Artists open up on their Bass Coast experiences

Photos by Alli Hayes, Feature illustration by Kyla Yin (@kyinskies)

By Alli Hayes

The ninth edition of Bass Coast Electronic Music and Arts Festival  secreted soul-nurturing vibes even before early entry kick-off. After attending Bass Coast three times, I entered my fourth year at the festival feeling excited for the resets and shifts in my perspective that this festival nurtures. Bass Coast reassures you that you are loved, that you have motivation and influence to offer your peers. Bass Coast helps incubate your inner artist.

There are so many ways to take part at Bass Coast, to volunteer, and to gain authentic, holistic knowledge in music, art, and natural wellness.

In 2012, I attended. I had not declared myself as a songwriter or an artist. I was still grinding away in university, not considering or honouring my multidimensionality – a major theme of Bass Coast’s provisions.

Opening up to the inner energy that you can provide is not the same experience for everyone, but trusting that if you give yourself space to play, you may shock yourself in a big, fun way. I caught up with four woke women, who dished different aspects of opening up to their creative channels through Bass Coast and how it has rippled into their lives.

I sat down with Rahel Claman, a Vancouver-based renown professional belly dancer and instructor; Isis Graham (Esette), Calgary-based music producer, director of the Alberta Electronic Music Conference and A/R of Substation Recordings; Brittany Sharpe, Vancouver- based Vinyasa yoga teacher and retreat maverick; and Jenn Flak (J.F. Killah), Vancouver- based music producer and DJ, also a member of ShahDJ’s and half of music duo Levrige. Bass Coast has provided her largest crowd at her DJ set to date.

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How have you seen Bass coast grow and evolve alongside yourself? Any interesting correlations in your dance/music/creativity/life?

Rahel: I’ve only been to Bass Coast three times, but what I’ve observed since the first one I went to in Squamish, is the massive focus and growth in the art culture. The amount of creativity and effort that now goes into the stages, the art installations, and performances is amazing. It’s been beautiful watching that vision mature and realize. For myself, each year, sometimes each month, I feel like I’m gradually becoming more of the dancer that I want to be. My ability, my confidence, and my facility are constantly growing as well as changing, and I feel like the festival and I have that in common. My first and second years at Bass Coast I was just a participant and observer, my third year I taught a bellydance workshop, one that I feel I could far surpass now. And this year I’m performing as an actor/dancer in a music video that’s being shot on site, just to give an example.

Isis: My first Bass Coast was in 2011. Andrea asked me to play and it was the first big festival booking I’d had in my career. This was in their mystical Squamish location and I fell in love the moment I stepped foot on the grounds. My set that year was an early morning set: 4 to 6 a.m. type thing. I played on Slay Bay, which at the time was a giant grasshopper made out of these re-purposed wooden strips. The stage was facing the glacier mountain and I remember playing this one disco-esque, feel good tune at around 5 a.m. and the sunshine peaked over the mountain and sent these beautiful sun beams into the grasshopper and I felt this very intense magical feeling to the point where I actually had tears in my eyes and thought I might have died. For the two to three years leading up to Bass Coast that year, I had been going through a very transitional and bizarre time in my music career. I was making oddball music, writing indie rock, touring with Piper Davis and then making some bass music which was fairly far-fetched from my years playing house music. At one point I was considering quitting music altogether. That year, I left Bass Coast feeling completely realigned with my love for house music and had a renewed sense of purpose and drive to keep playing and making music. I rushed back and got into the studio and started writing house records again, started playing shows again and generally just taking myself much more seriously. The rest is history. Big thanks to Andrea and Liz for giving me the opportunity to have that experience, I don’t honestly know where I’d be right now without it.

I think the wonderful thing about Bass Coast and the people who attend the festival is that we are quite committed to our community and want to see it grow. Many of these artists on the West Coast got their start from Bass Coast or other small festivals like it. It’s been so special to watch the artists and the festival blossom together and see the magnitude of influence they all have on music in the world. Playing Bass Coast motivates me to keep making music year after year in order to be able to continuously take part as a relevant artist on their lineup. It is a reason that I keep going  and missing Bass Coast would certainly create a huge void for me emotionally!

Brittany: I have seen Bass Coast grow immensely in a beautiful way. They are really stepping into there own and have created something extremely special and unique. Since creativity is their underlying objective for the festival, people are truly able to embody their own authentic selves when they’re there. A few years back I was watching my now boss and close friend Susan Horning teach a yoga class, and I thought to myself, “Man, I’d love to work for her.” Fast forward three years later and I teach at her studio in Vancouver and am now offering a movement workshop at Bass Coast! This just goes to show that anything is possible and I really feel the festival teaches you this wisdom. Bass Coast is a blessing and it truly brings people together.

Jenn: As I’ve been to each Bass Coast since year two, I’ve definitely seen the festival grow and evolve, starting out as a small festival showcasing mostly local talent, growing to one of the most talked about festivals on the West Coast featuring many world class artists. As the festival has grown and evolved, so has my musical taste and style. I started out playing strictly Drum n Bass, I didn’t ever think I liked house until I heard Justin Martin play at Bass Coast. That is just one example of how being exposed to various sub-genres of music led me to begin dabbling with other sounds I wasn’t previously into until eventually a lot of of my sets started including multiple genres. Bass Coast does a great job of showcasing electronic music that is quite left-of-centre and I think that’s a huge contributing factor in new styles catching my ear.

What’s been a memorable [Bass coast] festival blooper you can think of?

Rahel: I’ve been wracking my brain and can’t think of anything super relevant or even entertaining. My Bass Coasts have been fairly smooth sailing I guess! But the first thing that comes to mind is two years ago some of my friends locked themselves out of their truck. Luckily I have a membership with BCAA and was able to get them a free tow truck to come and unlock it for them. Womp, Womp. It pays to be responsible, kids!

Isis: Personal blooper? Being so nervous in 2013 that Ryan Wells asked me how I was going to follow Detroit Swindle and I upchucked my cookies for about 30 minutes straight before my set. Nervous doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt in that moment. I don’t know if these are bloopers, but my favourite funny memories of Bass Coast would have to be Samantha Blondtron in the mud wrestling contest in 2011. The whole scene was just so hilarious that my sides hurt after. I revisit the shoddy video I took of that event from time to time with the Funk Hunters on the top of the bus and all the girls covered in mud and bruises. I’d have to say Andrea breaking her ankle that year in the rain was also a huge blooper, but like the champion she is, she did the whole weekend on crutches! Also, whoever that Banana planting guy was last year; YOU ROCK AND YOU MADE MY SATURDAY MORNING!

Brittany: A memorable festival blooper I can think of was back in 2014 when they had that funny area set up where it was a guy and his girlfriend giving out free paddywhacks with a stick and taking our underwear afterwards! Super outrageously funny and awesome!

Jenn: One year Andrea (Librarian) jumped off the main stage and ended up landing wrong and broke her ankle, went to the hospital, came back and rocked her set. Not sure if it’s really a blooper cause it wasn’t necessarily funny but it is definitely an incident that sticks out in my mind. I was just like “Damn girl, now that’s commitment!”

Tapping into your inner goddess can be overwhelmingly fun. have you surprised yourself with uncovering inspiration in yourself/ your dance? What have you seen Bass Coast do for the female community that really speaks to you?

Rahel: I’ve surprised myself in my ability to become stronger than I thought. I always thought that dance would be my only exercise until it caught up to me and I started to suffer from joint pain and general wear and tear. I saw a physiotherapist who specializes in dance which helped a little, but what really ended up helping me in the end was working with a personal trainer, lifting weights, and getting even stronger than I already was. Not only did this help with my pain but it also improved my dance, my balance, my endurance, and my control. I love that doing something normatively “masculine” in a conventional gender-stereotype kind of way, helped me be better at something that is seen as inherently feminine.

I love that Bass Coast is primarily run by a bunch of badass babes who express their femininity and feminism in a variety of modalities, from sexual empowerment through twerking and pole dancing to women acting in conventionally masculine and/or androgynous roles or aesthetic. Bass Coast creates a safe space for women to express their power in the way that works for them, in (as far as I’ve seen) a non-judgmental way. Best of all, there is open inclusion of men and male energy within the more archetypically feminine expressions of sexuality, and enthusiastic support and participation from our male-identifying allies. It’s really beautiful.

Isis: Yes absolutely, the early morning closing sets that I’ve done at Bass Coast essentially had me feeling like I was having some kind of divine intervention. I’ve always felt so tapped-in at [the] festival that what happens there is simply not like anything else I do at any other event or show. I think the fantastic part about the culture at Bass Coast is that it’s always been clearly evident that there is a large feminine influence in the art, typography, design and curation of music. Indirectly and directly, I think [it] inspires women to step forward into the most powerful versions of themselves. I think the presence of so much female talent on the bill always endorses and supports the general notion that women are valuable contributors to our community and I am certain that this trickles down elsewhere in our scene and community. There are more female/female identifying run labels, collectives and art groups now than ever in the west, I’d bet that Bass Coast has something to do with that.

Brittany: I feel like I have surprised myself for sure. We are all so quick to second guess ourselves or get stuck in our thoughts, but deep down we all have the strength and knowledge to persevere. Bass Coast has brought me to my female tribe at Unity Yoga Tea House in Vancouver. If it weren’t for Bass Coast connecting me to some of my now current mentors, I don’t know where I would be! I really love that the festival offers the “TWERKSHOP” and some incredible dance and movement events. These types of workshops really embody the female energy and it allows women to express themselves freely in a comfortable environment.

Jenn: Being surrounded by so many babes at this festival (they don’t call it babe coast for nothing) definitely makes it challenging for me to feel like a goddess a lot of the time. That being said, I think this festival really does a lot to inspire females in general. For starters, the festival is run by two amazing women and they’ve got shit on point! I’ve been to a LOT of festivals, none of which are nearly as organized or well planned out as Bass Coast. In addition, I think they do a great job in curating the line-up to include lots of female artists, not only DJs but performances as well. The festival scene in general tends to be very male dominated, and a lot of the time when big festivals announce their line-ups there are barely any females on the bill (at least in proportion to how many female artists that exist). I think the fact that this festival is run by women and includes many women is very inspiring for any female to observe.

How has Basscoast influenced the work/projects you carry outside of the festival? What do you look forward to the most?

Rahel: Bass Coast always provides visual and musical inspiration for my dance. Whether it’s an aesthetic inspiration or a new track to dance to. I always feel pumped to go home and explore in the studio.

Isis: My biggest artistic takeaway from Bass Coast is always that I don’t need to conform to popular musical norms to have people enjoy what I do. Sometimes in the city as a DJ, you battle with having to play accessible music for crowds who don’t always appreciate who you are at the core artistically. At Bass Coast, I never feel that way. Whenever I’m feeling like a need a boost of confidence or inspiration, I think of playing there and remember that I don’t have to compromise. They gave me a platform to be ME. When I am doing bookings at my own events, I try to remember this as well, I try to book as many woman on my line-ups and try to remember that events can be experiential, experimental, and inclusive to all kinds of different things and mediums. At Bass Coast, the thing I look forward to the most is the late night/early AM sets from incredible DJs. Especially those long Max Ulis sets. Those life changing musical moments where your mind simply opens and transforms. I basically can’t live without those. I love seeing all of the lovely people from the Pacific Northwest all in one place. It’s truly a meeting place for great creative minds and certainly the one time of year that I really feel like I’m on holidays with the people I love most from all time lines in my life.

Brittany: Bass Coast has influenced me to tap into my truth and it reminds me to continue being my own unique self. It has inspired to bring a strong component of ecstatic dance to my future yoga retreats! This year I am really looking forward to watching Justin Martin’s set, as well as trying some yoga classes with talented teachers like :Susan horning, Victoria Grace and Julia McCabe.

Jenn: Every year I am extremely inspired after attending Bass Coast. To me it is a showcase for so many artists that I have become friends with over the years and have seen grow and become more and more talented at what they are doing. Getting to see the community of artists showcase what they’ve accomplished year after year is inspiring and drives me to keep working on production and improving in hopes that one day I will be able to play a headlining slot at the festival. To summarize, it is really a conscientious community of like minded individuals coming together and celebrating what we’ve all worked on creatively year after year and supporting one another to continue creating. Not to mention getting to spend time with people I don’t see as often as I’d like due to the hectic schedules we all seem to have.

Do you have any words of advice you would have given yourself 5 years ago? What have you learned the hard way/overcame through performing at festivals like Bass Coast?

Rahel: If you’re tired, go to bed. It’s not worth being cold for that sexy outfit, either dance until you’re warm, or layer up and be comfortable! You can’t make everyone happy, and you can’t always create the perfect environment for your craft, so make the most of the situation given, and don’t worry about the rest.

Isis: Dear 5 years ago self: Get more sleep. Write more music. Don’t drink as much and buy a camper van immediately. Performing festivals is a gift that I truly hope every DJ can experience at least once in their careers. Not only does it humble you to your core playing on those big rigs alongside world class talent, but it helped me understand the meaning of community and it certainly helps an artist realize their full potential even if things don’t go as planned. Bass Coast helped me over come my fear of failure, a bit of my fear of succeeding and maybe even a little bit of my fear of other people. I’d place bets that the warm embrace of the Bass Coast community could derail even the most hard core antisocial person. You can’t help but smile!

Brittany: If I were to give myself advice 5 years ago, it would be to hang in there! Know that your life is truly guided, trust and believe. Watch it all unfold. This will be my first year offering yoga at Bass Coast. I’m looking forward to the experience and connecting with all the incredible people.

Jenn: Stop being so critical of myself! No matter how much I progress, there is no point in comparing myself to others as I have tended to do as it does not foster creativity or help me improve. Being blessed with the opportunity to perform at Bass Coast numerous times is a reminder that I must be doing something right and to just keep focusing on improving regardless of how slow I feel like it’s happening sometimes. This is something I am constantly reminding myself of.


Alli is a wildcard. Faux fur is her wingman. She is constantly moved by art, cool parties, and independent film, and continues to create her own projects. She wishes her photographic memory did her Instagram more justice.  Check out her blog at