We Went to a Festival - Bass Coast 2017: Inclusiveness, Intimacy & Interaction

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Review by Zacc Lavigne          Photos by Kyle Kellough

Those of you who have already been to Bass Coast interactive arts music festival, in Merritt, BC, may already know what I’m about to say; this is for those who haven’t been to Bass Coast, but really ought to consider going. As a fifth-time attendee, I have observed this festival evolve over the years; from their original site in Squamish, BC, to their current spot just outside of Merritt, all aspects of this party have reached a pinnacle of excellence.

Throughout the years, Bass Coast has welcomed a host of underground artists from Canada and abroad, including a plethora of BC staples.  As an instrumentalist and bass-head, I can tell you that this festival is a healthy mix of live jams and well-produced beats. While I would have liked to see more live instrumentals overall the production value of the artists who play Bass Coast is top-notch. Live instrumentals have their place, intermingled with interstellar niche-bass, conscious hip hop, techy drum and bass, and happy-go-lucky daytime jams; there’s a little bit of everything for everybody.

MUSICAL HIGHLIGHTS

Currently on tour with Gorillaz, prolific female rapper Little Simz took some time to make her landing at mainstage Sunday night before Bass Coast founder and headliner The Librarian. Backed by her producer and hype-man OTG, Little Simz is just 23 years old, but wise – her brand of emotionally conscientious hip hop spans a number of topics including personal struggle, agency, and growth. Little Simz set the tone for Sunday evening, and the props for her musical stylings are still reverberating.

Bass Coast co-founder and music curator Andrea Graham, aka The Librarian, brings a presence to this festival that is truly inspiring and respected. As part of a group of female aficionados that helped birth Bass Coast and allow it to develop to the force that it is today, The Librarian enjoys headliner status year after year, understandably. This year, her unique brand of futuristic footwork rumbled the festival grounds to welcome attendees on Thursday evening, and send them home beaming early Monday morning. For those who want to relive the magic of The Librarian’s Sunday night set, or see what you missed out on, check out Bass Coast’s livestream of Sunday night’s Main Stage performances, posted on their Facebook page, brought to you by Creative BC.

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A long time personal favorite of mine is the ever-energetic and vibrant Longwalkshortdock, aka Dave King, hailing from Vancouver, BC. Chances are, if you’ve been to one of BC’s premier music festivals in the last six years, you’ve caught wind of Longwalkshortsock’s antics. Longwalk’s brand of bass-music is as heavy as it is spacey, as simplistic as it is technical, and as fresh as it is fun. As someone who comes from a youth of metal and punk rock, I can safely say that Dave King played a key role in opening my mind to the plethora of sounds and styles that span electronic bass-music as a whole. Longwalk’s brand of music allows you to jump around and head bang while dancing your ass off, it is truly unique. Ususally, Longwalkshortdock sports costumes and themes that span wizardry and astronautics, it’s safe to say he fit in with Bass Coast’s space theme without even trying.

While I could go on about the musical highlights of Bass Coast, there are more elements of this festival I wish to touch on, so I will leave you here with a few more of my favorites from the weekend. Brooklyn’s Doctor Jeep provided rhythmic and heavy bass-tunes that interlink a number of genres, from hip hop to drum and bass; his song selection was on-point and his mixes were seamless. Paul Woolford truly enveloped the dancefloor as he guided dancers on a sonic space odyssey like none-other. Erica Dee graced the Radio stage with her angelic melodies and soulful rhythms, bringing a sort of elegance to the daytime vibes of Bass Coast. SHAHdjs were awesome, Lighta! Crew brought the vibes, and the Lazy Syrup Orchestra were the icing on the cake.

Matt Dauncey, aka Neighbor, of Homebreakin’ Records and Vancouver’s Beaumont Studios, mixed chill house-disco and ghetto-funk tracks while overlaying smooth guitar riffs and carefully selected samples; there could have been more live-guitar, but that’s just my opinion. Last, but certainly not least, I would like to give a shout out to Mat Andrew, aka Mat the Alien, who not only slayed with his eclectic turntablism, but also found our camera and returned it to us. As anyone who know Mat can vouch, this guys is “really good!”

WORKSHOPS & INTERACTIVE INSTALLS

Where Bass Coast thrives, in my opinion, is the festival’s success in place-making through the curation of interactive art installs and educational workshops. The concept of place-making embraces a local community’s resources, potential, inspirations, and ideals with the intention of creating communal spaces that promote well-being, happiness, and the health of individuals within a wider community; it’s a group process that creates emergent properties individuals can identify with and embrace to add to the wider group experience. With over 50 interactive installations, Bass Coast is truly a space where everyone can participate in a positive feedback loop of creation. Bass Coast brings teachers and pupils together in a common space that allows everyone to contribute in their own way.

As an avid nerd, The Brain provided a place of refuge where people could sit in on intellectual conversation at any point in the day. From self-care and harm reduction at the individual level, to Carl Sagan tributes, to discussions about the vastness of outer space and humanity’s place in the cosmos, The Brain provided intellectual discourse time and time again.

Just outside The Brain, as you pass mainstage on your way to the hub of installs and vendors, an interactive LED display from Liminal Convergence, based out of Vancouver, lit up the night. In response to the movements of the wall’s human counterparts, digital cameras mapped the movements of passers-by, and responded with mesmerising displays via approximately 1152 LED lights. Further into the abyss of interactive arts installs, another movement-based install harnessed the energy of individuals and responded, this time with audio stimuli: samples of space-based sounds taken from NASA’s audio vaults. For lovers of movement and dance, like myself, these installs spoke to me because they allowed individuals to create their own visual stimuli and soundscapes based on bodily movements; these installs effectively translate kinetic movement into audio-visual stimuli, widening the participant’s experiential reality in that moment.

To give you a glimpse into the amount of ingenuity and hard work that goes into the creation of Bass Coast’s many installations, Liminal Convergence’s interactive LED display, one of over fifty installations, took a total of 200 hours to conceive and construct. In the end, according to Carissa Ouellette, one of the installs visionaries, the amount of intrinsic reward and positive feedback created by the install far outweighed the work that went into it:

     "My favorite feedback was from friends I hadn't seen in a while during a back-to-camp trip on Saturday, they came running up to me in this huge whirlwind to tell us about "the perfect moment" they experienced from our installation. From afar, near the back of mainstage, they could see the massive mainstage spectacle, but in the horizon they could also see our installation and two people making magic with the wall, they said it was the most sublime scene, with main stage to their right, and our installation in view to the left; the motions and the interaction they were witnessing as the duo played with our installation were "perfect" in their eyes.

They delivered this review with such genuine joy and jubilance, and naturally it went straight to the feels. To be there in the day-time dust and heat, and to hear such a glowing review from someone beyond the space and time of the initial experience is what made me feel like what we made was having a lasting impression on those who encountered it."

 

Liminal Convergence's interactive LED display

Liminal Convergence's interactive LED display

This is just one example of the dedication and passion that goes into the place-making aspect of Bass Coast through interactive installs. In the end, the more you put into the festival, the more you get out of it; this is what Bass Coast is all about in my eyes. Whatever you have to offer, bring it, and it will be reciprocated in kind.

SAFETY FIRST

Among all the positive aspects of this festival, Bass Coast enjoys a stellar reputation for safety and self-care. Harm reduction, for those unfamiliar, is a set of practical principles and strategies aimed at reducing the negative impacts associated with drug use. Overall, it comes down to mindfulness and proactive, rather than reactive, approaches to the responsible consumption of drugs and alcohol. Let’s admit it, the war on drugs has been a failure; drug use in an inherent part of the society we live in. Rather than denying this reality, harm reduction’s philosophy of care embraces the reality of drug use and works to promote responsibility, mindful consumption, and self-care (as well as care for your peers). Bass Coast’s devoted team of Harm Reduction experts put pride and passion into ensuring the safety of festival goers. The following statement from Paul Brooks, Bass Coast Director of Communications, sums up their Harm Reduction efforts nicely:

     “Our attendance grew by 30%, but participants continue to be very safe and thoughtful on site. Our harm reduction space saw over 1000 visitors, 900 of who picked up harm reduction supplies and resources. No Naloxone (emergency treatment for opioid overdoses) was administered by our medical or harm reduction personnel.”

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THE PEOPLE & THE VIBE

As the world seems to get increasingly complex, and the political landscape of our time seems to get more and more divisive, it’s nice to find a place where people from all walks of life can find common grounds on the dancefloor, united by vibrations of sound and the artistic manifestations of the human collective. To me, that’s what this festival is all about.

Don’t get me wrong, there was some weird shit going down, but in the best way possible. At times the crowd was a little quiet; I felt for artists when they asked for crowd feedback but got little response, repeatedly saying “I can’t hear you!” As the night got later and later, crowd response grew quieter and quieter.  

That being said, the amount of positive things I can say about Bass Coast greatly outweigh any short-comings, which there are very few of. Overall, Bass Coast’s vibe is all about inclusiveness, intimacy, and interaction. It’s a mature party for mature people that fosters a mentality of love, respect, authenticity, and intelligence. As friend and festival goer Aaron McMinn summarized nicely, “Bass Coast is an epicenter of radness and collaboration.” I couldn’t agree more.


THANK YOUS

I would like to extend my gratitude to the founders and organizers of Bass Coast, Director of Communications Paul Brooks, Kyle Kellough, Carissa Oulette, Liminal Convergence, and HOLY SMOKES for giving me the opportunity to cover Bass Coast this year. I would also like to thank all of the artists, creators, attendees, staff, volunteers, and PK Sound for making Bass Coast such a wonderful place to be. That being said, my 2-D ramblings can’t do Bass Coast justice, you have to experience it for yourself to really understand what it’s all about.