The show must go on

It’s been a challenging year for the West Coast festival scene, as BC faces down its second-worst wildfire season ever. A number of well-loved festivals (Bass Coast and Shambhala) have found themselves facing threats of cancellation head-on. So when FozzyFest fell victim to an onslaught of fire and brimstone, no one was that surprised.

However, the indomitable little festival has proven its mettle in the face of adversity many times. The biblical floods of 2013, and a challenging legal battle in 2016, both threatened to put Fozzy down for good – yet these obstacles did little to slow organizers down, instead making them ever more resilient to the challenges that came their way.

So when the team announced that the show would go on, again, no one was that surprised. About a week after the announcement was made, this author made their way to the historical Métis Crossing site, about an hour northwest of Edmonton, to witness one of the West Coast’s most tight-knit and intimate gatherings in a completely alien location.

The result? A wild reimagining of a tent party, with top-shelf musical curation and genuine, homey production. FozzyFest plowed through yet another challenging year with admirable aplomb.

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Diving right in

Unfortunately, this author had to miss Thursday night’s programming, fostering a wicked case of FOMO. Contemplating the first night’s lineup – Strange Manner, Dubconscious, Woofax, Pigeon Hole, Kali Yuga, Chuurch, HomeSick, Carissa Gem – only exacerbated it, although the tales revelers wove were somewhat consoling.

Fortunately, Friday night loomed large over our arrival that same afternoon. Getting the formalities out of the way was a breeze, and in a matter of minutes, all the major details were in place. Tents were set up, bottles were popped, and all of Fozzy’s collective effervescence was ripe for consumption.

Part of the fun of attending a festival for the first time is that sense of childlike wonder as you explore the grounds. One can only imagine what Fozzy vets felt, after years of growing intimately familiar with Lake Koocanusa. Yet Métis Crossing itself was idyllic, a slice of history tucked away in the prairies, cradled by the Saskatchewan River.

As shadows onsite grew longer and the sun began to dip below the horizon, Burchill took control of the Forest stage. It’s worth repeating that organizers had mere days to relocate the festival, and seeing the Forest in all its glory drove that point home. An imposing collage of triangles, portals and bricks, constantly shifting from one end of the color spectrum to the other, was impressive enough in the dying light, but would take on another identity entirely in a matter of hours.

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Enrapturing listeners with a bespoke blend of funk and house, it’s easy to see why Burchill earned first place in this year’s Dirty Tones DJ Competition. Unafraid of shoehorning futuristic bass bangers into bouts of contagiously dancey Fractal Forest-esque rhythms, the result felt too comprehensive and enthralling to have only lasted an hour. Fellow DJ, Crooka, had a big smile plastered across his face the whole time – as did the rest of the mosh, in its entirety.

After taking another lap around the grounds – pausing at the Crystal Cave stage to catch a glimpse of the Genesa Project – and stopping at camp to prepare for the evening properly, the Forest lured us back in with promises of a stellar performance by Bass Caravan.

Walking back into the Forest in the dead of night felt like discovering another realm. Everything was either pitch black or luridly lit by neon and fires. Raised platforms on either side of the stage served as side stages for the seemingly endless stream of talent that milled around, all soundtracked by what one attendee described as “fucking crazy tunes.”

Overhead, the northern lights danced as wildly as one had ever seen them, iridescent tendrils of green and red that seemed closer to a madman’s hallucinations than actual reality, prompting all sorts of articulations of amazement – smatterings of unashamed, childlike ‘woahhhs.’ For a moment, no one was watching the stage; everyone was dancing with their eyes glued to the skies, as if they were hoping to be raptured during what might’ve been the most magical festival moment of the summer.

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A heartfelt thank you from Bass Caravan’s ringleader segued into another hotly-anticipated appearance from the Fort Knox Five. You’d be hard-pressed to have a bad time with these guys on the buttons – their notoriously versatile selections and irresistible energy make for some of the best dances of the summer. For a moment, FozzyFest was swept up into some sort of funk-fuelled trance.

The abundance of funk, 4/4 beats and frantic DnB lent an atmosphere of familiar unpredictability to FozzyFest. Foregoing the seemingly trendier sounds of riddim and hybrid trap for tried-and-tested classics, with gratuitous interspersions of boundary-breaking bass music, the festival’s curators (and performers!) assembled an unconventional assortment of sounds that felt fresh and enticing.

Mat the Alien, then, felt like a welcome change of pace, taking listeners on a winding exploration of bassweight in all its forms, buttressed by technical and stank-face-inducing scratching. The bone-chilling northern Alberta climate did nothing to slow people down, as hordes of listeners danced themselves warm until the sun started peeking over the hills.

Summer’s-end-Saturday

For the overwhelming majority of FozzyFest attendees, the impending reality of festival season ending hung heavy in the air. It wasn’t so much a mood-killer as it was an enhancer, inviting everyone to give their very best to the festival. Encouraged by Crooka and friends’ Peanut Butter and Strawberry Jam at the Forest, followed by a too-short slice of old-school house bliss from Calgary locals Enno Karr and Adrien Dhanraj, that same collective effervescence continued to permeate every aspect of the gathering.

Vibe purveyor Benanas blessed the Beach with another tempo switch, blending all manner of sub-100bpm beats into a proper late afternoon jam. Soon after, it was time to put one’s feet up and prepare for one last evening.

Calgarian D’n’B fixture Logo kicked things off with some good old-fashioned jungle and ragga. The Beach looked good as ever, a retina-singeing IMAX screen of LEDs that complemented the auditory feast. Then the Forest’s own tendrils cajoled us back in, the sounds of Guru and Shylow keeping us there.

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Aufect Recordings bosses GREAZUS ramped up the energy with selections from their catalogue, setting the stage for a frantic burst of funk and bass from Stickybuds, who was playing next door at the Beach. Blissful sprints from stage to stage, dodging fire-spinners and parka-clad rave wookies, were the order of the day, lest any inkling of one final night of reveling be missed.

By now, many of us are intimately familiar with Stickybuds’ work as one of the West Coast’s worldwide champions. Spreading the good word through year after year of thoughtful mixing and producing, his sets never disappoint, and this year was no exception. Hammering the crowd with everything from grime anthems to syrupy funk basslines, he ushered the crowd along before dropping them into Dimension’s lap – a tag-team that threatened to move people until they danced themselves apart. And just like that, it was over. A sense of finality swept across Métis Crossing, as revelers of all sorts crawled back to campsites covered in a thin layer of frost.

It’s easy to see why the hardy little gathering endures from year to year, no matter what gets thrown at it. It’s an attitude that’s equal parts resilience and gratitude, an attitude that trickles down to every individual who attends. No wonder, then, that even in the face of its most challenging year yet, the show went on.

One can only imagine what next year has in store. Here’s hoping FozzyFest gets the break it deserves – because we can’t wait to see the shores of Koocanusa again next year.

Words by Max Foley

Photos by Know by Heart and Michael Benz

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