Bass Coast Festival: On Beauty, Community & the Creative Class

By Feet Banks 

“It’s a culture where it is hard to draw the line between participant and observer, or between creativity and its creators. Members of the Creative Class enjoy a wide variety of activities that highlight the collective interest in being participants and not spectators.”
                                                      - Richard Florida, The Rise of the Creative Class (2002)

My old hippie buddy Tolling explained it to me like this: “Back in the 60s, we had a revolution but we had no way to efficiently communicate it. We didn’t have access to media that could travel across the country, let alone around the world. So, the way we spread the good word was through music—anyone could buy a record, or come to a music festival and connect, learn and participate in the revolution.”

The 60s are over, the hippies lost. These days we have technology that connects all of us all the time but, according to Bass Coast’s musical genius Andrea Graham (aka The Librarian), music and festivals still play a key role in building a better future for all of us.

“Connectivity on the internet is part of the solution,” Andrea says, “but I think there is a danger there too because there’s so much clutter out there and so many people are portraying a persona when they represent themselves online. At a music festival, you can get lost in the experience and your true self can emerge.”

Bass Coast visual genius Liz Thompson agrees. “There is a degree of separation missing in a connection built by reading off a screen. I think bringing people together physically at a festival is important, but also doing that while surrounded by nature. How often do people go out into nature and unplug and surround themselves in nature for 3 or 4 days? Not enough. Sometimes I feel like all the music and art is just an elaborate trick we use to get people to go camping. To slow down, hang out and spend two hours making breakfast outside.”

That “elaborate trick” is working. The art and music of Bass Coast are integral parts of the experience, but no some seems that concerned about the specifics: Bass Coast sold out before a single musical act or artist was announced.

“That fascinates me,” Liz says. “What does that say? It says there is a community and an experience and people are coming for that. We didn’t plan on that but it has been happening right from the very first party we threw. It’s not the music or the art or the people or nature, it’s everything. It has to be everything.”

And the eagerness to experience that everything isn’t limited to just the participants. While crafting the Bass Coast musical line up this year, Andrea was contacted by artists all over the world, wanting to come play. “That is exciting,” she says. “We always try to book acts that are creating new genres and breaking a mold. We want music that creates new thoughts and new feelings. So to have a reputation among the artists is amazing.”

With gates opening this week, stages and visual design are falling into place as well. “I was so stuck on my Slay Bay design,” Liz says, “and it made me feel like everything was wrong, but once I solved that I realized nothing was wrong and so much of it is dialled. I’m focusing on the details of the details right now.”

As always, the community of Bass Coast staff and volunteers (500+ people strong) are stepping up to make Liz and Andrea’s creative vision a 4-day mind-blowing reality that they hope will keep Bass Coasters inspired for the remainder of the year. More so than ever before, Bass Coast 2017 hopes to be to be a place to connect, recharge, and discover new avenues of creativity in their own lives.

“That has always been a core value,” Andrea says. “To inspire people to create and seek out new experiences, new shows, new ways of cooking…whatever it is that fuels them.”

“The idea of a ‘Creative Class’ is so intriguing to me,” adds Liz. “The arts are incredible because they transcend economics. If you have an idea but you don’t have the financial opportunity to come to Bass Coast, you just fill out an online form and if your idea is good you get support, you get professional mentorship from our team, you get to network with other artists and you get an exhibition space.”

Since its creation in 2009, Liz and Andrea have given out over $100,000 in arts grants, but the stunning beauty of Bass Coast extends far beyond the stages and installations. The fest has a reputation for bringing together beautiful people, so much so that many refer to it as ‘Babe Coast.’

“We get asked about that all the time,” says Liz. “Why do people become more attractive here? Is something happening within them when they come here that makes a light shine out of them? When you share the experience out here you are using a different part of your brain to communicate with each other, you are using your heart. And it shows through.”

“Everyone is beautiful because they are dropping the masks” Andrea says. “At Bass Coast you get to actually just be your honest self.”

And, in any era, that is a beautiful, revolutionary thing to be.

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