On the Bass Coast Community with Festival Co-Founder Andrea Graham

Bass-coast-music-festival-24“It’s more than just a festival.”

If you know someone going to a music festival this summer, you’ll have heard this before. This epiphany-in-a-nutshell relates how they had a life-changing experience partying with strangers for the five days they were sequestered in a boozy, druggy camp site, a camp site conveniently situated just outside city limits where liberty can be realized without its accompanying pang of homesickness. With BC’s amenable access to gorgeous climates, pot, and other recreational drugs, as well as a proud and thriving local music scene, we play host to a couple of big festivals whose spellbound attendees get carried away in the moment to say to becoming-deaf ears, “But seriously. It’s more than just a festival.” And the sixth annual Bass Coast, taking place next weekend, starting August 1st and running until the 4th in Merritt, BC, is one up-and-rising festival that deserves the compliment.

Chatting with Bass Coast co-founder Andrea Graham over the phone, her bubbly enthusiasm for the event, a festival that’s grown in attendance with each passing year, shone through.

“I love this time of year because we work all year-round on it, and it’s so much planning and using your imagination. Now it’s physical change. Now it’s time to start installing. All of the members on our team start coming together, so it gets exciting.”

Figuring out a new layout for Bass Coast was one of the planning challenges, given that last year was the first time the festival was held in Merritt, and some of the more common complaints were how everything was too spaced apart from each other.

Graham admitted that “it was a big learning curve to figure out the best type of festival layout.” She continued: “We decided to move all of the activity into the forest behind the Main Stage. The concept is that everything is brought into the forest; it’s all close, and you can wander from stage to stage but check out art installations or stop at a vendor along the way. It’s going to be like a real village.”

With ideas for a makeshift village suggesting the importance of community-building, for Graham as a working artist, Bass Coast stands out as a festival because of its unique line-up consisting of local electronic mainstays such as Calamalka, Taal Mala, and the Funk Hunters. As Graham said, “Bass Coast was originally created to become a platform for the different music and underground arts communities that were already existing in BC. We wanted to be a place for these communities to gather and have the opportunity to co-create, a place where people can come and feel at home. It’s about feeling comfortable here.”

In talking with Graham about the accepting, fun atmosphere Bass Coast provided, I asked her how the festival’s executive staff came up with this year’s theme, “Mutiny,” which is a whole lot different from 2013, otherwise to be remembered as the year of the zebra. “Mutiny” is a strong word that carries political as well as nautical connotations, and to use it for a festival felt like a subversive choice.

Graham recounted how “we were mulling around many different ideas. None of them really settled. We were thinking about what makes festivals like Burning Man or Shambhala so meaningful for people. It’s a movement to create a peaceful revolution where people can build community, gain confidence, and band together with their friends and neighbours to move forward.”

Not to mention that “Mutiny” also goes great thematically with their Pirate Radio Stage. Added with a laugh, Graham observed how “it seems to go hand in hand with who Bass Coast is. If you think about pirates, all the artists involved are pirates. They decided to step out of the box, make their music, and put it out there for the world to see.” One for all, and all for one.

Reaching out to one of Bass Coast’s veteran acts, Humans, who recently performed at the West 4th Ave. Khatsahlano Street Party, and whose debut LP will be coming out in February, band co-founder Peter Ricq noted how playing at Bass Coast as opposed to other festivals was, in a sense, freeing. “I feel like we can perform things that we sometimes wouldn’t at other festivals. We can play darker, edgier tracks, and the crowd is dancing the whole time. It’s kind of special that way.”

Intrigued to see sets by friends such as 8PRN, A Tribe Called Red, and Ryan Wells, to pick a random few, it was a neat parallel to a similar thought Graham touched on when she remarked how “as much as Bass Coast is a festival for attendees, all of the producers and artists also stay the whole weekend because they like the opportunity to spend time together. And collaborations come out, which I think the [new Bass Coast Records] label is a prime example of.”

Humans, the subject of Bass Coast’s remix contest last year, passed the torch this year to Natasha Kmeto. Kmeto’s remix EP launched the Bass Coast record label earlier this month on July 15, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

Ricq expressed support: “The remix EPs from Bass Coast keep on getting more attention. It will be a great place to see the progression and growth as a label, and ultimately, a festival.”

The decision to pick Kmeto as the artist to lead the label was a no-brainer from the way Graham told it. “Natasha played last year for her first time, and was relatively unknown, but just blew everyone away. She makes her own beats, and she’s a singer, so she has all the elements of electronic and live music wrapped up into one. She’s captivating.”

With a line-up that features new names on the bill, such as international acts Paleman, Falcons, and Sweater Beats sharing the stage with regulars such as Wax Romeo, Thugfucker, and Blondtron, Bass Coast has in store for its attendees a weekend getaway that is downright hard to resist.

Plucking underground bass producers from our backyard and depositing them in an oasis-style playground with giant art installations contributed by 25 artists, Bass Coast is one festival to be checked out by people who love art, raves, and individuals.