Bass Coast 2017

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  • Vancouver experiences a certain kind of hangover the week after Bass Coast. It's a collective afterglow, a mix of exhaustion and elation that permeates the city's electronic music scene across crews and cliques. The festival is a near-perfect confluence of people and music that represents the diverse but specific Western Canadian scene like few other events in the province. It's all held together by a strong community spirit. British Columbia's summer festival scene is host to a number of events that focus on bass-heavy music, spirituality and transformational experiences. Bass Coast sets itself apart with a laser-focus on the music, which is a mix of cutting-edge bookings and regulars who play almost every year. For the most part, you don't hear tear-out dubstep, psytrance or big-room DJs at Bass Coast. Instead you get names like Joe Nice, Enei, Roman Flügel and Call Super, along with the usual cast of more local artists. Of course, music isn't the only notable thing about Bass Coast. (In fact, the festival sold out before the lineup was announced.) The intimate capacity—this year it increased to 4500 while only feeling slightly more crowded—is another attraction, along with the unique makeup of the audience. There's a healthy contingent from the Kootenays (British Columbia's bass music hotspot, centred in Nelson) who like to dress up and trip out, mixed in with plenty of fans from the greater Vancouver area, who might not mingle otherwise. It never felt too hip or too hippie. People were remarkably friendly and generous, and the festival grounds were littered with interactive installations, some humorous and others more artsy. The facilities were on point, with plenty of showers, bathrooms and food vendors to make the camping experience a little less rugged.
    Because the audience is so local, the Western Canadian artists usually draw the biggest audiences. Daega Sound, a dyed-in-the-wool Vancouver dubstep act, pummelled the audience with their own (criminally overlooked) tunes. Khotin impressed with ethereal techno. D. Tiffany played a rip-roaring set full of rough-and-tumble transitions that had people talking for days after. Max Ulis closed out Bass Coast to an adoring crowd, which included fans holding up professionally printed posters of his face. The Sunday night set from festival cofounder Andrea Graham, AKA The Librarian, was as grand an event as it is every year, with everyone gathering at The Main Stage to celebrate the festival and the work that goes into it. There was also a welcome emphasis on house and techno this year. Where in the past those genres felt more like a side dish, this time around they were fully integrated into the lineup. Call Super, Roman Flügel and Paul Woolford (who also played a killer set of hardcore and jungle as Special Request) were all given headlining slots, next to locals like ESB, Flørist, DJ D.DEE and Tyler Fedchuk. Fedchuk, an under-the-radar staple of Vancouver's house scene, played a mix of synth wave, Italo, old-school house and even some Ministry, underlining how far the musical policy of the festival has come over the years. 
    Call Super was another artist who surprised me. After missing his Saturday night slot—he was accidentally driven to Salmo, about five hours east, where a bigger festival called Shambhala happens in August—the Berlin-based artist was given a chunk of Max Ulis's coveted closing slot. He played one of the most adventurous sets of the weekend, weaving in Opus III's "It's A Fine Day" and Orbital's "Halcyon On And On" between all kinds of techno and house tracks I wouldn't have expected to hear at Bass Coast five years ago.  It was difficult not to compare this year's festival to past editions. My trip to Bass Coast two years ago was among the best festival experiences I've ever had. I was curious how coming back with some distance—I'm no longer a resident of Vancouver—would change my perception, but it turns out it's still as magical as ever. If anything, my return only highlighted the extent to which it celebrates everything British Columbia's electronic music scene has to offer. As the region's house scene earns international attention, the eight-hour drive between Vancouver and bass music-loving Nelson can sometimes seem like an impassable cultural gulf. But at Bass Coast the two combine beautifully, fostering an experience that you won't get anywhere else. It's a festival that remains doggedly committed to nurturing its local community while earning its place on the world stage.
    Photo credit / Concert Socks Dodd's Eye Media JoffreyPhoto Third Eye Arts AllieKat Photography