Pachena Bay Music Festival seeks to ‘connect people with the land’ | Ha-Shilth-Sa Newspaper

Pachena Bay Music Festival seeks to ‘connect people with the land’

Anacla, BC

In recent weeks a group of whales have been in Pachena Bay, their backs occasionally emerging from the water, spouting bursts of mist into the Pacific air. For those fortunate to witness them from the shore, the whales serve as a reminder of the natural majesty that is integral to the site by the Huu-ay-aht village of Anacla.

“That’s definitely the secret sauce,” said Ben Howells of the whales, who is the founder and head organizer of the upcoming Pachena Bay Music Festival. “The hidden agenda in my heart sometimes is connecting people with land.”

From July 19-21 the Pachena Bay Music Festival returns to the site for the third official year, bringing nearly 60 confirmed performers from across the West Coast and various corners of the world for a mix of electronic, DJs, blues and folk music.

The festival will also be taking over the Huu-ay-aht’s Pachena Bay Campground for visitors to stay over the course of the festivities. Approximately 800 festival goers are expected, and including staff, performers and locals, organizers are preparing for as many as 1,000 over the weekend.

“I think this will probably be our limit this year,” said Howells, who has worked to find the right balance between drawing a high volume of people while not compromising the natural location or the experience of the event. “If we were not being responsible in our approach, it would be very easy for us to oversell this event.”

The festival is sold out, with a waiting list of 450. Unlike other multi-day musical events, only three-day camping passes were available to the general public, a measure by organizers to ensure a respectful crowd gathers at Pachena Bay.

“When people aren’t committed to that full weekend, they tend to be messier, a bit more disrespectful,” said Howells, who has also put on the Cumberland Wild and Atmosphere festivals, among others. “Weekend passes ensure that people really set in and really pick up the vibe of what’s going on, and it also makes for less vehicles on the road.”

Parking is being offered off of the site, with free shuttle buses available in Bamfield. Leading up to the event, a limited number of weekend passes are available for those who don’t want to camp, providing that verification is shown of accommodation in Bamfield.

These measures met the concerns of the Huu-ay-aht First Nations, said Chief Councillor John Jack.

“We’ve been able to bring up our concerns regarding things like parking and traffic, and we’ve found good solutions that work for everyone,” he said, noting that the organizers have shown sensitivity to what the Huu-ay-aht community requires. “We’ve had good interactions with Benjamin.”

The event also presents an attractive economic opportunity for the Huu-ay-aht Group of Businesses, which relies on forestry for the majority of its annual revenue.

“Huu-ay-aht has been looking to diversity its economy, and part of that is attracting tourists,” said Jack.

For the upcoming music festival, it won’t be the first time for many of the visitors. So far 68 per cent of the event’s attendees are returning festival goers, a dynamic that Howells finds helpful in fostering the right environment over the three days.

“When you have a larger percentage of the humans that know what to do, to a degree, they tend to self-meditate,” he said. “The problem is, if you have a festival that goes too quickly or you have a festival that markets too broadly, you end up with too broad of a demographic.”

“Please consider this event being 60 per cent remote camping trip and 40 per cent music festival,” reads a message from organizers on the festival’s website.

Attendees are urged to bring out everything that they take in, including garbage, as there are no trash receptacles at the festival.

“Ultimately, it’s pack out what you pack in,” said Howells.

The endorsement of the local community has been critical for the event, which originated in 2021 when a few Pachena Bay campsites were booked for a dance party of about 60 people. Even on this small test scale, locals from Anacla were invited.

“We wanted to see what the vibe was and see how our crew connected with campground crew,” said Howells.

This year only Bamfield residents can buy day passes, while Anacla residents get in for free.

Festivities are planned to get underway at 5 p.m. on Friday, July 19 with a parade from the campground office, something that has become a tradition for the festival. This opening procession will be led by the Babyface Brass band, who are set to lead the march to the beachfront stage for an official welcoming by the Huu-ay-aht.

“There will be meaningful participation from Huu-ay-aht at the beginning of the event,” said Jack. “One of our cultural experts, and one of our members of council, Edward Johnson, will be involved in that directly.”

Others with Huu-ay-aht ties scheduled to take the stage include Djama (Aya Clappis) and Hinatinyis, who will also be interjecting Nuu-chah-nulth content into the event throughout the weekend.

“She’s going to do a little bit language for the crowd in between events,” said Howells

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