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Symbiosis Gathering 2016 Review: The Element of Surprise

October 13, 2016 - by Yasmin Soltani

From its small beginnings of 800 people rallying near the Santa Cruz mountains, Symbiosis Gathering returned for its 11th year to a crowd of 15,000 like minded individuals on the massive grounds of the Woodward Reservoir. The festival was filled with art, music, and creativity, although the word "festival" does not do the five days any justice.

The Symbiosis family prefers the word "gathering," a place where people come together, create together, and live together for a specific purpose. It's a place where you're not really sure if the art piece or comedy show you walked in on was part of the gathering or brought on by one of your camps neighbors. Symbiosis Gathering is a place where everything seems to be unplanned, but in the most perfect way.

Friday's party began at the Swimbiosis stage with a 5 hour set by our favorite house and techno family, Desert Hearts. Yes, 5 hours! Throughout the set people were flooding in from all directions. Tons of people piled on top of floats shaped as pizzas, unicorns, sailboats decorated like a dragons, and more rode by in the background, and mermaids splashed their fins soaking the crowd. The sand was filled with dancing feet and blissful smiles. The stage was pouring with fans and friends of the Desert Heart family. And of course... there was Mikey Lion with his traditional feathered hat; it wouldn't be a Desert Hearts party without it. As if 5 hours of house music wasn't enough, Swimbiosis continued the party with the deep "wompy" sounds of Shiba San (my personal favorite). I don't know if it was Shiba or the scorching heat, but at this point plenty of the girls lost their tops.

After watching the sun set to Sun:monx and Random Rab on Saturday, it was time to explore the art at the festival. I stumbled across a giant dome with a plethora of colored lights shining on it. It was the work of Android Jones, of course. The 40-inch dome was shuffling in people from the huge line the formed outside to lie on the grass, look up at the ceiling, and enjoy a 3D short art film created by the digital genius. Being in the dome, you could feel the crowd losing themselves to the visuals, the sounds, and the scents. Every person in the dome was completely engulfed in the film. If you were feeling an urge for more 3D art after leaving the dome, right next door was a pair of virtual reality goggles where people could essentially draw their reality and walk in their very own fantasy land.

The night was slowing to its end (or I should say my end, since The Grotto never stopped after Saturday) when suddenly, Santigold shocked the whole crowd by inviting her fans to come up on stage and dance with her. It didn't look like she expected the flood of people swarming the stage, but then again, when is the last time you've seen Santigold headline an art festival?

The best part about this gathering is its element of surprise. Being in the right place at the right time could put you in the middle of something exciting, fun, and electrifying. Who would have though that a quick dip in the refreshing lake on would put you right in front of the DeLorean hover craft taking off from the beachside? Or a seaplane would be landing right next to you to offer you a free ride to Swimbiosis? Or that you could go to the University and major in anything you could ever dream of? The amount of places to be seen, people to be heard, and art to be appreciated is immense compared to the amount of days you are allotted - simply because the magic never stops.

As the weekend came to its conclusion, I thought about my experience and tried to understand what the gathering was all about. Symbiosis can be defined as "a mutually beneficial relationship between different people or groups." The word "beneficial" in the modern world has become more and more materialistic. These days we benefit from the relationship with our boss in order to get a raise at our nine to five job so we can afford the latest smartphones, tablets, or high end clothing. We benefit from having thousands of likes on our social media posts because it makes us feel loved and wanted. We benefit from having a career that we may dislike because we think it will allow society accept us.

Symbiosis allows people to benefit from each other in a much simpler way: to learn, to grow, to open our minds. Being surrounded by 15,000 people free of stress, timed schedules, and the constraints of "the man" allows the community to open their mind the ideas and beliefs that they might have found bizarre in the real world. The flat earth theorists become one with the vegans and the vegans become one with the ecodelic philosophers. Within minutes of walking in the stereotypes are stripped away and a trusted community forms.

As Symbiosis becomes bigger and ever changing, next years gathering will be a weeklong held in Oregon for a total Solar Eclipse on August 17-23, 2017. Being called the "international consortium of festivals," Solar Eclipse will bring together festivals from the US, Australia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Canada, Japan, Mexico, South Africa, and the UK to create an eclectic environment and bring people from all over the world to share the breathtaking site of a total eclipse. There will be plenty of wide open space so no need to worry about the bottleneck lines getting into the festival like we did this year, among other positive changes. With a history of inspiring thousands all over the world, there is no doubt Symbiosis Gathering will be upping the ante for next year's groundbreaking eclipse.

>> Oregon Eclipse 2017 Facebook Event

Photos by Aaron William Photography


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