Less than a month to go until the Salmo River Ranch is populated with elated festival goers for the 17th edition of the legendary Shambhala Music Festival. With so few days we hope you’ve read up on their diverse six stages, dug into that massive lineup, and have nothing left to do but count the days until August 8th and pack up the car.
Going strong since its inception in 1998, Shambs has grown and developed into what many consider the premiere music festival in the world. Permanent infrastructure, a deep and carefully selected lineup, and of course the fantastic team behind it all contribute to make Shambhala a unique and immersive experience that stands head and shoulders above other fests of its scale.
With all the incredible things we’ve heard about Shambhala, including endorsements from some of the best in the electronic music industry like Bassnectar and ill.Gates, we wanted to take a peek behind the scenes to learn more about the awesomeness that is Shambhala.
We have been fortunate enough to have one of Shambhala’s own, Britz Robins, take the time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions we had about what goes on “behind the curtain” as well as hear her thoughts on everything Shambs related.
Britz grew up down the road from Salmo in Rossland and first heard about Shambhala in 2001. She first attended in 2003 and has been every year since (13 straight).
How did you first become involved with working Shambhala? Where did the “Shambhamom” nickname originate?
I got really involved with the Shambhala forums and became the administrator in 06. Then in 2007 I lost my job at the beginning of July. I emailed Shambhala to see if they needed any office help, and the rest is history.
Ha! I can’t even remember how it started now. I think it was two years ago someone in our Facebook group called me “ShambhaMom” and it just went from there. The nickname is interchangeable with “Rave Mom”. I’m a very loving, empathic, nurturing person by nature so it really fits. I actually used to joke about being “rave mom” in my late teens / early 20’s, because I’d always be the person at the party taking care of everyone else.
With 13 years of both Shambs and festival experience, Britz has been around and seen a lot. We wanted to know how the experience at Shambhala stacks up to the other places she’s been.
So what other festivals have you been to and how does Shambhala compare?
Back before EDM became popular, there were a lot of… well, I don’t know what to call them besides bush raves in Interior BC. Sometimes they were one-nighters, others would run the whole weekend. Events with one or two stages and a few hundred people. For a long time these were some of the only places catering to the electronic music crowd, except for a few nightclubs in the bigger cities. I don’t remember the names of most of those events, and they wouldn’t mean anything to most people anyway. But they were a helluva good time.
In recent years I’ve been to Electric Daisy Carnival, Electric Forest, FozzyFest, Burning Man four-going-on-five times, and I’ll be heading to my first Bass Coast this weekend. I don’t like to compare festivals because I think they each have things that make them beautiful, unique and special. I have learned that I prefer festivals where you camp on site – I’m not a fan of traveling back and forth between a hotel and a venue.
But wherever I go, no matter how much I enjoy myself, Shambhala is always home. 🙂 I haven’t found a single festival I love more – though Burning Man is a close second.
Although she doesn’t like to compare fests, there’s no doubt something that sets Shambhala apart from others and I hoped to get her perspective on that.
What it always comes down to for me is the people. We have such a great crowd – generally speaking, they’re friendly, open, and really look out for each other. Shambhala has a real community feel to it.
And then, of course, there’s the Salmo River Ranch itself. We’ve been lucky to have such a beautiful and versatile property since Day One. The property being owned by the family that produces the event has made a huge difference, and we get to do things other festivals simply can’t – like creating permanent buildings and infrastructure tailored specifically for our festival, and even growing some of the food for the festival right on the property. Oh, and the music is pretty good, too! Our stage directors have some of the keenest ears I know, and have a knack for cherry-picking the best up-and-comers to come Shambhala.
Especially since starting to travel to festivals in other parts of North America more, I think one of the biggest things I’ve noticed that differentiates Shambhala is the relaxed BC vibe. Actually, probably the Kootenay vibe would be a more accurate description. This area is stunningly beautiful, and it’s also a bit on the isolated side. The Kootenays attract all sorts of artists and creatives, people living alternative lifestyles. So between that and the isolation, it creates this weird, colourful, quirky bubble. This is the culture Shambhala was born of, and it permeates every aspect of the festival.
As one of the coordinators of the event, I was curious to find out if there was a specific goal that they were striving for when creating the atmosphere and setting of Shambs.
If you had to sum up the goal or intention of Shambhala as an experience, how would you put it?
I remember at my first Shambhala, there was this little printed card with a beautiful background of greenery and pink lotus flowers and it said, “The Shambhala vision is to not be afraid of who you are.” That resonates really deeply with me. I think if there’s any focused intention of Shambhala, it’s to show people that you can be yourself, and be loved for it too. Too many of us “dim our lights” for whatever reason in the real world – Shambhala gives us permission to shine again. To open our hearts and explore. Shambhala is pretty good about being a non-judgemental space that values and encourages self-expression. It really encourages people to bloom 🙂
It seems like there’s so much to do and see at Shambs, and as someone with tons of experience I was interested to see what Britz would describe as the “perfect experience.” If you could give someone the ideal Shambhala experience, how would the weekend go?
That’s a tough one – Shambhala is a “Choose Your Own Adventure!” and everyone’s is different.
But if I could give someone advice for maximum enjoyment – I’d say narrow your “must-sees” down to about two artists per night. Insanity, I know! But here’s the thing – I haven’t looked at a schedule for Shambhala in about two years. I make note of when a few artists are playing, but aside from that, I tag along with friends (who I know have great taste in music) and play the discovery game. I find this free-flow style way more fun than making a rigidly timed schedule and racing around from stage to stage. I always leave Shambhala with new favourite artists!
Britz is absolutely right about “narrowing down your ‘must-sees.'” I’ve done the running around trying to catch everyone on my list and while it’s great to see everyone possible, you lose a chance to discover new music and relax more. The relaxed, easy-going vibe is something that everyone should try out, at Shambhala especially.
We all know the feeling of leaving a fest feeling amazing and empowered, ready to go out into the world and do something positive. As someone with a lot of festival experience, I was really interested to find out what Britz had to say,
Do you believe that festivals have the power to become agents of positive change within the world outside of the festival grounds? If so, how?
Absolutely! 100%! Festivals are inspiration in motion, and it’s impossible for that NOT to bleed into our everyday lives. I honestly think this is exactly why we need festivals – they help us learn, grow, change, be inspired.
A good festival empowers individuals to become more themselves, more in tune with what they want in life and what gifts they have to share. Oddly, even an negative festival experience can spur those things – I’ve had that happen myself at Burning Man a few years ago. The biggest thing is that festivals force us out of whatever little neat, tidy box we’ve built around ourselves. And often, at the end of it, you find that you don’t quite fit in that little box anymore, so something has to change.
For a lot of us in the U.S, Shambhala is quite a hike. It’s isolated location and distance make it one of those dream destinations we all have but may never reach. I had to ask Britz why she believes it’s worth the multiple day journey (for some) to get out and experience Shambs.
Because you’ll never experience anything else like it. I ESPECIALLY encourage people from the US to make the trip. Americans are some of my favourite Shambhala virgins because they’re always in complete awe of the festival site, the stage environments, and just how NICE everyone is. 😉 Shambhala is the perfect mid-sized festival on one of the most beautiful properties imaginable. There’s a nice cool river to escape the heat of hot summer days. We have an incredibly diverse lineup, and some of the most unique stages you’ll see anywhere. And the community is top notch. There’s a reason our fans call Shambhala “Home”!
A big thanks to Britz for taking the time to let me pick her brain! We hope you learned a bit about Shambs from an insider, and maybe made up your mind to get out there, either this year or next. Tickets are currently sold out, but if you scour the internet religiously its possible you can still find some! Good luck and much love fam.