With just over a month to go until we return to the site of one of our favorite festivals we take an opportunity to look back on its near decade of history. From it’s humble beginnings in Squamish to its new home in the Nicola Valley of Merritt, British Columbia. Bass Coast has been building a community focused, supported and run music festival since its start in 2009. With a goal of providing a stage for local artist to perform and collaborate with some of bass music’s most innovative and creative acts, Bass Coast has become the quintessential west coast bass music festival. Whether you know 5 or 50 names on the lineup you’re guaranteed to discover something new after a weekend at Bass Coast.
From snowboard bums to Bass Coast babes, co-organizers Andrea Graham (The Librarian) and Liz Thomson saw the need for a communal gathering in British Columbia and Bass Coast was born. Their first year the pair planned for 1,000 attendees and saw just 400. By 2011 the event saw nearly 1,600, and in 2012 Bass Coast sold over 3,000 tickets a the gate. As the festival almost doubled in size each year, the event slowly outgrew it’s home in Squamish and needed to be moved. Making the move wouldn’t be easy, however, as many of the event’s attendees had fallen in love with the original location. Organizers realized they needed to build an identity the people loved as much as the location.
After careful consideration, in 2013 Bass Coast moved to a new home in Merritt. The new location came with lots of space for camping, dancing, and even large format art. Coming into its 9th year now Bass Coast will see 4,500 attendees, 4 stages, art installations and lineup of over 100 artists; 70% of which are local. After attending our first Bass Coast last year it was easy to see why the event had gathered such a following. It’s interactive, inclusive and welcoming vibe opened us up to the new experience and quickly became a DMNW favorite. To find out more about what makes Bass Coast so special we reached out to The Librarian (Andrea Graham) herself to take us to class.
DMNW: At its inception what was the vision or goal of Bass Coast?
AG: We started Bass Coast wanting to build a festival that lifts up local artists and provides a platform for creativity, innovation, and connection. Liz and I wanted attendees to feel like they were immersed in the experience as opposed to watching a show. We started small and fiercely independent and have always been committed to building the culture of Bass Coast.
DMNW: Bass Coast has a very community-based focus, how has that played a role in the overall vibe of the event?
AG: Bass Coast has a really unique community that is at the core of everyone’s experience on site. The ethos is inclusive, fun, creative, open-minded, and welcoming. I’ve heard stories of people coming to the festival solo and making life long friends. It’s often the experiences with other people on site that become a festival highlight.
DMNW: Bass Coast keeps active outside of just the festival with things like the Mutiny Tour, traveling art installations and speaking on panels about harm reduction. How important is it that Bass Coast is continually engaging with its community? How does that engagement help the festival’s growth/reach?
AG: We believe that Bass Coast is a movement that reaches beyond the festival and interacts with the audience and the artists throughout the year. We focus on finding ways to have fun with each other and to create opportunities for people to participate in Bass Coast beyond the festival itself. It allows people to connect with other Bass Coast-ers and builds a bond that lasts beyond our brand.
DMNW: The volunteer base at Bass Coast has been one of our favorite crews we’ve encountered. Would you attribute that to the event’s community focus?
AG: I’m always amazed by every volunteer that I encounter at the festival. We have an incredible volunteer coordinator Ruhamah, who seems to find the best placement for each person. The crew is always really excited about the crazy projects we have. They work so hard but always seem to be really happy!
DMNW: Where do you see Bass Coast’s role amongst many of the other festivals in the region? What makes it different? What do you hope others can take away or learn?
AG: Bass Coast is very unique. The vibe is fun and exciting yet mature, the music is world class yet not always by recognizable artists. We are a favourite for artists to come and play because the crowd is open-minded and trusts that the music will be good. The stages evolve each year and provide a new environment for people to explore and we are always trying to improve every aspect of the event…. all the time. Our biggest goal is to inspire everyone to walk away from bass coast having discovered or reconnected with a part of themselves that is creative.
DMNW: Being a performer yourself, has that helped lend a hand at all to the planning and overall direction with the event?
AG: Yes, 100%. I am fortunate to play shows all over North America, to meet so many amazing artists and to experience events big and small. I always take away something from every event that could apply to Bass Coast.
DMNW: We love that Bass Coast takes on a new theme each year. What was the reasoning behind that move? How does that play into the event planning?
AG: The theme is all about having fun and finding a way that everyone can participate in the festival. Sometimes the theme is light and funny (year of the zebra) and sometimes it has a deeper meaning behind it (Mutiny). But all of the themes inspire people to dress up or create something that relates. This year the theme is SPACE.
DMNW: Bass Coast has certainly grown since its humble beginnings in Squamish (and has remained quite humble), where do you see the festival going in the future?
AG: We value the people of Bass Coast and are committed to growing in a slow controlled way so that the vibe is protected and nurtured. We also have dreams that expand each year as we and the community develop as artists. Our approach to the future is to grow slowly and evaluate how the event feels from year to year. We believe that the people of Bass Coast are what makes it so special.
DMNW: Any closing remarks?
AG: It’s hard to believe the festival is celebrating year 9, we can’t wait to see all of you in a few weeks!
The future is big, endless, and bright for Bass Coast as we celebrate its 9th near this July. Thanks to the countless hours of love, labor, and sheer babe-power Bass Coast has made a name for itself as a must attend music festival in the Pacific Northwest. In a recent keynote presentation, Andrea had this to say about Bass Coast …
“All attendees are creative…whether or not they know they’re creative”
A true statement that ties into the festivals pillars of Involvement, Participation, and Creativity. Bass Coast has been providing an environment that allows the opportunity for people to be free. It’s that type of atmosphere that without a doubt enables creativity to manifest and thrive at Bass Coast. Anyone who’s attended will tell you it’s easily on of their favorite events, and quickly became one of ours as well. We congratulate all who are involved behind the scenes making sure the festival goes down each and ever year. As well as those who continue to push on the essence of the event year round.
We’d like to thank Andrea for taking time out of both, performing on the Mutiny Tour as well as preparing for this year’s event. We’ll be looking forward to seeing her play not once but twice this year!
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