The absolute highlight of Shambhala Music Festival was watching Foreign Beggars' Pavan Mukhi (aka MC Orifice Vulgatron) leap from a 20-foot forest stage balcony and into the throng of people below him on the final night. Beggars' hip-hop/dubstep infusion commanded the Village stage, one of seven structures built by the family who owns the Salmo River Ranch, and was one of many standout sets during the four-day event.
Thursday night only saw two stages open, and was a precursor to a weekend filled with breakdowns, traps (So annoying, just let us dance!) and every BPM possible. Calgary's Dave King took his regular post on the Amphitheatre stage (formerly the Rock Pit) under his quickly-rising moniker Longwalkshortdock (pictured) and didn't waste any time getting into his one-of-a-kind original glitch-core, along with his leather-gloved menacing hand gestures and rampant head banging.
Friday opened the EDM floodgates with seven stages, all with different themes, looks and lighting effects. The Fractal Forest stage, built amongst old-growth trees and fort-like structures, is arguably the best place to dance at Shambhala, and the Friday lineup did not disappoint. Kelowna's Stickybuds (dubstep with tons of reggae and funk), Australia's Nick Thayer (multi-genre electronic with the best Metallica "Master of Puppets" remix ever!) and Nashville's Wick-It the Instigator (dubstep remix and mash-up magician) all delivered bang-on sets that had everyone losing their minds in the forest.
Saturday featured a drum and bass lineup seemingly from the gods, with the prime time slot occupied by France's energetic Dirtyphonics. With the kind of infectious stage personalities that could find them getting mainstream crossover appeal (think Skrillex or Bassnectar), Dirtyphonics were one of the weekend's most memorable sets. Their new track, "No Stopping Us," featuring Foreign Beggars, made the crowd erupt. The Saturday drum and bass mania was rounded out by two guffaw-inducing sets by Loadstar and Metrik (nope, not that Metric), truly testing the limits of beats per minute.
Perhaps the true stars of Shambhala, once again, were the guys behind Calgary sound company PK Sound. Every stage sounded amazing all through the festival, whether it was dubstep, drum and bass, hip-hop, or even the odd rock and roll or funk outfit. The sound was so dialed that the ultra-heavy dubstep of Kelowna's Excision, Saturday night in the Village, had a lot of attendees feeling like their internal organs were rattling around inside of them.
As pervasive as the drug culture can be at electronic music festivals like Shambhala, it's encouraging to know the organizers are focused on world-class talent and impeccable sound, two of the most important parts of any successful festival.