A Brilliant Bass Coast 2023 Nourished the Soul

With the Funk Hunters (pictured), Little Snake, OAKK, MetaFloor, Stickybuds, Bianca Oblivion, EPROM and more

Photo courtesy of Bass Coast

BY Alan RantaPublished Jul 12, 2023

Between the years of COVID delays, catastrophic 2021 floods and unfortunately timed Rogers meltdown, significant effort was required to pull off the 2022 edition of Bass Coast. Given the staggering ambition and admirable ethics of the organizers, their task didn't get much easier for 2023. Yet, despite the odds, everything seemed to come together in a truly special way this year.
Every single thing was part of the art curation, from the design of the stages to the lighting to the tickets to their largest-ever curation of interactive art. Bass Coast gives a platform to burgeoning outsider artists that bypasses the subjugation of traditional institutions, inspiring incredible graffiti and Burner-scale installations spread around the grounds.
Co-curated by Andrea Graham and Max Ulis, the music highlighted a mix of the greatest performers in the Pacific Northwest, as well as their picks for who is going to pop off in the next couple years. While they used to chase down talent, word of mouth now attracts talent to them, and it is reflected across the magnificent curation of all aspects of the festival.
Bass Coast visibly maintained their status as one of the safest festivals in Western Canada, and that's not including the random entrepreneurs who walked around the camps selling high quality earplugs. Stacey Forrester's peachy pink harm reduction team made sure people didn't lose more of their shit than they were hoping to lose, and First aid and security were centrally posted and circulating through the crowd. With enduring sustainability at heart, they do everything to make sure their presence creates a positive impact on the host city of Merritt, while also steering clear of corporate sponsors (the arts grants were funded by bar sales). During a time when margins are slimming and performers are losing money on tour, Throwing an event like this is a monumental feat, and its astounding success is all owed to the coordinators, artists, crew, and volunteers who make it all happen.
Despite the blistering heat and intermittent winds, I can't recall ever having a better time at a music festival in my life, and I have been to a lot of them. I stayed up until sunrise every night, danced my ass off covered in assorted Avant Garden costumery to match this year's festival theme, and managed to see over 27 acts in four days yet still felt like I missed so much. I witnessed as much as I could, though, taking zero notes to stay in the moment while making over 30 hours of muffled Voice Memo bootleg recordings along the way. Here's a selection of my fondest memories from the weekend. 

July 7

Little Snake

Going as far out there as anyone all weekend, Calgary-based experimental future bass lunatic Little Snake snuck into the Cabin to freak out the squares. The man born Gino Serpentini tweaked bass as vigorously as a purple-nurple. Someone in the crowd near me requested that Ben "Self Evident" Ulis come back out for one more tunes, having walked away from the decks minutes earlier, as apparently that person was not prepared for such a chopped and screwed entry into the LFO remix of "Positif" by Mr. Oizo or "The Hillbillies" by Baby Keem and Kendrick Lamar. Perhaps the gun clicks and car alarm tweets of Serpentini's brand new collaboration with Ivy Lab were simply too much for his aura to handle at the time, but it tickled my fancy in the most provocative way.
With his distinctive gabber grime and digital cumbia-tinged IDM mania, no wonder this Brainfeeder knob twiddler has become a favourite of the likes of Amon Tobin, edIT, Noisia, Tsuruda, and Flying Lotus. I spotted Whistler-area legend Mat the Alien in attendance, showing his appreciation by the Cabin's fake fireplace, and yelled "Soundwave" at him multiple times until he yelled the name of the long-defunct oceanside Ucluelet-based music festival back to me. It was an attempt to tell Mat about my all-time favourite memory of seeing him perform, achieved with unconfirmed effectiveness, yet this certainly marked the first time I'd ever seen Little Snake live, and hopefully it isn't the last. Little Snake isn't for everybody, but he pushes a whole bunch of my buttons. 


Calgary-native Cole Tam has something special going on at Bass Coast. Under his stage-name OAKK, he performed a Boiler Room set there in 2019, and this time he was featured under the flowing streamers of the Main Stage at prime time. With the crowd glued to the dry, grassy field, he took us on a trip for an hour and a bit, swinging through groovy dancehall and slick drum and bass while dropping down into chill asides like the gauzy glitch-hop of his own "Faces." OAKK knows how to craft a gripping track and a killer set, and he showcased his abilities here, as he always does.


Taking over the Cabin — the smallest yet most comfortable stage on the property, which was inspired by the snowboarding culture through which artistic director Liz Thompson and Andrea "the Librarian" Graham met — an enigmatic entity known as Client_03 seared the twilight with electro, techno and acid-tinged bass. Client_03 is purported to be the testbed, a quasi-cyborg product of the internet that is neither person nor machine, an invitation to something-or-other implanted within a host body. The host body this evening gave off a masculine energy, wearing a big blue shirt with the boxy Client_03 logo on it and a white ski mask in the sweltering dusk while taking massive hits off a vape full of microchips.

They pulled it back a couple times when the audience wasn't ready for it, then blew our minds through the back of our skull, churning out intense yet slippery productions that mostly defy Shazam searches; the mark of a true original. Judging from the depth of the sound design and the absolute wickedness of their sublime breakbeats, Client_03 could be related to Lawgiverz, an eclectic and famously reclusive electro breakbeat duo who shattered my fragile eggshell mind at Shambhala in 2006. Regardless, this was the best thing I'd seen at a rave since that life-altering event.

July 8

Frankie Teardrop

After sleeping through a likely exceptional jungle set from Edmonton's John Rolodex at the Cantina, I thankfully stumbled my way to the Cabin, peaking on acid and sweating my balls off, to see Vancouver-born, Montreal-based promoter/DJ Frankie Teardrop. With the sizzling sun slipping behind the semi-arid hillside, in amongst the towering trees and dangling prisms, the Slut Island co-founder dropped a techy, hypnotic, spunky, inclusive and uplifting kitchen sink house set that lured the evening into existence.

As electrified as I was by their selection of Eden Burns' "Big Bark Manifesto," I nearly became one with the sky when Frankie tweaked in the Conductor & the Cowboy Amnesia Mix of Sonique's trancey dance classic "It Feels So Good." I didn't really get why they've been proclaimed "the original barbie of queer music festivals in Canada" until that happened. Aqua is overdue for a comeback.

DJ Voices

New York-based Florida escapee Kristin Malossi was brought in as a last-minute replacement for Ninja Tune's Elkka, who disappointingly joined fellow headliner Special Request on the sidelines for Bass Coast 2023. Despite this, she quickly established the fact that her vision as DJ Voices was not only a worthy substitution, but possibly an improvement. Her credentials were impeccable, having helped form the Working Women collective, performed regularly for The Lot Radio, produced mixes for Fact, Fabric, Rinse FM, and Resident Advisor, and booked the beloved Ringwood venue Nowadays.
Malossi's set at the Cabin was perfect to set the tone for the evening, hammering the moon into place with pulsing trance, acid breakbeat, trappy hardcore, and Bez only knows what else. She eschewed a dedication to genre purity in favour of whatever had the right kind of percolating energy and intense drama, pushing the tempo with perfectly nasty tracks like "Heart Attack" by Moscow Legend and the trip-nasty Live Desk mix of "Nine" by RAC.

Speaking of things that weren't for everybody, Portland-based bass mangler Alexander "EPROM" Dennis did a pretty good job of scaring off anyone who wasn't on acid and expecting the unexpected at the Main Stage. EPROM's presentation of a tweaked version of Aphex Twin's "Windowlicker" leading into LFO's "Freak" and "On My Mind" from a split EP that he made with G Jones should have been a clear indication that this set wasn't going to go down an EDM rabbit hole as much as an IDM wormhole. Aphex Twin opened a show in 2016 with EPROM's "Samurai," so the fandom goes both ways.
For those already aware of his collaborations as well as his admirable solo catalogue of glass-shattering low frequency worship, EPROM delivered as promised. Touring with Syntheism in his back pocket, a refreshingly utopian-minded album that marked his first full-length issued in the decade since 2013's Half-Life, Dennis brought out the Kamloops kicks in me with his own deep bass explorations and massive aggro selections like "Profit" by Ivy Lab, "Dor Do Koto" by DJ Lycox, "Guillotine" by Death Grips and "Dumbest Girl Alive" by 100 gecs.


Batu was getting deep and downtempo in the early hours while my flesh was being sampled by something the size of my hand that looked like a dragonfly and only seemed to be aggravated by my attempt to swat it, and after catching a bit of Nicola Cruz's DJ set, I was lured to Slay Bay by Calgary's Blaine Kingcott, known by those oddly fond of tinnitus as MetaFloor.
Dropping massive bass into the four a.m. air, Kingcott slid in backbreaking jams like Ebb's "Corrosive Flow," Rumble's "Hum," and Hyroglifics "Steel Cap Beanie" flawlessly alongside original productions like "Momento," with its brontosaurus bass wobble making dancers' knees go all wiggly-woo across the dewy AstroTurf. Hot damn, you couldn't imagine a better way to wake up early or stay up late than with this set. What a boss!

July 9

Bianca Oblivion

Arguably the most talked-about set at my camp over the course of the weekend, LA-based DJ, producer and NTS Radio host Bianca Oblivion came out ordering ravers drifting away in the shade at the beachy Slay Bay stage to get the fuck up, and get the fuck up they did. She dropped a mix of warpy garage, grindy trap, and assorted booty music that compelled those lounging on the dusty ground to stand up and bend over. It's no wonder she was invited to perform on Boiler Room earlier in 2023, because she brings it and can fiddle knobs with the best of them — her banging ONHELL collaboration "Sinais" also crushed it at the main stage when OAKK played it a couple days earlier.

Closing down the licensed Cantina bar stage as part of the Keep Hush takeover, former Claude VonStroke prodigy Stefania Aronin delivered the quirkiest house set this side of fellow Dirtybird alum Ardalan, who brought a more subdued but equally enjoyable house funk to the same stage at Bass Coast two days earlier. With her face glowing green under a baseball cap, the Miami native, Riot Grrrl-inspired electronic label boss and rising star known as Nala pumped a sick set as the sun started to drift behind the lower Nicola hillside. She coaxed even the most exhausted legs to start moving again with tracks like "Brothers on Acid & Sisters in Love" by Jens Lissat and "LTD" by Jesse Maas, noticeably speeding-up cuts like "Projection" by Dosem and the Luke Alessi remix of "Let People Know" by Lehar.

Justin Martin

I'm pretty sure the last time I saw Justin Martin was at a chill three-hour afternoon set for Bass Coast in 2017 — the Bay-area house DJ/producer and foundational member of the infamous Dirtybird crew, which is usually well-represented at Bass Coast for good reason, took the Main Stage at midnight on Sunday. Martin brought it weird and funky for this happening, a set that will linger in my mind far longer and more vividly than his other appearances. 
Working the crowd into a nice bounce, his insertion of his Galen collaboration "Tumbleweed" blew my skirt up and kept it there for the duration. How he managed to get from its mad-capped lunacy to the dramatic catharsis of "Eye of the Storm" is a testament to his party-rocking ability, easily making up for the unfortunate moment when his sound briefly abandoned him early in the show. This guy can play anytime, anywhere.
Move D

After catching a few minutes of SkiiTour at the Main Stage, I made my way to Cabin for some midnight house music. One could not pick a better selector than Move D; as someone who spent a solid afternoon in boxers, game recognizes game. This is, indeed, one crazy guy. Facing days of sweltering heat without a ton of shade, the festival grounds became incredibly dusty whenever the wind picked up and/or people got to stomping a lot, but German deep house legend David Moufang spun a two-plus hour vinyl set at midnight, long after the final watering truck had hit these dusty trails.
Chain-smoking like the star of a vintage French New Wave film the entire time he was behind the wheels of steel, the unfathomable talent known as Move D was not surrounded by the customary bevy of scantily clad good-timers. He was all alone onstage, possibly to keep party people from making the records skip with their compulsory bobbing, but it may have also been for fear of human combustion. He did stick around and continue chain-smoking for Fred P, who had made the move from New York to Berlin in search of housing.
Move D has an incredible and consistent body of work stretching back to the early-'90s, and ran the influential Source Records for a dozen years or so, yet his set was flush with the latest mid-lush mid-tempo jams. Somebody needs to shoot a documentary about him in black and white, stat.

Full disclosure, Tyler "Stickybuds" Martens has been in my wider circle of party friends for a long-ass time, longer than many Exclaim! readers have even been. It has been an absolute pleasure to watch him rise from the old Liquidbeat forum days twenty or so years ago when he was playing to fifty kids in an old strip mall tack shop on the side of a road near Kelowna to become a resident in Shambhala's Fractal Forest for fifteen consecutive years, a well-respected family man, and a crowd-pleasing headliner at festivals like Rifflandia, Envision, Glastonbury, and Burning Man in over 25 countries around the world. Stickybuds is an absolute legend in the Cascadian region, so it brings me immense personal joy to see him succeed in spite of (or possibly due to the fact) that I have barely mentioned his name in any professional setting as a music critic before this long-overdue blurb rife with unabashed praise.
I can't count how many times I've seen Stickybuds perform over the years, but he always brings it, as he did at the Main Stage at the peak of the glorious festival's final night. It is doubtful anyone walked away disappointed from the man with the biggest hair and largest stage presence this side of Longwalkshortdock. Nobody can hear Wuki's big bass house take on the radio rock classic "Edge of Seventeen" by Stevie Nicks without smiling, let alone when it's somehow presented in a smooth continuum alongside "Front2Back" by Opiuo and "Get Ready" by Lunos and Whitey. Considering Martens was polishing a drum and bass track for Jurassic 5's Chali 2na and Cut Chemist featuring Dynamite MC around the time of this performance, the kid has truly has become a master among masters.

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