By: Zac Cirivello
For centuries, the Squamish Valley in British Columbia has been a gathering place of different communities for the purpose of celebration. For the natives, the river that carves its way through the valley was used as a meeting place between tribes. For the electronic dance community in BC, it was the birthplace of the outdoor electronic festival culture. And for the last 4 years, it has been home to one of the area’s most vibrant and diverse gatherings, the BassCoast Festival. A lovingly curated event, BassCoast has grown considerably in the last few years but still maintains a local flavor of love, nurturing, and support from every direction.
Sitting shore-side of the Squamish River and tucked into the trees of the Squamish Campground, the BassCoast festival is a creatively inspired event that features 4 days of co-creation, impressive art displays, and bone rattling, soul pounding bass. This year, co-producers Liz Thompson and Andrea Graham put together an impressive team who thoughtfully crafted a beautiful atmosphere for several thousand festival-goers to indulge in a diverse variety of music and good old fashion party.
With three official stages and a handful of renegade camps, the festival featured a variety of flavors of bass laced beats, and also played host to other live acts including always entertaining Fungineers and the multi talented Jamie Janover. This, along with a workshop dome and yoga space on a sandy beach set to the backdrop of snow-capped peaks, made sure that there was a bit of something there for everyone.
BassCoast kicked off the music with a duo of local ladies pushing out sexy midtempo beats at the Radio Stage. A multi story 35ft tall structure resembling something of an ancient wrecked pirate ship, the Radio Stage was a group collaboration between the BassBus project from Calgary and Kelsey Faerie of Kelsey’s Creation’s and The Creation Station. Inspired by the environment of the festival and chiefly designed by Baran Faber, the stage (while being structurally solid) was adorned with old reclaimed wood gathered from dilapidated barns, covered in moss, and decorated with stretch red lycra and intricately hung dreamcatchers. A visual treat, the Radio Stage was a collaborative labor of love that featured some of the best gems of the weekend.
At noon on Friday, the largest stage, The Bassment, beckoned for bassheads to come get their boogie on at the beach with the soulful sounds of Erica and HONEY. Built a few hundred yards from the shore of the Squamish River, the stage featured a wooden sphere pegged with in flanked by two impressive stacks of speakers. With a conscious style of upbeat electronic infused hip hop, the two ladies got the dancefloor smiling and swaying with lyrics like “it’s gonna be a good day, it’s gonna be a good life… because it’s good to be alive”. The last stage to start pushing out the beats was the Slay Bay stage. Tucked into the woods and slightly removed from the other stages, this outpost was built with a frontage resembling a giant mixer and perimeter adorned with a collection of vinyl records. Located to the back of the dancfloor were some relaxing chill areas including a large rope web that acted as a group hammock and a nest filled with pillows for the occasional dance floor disco nap.
As the sun set and the day turned into night, the Slay Bay brought out artists such as E|m, Graintable, and a live set from Evy Jane. At the Bassment stage, local favorite Longwalkshortdock brought out a large crowd of Canucks to the dancefloor at the 9 o’clock hour. After the BC favorite was finished on the stage, there was a Sweet Soul Burlesque performance that was one of several female inspired and created performances throughout the weekend. Tantalizing the crowd to the beats of BLONDTRON was one of two performances that night that reinforced the feminine influence of the event as a whole. The other, a fashion show at the Radio stage, featured wares from the wide selection of particularly skilled designers and artisans that were present at the event including Om Booty, Lock & Ki, Inkspoon and more.
As the premiere night kicked into full swing, Vancouver based DJ Dubconscious brought the daytime chillers out to the Radio stage dancefloor with his unique set of reggae inspired bass music that dove both into his roots at a drum & bass DJ and later journey into the world of creative dubstep. This led into a glitchier intricate lazer buzz saw orchestra by the venerable Knight Riderz, truly a vanguard act at the forefront of the Canadian electronic music scene. The midnight set closed out the Radio for Friday night with a statement, but there were plenty of good times to be had at the other stages, including a lively set from Fort Knox Five vs. Thunderball.
Saturday during the day featured a multi hour block of an all vinyl Reggae Jamdown. The vibes were perfectly suited to the laidback beach-chilling energy of the BassCoast daytime scene. The days were baking in the Squamish Valley, and relief for most came in the form of a quick dip in the very cold glacier melt river. Saturday at the Slay Bay stage brought out an electro infused funky house set from longtime music mixer Joseph Martin
. Following Martin on the Slay Bay stage was a back to back electronic hip-hop sets from 2 members of the Fungineers, Little Dinosaur and Lafa Taylor. Whether performing separately or together, any show from a member of this group is always highly entertaining.
The Bassment saw the first of two sets from eclectic world music producer Adham Shaikh. An incredibly diverse producer, Adham’s music comes with a message of social responsibility and elevated consciousness. Many of his songs, including his signature “Water Prayer,” demonstrated his ability to meld dub, ambient, and world music styles into a unique sound with an important message. At one point he had Jamie Janover join him on stage with his hammered dulcimer for a jam out, and then was joined my MC Niko who sang about the virtues of using reusable drink containers ("C'mon hippie, what the f-ck, why you putting coffee in a paper cup?"). Following up Shaikh was a rousing performance by Mat the Alien. As one of the more dubstep focused artists performing throughout the weekend, Mat definitely helped bring the bass to the coast on the first of his two sets for the weekend. The dancefloor swelled as deep bass beats were paired with refined scratching and heavy synth and the mood was set for a good night of dancing.
After Mat the Alien took his bow and stepped of stage, the captain’s helm was taken over by the versatile crowd favorite, JPOD the Beat Chef. Also playing a pair of sets that weekend, JPOD pushed out a high energy funky set for his premiere showcase of the weekend. Featuring a number of tracks from his recent release Halfsteppin
, JPOD kept the crowd bouncing with everything from electro hip-hop to glitch out squish and always inserting just the right amount of silliness into his set. The Bassment stage took a turn for the slower and sexier when Argentinian producer El Papa Chango took to a pair of CDJ’s. A long time burner and founding member of El Circo, Chango showed why he is one of the masters of soulful sexy deep bass. After being introduced as “the f-ing man” Chango took the crowd on a 90-minute tour of sensual deep rhythms featuring a backbone of some of the finest Latin-style beats.
Over at the Slay Bay stage, the night’s highlights included a deep minimal hip-hop flavored set by SF Bay Area producer Comma and a high energy performance by the always entertaining and enigmatic producer Machinedrum. Both of their sets were extended due to the absence of headliner Jack Sparrow, but the crowd was appeased by a surprise performance of intricate tribal 808 flavored beats from Noah D
. High quality house beats dominated the Bassment for the majority of the evening, featuring Justin Martin
and Max Ulis. The crowd was packed well past the soundbooth and lighting tower as a beautiful swirling of lights projected against the stage and crowd. The Bassment featured the amazing psychedelic projections throughout the weekend, but it paired particularly well with this set of performances from two of the top deep electro house producers of the last 10 years.
The Radio stage was closed out by a 90-minute set from Interchill Records founder Andrew Interchill and by an elevating performance from one of the masters of mornings, Michael Red. Playing under the name Souns, this project incorporates audio/video performance elements and often features improvisational beats and live looping. His set was definitely worth staying awake for, and sent many a dusty dancer to bed with a smile on their face after an amazing Saturday night at BassCoast music festival.
The final day of BassCoast displayed some of the best talent of the entire weekend from a wide spread of genres. At noon JPOD the Beat Chef took to the stage again to play a special set of funk and classic rock remixes. This is the second year that JPOD has taken over the Sunday morning at BassCoast with a masterful upbeat set of remixes. Last year he played a gospel and bluegrass set, and this year he took it to the next level with a super fresh and funky hour of everything from the sublime to the silly. Draped in a morning bathrobe, coffee in hand, and with his lovely wife Rebecca as his side, the pair was obviously having a blast and created the perfect atmosphere for waking up at the crack of noon.
The Radio stage had an eclectic mix of performances throughout the day. Sandwiched in between a pair of sets from 2 of the organizers of the stage, Kousk and G-Man, was a unique performance of electric gypsy banjo soulful swing from the enigmatic and hilarious Tarran the Tailor. Playing barefoot and drawing from a spirit of a time past, the Tailor played a number of original creation as well as some covered including a distorted slow and sexy version of Steve Miller Band’s “Abracadabra.”
On the main stage, Jamie Janover
set up his laptop, mini drum kit, and hammered dulcimer to play beautiful set accompanied by the soulful voice of reSunator. Combining the old world richness of ancient instruments with the modern stylings of electronic music, Janover is has created a unique sound that is matched beautifully with the recent addition reSunator’s ethereal, at times chilling, vocals. Speaking of unique sounds, next up was a group performance from The Fungineers. Fresh off of the release of their new album, Make it Up
, and the remodeling of their website, the all star team of performers dressed up in spandex, bright colors, and a wide array of costumes to put on quite a spectacle of a show. The crowd laughed and sang along as beatboxing puppets and various alter egos sang about the great joys of things such as one wearing their underwear on the outside and finished the set with their new heartwarming single, “Best Friends.”
The final night of BassCoast 2012 featured a killer set from co-Producer Andrea Graham performing as the Librarian. There was definitely a lot of local love for this woman, and people came out in force to support her music and to show gratitude for putting together such an amazing event. Hard to define, Graham’s music may have been a great summarization of what made the music at BassCoast so enjoyable. It was eclectic, multi-genre, and packed with some seriously sexy bass. Her sounds are soulful and sexy, and touch in on the world of trap, hip-hop, and dubstep regularly. After being followed by her friend and fellow basspusher Mat the Alien’s second set, a harder more dubstep influenced set, the stage was open for the final night to go into full swing.
One of the most intense sets of the night came from dBridge, a drum & bass legend. Starting with off with a hybrid fusion of D&B and breaks, he showed why he is still one of the best on the scene, and as the night progressed into the wee hours, his set mellowed out in a more downtempo direction. This led into a main stage morning performance by Michael Red, who has mastered the art of subtly and restraint to repeatedly create beautiful morning sets. As the sun came up on Monday morning and Michael finished his set, a fog had settled on the river and the new sun sent pink streaks across the sky. Many people began to pack up their supplies, but not before catching Adham Shaikh’s closing set. A perfect way to wrap up an incredible weekend, Adham played with the heart and soul that had gone into the whole event from every layer of production to security.
In retrospect, BassCoast may be one of the premier electronic music events in not only the country, but on the whole west coast. It has grown large enough to bring in some serious talented artists from near and far, but the feeling remains intimate and personable. The sound, lighting, and art were all top notch, and the lineup avoided the common trap of being booked as an all dubstep party. It’s obvious BassCoast is not just an event, but a community, and one that will be bringing amazing things to the Squamish Valley for years to come.