In 2009, a relatively small music festival in B.C. called Bass Coast Project began with an incredibly clear vision. Not only focused on a continually impeccable roster of innovative electronic music, but equally on principles of artistic presentation and community building, co-founders Andrea Graham and Liz Thomson have overseen the growth of a truly unique event. Since the festival is not affiliated with any corporate sponsorship, there are no stages named after cell phone providers reminding you that your next bill is coming. Instead, Bass Coast provides an oasis for those looking for something other than the cookie-cutter festival; a cohesive and organically created world in which every aspect of the event is a carefully curated artistic creation.
This summer sees Bass Coast move from its original Squamish location to a beautifully scenic riverside spot in Merritt, B.C. The new site is larger, yet the number of attendees has been capped at 3,000, compared to an estimated 5,000 who turned up in 2012. This transition, in creating more space for fewer people, is an exemplary move by a group that puts the intimate individual experience at the forefront of its manifesto. There is obvious appreciation for working with the surrounding environment at Bass Coast, instead of simply viewing it as an empty space to be used, and this is highlighted by the way in which art installations and workshop programming is selected. With an increasing number of festivals both in B.C. and beyond clamouring for attention, it is too easy to reduce a decision to a detached online comparison of lineups. Whilst the musical programming at Bass Coast ranks among the best of these festivals, it says a lot that one could buy a ticket and get more than your money’s worth solely by attending some of the workshops and classes that are provided, whether it be in government and community organization, music production, lifestyle and wellness, or physics and cymatics. This creates an atmosphere at the festival that empowers each person attending and breaks down barriers between performer and ticket holder. People are encouraged to become active rather than passive attendees, and it’s hard not to be inspired by this energetic cacophony to return home after the sunrise on Monday morning refreshed, sun-kissed, and with more ideas and inspiration than you know what to do with. At the very least, it’s enough to keep you up dancing all night.
Naturally, the festival traditionally leans towards the sub-heavy end of the musical spectrum, but limitations are clearly a foreign concept to the organizing crew, so everything in between is present: from daytime soul and reggae jams, to live experimental electronic music, house and techno. A huge total of $20,000 was awarded to applications for arts installations with each artist required to create a small business plan for their installations with consideration to using reclaimed materials, transportation, safety, budget and waste. The workshop area, previously named ‘The Brain,’ has been upgraded to a ‘Bigger Brain,’ with a larger audience capacity and the added opportunity for more intimate one-to-one chats with presenters.
As with every festival, it’s impossible to take part in everything that’s going on, so we’ve selected a few highlights from the upcoming weekend to give just a small insight into what Bass Coast has to offer.
A standout member of the seminal dubstep label Deep MEDi Musik, Goth Trad’s productions are rooted in the original dubstep movement yet characterized by an innovative sense of fluidity that surpasses any expectation. Visiting from Tokyo, Takeaki Maruyama’s expert ability to combine overpowering dynamics with a considered sense of mood, tone, and harmony will be a truly fitting feature of the weekend.
Otherwise known as Andrea Graham and one of the originators of Bass Coast, The Librarian is always a must-see fixture of the weekend. Her own productions expertly combine delicately soulful melodies with heavy low-end frequency, which allow her DJ performances to be emotive whilst at the same time highly energetic. Somehow, having worked for months to make the weekend a success, you can guarantee that this is when the energy will be at its highest.
One of the hardest working men in the Vancouver electronic music scene, HxDb recently wrapped up a North American and European tour and has had increasing representation on BBC Radio 1, including a wildly dynamic guest mix for B. Traits’ show on BBC 1Extra. His own productions meld bass music with animated percussion elements to form a uniquely captivating and hard-driven sound.
Garnering high praise from Claude VonStroke as “one of those rare gifted DJs who I love to listen to”, Jessica ‘J.Phlip’ Phillipe has skyrocketed over the past few years and become one of the key members of the infamous Dirtybird San Francisco label. Able to represent the bass-heavy tech-house sound of the label without foregoing the ghetto funk vibe which makes her music so danceable, J Phlip is focused solely on making a crowd move and shake.
Formerly known as Grahmzilla as part of Thunderheist, Toronto resident and Montreal native Graham Bertie is now producing a more considered style of electronic music as Nautiluss. Having only changed direction a few years ago, he has already had hugely well-received releases on Turbo Recordings and Hemlock. His music lends a heavy emphasis to mood, and though his style is varied, when geared towards the dance floor his high production skills create an innovative take on techno and bass traditions.
At last year’s festival, the Calgary duo comprised of Dan Solo and Evangelos Typist presented a stunning set of cerebral ambient techno, with refined percussion lines and immersive bass frequencies providing the perfect start to Sunday’s proceedings. Their releases since last year, notably MM01 on Modern Math Recordings, have seen their sound evolve to incorporate more elements of minimal house and techno amongst expertly designed ethereal soundscapes.
Humans are a prime example of how much variety one can expect at Bass Coast, proving that it is above all production and performance quality that transcends genre in promoting innovative electronic music. With reverb-drenched vocals, relentlessly energetic synth lines and powerful drums, the Vancouver duo creates a sound that is almost impossibly animated for being just two people, and perfect for a sunny festival stage.
ART INSTALLATIONS & WORKSHOPS:
Christian Borrego & gBikes
Christian Borrego, a Vancouver-based artist who has participated in extensive collective art exhibitions and one man shows in Arizona, Australia, Vancouver and Mexico, was the initial choice for a headlining art installation at Bass Coast. “However,” states Liz Thomson, “soon after this, gBikes – a group from Vancouver that builds and exhibits pedal-powered electricity-generating creations sent in an application. This presented an exciting opportunity so we married the two installations and the artists were connected to join forces to make one great headlining installation.”
Chris Paine is most noted for being the writer and director of Who Killed the Electric Car? and Revenge of the Electric Car, two of the most widely distributed activist documentaries of recent times. He also founded the counter-spin site counterspill.com in the wake of the BP oil disaster. Chris will be presenting “10 Reasons Why They Can’t Kill the Electric Car” in the Bigger Brain, sharing a few stories about electric vehicle myths and realities, speaking about documentary filmmaking and hosting a Q&A session afterwards.
Bass Coast takes place August 2-5 in Merritt, B.C. Tickets and info at basscoast.ca.
By Andy Soloman
Photos: Kevin Su (top) and James Frank (middle)