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 The Scoop With Symbiosis | FESTIVALPHOTO



The Scoop With Symbiosis


2016-10-06 16:56 -

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2016-10-06 16:55 - Symbiosis Gathering 2016: Family Tree

For many, Symbiosis Gathering is the Burning Man of California. But only at this Burning Man, when you get hot, you can also get wet! Because if the Central Californian heat is too much for you to handle, don't stay out of the kitchen, just go for a dunk in the reservoir! And if you're feeling really dirty from all the dust and grit flying around in the air, don't wait in line for the showers, just go for a swim! Take advantage of the rez, love the rez, embrace the rez, because that's one of the things that has made Symbiosis Gathering at the Woodward Reservoir so special and so great: that beautiful body of water, that rez!

The reservoir is like the epicenter of life at Symbiosis Gathering. It's so large, it seems like a lake, and you often forget you're just hanging out in the Central Valley, where almond trees abound more than humans. And the reservoir is so beautiful, with it's backdrop of sprawling hills where we inhabit with our camps, and endless stretches of flat land, extending out further than the eye can see. But the reservoir is so epic, you can hardly imagine the sights you'll see during the days of the Gathering. Picture the most colorful, float-filled, jam-packed, high vibe time you can, and then let psychedelia take over and transform your vision even further.

When the magic of the sun is shining, you can find goddess bungalow beds made from re-purposed materials floating around, a Delorean art boat drifting across the surface, amazingly constructed floating stages and art boats scattered about (some even being steered around at the party goers pleasure), a party dragon, mermaids, pirates, and people alike, all jamming out and floating around to some of our favorite DJs and producers. And let's not forget about the sunsets that Oakdale and the reservoir are home to! Wow - so much howling! But the reservoir is just one of the aspects of this gathering that makes it so spectacular.

Following so closely after The Burn and being so close to Black Rock City means a lot of Burners come for this one. In a way, it's almost like a decompression from Burning Man, but not quite... I met many people who were there fresh off Burning Man, and one guy even said, "I just came from Burning Man... I don't even know what I'm doing here!" The looks on their faces ranged from thrill to confusion, and there was a general sense of Not Having Returned to Earth yet. Which is part of why the vibe, the energy, and the atmosphere at Symbiosis is unlike any other. Everyone there is galactic as ----! And since there are no bars serving alcohol there (just lots of elixirs and teas), it seems there is a higher level of consciousness involved, too.

At Symbiosis, you really get the feeling that everyone there is just a friend you haven't met yet. It seems everyone you talk to you connect with on those freakishly deep levels that have you in love with the human in an instant, making you want to keep them in your line-up for a long time. The people that attend this event are not there because festivals are the cool thing to do. No, they haven't just caught wind of it and decided they need to go so their social shares have a little extra umph for the weekend. No, no. Everyone at the Gathering is, in a word, "Down." They are all SO down!

They're down to get down, they're down to let their freak flags fly, they're down to be and do whoever and whatever they are and want, and they are so not down to judge. They're down to laugh about life, and embrace all their weird characters within. Freedom of expression is at its height here, and those who would normally shy away from things such as nudity in public settings, tend to fully embrace it here. (Thank you, Reservoir!) Again, I take it back to the rez, but honestly, there's something about festival-ing by a body of water that opens you up and slips you deeper into your own flow. Something about really having all the elements so strongly and obviously present relaxes us into ourselves in new ways, and enables us to forgo all pretense and just connect. And it shows throughout the festival. There's an energy of free-flow that you don't usually perceive at big events. There are so many different worlds created within the festival, it makes people almost forget about the schedule, and just want to wander around.

To call this year's event the Family Tree couldn't have been more perfect, and it was such a sweet gathering to say goodbye to our Symbiotic time at the Woodward Reservoir. For one of the things that has given Symbiosis a lot of notice is its migration pattern. The Gathering moves around to different places based on astrological occurrences, and is held at places with great spiritual meaning. Oakdale has been the host to this epic event for the last three years, which is rare. We weren't even supposed to be blessed with a gathering this year, but last year was such a magical one, that the producers decided to have one final Family Gathering at the Woodward Reservoir before we moved on. And the final count for this farewell: 15,000! Not too small, not too big, and the little peninsulas at the rez provide a perfect set up for stages, art, and areas of growth.

Like most transformational festivals, there is a huge focus on sustainability at Symbiosis, and a wide range of workshops, presentations and discussions are available throughout the weekend. Leading teachers, healers, gurus, researchers and speakers are brought in to present on various topics, and encourage mental expansion and growth while at the event. With festivals like this, when you breakdown what you're paying for, the pass's price instantly becomes incredibly reasonable.

The Village, a well-known collective that brings teachers, healers, altars, the Luna Ladies and the Sacred Fire to festivals had an amazing zone. Near the Sacred Fire there were Elemental Altars, which provided beautiful meditation spots, as well as installations to enjoy. And The Hub had a stage design that had many of us flashing back to past years at Boom Festival in Portugal. It was one of the most beautiful structures I've ever seen, in it's simple complexity and simple white lights. The Hub was the home to all of the Elemental Alchemy offerings (teachings, presentations, yoga, meditation and massage classes, dance classes, and the healing zone with therapeutic treatments), as well as some of the best performance art I've ever seen in my life at night (lookup SORNE).

Guerilla Science also had a strong presence in the area, bringing in their Fire Organ to wow us all. It's an electric keyboard that has been connected to a series of small flames lined up in rows like an organ. Each one picks up on the sounds coming through the microphone and the keyboard, and when the sound goes through, certain flames get higher, creating a visualization of sound. And of course the amount of creative talent at events like this is crazy, so it wasn't surprising to hear a beautiful, pregnant goddess belt out some of the sweetest blues I've ever heard, or watch as a slightly erratic-seeming guy blessed us with some perfectly-played classical piano. But let's not forget about the unassuming mom who came on to play the Batman song, either! Crowds gathered around as volunteers from the crowd came on to share their talent, and play with the Fire Organ, which was just one of the many unexpected outlets to be found at the festival. Take any walk a different way, and you were sure to stumble upon something!

Another thing at Symbiosis that is unlike most other festivals: the comedy. My friends and I still laugh when we think about the Family Feud game show from last year, and between the Olympics and the election, there was no shortage of things to laugh about and make fun of at this one. As I said before, everyone at this event is pretty down, so sarcasm is embraced to an almost uncomfortable level. Some of the comedy could be considered highly offensive, but when you just let go of the ego and how you think things should be, you'll find yourself laughing. They send us a clear reminder not to take things too seriously, and when it comes to their comedy, nothing is off limits. Everyone is there to have a good time and enjoy life, and you really feel it throughout the festival.

It feels like you're in Disneyland for adults, and literally everything is made to be played with. All the art installations can be climbed on, regardless of how perilous it might seem, and there is so much interactive art there, you can't help but be childish at times. There was even a virtual reality game in MOVA, the incredible visual art gallery. One of the bridges to cross peninsulas didn't have rails, and you could tell we were being encouraged to embrace our inner child, take chances, and overcome fears.

It's such a "family fun festival," that there is an entire zone dedicated to kids and children's activities. Which I realize can be found at most festivals, but I don't think I've ever noticed a kid's zone (Kidzbiosis) that was so elaborately decorated and constructed. Sometimes it feels like this part of the grounds is an afterthought or something they have to include. At Symbiosis, true to their style, they made sure every inch of it was as detailed, artistic, and amazing as possible, and it wasn't off in the Netherlands either. (PS. Major ups to all the mega moms and dads out there that were pushing strollers up and down the uneven, rocky, dark paths at night and all day long - you inspire us!)

But now let's talk a little about the music...

Symbiosis is home to three main open-air stages; Swimbiosis, The Fringe and The Grotto; and three other stages that were so wonderfully designed, it seems strange not to consider them "main stages"; Family Circus, Juke Lagoon, and Silk Road.

Swimbiosis got going in the early afternoon, allowing attendees the chance to enjoy things such as a sunset session on the beach with our favorite sunrise setter, Random Rab, as well as day parties all day with things like the Desert Hearts Takeover. Each day a variety of sounds could be heard, allowing people with all kinds of tastes the chance to enjoy the area. Swimbiosis was a huge part of the reason why Symbiosis is recognized in the same category of greatness as much larger festivals like Lightning in a Bottle, Boom, and Burning Man. Because even though it boasts a small percentage of the attendance of these festivals, it is almost like the melting pot for them all - the place where all their ends meet, and it is such an amazing time, it really is one of the best fests.

The Fringe was the largest stage at the festival, and ended up being one of my favorite sights during the festival. It could be seen easily from the peninsula that housed The Grotto, and was one of the most magical things to watch from across the water. So many happy people dancing around to incredible music, endless LED flow toys flying through the air, painting it with all kinds of colors and patterns, and an aura that caused your smile to widen further than you knew it could. The stage itself was a beautiful design, and the peninsula it was on, large enough to provide and create space for everyone. It was a little hectic getting to it, with traffic jams on the narrow bridge they'd built (still grateful for it, as it wasn't there last year), but well worth it to see acts like FKA Twigs, Dirtwire, Gaudi, Opiuo, Gramatik, Rising Appalachia, Beats Antique, Santigold and more.

The Grotto, oh The Grotto! We got a real taste of Israel out there, and went Europe-style for quite sometime. Trance, particularly the psychedelic kind (Psy-Trance) could be heard with frequency at The Grotto, and it was such an amazingly grounding place to romp through and camp out at for a while. With the relentless, tireless, high-rate BPM's being blasted, it let us really lose ourselves on the dance floor. It also seemed to be the meeting place of all the international festival attendees, and as one friend said, "If you want to find all the Europeans, go to The Grotto." The lineup at The Grotto brought out a wider variety of people than might usually attend, aiding in the theme of it being an international, Family Tree Gathering.

Family Circus was one of the coolest looking stages without a doubt. Designed like a circus tent, there was a stage upfront, a couple of platforms for people to dance on, and an amazing elixir bar in the back. Sets like Dimond Saints, Bubble Gutter, Terrakroma, Perfect Stranger, Festival the Show, DJ Dragonfly, OTT & the All-Seeing I, Rising Appalachia, Desert Dwellers and a slew of others were enjoyed here.

Another stage that not only was an incredible place to go dance, but just an incredible sight, was Juke Lagoon. It actually looked like you were at some neighborhood by the bay party. The structures they built there, the fake grass they rolled out, and the little shack-like houses they constructed around the stage all aided in creating a separate world. During the day it kind of reminded me of being at a college party at an apartment complex, where everyone is just dancing around and partying in the parking stalls. Good vibes were flying all over the place every time I went to and/or through the Juke Lagoon, and it made me smile every time I passed by it.

Lastly for the music areas there was Silk Road, another iconic festival area like The Village. Shops, tea bars, chill-out areas, and a small, seemingly forgotten stage, that had one of the best lineups of the event. Even Dirtwire had their second performance there, packing out the small tented area to the max.

But honestly, to simply give you all words about these stages and sights does not seem to be enough, because there is no way to describe the actual amount of detail and thought that goes into every single aspect of this event. There are so many worlds within this one, and layers of consciousness being presented and explored, that you really cannot help but get lost in awe of it all. And in spite of some scheduling errors throughout the weekend, everyone seems to have had a pretty good time.

Symbiosis changed my life last year, which is quite the feat considering how long I've been going to events like this. I didn't really think that a festival could change me, my perspective, and my life anymore to be honest, but this one continues to do so. It creates such a perfect opportunity for you to explore and express yourself, that you can't help but learn new things about yourself and your true essence. And since you are highly encouraged to let loose and play, you discover inside a newness, and develop a deep, happy feeling. Facebook is full of testimonies just like this one, of people who've gone to the event and declare how much it changed them. It's not an uncommon story, because of all the transformational festivals in the world, this one really is very special. When you strive to create a symbiotic atmosphere between earth and human, people and person, you get an event unlike any other, and the best of the best show up to participate in the creation and cultivation of it all. Everyone and their weirdness living in harmony together, that is Symbiosis.

Woodward Reservoir, Oakdale, California, you've been so good to us. We will always remember your sunsets, your beauty, and the way we opened up and went deeper into ourselves and others in your presence. Thank you, thank you, thank you for all!

To see the full lineup and get more information on the festival, visit their website
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Photos from Symbiosis Gathering 2016 -

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  Writer: Allison Fedor