Finishing off this summer of 2015, Symbiosis Gathering brought together 14,000 wonderful human-beings for it’s ten year re:union. Returning to Woodward Reservoir in Oakdale, California, for a celebration of community, music, art, play, learning, sustainability, and much more seen and unseen.
Firstly, there needs to be a big thank you sent out to the Symbiosis team for putting together such an amazing experience. They obviously worked tirelessly – for god-knows how long – to plan, construct, and facilitate all that went into this other-worldly weekend gathering. You can get to know some of their crew here, and check out a sampling of their hard work building Symbiosis, first hand in a mini-documentary series. Walking around the imaginative grounds gave use that warm and fuzzy feeling of unadulterated artistry, ingenuity, creativity, interactivity, and love – most importantly.
Now, the real movers and shakers, were all of the unique individuals that came together to make this magical happening. Everyone that we had the honor of meeting went above and beyond festival etiquette, offering a glimpse into the true potential of these co-creative spaces. This artistic atmosphere here was unlike any other festival we’ve attended in the north american scene. The Burning Man ethic of participatory intentions was felt around every corner you could be. Invisibly erecting an all-inclusive environment, which not just allowed, but encouraged everyone to be their true self and best being.
The stages that gathered everybody around through musical movement were something else entirely. Again, the Symbiosis team really outdid themselves here. There were six “official” stages that they setup, with a handful of unofficial outcroppings that satisfied everyone’s personal taste and liking. The hugely popular Swimbiosis Stage (as seen above) really stole the show, though, as it brought the beaches of Goa, India to Oakdale, California, with a minimalist setup of bamboo, canvass, and rope lounges that played host to daily dust-filled dance-swim parties. Which isn’t to say that this was the only stage that really mattered, as all of the others brought their own magic and personality to the dance table. From the old western shanty vibe of the Juketown stage (seen below) to the climbable towers and jungle gym at the Shrine stage. Interactivity was obviously key when it came to the design of everything.
Of course, it was the sound, emanating from each hand-crafted stage, that we came for. Symbiosis Gathering had, hand’s down, one of the most diverse festival line ups of the year. Featuring practically every genre in the electronic game, from house, bass, techno, glitch, psytrance, and downtempo psybient! Raja Ram’s Shpongle set, followed by Kaminanda, kicked off the party perfectly at the Swimbiosis Stage. The scene there was like a post-apocalyptic dance party, as we kicked up dust and dipped in the reservoir water for some much needed cooling. The next day produced our two personal favorite sets of the weekend, in a toss up between Carbon Based Lifeforms at sunset and Tipper during sunrise. While the last day was wrapped with none other than Kalya Scintilla and Desert Dwellers. When it came to psychedelic downtempo music, Symbiosis Gathering definitely knew what they were doing.
If you like the floating tree house fully-equipped with slides and steering wheel (seen above), just wait until you get an eye full of the other art installations we had the chance to experience. Many of which structures came straight from Burning Man, but felt perfectly at peace and place in this new temporary space. Unique though to Symbiosis were all of the art floats that could be spotted around the reservoir (our favorite easily being the delorean hovercraft doing laps). Now, I could try my best to describe all of art installations, but it wouldn’t be fair to the creators and the work itself, which spoke far louder than mere words. So check out some more pictures.
When we weren’t stuck in awe at all of the amazing artistry on display, or dancing the night away, during the day we hung around The Alchemy Village and The Hub. Central nodes of the grounds, where an array of workshops and lectures were held. Including a space for all the cute kid attendees, called Kidzbiosis, featuring a weekend full of fun learning drumming, paddle-boarding, and pillow making! Our personal favorite workshops were in The Ancestral Arts, where friction fire and acorn flour lessons were given. While some of our favorite speeches included, The Yes Men (theatrical activists that had a lively Q&A), Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! with her call to action, and the most lively return of Saul Williams to Symbiosis – reading poetry and asking some hard-hitting questions about diversity and inclusion. The sheer amount of knowledge, wisdom, and understanding, that could be had here is what really sets this gathering apart from others.
All together, Symbiosis Gathering put on nothing short of a perfect ten-year re:union. Each piece of the puzzle was exactly where it needed to be in providing for an unmatched experience of creative unity. Spontaneous community sprung up like the beautiful stages and art installations. Allowing for genuine interaction causing growth that will be felt for ages. What more could we ask for in a transformational festival? We cannot wait for Symbiosis Gathering’s return in 2016!
Symbiosis Gathering report by Kevin Fairbanks.