After months of anticipation, DMNW traveled to Salmo River Ranch in Salmo, British Columbia this year for the 24th annual Shambhala Music Festival.
From July 20-24, we camped in the gorgeous Canadian wilderness along the scenic Salmo River; the perfect setting to relax, reflect, and revel in the company of music lovers from around the world.
The weekend did bring one elephant into the room worth mentioning: Crowds. Estimates for this year’s attendance ranged between 15,000 and 25,000 people. On the higher end, that would represent the highest number in the festival’s history, and it did pose some logistical issues. At times, water at campsites would run out quicker than usual, stages were more crowded at peak hours, and lines in and out of the festival were noticeably longer.
Early access campers started to amass days before the festival, lining up in droves along the long dirt entry road to the festival grounds. For those who got there later, wait times stretched out to over 12 hours due to difficulties with parking, limited space, and credit card system crashes.
That said, once people entered the grounds and set up, they met their neighbors for the weekend with ear-to-ear smiles and the traditional greeting of “welcome home.”
On Thursday, festivalgoers enjoyed two of the seven stages: the AMP and The Living Room. The volunteer staff was helpful and hard-working at every corner of the venue to ensure the grounds were clean and got things off to a solid start. From noon until 2 a.m., we enjoyed sets from Skiitour, Smith, Lorne B, Ahee, Jon Casey, Canabliss, and Fleetmac Wood among many others.
As more eager attendees flocked to the campgrounds, all six stages opened up Friday night, where the festival’s biggest acts threw down for massive crowds. With the festival in full swing, foot traffic ramped up to cause some congestion at the entrances and exits of each stage. Stages were also noticeably more packed than in previous years, although some subtle changes were made to help with square footage.
On Friday, we enjoyed a plethora of music from artists like, So Tuff So Cute, Stickybuds, Hamdi, Mala, The Librarian, Chill.Gates, Gigantic NGHTMRE, and Spiritual Alchemy just to name a few. The songs and sounds of the weekend were crystal clear and loud as can be, featuring PK Sound systems and some top-notch stage and sound engineers.
We awoke on Saturday to the bright and blazing sun peeking through the trees and heating up quickly. The weekend was one of the hottest the festival has ever had on record, with an average of 95 degrees across the five days of festivities.
On the final day of the festival, through dust and heat, we rallied with excitement for the last day of amazing music. Throughout the weekend food vendors and food trucks nourished us quickly and efficiently with everything from burgers, pizza, and tacos, to poutine, mini doughnuts, and breakfast burritos. Sunday night closed out the weekend with incredible and one-of-a-kind acts like RL Grime, Zeds Dead, Liquid Stranger, Frameworks, Skream, Valentino Khan, Hieroglyphics, and Dr. Fresch.
Throughout the weekend, volunteer staff worked tirelessly to help anyone and everyone with any problem they had. Medical teams were incredibly fast and helpful to reach and assist with any health emergencies. Though, tragically the festival did confirm the death of a crew member who reportedly drowned in the Salmo River neighboring the festival grounds.
Exiting the venue on Monday quickly became difficult as local police checked IDs and registrations upon leaving the ranch, causing hours-long delays for Americans trying to cross the border before close. That said, we had a sensational time on the Farm this year, and can’t wait for Shambhala’s silver anniversary in 2024.
All told, this continues to be one of Dance Music Northwest’s favorite festival experiences, and despite a couple rough spots this last year, we can’t recommend it enough.
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