I have been very skeptical of “raves” for some while now. Mostly because I am an ex-raver who swore off any sort of raving ten years ago when it became overly druggy, seedy and the music had lost it’s edge. I had also just returned from a “spiritual quest” the week before feeling refreshed and in no need of venturing back into delirium.
I had heard rave reviews of Bass Coast Project from many trustworthy sources and there were also quite a few people I knew going this year so I decided to check it out.
Now in it’s fourth year the festival has grown organically from a much smaller start up and has gained a reputation for being an anti rave / cultural festival of sorts, inspired by Burning Man.
The event is very representative of “Sea to Sky Culture” which I have learned translates to; a little bit of the Whistler hedonist vibe, a dash of Commercial Drive hippie and a lot of Squamish. The festival’s name Bass Coast was derived from the initials of it’s host province British Columbia, which makes sense because it’s very much inspired by the location in the Squamish Valley. It’s also all about the people. There are grants given out to local artists to create artistic installations which are set up throughout the festival grounds and sixty percent of the performing acts are BC born and bred. Ninety percent of the DJs also create their own music.
The location is nothing short of breath-taking. The festival takes place on the spans of the Squamish River, where over 3000 festival attendees make their homes in the bordering forest for the duration of the event. Getting there early seems to have it’s benefits which include being able to stake out a good spot and more importantly not getting stuck camping next to a dusty road if you come in too late and it’s dark.
A one hour drive from Vancouver to Squamish, half way up to Whistler in the Squamish Valley. Word on the street was that as long as you weren’t super obvious you could sneak booze in which sounded promising. We thought you could also buy booze there but that was incorrect. Despite an attempted early start, a trip to the grocery store to buy some necessities and the booze shop brought us there just before dark on Friday.
With rampant drug use the festival may come as a shock to the uninitiated. I feel like the festival would be terrifying with out a constant supply of intoxicants. The first night seemed like everyone was the most “generous in sharing” with supplies stocked. I managed to lose my camera a few times with strangers offerings and the first night turned into a beautiful mess of sorts.
First night highlights include Blondtron, her smiley face tassels and dancers. She threw down with a memorable booty set that the crowd lapped up at the main stage. The music went on till 5am and the fun continued making for a very late bed time.
I immediately discovered my tent was not in a very well shaded area early in the morning. The sun heat it up to an intolerable sleeping level by 10am a few hours or however long it was after going to bed. I decided to not fight it and rose to start round two.
Saturday became a day to indulge in weirdness meeting strangers with our umbrella.
Run by a group of women the festival has a very motherly feeling to it with liberal bare breasted women everywhere.
I swear the outline of the mountain on the other side of the valley even looks like the silhouette of a women but that may of been the effect of looking at too many beautiful things, dehydration, the piercing bright sun, psychedelics and an overly active imagination?
A very relaxed non corporate motherly vibe prevails stemming from everything from the cloth festival wristband passes, a lack of corporate sponsorship, a green recycling plan, attention to details, very ample lights and sound, free water and fairly priced food to the laxed stance on drugs, alcohol and the security.
Throughout the day there were workshops and yoga and classes on Chinese astrology to keep the body and mind entertained in an area known as The Brain.
The Lightah mid afternoon reggae jam I remember particularly fondly. It felt like everyone was on some sort of psychedelic and was perfect. The ice cold glacial river became an essential cooling station and constant hydration is a must with temperatures reaching 37 C (98f) during the weekend.
Night two I was particularly fond of. San Fran / Dirty Bird’s Christian Martin threw down a very nice house set followed by local favorite Max Ulis.
Overall there was a bit too much of the current trends of dubstep and trap throughout the festival for my personal liking but really the it is about more than just the music with a lot to explore and people to see. There is something for everyone and more music than one can consume. I think I forgot that there was a third stage / “Radio” tucked away in between the main one and the furthest west one for the majority of the festival.
By the third day and resulting lack of sleep I was in pretty rough shape and the idea of skipping town became a reality which could of worked well. I decided I must stick it out for the full Bass Coast experience. Things seemed to mellow out through the third day with the toll taken being evident.
Somehow (booze+) I managed to pull through to see Winnie faves Humans jamming set and Love Dancing at Slaybay. Festival head Andrea Graham who djs and produces as The Librarian had a great Trap set at midnight on the main stage and Justin Martin played a very banging bass’y set around 1am.
I made it to bed early (4am) to get some much needed rest till 10am. The music was still playing upon waking. I had been craving Frank Ocean’s – Thinkin Bout You for the whole festival which could be heard from the distant closing set as well as a remix of the Game of Thrones.
People headed out gradually throughout the day having poured out all of their serotonin made for much less enthusiastic goodbyes than the previous hellos but it was definitely worth it. I look forward to returning next year to take in the Bass Coast experience once again.
photos+words by @tristanorchard