Photo: webmeister Bud Photo: webmeister Bud

Past windy roads, into the coastal rainforest on the wild coast of Vancouver Island lies the Otalith Music Festival. A music festival unlike anything else we get to experience during festival season. Otalith boasts diversity, conservation, new ideas, and an atmosphere unrivaled in a market filled to the brim with music festivals.

Otalith, in its third year, almost tripled the amount of festivalgoers over previous years. In part due to the addition of (almost) onsite camping and a stellar lineup, they are en route to becoming the island’s premiere destination music festival. It’s time we ditch those expensive ferry trips to Pemberton, Squamish, and Sasquatch for a leisurely drive up island. The festival is also extremely affordable with early bird festival tickets and camping passes for $100 total.

Photo: webmeister Bud Photo: webmeister Bud

The festival’s early bird supporters received an exclusive show the night before the festival’s official kickoff with the Washington’s Cave Singers in Tofino, including a free shuttle bus between the show and the campground in Ucluelet. The Cave Singers performed at the very first Otalith Music Festival in 2013, quickly becoming a festival favourite and friend of the promoters. Their intimate set at The Shore Stage in Tofino with opener Little Saturday was a great way to kick off the festival. A beautiful sunset filled the room with light while the crowd danced and sang along with the band.

We often heard the festival compared to a mixture of all the best parts of both Tall Tree and V.I.C. Fest. With the connection to nature plus a chill party atmosphere plus family-friendliness, Otalith is truly unique in the festival scene, and not “unique” like your Auntie Dora’s Ambrosia Surprise.

Photo: Kirsten James Photo: Kirsten James Photo: webmeister Bud Photo: webmeister Bud Photo: Tyson Elder Photo: Tyson Elder

Otalith prides itself for being the party on the coast, for the coast. With part of the proceeds going towards local conservation initiatives, it’s easy to see their dedication to protecting the amazing environment we have on the west coast. Maybe the coolest idea was the reusable branded festival camp mugs. Only $18 (with your first drink free!), and you could then refill your drink the rest of the festival. Bye-bye wasteful plastic cups, hello environmentally sustainable fun!

Photo: webmeister Bud Photo: webmeister Bud

Possibly due to the isolation from the rest of the island, the festival felt rowdier than ever before. People were ready to party, and you’d better be ready to deal with it. When a mosh pit brews, or when girls climb on stage to dance and stage dive during a Jon & Roy set, you become keenly aware of the subtle differences between festivalgoers. At one point, one of our photographers received the gift of bruised ribs from being shoved against the barricade by crowd members during the Black Lips, but he lived to shoot another day.

Photo: Tyson Elder Photo: Tyson Elder

Also, if you’ve been to a festival, and if you’ve been camping, the sum of those experiences do not prepare you for camping at a festival. Not by a long shot. Party people were in the house (the campground) going strong with singing, dance music, birthday parties, car alarms, stories of their surfing adventures, and general revelry until about 4:30 am.

Photo: Kirsten James Photo: Kirsten James Photo: Kirsten James Photo: Kirsten James

The bigger island festivals are missing the unique camaraderie that comes with smelling like a campfire and surviving on hot dogs for days. There is something special about waking up around other festivalgoers; the energy every morning is palpable, the knowing nods non-stop.

Photo: webmeister Bud Photo: webmeister Bud

Somehow, the amount of people up and staggering around seemingly conscious at 7:30 am was surprisingly large. But, that’s festival energy for you.

Or, just as likely, it’s the desire to get out and explore that part of the island before heading back to the show. Any of the numerous beaches along the west coastline, along with the cool independent shops or restaurants, were certainly a draw for those in only in town for the weekend.

Photo: Tyson Elder Photo: Tyson Elder Photo: Tyson Elder Photo: Tyson Elder Photo: Kirsten James Photo: Kirsten James Photo: Kirsten James Photo: Kirsten James

Throughout the fest, shopkeepers would notice your wristband and ask how the festival was going, or you’d recognize festivalgoers mixed with locals at places around town and, if the opportunity arose, nod or rave about a performance you both saw before going your separate ways. The vibe of Ucluelet and Tofino certainly helped that along.

Photo: Tyson Elder Photo: Tyson Elder

When you’re surrounded by the incredible natural beauty of Vancouver Island . . . and you realize you’re in the midst of a music festival, that’s when it becomes clear that Otalith is just as much about curation as it is about conservation, nature, and partying. The musical diversity — taking us from acts like The Coup, a funk and hip hop band out of Oakland (who came to funk) to the fast and heavy sounds of The Black Lips — is just one reason we keep coming back to the Otalith Music Festival.

We’re already excited to make the trek back next year.