The Essence of Bass Coast

The first festival saw 450 people attend, but that number has doubled every year to the point where it’s now capped at 3,000 people. Photo: Lindsay Donovan

By Andrea Hoff
Published: Dec. 22, 2012

The warehouse looks like a movie prop-shop – complete with   mannequins, assorted furniture, enough wood to construct a small cabin, multi-coloured hanging lamps and a giant hand-made disco ball.

“We’re looking at opening up this space for workshops, building projects and art creation,” Andreas Graham says.

The workshop is one element of the three-day summer festival called Bass Coast (in addition to the music, performance art, and visual installations).

Yoga, organic gardening, physics, comedy, dance, and music production: The warehouse offers a potential venue to run workshops throughout the year – encouraging the idea that Bass Coast may begin at the festival but it doesn’t end there.

Bass Coast, now in its fifth year, is the creative project of co-founders Andrea Graham and Liz Thomson.

It’s a two-part electronic music festival: the main festival – a three-day event, held each August in the pristine setting of the Squamish Valley and a Halloween event which takes place in Squamish – this year housed at the recently vacated Garibaldi Five Cinema Complex.

But that’s not all Bass Coast is. It’s also a showcase of local and international visual and electronic artists, it’s a destination music event with a socially conscious directive – and it’s a very successful business model.

Having wrapped up from their annual Halloween event, Andrea Graham (also known by her DJ name: the Librarian) is already organizing for the festival next summer.

Andrea’s inspiration for Bass Coast arose from her love of electronic music, but both women co-founders have roots in the arts and in festival culture.

Andrea’s background is in live performance. She played piano, guitar and sang – before exploring electronic music and performing as a DJ. Liz’s background is in kinesiology and multimedia production.

It was their travel to the Burning Man Festival in the Black Rock desert of Nevada that ignited the concept for Bass Coast.
They realized a part of Burning Man could be translated and transformed to the Sea to Sky corridor.

The first festival saw 450 people attend, but that number has doubled every year to the point where they have capped it at 3,000 people.
Another aspect of the community minded strategies are in the economics of the project. Andrea says Bass Coast is about building a community.

There is no corporate sponsorship. The artisan vendors sell handmade art, clothing, jewellery, and healthy organic food.

“We source as much as we can locally,” Graham says.

“We’ve estimated our direct contribution to the Squamish economy is $350,000.”

The festival is also organised and run primarily by these two women, with the help of men.

“Women working in these art forms see that it’s possible to do something big without any corporate sponsorship,” says Liz Thompson.

Bass Coast is also growing and gaining acknowledgment around the world. Performers now travel here each summer from all over the globe.

“I perform all over the world and Bass Coast is the first festival I schedule on my calendar,” says Crystal Precious.

As Bass Coast’s success grows, Andrea and Liz look to encourage further local participation.  Bass Coast has set up an artists’ grant program, and is looking for international and local creative people to apply. More information on the grant will be made available in January.

Bass Coast is however, not without controversy.

There have been noise complaints and some Squamish Valley residents are less than thrilled to have the festival in their backyard.

Maurice Freitag, director for the SLRD Area D, says there might be a controversy anything people haven’t seen before.

“The Bass Coast, however, has a willingness to change the way they do business,” he said.

Andrea and Liz have been working each year on improving the sound distribution, and trying to find creative ways to absorb the music back into the crowd.

Bass Coast speaks to something more than an electronic music festival.

To the question “Who are we?” Bass Coast answers:

“We are a group of ambitious creative people with a common love of underground arts.”

That sentiment seems to have resonated with thousands of attendees who have come to Squamish, eager to immerse themselves in a common love for music and community.