Hoola Knows What it Takes to Run Shambhala
The Living Room stage director shares behind-the-scenes details on Canada's largest electronic music festival.
Photo courtesy of Shambhala Music Festival Wordpress. We've hit the halfway mark to Shambhala's 18th birthday and the countdown is on. Only a few more months now till we're frolicking half-naked, donning nothing but body paint, and listening to sounds of today's electronic music landscape.
Many of us will load up the vehicles, travel to the legendary Salmo ranch, enter into an electronic music vortex, and forget our own names. But for Mike Paine (aka Hoola) it means it's time to head back to work on his old stomping grounds. "I grew up in Nelson my whole life," says Paine. "I spent a year in Halifax in '98 or '99. That was actually during the first year of Shambhala. Although I was headlining it that year, I wasn't actually physically there. They played my tape instead."
After almost two decades working for Shambhala, it's a wonder that Paine can even recall the beginning. Hell, most of us can barely remember what went down in the mountains just last year?four days of varied substance ingestion in the forest can leave your memory rather foggy. Yet Paine looks back to a time when a small group of Kootenay kids began building what would become one of Canada's biggest electronic music events. "We didn't really anticipate it. Maybe some of us did. But Jimmy pretty much knew that one day we were going to have ten thousand people here," says Paine of the festivals founder, Jimmy Bundschuh. "He really saw it was possible. That's why they say 'Jimmy had the vision.'"
As the festival was steadily increasing in attendees and artists, Bundschuh and the crew had trouble keeping up. By year three, Paine jumped in to help steer the festival through the uncharted territory.
"I remember one Friday night, where the person in charge of the bookings at the time had all the DJs show up, but he didn't have any idea where any of them were playing," says Paine. "We sat there and hammered out schedules for three days and three nights with the people he had booked. Right after that, I suggested to Jimmy that he should let me organize this for him from then on, because no one else was going to do it."
His overtake in organizing the festival would not have been possible without the help of his wife, and partner-in-crime, Sarah Spicer (aka Lion S). "By year four, my wife and I took over the bookings for the entire festival," he says. "I had more of the ideas, but she was the glue."
The twosome were soon named 'The Pride' and began overseeing the talent bookings for the festival. They also began running their own stage called The Living Room.
Over the years, The Living Room has evolved into a groovy, downtempo sanctuary where Shambhala attendees come to mellow out and chill out to funky beats. After the sun sets, the party continues beside the Salmo River. The Living Room stage illuminates the DJ booth with sumptuous visuals as flames shoot into the night sky. Beside the stage, a secret garden awaits those looking to get lost in a lush dreamland.
In addition to running The Living Room, The Pride have also organized copious other events throughout the Kootenays and Vancouver. Recently, they held a successful monthly in Vancouver called "HOME: A Monthly Kootenay Time in the City". The monthly became a Vancouver favourite for those who couldn't bear to spend any more time apart from their beloved Shambhala grounds. "Last year Jimmy told me he wanted us to promote more in Van," Paine explains. "So I decided to host a night showcasing the DJs that have either played or will play at The Living Room, and also DJs who are from the Koots area. So to bring the Kootenay vibe to the city."
Over the past year, the monthly has showcased a wealth of talent, including Truth, Sabo, Moontricks, El Papachango, and The Librarian. "The Truth show was probably the biggest one we've had out of all the events," says Paine. As a Shambhala 2014 favourite at The Living Room, it's no surprise that Truth brought in just as many in Vancouver as he did this past summer on the ranch.
Paine, Bundschuh, and the crew are still pushing the boundaries and taking it to the next level?as if rapidly selling out of tickets last year wasn't enough. Currently, Paine is back in the Kootenays working with the ol' team to revive a historic building in Nelson and turn it into Shambhala's own nightclub.
"Jimmy decided that he wanted to expand Shambhala as a back-up plan," says Paine. "Things change. It's been a really good run for him, but why not expand, have a backup plan and start a business in Nelson. He bought the old Fluid Club which is where we started doing all our shows."
Paine is confident the Shambhala club will become a popular attraction in the Kootenay area. "If you like Shambhala, this place is going to be state of the art shit," he declares. "It's going to be next level. I'm willing to bet that it will be one of the coolest clubs in Canada. He's putting 24 projectors in the ceiling, and there will be video mapping. We're also putting in a PK Sound system. It's going to be everything that you can imagine."
As solid as Shambhala has been for the last 17 years, one can only dream of the endless possibilities for the new club. Whether or not you were sober for Shambhala, we can all agree that entering any stage at the festival is an alternate reality on its own. If that's any indication, you can bet that this club will be top notch in terms of sound quality, design, and vibe. "When it opens, it will be quite something," says Paine with a grin. "People don't even know what they're in for."
With the new club underway, Paine has found himself back in Nelson full-time. But what better place to continue building dreams than the very spot where your dreams once began. "The Shambhala club is where I'm going to take it next," announces Paine. "I'm going to bring it home."
Hollie is on Twitter: @holliedmcgowan