My first experience with a real westcoast festival, an art festival, a dance festival, a temporary nation sharing the common goal of enlightenment for a weekend, was the Shambahla music festival. While there were a few lifers, the tiny proportion of rock music in comparison to trance, drum and bass, and down-tempo psychedelic/cosmic beats literally drummed the everyday way of looking at things out of people.
The festival consisted of 5 dance stages (trance/drumandbass/hip hop/I don’t know all the names for these things), one rock stage, and one non official stage in a small tent which played downtempo beats extremely loudly. Each night the music went on until noon the next day at at least 3 of the stages. The nights consisted of dancing, getting tired, wandering to another stage, possibly aquiring food along the way, and then continuing to dance. the nights end when tiredness sets in, usually after the sun comes up or at least first light is showing.
I didn’t make a whole lot of friends persay, but then again, it’s kind of hard to talk to people in the normal making friends conversations when the music is just really loud the whole time. Instead, I connected with people on a more physical-intentional level in ek-static dance. Ek-static dance is the tribal dance communities’ word for it anyway, a simpler description would be shake your booty till your teeth fall out. The only new friend I had the privledge to speak with at length about the mysteries of being was Phong, who is in his own right so exceptional that meeting him certainly makes up for not meeting many others. Aside from Phong (was was a part of both Shambala express and Vancouver express) I met Matthias’ friend Carlos who spoke to me about Gergieve (I’m likely spelling that wrong). Also, I met a girl from Victoria named Sara
The stages were the beach (“Living Room”) – a stage on the border between the beach and the woods, with two dance floors (one on the beach, one in the woods). The best dance floor because it was made of wood, was the smallest, played the best music. The Fractal Forest played music closer to club mixes. It felt like being in a club, with lots of screens and visuals all around, except you are actually in a forest. The main stage was pretty much normal, just a stage with a wall around it. The Ewok village has a geodesic type roof, many balconies. The Portal is a new stage, like the Living Room in feel of the music, but always at a higher intensity. Probably the best rave stage. Also, right near to the portal is the renegade Seed of Life stage, where calmer music blasts at the limit of the speakers ability to produce it. Still, with earplugs on it was an appropriate place to chill.
The food was amazing. If I had known how great the vendors would be, I wouldn’t have brought so much gear. Godiva’s vegetarian express served the most amazing hot fresh halavah for 3$, plus you got served by an angel. Too many others to list, but I will mention Elfin Cones, run by the Fungineers. Elfin cones are 5$ ice cream cones dairy free made with hemp. I did not believe they were dairy free until I talked to many different people there. They actually taste like cream. Not like sherbet. It’s ridiculous. Also, sometimes the elfin cones are wacky.
What I learned about dance (no one told me this, this is what I assembled for myself out of actually dancing). Dance is physical expression. Expression is gesture, gesture is intentional. Dance is communication. Dance is not aesthetic in its primary aspect, in the same manner that the jug is not aesthetic in its primary aspect. Movement of the body in dance awakens awareness in the dancer of their own body. Once this awareness comes to fruition, dance is no longer inhibited by “does this look cool”, because style is no longer seen as the value but simply an effect.
At the ek-static dance workshop there was a lot of talk (although mostly movement) about shakras, and communing with the earth, sky, mortals and gods (although they didn’t use that term set directly). Cosmic energy flowing through the body seems like an effective way that many people are able to come into awareness of their own physicality, but it also undermines that physicality by positing a ground of the physical which exists in the metaphysical. Of course, if we realize that metaphysics themselves are physics, and that what we call physics are mostly metaphysics, these bifurcations will cease to bring about the troubles that they do now. They do bring about troubles now though, one effect of which is a general resentment towards academic types in the whole community. Philosophy/theory is conceived purely as idea, and is seeing as a veil which can aid practice but is ultimately distinct from it. Philosophy is in fact, a practice itself. It would help, however, if there were more live philosophers who taught philosophy in this way.
While this account of the festival might repel some people, I don’t think I know a lot of people who would not enjoy themselves if they came to it with an open mind and a full stomach.