Last week, The Festival Lawyer put out this great piece:
While I was reading it, my first thought was, “I want this guy to come to Shambhala!” I was immediately reminded of the “ParticiPARTY” blog I wrote for All You Need is Bass last winter.
((Coincidentally, AYNiB just released an interview I did with them earlier this year. You can check that out here.))
I posted a link to ParticiPARTY in the comments of TFL’s post, added him on Twitter, and BAM instant friendship. In a matter of tweets, we were jamming on how we could collaborate on a follow up “UPGRADE” piece.
Because we both have so much to say, it made sense to do separate posts, and x-link back to the other. Clever, huh?
Ok, so, for those of you who aren’t gonna read the original blog (but really, you SHOULD!), let’s get you up to speed on what “Upgrade” means:
THE THIRD RULE OF BEING A FESTIVAL BUDDY:
I will UPGRADE the rest of the audience by personally taking positive actions.
The best definition of Positivity I know is that it makes me happy to see other people happy. So Upgrading is me just letting other people know that’s it’s okay for them to have fun around me.
I mainly do this by letting you know that I don’t think you are a freak or stare at you if you feel like dancing, singing or doing some kind of insane interpretive dance. In fact, I prefer that you stand next to me so I can tell you how you are “killing it”.
The thing that struck me most about this is how the Shambhala crowd just *does this*. “Upgrades” kind of naturally worked their way into our festival culture. How cool is that?
Whether you guys know it or not, this is one of the things we’ve always really valued about our attendees. Shambassadors encouraging people to embody this is no mistake – it’s something we identified as unique to Shambhala and wanted to encourage more of because that is this festival’s identity. A place of inclusiveness, of openness, of non-judgement, of creativity and self-expression. We think it’s awesome that you can really (like, really) let your freak flag fly at Shambhala – and that you support fellow festival-goers in doing the same.
So when AYNiB asked me to write a blog for them last year, as I thought about my favourite experiences from 10 Shambhalas, 2 Burning Mans and dozens of other festivals, I recognized a common thread in what makes a festival experience great. The Festival Lawyer and others in the festival community have identified it as well – Upgrades, ParticiPARTY, Rage it Forward – we’re all talking about the same thing. And I love that the fire of this idea is burning in so many hearts and minds, named or unnamed.
Here’s a few of my favourite examples of ParticiPARTYing / Upgrades from this past festival season. 🙂
High-Five Bridge: At Shambhala, there is a little bridge that goes from the shores of our beach stage to an “island” in the river. A friend and I were crossing back to the stage side when someone recognized me as someone who works for the festival. I usually stop and give people hugs, but the bridge is quite narrow, and it would have “stopped traffic” in both directions to do so. So I opted to high five instead. And then something I didn’t expect happened. The people approaching me after this person held their hands up for high fives. And kept their hands up after they passed me. Before I knew it, the entire bridge, both directions, were high fiving, and gleefully shouting, “HIGH FIVE BRIDGE!” It was one of the most epic spontaneous Upgrade moments I’ve experienced in 12 years of attending Shambhala.
The Help-a-Stranger: A friend of mine came in contact with poison ivy while setting up her camp and got this really nasty burn / rash. The Festival Guy happened to be with me as she was telling me the story and, being the rad individual that he is, he found a pair of gloves and a garbage bag, went to her campsite, and pulled all the poison ivy out. Help-a-Stranger Upgrades come in many variations – helping someone carry gear into walk-in camping, assisting a lost festival-goer in finding their camp (one of my personal faves), adopting a solo first-timer into your camp, etc. My entire first Shambhala was a series of Help-a-Stranger Upgrades. But that’s a story for another time.
Dancing as an Upgrade: This was a fantastic post on my FB wall from after Shambhala this year: “So there I am, lounging out in the Living Room stage, working the piano wire tenseness out of Carissa Gem’s poor, tired, golf-cart ridden muscles. The music is amazing, the stage is incredible, the air and atmosphere are total bliss… and we can’t stop laughing… because the only thing more distracting than your Meme of a butt wiggling right in front of us, is your friend’s REEEALLLY LOW DANCE MOVES. Ninja-Crab-Dance.” – Curtis Seedspark
Attendee-Organized Events: This was one of my FAVOURITE things at Shambhala this year! Ok, so I might be slightly biased, because I did help corral all these lil’ doggies into a neat little package for the program guide. BUT the beauty of this is most of these happenings were fueled 100% by the creativity of our crowd! I love when people identify something they’d like to see at a festival and then create it themselves. I just think it’s so cool. From Forum / Reddit meetups, to themed costume days, to hoop / prop jams to a massive hammock chillout in the Labyrinth. 2013’s attendee organized events were a huge success. I can’t wait to see what y’all come up with in 2014! Below: Unicorn Stampede for the opening of the Fractal Forest stage.
“You Won Burning Man”: Token Burning Man story. I was biking solo, checking out a part of Black Rock City far from my home base. I stopped to use the facilities. As I exited, I noticed a bit of a commotion further down the bank of port-a-potties. A group of maybe 10 people in formal wear were rolling out a red carpet to an occupied loo, placing a podium at the far end. They’re simultaneously shushing people and motioning for others to come join them. The unsuspecting occupant emerges to cheering and clapping. As he walks down the red carpet, the group starts chanting, “SPEECH, SPEECH, SPEECH!” He takes his place at the top of the winner’s podium (two formal-clad women on either side of him wearing sashes that say “LOSER”), and proceeds give his speech and be awarded with his “WINNER” sash, a tiny trophy, and an “I won Burning Man” tshirt. This individual was, of course, a virgin, and was entirely befuddled by the whole thing. He tried to give his trophy back (thinking it would have to go to the next “winner”). It was adorable.