhour outside. It kind of feels like we’ve stumbled upon a secret. We curl beneath blankets until we are actually warm-ish and drink in the most gorgeous, unexpected music I’ve heard all festival. (No one was scheduled to play The Brain at this time, so who this was remains a mystery. If anyone reading this knows, please share!) Dozens of nearly transparent angel voices fold over each other, stitched to fleeting materializations of harps, bells, glass, gears, and cogs. Save for a bass so deep I feel it travel through the floor, shaking my bones, I could fall asleep here. I cover my friend, who is miraculously dozing, with blankets and head outside into the…sunshine? Again. On my way back to camp I hear the distinctive hysterics of my “next-door-neighbour” behind me. I haven’t seen her since our river swim this afternoon. We collide, literally, almost hitting the ground, squealing with joy at the simple fact of being in each other’s presence. We link arms, cross the bridge (dancing raver count: 3) and skip down the road like champions. It’s not even a figment of my imagination or a trick of the early morning light. The road is sparkling gold.
As if Saturday did not fly by fast enough, Sunday is exponentially quicker. Festival life has been normalized. (This is what I do everyday, right?) Today though, I am determined to leave camp at a decent hour and spend a quality afternoon experiencing the daytime vibe. I catch Longwalkshortdock’s mid-day set at Slay Bay, dance my pants off, then head to the infamous Twerkshop to witness a crew of powerful females instruct the masses on the potent practice of shaking one’s booty. Sexyness, skin, and body positivity is at an all-time high and everyone is having a blast. My body, concurrently, is informing me of my state of exhaustion (I think I got like two hours of sleep) and I decide to head back to camp to re-charge before the evening.
Nightime. The last night of Bass Coast. Of fun to be had. Forever. And so I am determined to have as exhilarated a time as possible, which is probably the insinuator to my downfall right there. Goal-orientedness at festivals. The expectations I vowed to not have at the beginning of Bass Coast, but have accidentally developed anyways. Oops. The eve begins by dancing with two friends at Slay Bay, my next-door-neighbour, and a friend I have run into from my treeplanting days, but I am so not on their level. My body can barely grasp the concept of moving in any rhymic manner, and my hyper analytical brain is speeding through judgemental thoughts mile a minute. I feel disconnected from everyone around me, and from that, all the more frantic pressure to get into the groove. I don’t want to go as far as saying I am having a bad time, but to paint an acurate portrait of festival experiences, I think it’s important to acknowledge the growing pains and internal struggle that can sometimes occur in this intense environment as well as all the face-melting goodness.
I wander solo to Pirate Radio and catch some of 22:22 followed by Michael Red’s set. I scope a few campmates (my cool vet friends have a system of placing themselves “front-left” of a stage, so they are always findable.) My body is so done. My feet are throbbing. I just can’t shake my wallflower headspace so I seek refuge at Third-eye Pinecones where I find my friend rolling on a massage table with her limbs in the air, squealing with delight. She is as sober as October but explains, with an impish spark in her eyes, how much she enjoys festivals because she can just be her goony self with no fear of judgement. Beee yoursellllllfff. Aha! Her comment is just the thing I need to shatter my insular head-trip and I embrace the fact that tonight I’m just riding a mellow. That is my authentic state right now, and it’s totally fine. The vendors shut down at about 3 am and a group of us head to the fabled sauna-bus I have been hearing rumors about since day one. It is, quite literally, a gigantic bus that has been converted into a wood sauna in the back, and is open for whoever wishes to partake, just cause the owners are nice like that. We strip down to our birthday suits and join a group of strangers in almost total darkness. I don’t know if I would have been totally comfortable doing this a few days ago, but now its no biddie. A game of telephone commences which inevitably ends up in repeated moments of hilarity. It’s super Zen. The only not-so-chill thing is this weird amped up dude beside me who keeps shouting and mooching our water. He’s kind of killin’ the vibe. “Unprepared flaily ravers,” a girl in my group half jokes. Truly though, she makes a good point. With the one exception of this man, everyone I have met so far at Bass Coast knows what’s up as far as safe partying goes. They are educated, experienced, and have been around the scene long enough to understand their limitations, essentially the opposite of when you were fourteen and snuck into your parents liquor cabinet for the first time. On that note I will quickly tangent into something pretty important, Harm Reduction services at Bass Coast, and why they rule:
Neither condoning or condemning substance use, harm reduction provides resources to reduce risk for people choosing to use substances, and the people around them. Harm reduction can exist in the form of a safe space to hang out, educational resources, or just someone to talk to. Substances aren’t the only focus either. Equally important topics are things like sexual consent, proper hydration, hearing protection etc. Harm reduction is a shift in thinking from a crackdown framework where the focus becomes increased security and harsh policing and criminalization. It’s far less scary, and turns out, is super effective. Literally every festival across North America that has implemented a harm reduction model has seen dramatic decreases if not total of eradications of preventable things like violence, overdoses, and death. So its pretty cool that Bass Coast takes this stuff seriously.
Post sauna, we prance down a tealit path to the river, dunking our steamy skin into cold, clear goodness. Post-baptism I fumble into my festival layers, and say bon voyage to my sweet pal and her crew. I glimpse the friend I left at Slay Bay eons ago walking by, now looking distraught. Mere hours ago she was on cloud nine, and is now experiencing a flipside. I call her over and we sit for a while, having one of those raw conversations about our life’s yearnings and deepest hearts desires. I am feeling grounded. Not as esoteric, and cosmic perhaps as my embodiment in the days before, but like, just humbled and satisfied in my simple state of being where I am in life. To top that off my pores feel awesome.
In the first moments of daylight, instead of turning towards my camp, I ascend an adjacent staircase I have been pondering curiously since I first spotted it. The stairs wind up a hillside, and disintegrate at the top to reveal an expansive landscape of matted grass and pale sagebrush tufts. I walk until all visual and auditory evidence of bass land have dissolved behind me. Impending sun warms the sky in a pinkish glow, but the moon and stars still dapple the horizon, as if I’m occupying the thin space between the inhale and exhale of the world. Bass Coast Limbo. I unfurl and gaze at the sky, lying there for I don’t know how long. I am nothingness, a fraction of a freckle on this earth. Dissolved. Vultures come pick at me, eat your heart out. I feel no fear or loneliness. And after what could have been minutes or hours, suddenly too, feel an overwhelming urge the dance.
Phase #3 Re-incorporation
Monday morning I descend down into camp, crossing the bridge a final time to see if anyone is still going at the stages. Indeed, many are. Those few hours spent in nature’s quiet aperture have left my ears extra sensitized to the interdimensional crispiness of PK Sound speakers. I am greeted by a rumbling bass that warms me from the inside out. A friend drags me to Pirate Radio where a crowd of exhausted-yet-still-smiling folk are giving it their best. Crumpled clothing, smeared makeup, eyes drooping with the weight of impending sleep, form a comradery between us all. We made it. Barisone is spinning tunes as fresh as hangover OJ. I got this. I flail just once more, for as hard as I can, for as long as I can. In just a few hours we will be packing ourselves and respective camp gear into our vehicles, and passing through the veil back into reality, with its lineups, traffic jams, and mediocre-at-best ferry food. The trick we will now attempt is to bring those golden, shiny, kinder, braver, sillier, happier, more-creative, more-playful, more-loving, festival-versions of ourselves back home, because they make the world a better place.
Echoed in the Solve et Coagula creed of alchemists of old, we go to festivals to experience alteration. To be broken down, dissolved from our familiar selves, maybe even lose our minds once or twice, and return reformed from our own ashes. And perhaps if the planets are aligned, the conditions just right, we can come back as pure gold.
And now, sleep.
Photos by Milo Knauer