From having friends tell me all about an event called Symbiosis Gathering for years, each time their eyes lighting up with excitement, I was honored to finally be able to experience this festival for myself. What better time than it to be Symbiosis’ 10 year Re:union, too?!
The Woodward Reservoir, the home of Symbiosis Gathering, brought out over a dozen thousand hippies to set up camp, get down in the dirt, frolic in the water, and spread love throughout the grounds over a course of four days. Any worries were left behind and struggles were long-forgotten, as this little community sprouted from, what seemed to be, out of nowhere. The weekend left me feeling complete, whole, balanced - but also left me wishing that Symbiosis could be... always and forever. Every day I woke up with a smile on my face, ready to start dipping my toes into activities - disregarding any lack of sleep from the night before. I found myself taking naps like a child, rather than sleeping for hours... there was just so much going on that I wanted to partake in!
There were many things that contributed to making this gathering jump right to the top of my must-attend festivals, but there were also some definite, notable highlights that made Symbiosis gleam with honor.
There’s no denying that Symbiosis is ON POINT with their stage production. All five stages that hosted some of the dopest musicians were each extremely unique and fit the artists’ vibes perfectly. One of my personal favorites, Swimbiosis, which was geniously placed on the bank of the lake, definitely brought out the party. Held together by what looked like giant bamboo gave this stage an all natural feel. No lasers, no giant LED screens, no fog machines. Everyone fed off of the music and the vibes around them. Dancing to and appreciating the sets of Justin Martin and Esta while watching and participating in lake shenanigans was magical. And, who could forget, that surprise Ooah and Boreta (2/3 of The Glitch Mob) Swimbiosis set?! Starting my day swimming in the lake, chilling on the floating art structures while listening to some excellent artists is something that makes Symbiosis, and Swimbiosis, extremely unforgettable.
Another favorite, Juke Town, mimicked a dusty, old western town - except this town had booming beats echoing off the walls of the wooden structures. Hearing the alien bass from Bleep Bloop blast off in every direction made me feel like we were in some insane time portal that had stopped in the wrong century. I've never been MORE down, though. I also spent most of Saturday absorbing this interesting layout and architecture, while the Dirtybirds, Christian Martin, J. Phlip, and Ardalan took over “The Juke” for hours… and I loved every minute of it. I give whoever came up with the idea for this stage big props, because there’s really no better place for it. Trekking and dancing in the dirt and an old western town just go hand in hand, and it felt like we were all just locals getting ready to hit the saloon!
Ah, of course… the location. Wow, I know I speak for, well, everyone who attended, when I say… thank God for the lake! The Reservoir is something truly spectacular - to look at, to be in, to just be around. The festival is placed around this giant lake, on a peninsula… everywhere around you there’s water! During the day when the sun was high and the heat was hitting you with no remorse didn’t even matter, because the cool lake being yards away was everything you could want and more. Not to mention, dancing to an awesome set and looking to your left - or your right - and seeing beautiful, glistening, blue water, is unheard of at festivals. Symbiosis really hit the nail on the head when finding their home.. which is also now, my home as well.
Free Spirited Community
Symbiosis seemed to attract the most free spirited human beings I have ever seen in one place before. Everyone was roaming the grounds as they please, going with the flow, and having the best time of their lives doing so. I never once encountered rudeness, shoving, or any type of negative action around me. Everyone seemed to be in the “Symbiosis spirit” and I learned that that is a very magical thing to be.
Not only were the vibes amazing, but you could tell that this wasn’t just a every once in awhile way of life for some. People were being themselves, unafraid of what anyone thought of them. Whether that be dancing around like a lunatic or swimming nude in the lake… it was grounding to see everyone around me just BE.
With everything that this festival had to offer, I would be out of my mind to not include the phenomenal lineup as one of the highlights. Symbiosis kind of just… threw this massive lineup in our faces without any clues or warnings, and what a pleasant surprise that was! I had many friends who had never heard of the festival before this year become ecstatic once they saw the lineup, as if they were dedicated Symbi veterans, and even more stoked to attend after they saw the location, the activities, and so on.
I’ll never forget posting for three hours at the Big Island stage (which you could pretty much guess, seemed to be on it’s own island) watching Bob Moses perform my favorite tracks flawlessly, and after watching Nico Jaar perform a theatrical, musical masterpiece of a set. How are they doing this?! I found myself thinking multiple times during those three hours… I was blown away.
Seeing artists that I know and love was just the beginning. With music being played at almost every stage for pretty much, 24 hours each day, it was a perfect opportunity for me to roam around and check out new artists in between favs. I was introduced to Eduardo Castillo, a Venezuelan house music artist who rocked the Juke Town mid-day, and also Extrawelt, an electronic duo who turned out to play one of my favorite sets of the festival.
Art is definitely a big part of festivals, especially transformational festivals, where all are encouraged to share their artwork. At Symbiosis, there is literally art EVERYWHERE. Live art at stages, a huge art gallery with some of the most beautiful paintings I have ever seen, giant art installations… everyday I walked around I would notice another piece of art that I didn’t see the day before. This place just was… ART! It motivated me to bring out the creativity I hold within myself, because we all have something unique to offer.
This gathering did not only bring people together, and turn strangers into family, but it also proved to be extremely kid-friendly as well. Kidzbiosis is something about Symbiosis that I respect and appreciate. This Dream Village is a mini festival INSIDE of Symbiosis, where children can play, learn, and grow! There were playshops like poi play, superfood smoothie stations, yoga, and more for the children of Symbiosis. This is absolutely awesome, I saw children everywhere playing around with other children, just as if they were at a playground at the park.
One morning I swam to one of the floating structures in the lake and laid under the shade. This little girl who couldn’t have been more than 3 years old was crawling all around the structure, splashing in the water, mumbling words to herself that I couldn’t comprehend. Her parents near her, just relaxing, watching their child with so much love in their eyes. The situation I was witnessing was just beautiful, I couldn’t stop looking at the child, and back at her parents, and back again. It really made me think about how something like this must look like through the eyes of children. This festival was something that adults can enjoy, but they can also enjoy it with their children, knowing that they are having a blast, too.
Symbiosis was all around, a festival of my dreams. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience to share with some of my closest friends! Bringing people from all over the world, this festival was truly a global GATHERING.
Now we wait until next time, where the creators of Symbiosis will take things to the next level, once again. The eclipse in 2017 will be the prime time to bring us all together for another unique experience. This time… in Oregon, where the total solar eclipse will be most visible. The excitement for this next adventure begins now...