Element Music Festival 7.26 - 7.29.18
Snug Lake Amphitheatre
British Columbia, Canada
Words by J. Picard
Photos by Coleman Schwartz Media
Recordings by Eytan Bernet
Empty bullet casings from a variety of calibers "clinked" and "clanked" with every step along the shore of the aptly named "Guns Lake." It was years before the hippies would roll in, at a time where the sprawling 157 acres was owned and operated by members of the infamous Hell's Angels motorcycle club. What remains of that time are many still uncollected bullet shells, a large house, a massive lodge (inclusive of a jail cell) and local lore kept alive by those who shared the region with the Angels and those who have heard the stories. With almost a decade since the bikers called "Guns Lake" their home, a new direction has unfolded. Land owner, Robert Christy, purchased the land in 2015 with the intention of cleaning up the site and hosting an array of music festivals and events. One of the first changes came with the land's renaming to "Snug Lake Amphitheatre." "Snug" is "guns" backwards and would signify a new era for Robert, the site and a reclaiming of a genre of music in Jam!
With the unexpected loss of one of the team's crucial members, Bruce McCaulay, in addition to forest fires in the region and all of the typical challenges of a first year festival, the deck was stacked against the team. Though the resulting output was an incredibly intimate experience for fans that put Snug on the map, it left Rob with a decision to make regarding the future of the projects. The choice was made to continue the building and by the time planning began for 2018's festival there was an influx of calculation that resulted in an equally impressive line-up to the previous year. Robert's vision of a pure jam festival continued with three nights/six sets of Lotus with multiple performances by Karl Denson's Tiny Universe, Spafford, Particle, Genetics, Yak Attack, McTuff, Naryan Padmanabha, GD/BC, The Unfaithful Servants, Baked Potato and Artists at Large Jen Hartswick & Natalie Cressman of The Trey Anastasio Band and Jason Hann of The String Cheese Incident.
My time in the great white north would span six weeks and would mark my longest time away from my home and my country. What better time to be outside of the States, eh? The month and a half was spent in the British Columbia interior, ripping up and down logging roads on ATVs while dodging the occasional moose or bobcat. The days were long and filled with planning, and the meals, company and sunsets were beautiful. For the first time in my life I had the realization that I may have found my tribe. Leading up to the peak of my trip we explored local towns, a plethora of poutine and I came to decision that Canada is where I felt most at home.
Thursday, July 26:
The team held a meeting for the first time where a variety of things were discussed and the Hoser Cup was presented for the first time to the previous day's MVP. Our head of production, Andy Buxton was awarded the trophy to start due to his excellent oversight of a flawless load in and set up! The hosing began courtesy of our doorless Land Cruiser and a couple of hosers hosing as if dust suppression depended on it... and it did. My family arrived ready for the weekend with fifty MusicMarauders hats in tow for my BC friends! I got them situated in Rob's house and not long to follow Jason Hann arrived for a what would be a weekend full of laughs. Steve Molitz and Particle rolled in next, as if out of my jam past, though with a couple of new players since last our paths crossed. Along our camping ridge and through the aspen grove, beautiful camp sites took shape as vendors prepared their food and wears for consumption. The weekend's first hiccup came in the form of a failed Leslie speaker, which we initially thought was our C3 organ. A swift swap of the Main Stage's B3 and Leslie for safe measure resulted in the late conclusion of soundcheck before the evening's bands began the pre-party!
As night turned to morning, a handful of musicians and staff kept the party going in the jail cell of the lodge laughing, ribbing and telling stories until the sun came up...
Coleman's Thursday Gallery
Friday, July 27:
The sun rose on what would be a beautiful day in the BC interior. The air smelled of pine and the swallows dipped and dove in every direction. Coffee resulted in some great conversation, which resulted in cannabis, which segued into creative motivation. There were a few loose ends and tasks to tend to on the morning before additional guests arrived at Snug, but overall the site was clean and beautiful! The Lake Stage came to life for the first time, with Yoga hosted by Emmy Chahal and sitar courtesy of Naryan Padmanabha. Such a relaxing start to the day could only be followed by some transitional sitar from yoga to space. Sitar sounds bounced off of the lodge and climbed up the hill while the beach began to welcome swimmers and floaters to the gem of Snug, its lake. It was even more beautiful of an experience than we could have imagined.
The festival's staff from the green team to the kitchen to gates were all operating at full steam ahead ensuring smooth sailing for EMF heading into Particle's monstrous two hour set on the Main Stage. Jason Hann sat in on a couple of tracks and added a great layer to the refueled Particle! Resident artist and sign-maker Phil Evans was awarded the Hoser Cup for his wonderful work on a variety of projects! Dinner was served at the lodge and "local" Grateful Dead tribute band GD/BC set the scene for a wonderful flow from day to night. Up at Rob's house the mood was light and the vibe sort of summer campish as we jumped room to room, drinking, smoking and laughing. The sounds and lights of Lotus poured into the living room as Natalie made cookies for the house. Downstairs at Rob's a bunch of us piled into Hartswick's and Abby Radbill's (box office) room where a mini bar had taken shape and Jen was telling stories in a Jersey accent. Things were getting loose as we gathered out on the patio; the vantage point was perfect to see the near full moon rise over Lotus and the lodge.
Lotus Live at Snug Lake Ampitheatre on 7.27.18
Set One: Bellwether, Middle Road, Suitcases, Caywood, Slow Cookin' > Golden Ghost > Intro To A Cell > Shimmer and Out
Set Two: Bubonic Tonic > Sleep When We Are Dead, Destroyer, Flower Sermon, Faceblind, Sid > Soma, 128
Coleman's Friday Gallery
Saturday, July 28:
Cloudy eyes opened to a world in a beautiful state at Snug. The sun was shining, people were smiling, yoga and sitar were just taking shape and we weren't even at the halfway point of the weekend. It was clear that there wasn't going to be a huge turn out, which meant it would be an even more intimate and attentive experience for our guests. The team felt great about the product and dug in deeper to enjoy the event. Coffee was brewed, breakfast was served, folks were already in the lake and enjoying some sitar before bluegrass. The Unfaithful Servants created a wonderful sound under the midday sun and to an appreciative crowd. In the lake there were rafts, canoes, a sailboat and people in their element in a picturesque setting. Word that a government official had arrived and was touring the site on a golf kart with security came over the radio. By the time Rob and I had a chance to intercept them on an ATV, our head of security had already offered to let him borrow a pair of swim trunks for a dip in the lake. The gentleman, who was there to evaluate our security team specifically communicated that he expected to show up to find a bunch of wasted hippies, but instead was thrilled to stumble upon a mellow and magical family vibe.
Much like the previous year, the improvised set took shape like a dream as music fans made their way to the Lake for the special occasion. The musicians were having fun, the output was tops and out of nowhere a hippie shows up with a weed cannon, pouring cannabis into the contraption rapidly as if it were the end of the world. It was a hilariously chaotic moment, where I steered him away from the stage with a joint in my mouth. The night prior we had offered the following day's "Surprise Set" to Jen and Natalie. Halfway through what became Naryan & Friends, Jen leaned down to me and said "can we just do this again tomorrow?" It was clear that all involved were having a great time!
Karl Denson took to the Main Stage and there were repeats which didn't thrill me, though the set was energetic and the crowd enjoyed it. GD/BC played us through dinner again, with an impressive crowd and as I dined on the balcony over looking the lake, my father strolled up in a pair of flower overalls that I had sewn in high school. It was a hilarious moment on an already great day in my happy place! An amazing day turned to an wondrous night. Back at Rob's we layered up and headed out to the patio to enjoy Lotus among friends. Our artists at large were kicking back, drinks were flowing and Lotus was playing at a high level. Amidst all of the euphoria it was a repeated "come to Jesus moment" filled with hilarity and the kind of laughs that not only hurt your stomach, but your back as well. It was almost emotional with the realization that I was right were I wanted to be, with the people I love, doing what we all love to do.
Lotus Live at Snug Lake Ampitheatre on 7.28.18
Set One: Jump Off, Opo*, Livingston Storm > Expired Slang, Marisol, Eats The Light, Gilded Age
Set Two: Inspector Norse > Cosmosis, Hammerstrike, Sift > Nematode > In The Bliss > Greet The Mind, Once In A Lifetime**
*Jen Hartswick & Natalie Cressman
**Once In A Lifetime with Jason Hann
Coleman's Saturday Gallery
Sunday, July 29:
The day began a bit hazy, but coffee and excitement solved that. The patio provided a great point for reflection while coming to on a weekend that we had dreamed about for so long. I was proud of our team who operated on a high level. I was proud of the risk we took and the resulting feedback we were getting up to that point. We still had one last day to ride the train into the station and we were going to make the most of it! One final sitar and Yoga session was followed by BC's own Baked Potato and the surprise set on the Main Stage with a repeat of Saturday's stellar line-up and less structure. The festival was wrapping up swimmingly without any issues, meaning the staff could enjoy their final day of the event. I said goodbye to my family who had a flight to catch later in the evening out of Seattle and escorted them to the end of the driveway on an ATV.
Riding the high from the Main Stage to The Barn, the energy up top began to peak as Yak Attack took the stage for what was supposed to be interlocking sets with Genetics. Yak created a dance party as lasers spread across the room and Genetics pre-gamed for their sets. The music came to a stop and Genetics took the stage. It was a bit confusing to the team as it was meant to be a non-stop flow. Genetics dove into heavy instrumentation as Yak re-pre-gamed for their final set. Another complete stop took place, Yak played their last set, a complete stop again and Genetics closed out the festival. Both bands performed the Stranger Things theme creating a cool crossover. The music concluded and slowly the early morning came to bring everyone back to reality. Back in the lodge, the recently awarded Hoser Cup winner, David Irish was made to drink from the cup by the kitchen staff in a moment of pure glory.
Lotus Live at Snug Lake Ampitheatre on 7.29.18
Set One: Grayrigg, Cold Facts, Move Too Fast > Juggernaut, Kalea, Blue Giant, Mikesnack > Spiritualize
Set Two: Bug Love, Lucid Awakening, Invincibility Of Youth > Wax > Plant Your Root >, Spaghetti, Age Of Inexperience, Umbilical Moonrise
Coleman's Sunday Gallery
Long days of sleep followed with clean up and the return of the site following the event. Immediately after the festival conversations began with members of our team to re-cap and get feedback while at the same time discussing the future of the project. It was an incredibly positive follow up to a near perfect weekend logistically. We just need people to take the leap and join us in the north. We need folks to trust that the border crossing process is simple and smooth. We want folks to know that once they arrive we will have everything they need for a great weekend including poutine!
I often hear folks criticize the new festival model of packing a line-up with an insane amount of acts, overlapping sets and so many genres that the festival is almost without an identity. The same folks harken back to the golden day of jam festivals while suggesting that those days and those events have passed, to which I say "incorrect. Those golden days are now, the event you're looking for is Element Music Festival and we promise you won't look back." Head to the great white north and have a peak experience at British Columbia, Canada's premier boutique jam festival, August 1 - 4, 2019!