The Founders: On Duality, Family, & that Bass Coast Vibe

With just a few days until the gates open, on-site and overseeing a thousand things at once, Bass Coast co-founder/artist director Liz Thomson gets straight to the point.

“The literal definition of duality is the instance of opposition between two entities, concepts or elements,” Liz explains. “I feel like in our community we have people who listen to different music, dress differently and are into different things, but that duality is also what creates a bond—our differences unite us.” And that unity—of acceptance, creativity and total in-the-moment enjoyment—is the secret to what is becoming known as the Bass Coast ‘Vibe.’ To use an old adage: there might be two sides of a coin, but there’s only one coin.

   Bass Coast CoFounders Andrea & Liz


“Over the years, we’ve been trying to dissect what ‘Vibe’ means,” Liz says. “Is it the stages, the music, the art, all the details we obsess over? But really the vibe is just the people that come here.” And the people that come back. As Bass Coast enters its second decade (or as co-founder/director of music Andrea Graham calls it, “our pre-teen years”) there is a large group of attendees that have literally grown up with this festival and have bought into the ethos of cultural sensitivity, harm reduction, respect and creativity Liz and Andrea have spent the past ten years incubating. 'From the start Andrea and I knew this was where we would get too,” Liz explains, as she their teams construct the biggest festival yet. “What it looks like now is how it looked in our head in year one. The amazing thing is the team we connected with along the way. The attendees, the volunteers, and especially our managers—almost every manager has returned year after year, so now Bass Coast is built on the dreams and visions of a huge collection of people that will lead us to things Andrea and I would never have imagined. It’s not just us anymore, it’s everyone.”

The carefully curated music, art and experiences, combined with that “everyone” vibe, has fueled Bass Coast’s growing reputation and fast accumulating accolades (voted “Best North American Boutique Festival” by DJ Mag, the international authority on electronic music). The international attention is translating into new and exciting artists on stage. “The number one thing is artists love playing here because the audience is open-minded and they feel like they can be themselves and not have to play to expectations,” explains Andrea, who will be rocking two sets this year, her standard Sunday night blow out as well as an afternoon in the Cantina. “The positive press, and word spreading between artists definitely helps us. We have some legends coming this year and the line up is more diverse than ever—more women, more ethnicities, but still keeping a strong focus on talent from the Pacific Northwest. Our local artists are so amazing.” The highlight this year, for both Andrea and Liz, is that UK-based global music platform Boiler Room will be on-site streaming live from the Cantina. 

"Saturday will be bass and Sunday will be house, it's duality!" Andrea laughs. “I’m really excited because they set the booth up in the middle of the dance floor and it’s all about the integration of the audience and the performer. It’s like a living room dance party on a large scale.”

“Boiler room has been a dream of ours for so long,” Liz adds. “Honestly we didn’t know if we could do it and now here they are. It really shows how far we’ve come.” Capping tickets each year to manage growth, Liz and Andrea continue to evolve every aspect of Bass Coast in the smartest way possible. The stages, the workshops the light shows, the investment into audio and the mix of musical and visual artists is constantly evolving. Less noticeable, but equally important, each year any inefficiencies or issues recognized over the 4-day festival are noted and dealt with. “Feedback, we love it,” Liz explains. “We look at every piece of feedback that comes in and if something is coming up a few times we fix it.” So when you show up at Bass Coast this year: for Shanti Celeste in the Boiler Room or Nightmares on Wax on the main stage, for Smalltown DJs or Foxy Moron, for Kanami’s laughter yoga or Philippe’s panel on psychedelics or Paula’s cedar weaving teepee, to gaze at the stars through Spencer’s robotic telescope or fall into a new sonic universe with the Righteous Rainbows of Togetherness… whatever it is that pumps your stoke and lifts your spirit remember that we all show up together—for ourselves, for each other, and especially for the visionary women that started it all: two sides of a very awesome coin.

“I love going up for the moment the gates open,” Andrea says. “Everyone is so excited and you hear stories of where they came from and what they’ve done to get here. People from all over coming together again…it’s a special moment for us.” “It’s a family reunion,” Liz adds. “Never have I felt so strongly that everyone is connected and striving to make themselves better. It’s a family, and I’m so thankful for that.”

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