photo by Dave Van of Dave Van Photo
I remember when I first heard of Shambhala. I was standing in the volunteer area of Glastonbury Music Festival in awe. I couldn’t even believe I had made it to this sold out festival in the United Kingdom. Just months before I was begging and pleading for volunteer opportunities in various Glastonbury Facebook groups. I had even applied to be in the “Loo Crew”. Yes, I was willing to clean festival toilets in exchange for this ticket. And just 30 days before the festival I was contacted by a lovely woman offering a volunteer position to serve food near the Circus tent. After taking a tour of the most magical land I had ever been apart of I had to ask my Glasto tour guide Nathan, “Is there anything on my side of the world like this?!” to which he responded “I’ve never been, but I hear Shambhala is comparable”.
It was at that moment, that I knew I would have to make my way to Shambhala Music Festival in BC, Canada.
Since that day in 2015, Shambhala Music Festival has made its way through several conversations with other festival goers, several of whom who have cheerfully added “Shambhala is my favorite festival”. Finally, this year it just so happens to be in the cards for me that I can make it across the border to Shambhala’s 20th Anniversary Festival.
WHAT MAKES SHAMBHALA DIFFERENT
- Being an American and just a stones throw away from our northern neighbors, we know that there aren’t too many cultural differences that lie between us and our sister country. What I do know is that after having fested in 5 other countries, is there are always cultural differences within the festie world. I am not sure what to expect in Canada and while festing with the Canadians who attend, but I am excited to learn from them and take part in their home festival.
What is dry festing, anyway?
- It is not often that we see festivals these days who have gone dry. The term dry festing, refers to the fact that there is no alcohol on site. That’s right. Shambhala promotes an alcohol free festival which is pretty incredible, as liquor sponsors tend to be one of the largest ways that festivals are making money these days. Can you imagine a festival without alcohol? Less medical emergencies, less fights or drama, and less pushing/shoving and inconsiderate people. Let me be clear, I am definitely no stranger to getting down on the dance floor with a margarita in hand. But out of respect for Shambhala and its rules, I am ready to try out the dancefloor sans adult beverage.
The Forest Farm
- On the Shambhala website, they refer to the festies on site as “farmily”, a quite beautiful term to describe those who inherit the land for the weekend. The location in British Columbia is said to be stunning. From photos, Shambhala looks like a hybrid of Electric Forest meets 2017 Lightning In A Bottle (complete with a body of water to swim in). During the day, I plan to seek shade in a hammock in the forest, go for a swim in the river, and dance on the farm in the night. I. Can’t. Wait.
THE MASSIVE LINEUP
I know, I know. As cliché as it sounds the lineup for Shambhala’s 20th Anniversary has really drawn me in. And I have to be honest in that I am someone who makes decisions of festivals solely based on lineups. Yes, I love Coachella and yes, I love The Hangout and SnowGlobe. And yes, those festivals have so much going on that people will say its not all about the music. But for me, it is. And for Shambhala’s 20th Anniversary, they have pulled out some incredible acts such as Beats Antique, REZZ, Excision, and Illenium to really make this trip worthwhile for me.
Preparing for Shambhala as an American has proven to be relatively easy. Shambhala’s website has given me some good tips on what airports to fly into and where to cross the border without long lines. From there, its just a matter of getting my things in order like a regular camping festival, and prepping for one hell of a weekend.
If this festival sounds as exciting to you as it does to me, I suggest keeping on top of the Shambhala Ticket Exchange Group on Facebook as tickets for this year’s 20th anniversary are sold out.
Just a heads up….
Shambhala is on Salmo River, no lake.
You’ll see thousands of people drinking alchohol heavily throughout the weekend.
I think you’ll see a decent amount of people having casual beers during the day, but drunk people are uncommon in my experience. Certainly not thousands of people drinking heavily. Obviously many people substitute drinking for other party practices. Shambhala offers harm reduction services, including substance testing, for those individuals.
Agree with this sentiment. There is the odd drunk goon, but typically most people who drink just have a few to enjoy them during the hot days.
I’ve been attending Sham for 12 years and I expect more to come after the 20th celebration in August. I definitely feel at home in the forest there ; the people are themselves and there’s magic and incredible music in the air. I make homemade soup and freeze it ahead … vitamins ..bring wipes…rest .. limit waste and only use eco friendly out of respect for the farm and wildlife. Look out for people and enjoy the beauty that is Sham.. See you August!
~ MAMA JENN ~
Yay! So excited for you! This will be my 6th consecutive shambhala and never get any less excited. Some tips would be to bring costumes! The more out there the better. Be prepared for it to be COLD at night and HOT in the day, although if there are clouds then it will be milder for both. If security finds liqour they will pour it out. I’ve waited in line to get into the festival anywhere from 20 mins to 20 hours, all depends on when you arrive. My favourite part during my first year was when I first walked through the downtown on Friday night once all the stages were open. Mind. Blown. I’m getting goosebumps just thinking about It!! The stages are open late so make sure you made yourself throughout the weekend. Hope you have an amazing time!
OMG I’m so excited for you! Last year was my very first year and I’m still in shock. I cannot wait to go again this year and take my boyfriend to his very first year 🙂 Bring a water bottle, it is hot as hell during the day! It also gets quite dusty so bandanas are great. It gets cold at night, it’s really warm by the stages but in between the stages and camp can get chilly, I recommend onesies! I slept in mine last year and stayed nice a warm 🙂 The porta-pottys are surprisingly clean considering how many people their are but I have always been told to take my own tp and of course sanitizer. Have naps in the early evening when the sun goes down, stay hydrated, and eat well, don’t forget your electrolytes! And don’t forget to let go of all your worries on the farm, it truly is a family there, and you truly can be your full and true self with no judgement. Maybe we will see each other on the farm 🙂
Thank you for the great advice, Ashley! <3
First of all, welcome to the Farmily and to Canada! This summer will be my 11th Shambhala. I have been going since 2005 and have only missed 2007 and 2009 since that time. You seem like you are a very experienced festival person, so there is not much to tell you about how to prepare, but just know to pack for all kinds of weather.
A bandana is a must. It can get super dusty out there in the same way that Burning Man does, although not nearly as intense. The bandana is the official clothing accessory of Shambhala.
First-timers should try and pace themselves so they can make to either the Living Room stage for sunrise on Monday morning. It changed my life for the better.
Shambhala has the best harm reduction of any festival I’ve ever been to. Take advantage of it! Get your party favors tested if that’s your thing. This is probably the best electronic music festival in the world. I am stoked for you.
Shambhavirgins are the best! I always like to camp with someone who has never been just to see their reaction. Have fun and see you on the dance floor!