Symbiosis Gathering 2013 – Review, Photos & Videos

Symbiosis 2013 continued the legendary tradition of Symbiosis Events, combining rare and unique musical happenings with an incredible natural setting that made for a one of a kind experience. Only 90 minutes from the Bay, Woodward Reservoir was a beautiful environment for a festival, providing a lake we could swim in during the hot days. Some of our favorite moments involved catastrophic attempts at mounting inflatable animals.

The convenient proximity to the city helped a lot of people get there; it was much larger and full of new people compared to the core community that made it to Pyramid Lake last year. This is a trend we’ve seen at LIB, Burning Man, and many other festivals the last few years – struggling to maintain their identity and edge while growing at astonishing rates. Though these growing pains were felt in areas like sanitation, overall it was a joy to have fresh blood and the excitement that a new generation brings. We are happy to share what we’ve been cultivating as it was shared with us, and spread the ideas and culture of this festival.

We met people from all over the world, as well as the inner city, that had never been to an event of this kind and were loving it, blown away by the uninhibited, playful crowd. There were hippies taking themselves too seriously, hippies not taking themselves seriously at all and a few hippies taking themselves just seriously enough.

Everyone was there: some of our most powerful speakers and healers, the silliest circus clowns, the most noble goddesses, the headiest dready dudes, and of course specimens of the ever-multiplying Bro Incognito. It was a special moment in bass music history.

Everything was laid bare Sunday night, when some of our finest producers went back to back in a tribal bass marathon for the ages. Shpongle put the sun to rest at The Cove, and the journey began.

The Pantheon became a swirling Dionysian dance orgy as ancient sounds melded with futuristic beats and burbles. Ott > Birds of Paradise > Kalya Scintilla > Kaminanda > Thriftworks > The Human Experience brought us into the dawn with a ton of new material. Kalya‘s set was fresh, subtle and brand new, tailored to the intimate setting.

The wine bags were lifted as we danced all night and morning, with a ton of talented dancers and performers bringing the music to life on stage and in the crowd. The dance performers were a highlight this year, some of the best in the west put on workshops in the Movement Dome and clinics on the floor. It was impressive to see how that aspect has developed, both on the professional and amateur levels – we love your moves people!

Ott’s set was actually quite funny; he threw in a humorous amount of farm animal and barking dog samples at opportune moments. Birds of Paradise unveiled the new material from their album that just came out, Flight Patterns. The Human Experience‘s collaboration with Rising Appalachia was moving and soulful, framing sultry country harmonies with tasteful arrangements. They’re currently touring the West Coast.

There were tons of other musical and artistic highlights, from the intricate Living Room Stage to new artists we discovered. The attention to detail and the deep intention put into every aspect of the event is what stood out. There were so many different styles of music available it was overwhelming, and the 24 hour scheduling made sure there was always something for everyone. Even when the aesthetics weren’t our style, we still appreciated the love and effort that went into the offering. Some highlights included EO with Naga Sita and Plantrae:

From Drift Dodgers:

My loves, our time is short, our time together as a tribe is rare and sacred. We don’t know how many more seasons we will be here, or able to ride to these gatherings. They are a gift, we are privileged to co-create some of the most spectacular events people have ever assembled. Your talent and beauty is beyond words, I am humbled to be among you doing this joyful work, dancing, singing, laughing, speaking of a better way. This is how we send our prayers to source, with love and gratitude. This is where we remember how to be with each other. We do this for all that cannot, we do this for all humankind.

This community is our family, we must nurture and protect it. It is a vessel of transformation and evolution that has held space for thousands to purge, pray, and play, carrying them along their path to enlightenment and self discovery. There are many drawn to the flame that do not understand its potential or spirit, we must show it to them. There are many that judge, misunderstand and dismiss us, let them. Let us welcome without ego those that understand the basic principles of unity, acceptance, and love.

We gain strength together, remembering we are not alone in our strangeness, in our vision of peace, in our passion for nature and the new. We fill each other up and recognize one another for who we truly are, setting free the gifts we hide from the worlds not ready for them. Last year was a peak artistically, the young experiment of bass music matured and came into its own as an artform as our greatest talents brought us their greatest work. As a community we began connecting what we’ve been participating in to its meaning, consciously disseminating our culture and sharing our experiments, ideas, and technologies. This year we welcomed many beautiful new people that heard about what we’ve been doing. Together we dance and heal by becoming children again, bouncing happy vibrations off each other and shaking out impacted energy.

This is just the beginning, clearly, everything about it is completely primitive, wide open and thrilling. We have the opportunity to make this whatever we want it to be, every day is a new chance to shape and reinvent it. People get excited about anything done with passion – we inspire each other to make a statement, to speak out with confidence in our own unique style, to play different characters, be bold and unapologetic for our bizarre contributions, to finally have them seen and appreciated. This is a safe place to experiment, to try things on, to say things just to see how they sound and not be judged on anything but artistic merit. That is a very rare thing today and always, we give thanks for the opportunity to explore like that.

This realm is something different to everyone, an incredible variety of people come to the same place for vastly different reasons that are all fundamentally the same, to be free and loved. How we go about pursuing these things via music, dance, art, costumes, yoga, meditation, drugs, sex, chanting, workshops, nudity, entrepreneurship, narcissism, volunteering, and debauchery is widely varied, but we are all after these basic feelings we are so deprived of in modern life. We will never forget the sunrise Monday morning, when we were young and loved and beautiful in the only place on Earth we’d want to be, with our family.

From Margaret:

I can sometimes be afraid of the dark, so if my timed bathroom light turns off mid-shower, I get a bit freaked. On the eve of Symbiosis however, it turned off and I was soberly so elated about this gathering that I was fearless and rejoiced in the dark for five minutes until I was done. I knew this year would be good, and I even refrained from popping my Burn cherry to experience it.

At Symbiosis I swam and shampoo’d [organically – no soap in the reservoir!] at least twice a day, every day. I ate exceptionally well [try the coconut Bliss Bars!]. I stayed hydrated, I re- and re-bandaged scrapes and blisters – it’s bound to happen – my yoga practice is getting good, but sometimes it’s just plain hard to walk in new boots on rocky roads at night. We had a tipi at our camp site, brought by Tiago and Elyse a.k.a. the Teva girl. It was adorned with one of the eleven disco balls I bought off craigslist for $40 a few months ago, and temporarily with the sparkled white tiger mirror that was gifted to the one and only.

This gathering had all the right people, and not just best friends, but really well-dressed strangers, too. Sturdy boots with leather straps, jagged tribal tees and hoods, silky reds, electric blues, burnt oranges, olive greens, coral pinks, gold and platinum everythings – colors that came straight out of the movie Blow. I swear everyone was shining.

Note to production: keep wearing all black, it’s good on you, even when you’re kicking out an acquaintance for not having a wristband [rightfully so]. It’s okay though, he’s been “kicked out of more sacred places” anyways.

It’s not typical for me to stay awake until sun-up at festivals anymore – I’ve even been dubbed “grandma” by another ancient being who never sleeps. I did, however, manage to get my disco mask on and stay ’til the very last beat of Christian Martin at 6AM on Saturday. I’m glad the crowd thinned out by this time, because I had that dance floor to my whole damn’ self, shirt falling off, bra-less, all of it. Christian Martin has a way of sarcastically playing shifty tracks for five seconds in order to contrast it with those Dirtybird beats we know all too well. So it’s laughable and dirty – the best kind of disco.

Nahko and Medicine For The People give me chills just sitting at my desk with headphones on, so you can imagine the flight I embarked on when Nahko took the Cove Stage with the band and belted his dark and twisted Hawaiian reggae battle cries glazed with compassionate relief. With lyrics like, “I will learn to be peaceful, but I’ll keep my knife at my side, I will pray for compassion, but if war comes to my door you know I will be blastin’ warrior mentality, my responsibility, bringin’ it to my people, now holler if you feelin’ me…” he had the audience riding his brain and heart waves straight into the night. The band’s set was one of the very few that I saw people actually pressing up against the stage [none of the stages had guard rails] stretching to get as close as possible. In a stroke of luck, my friend Eli turned around and pulled me from the fifth row or so into the front so I could get better shots…

Other notable sets – Lee Foss: he’s grown some facial hair since the last time I saw him at Verboten in NYC a few years ago, and his heavenly tech-house beats are stronger than ever. Max Cooper: spaced-out tripped-out house, definitely wasn’t expecting to go to Outer Shpongolia during his set, but I did. Phaeleh: I’ve never really listened to his music, and woah, was I blown away by those sexy bedroom beats. He was accompanied by a bad-ass songstress – she told us we were all “fucking mental” and of course, we take that as a compliment. Their stage presence was so unassuming, almost like they were surprised by their own sound… Just super humbling.

Pumpkin: being surrounded by so many good friends during his remix of The Mowgli’s “San Francisco” reminded me why I am where I am today. Simon Posford: sitting on the hill, watching the sunset, shaking in our skin, perfection. Little John: just Little John – he keeps the party going with afro-infused disco house sets. iamiamwhoami: I really connected with her, I think it was the disco mask. And of course, Monday afternoon hearing Lafa Taylor on the Jabba Barge from our floaties in the lake, drinking the very last drops of whatever was left in the coolers.

Everyone was so chilled out by Monday that nothing could spoil the mood. The living and loving was infectious. As we wrapped up goodbyes and shimmied down shakedown someone hollered, “CAN YA’LL STOP BEING SO BEAUTIFUL SO I CAN GO HOME?” Truer words have never been spoken. This festival really did it for me, from the on-point social media game to the genre-bending line-up and perfect land with water surrounding on all sides. I met so many gangsters of peace at Symbiosis, I discovered new music and wrote stories – even three hand-written letters – with old friends.

So now, three years after the seed was planted by a Symbiosis promo video from Manifest Media that I watched in Boston, the flower has fire-cracked out of its roots. I recommend this gathering for anyone, even if you’re just arriving to or passing through the Bay area for the first time. It will give you a true taste of the magic we’re all so lucky to be able to create here.

Photos by Margaret Hunter
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