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Beyond the music: Symbiosis Gathering reinvents the festival experience in 2015

Symbiosis Gathering 2015Photos by Nik Crossman, Jamie Rosenberg & John Felix // Written by Nik Crossman & Brett Ruffenach //

Symbiosis Gathering //
Woodward Reservoir – Oakdale, CA
September 17th-20th, 2015 //

Floating 100 miles east of San Francisco, Symbiosis Gathering brought more than 12,000 incredible humans together to celebrate the power of music, art, education and love at Woodward Reservoir. Symbiosis is leading a paradigm shift in the festival world, and the 10 Year Re:Union proved to be their largest gathering yet.

The recipe for Symbiosis is simple. Start with a conventional music festival — Coachella, FYF Fest or Sasquatch! — and throw in some Burning Man essentials like sustainability, alchemy, yoga and education. Now, sprinkle elements specific to the venue of choice (ahem, art boats and water stages), remove all the corporate sponsorship and alcohol sales, and wrap it up in a community of love and consciousness. The result is the next generation of festival experience — a gathering, not a production.

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With minimal funding, an international family of volunteers and festivalgoers come together to make Symbiosis possible. Extending beyond the “everyone contributes” mentality of Burning Man, the gathering curates and organizes many, but not all, of its attractions. The community encourages everyone to contribute to the already stellar experience of Symbiosis. Distributed throughout the 24-hour festival grounds, earth and water art installations provide interactive spaces to create, climb, lounge and float. The spinning balls of fire proved to be a solid meeting place throughout the night and presented some beautiful photo opportunities.

The flagship amenity, aptly named “Swymbiosis”, was a Copacabana-meets-Hippy-Hill drum circle/beach party at the lakeshore. Each afternoon, festivalgoers grabbed their flotation device of choice (a pink flamingo named Karen, an inflatable pizza slice, etc.) and drifted in the sunshine while listening to an impressive lineup through the festival’s Funktion-One sound system. From Raja Ram of Shpongle to Ooah and Edit of The Glitch Mob, “Swymbiosis” offered one of the most unique and fun live music experiences imaginable.

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With an impressive, internationally influenced lineup, “Swymbiosis” certainly wasn’t the only noteworthy stage performance. Thursday night kicked off the festival with five hours of house music from the Desert Hearts crew, followed by Eprom’s extraordinary bass. Well into Day 2, The Polish Ambassador’s high-octane set had everyone moving and shaking at The Big Island. Despite some sound issues, G Jones and Minnesota managed to deliver seamless, back-to-back sets, satiating Friday night’s appetite for bass. Spilling into dawn, Four Tet opened a gorgeous, three-hour set with “Digital Arpeggios” from his Percussions alias and closed with “Morning Side”.

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From Bob Moses to Nicolas Jaar, Saturday came through with more stellar acts to accompany the transformational journey that was unfolding. Sylvan Esso demonstrated noteworthy growth on stage with a spectacular set, complete with an encore that lit up the crowd in dance. Of course, no 2015 festival experience would be complete without a secret sunrise performance by Tipper, and Symbiosis delivered with a magical welcoming of Sunday morning set to the British producer’s dreamy electro grooves.

Beyond music, Symbiosis offered a myriad of attractions to stimulate the mind, body and soul. Encouraging personal growth and awareness, it created a warm environment to foster deep bonds with friends, lovers and strangers alike. Partner yoga classes and Tantric workshops demonstrated the beauty and strength derived from a connection between two humans.

Symbiosis Gathering 2015

With talks and workshops ranging from government surveillance and overcoming addiction to the culture of tea, Symbiosis offered much more than the usual “escape from real life” presented by most festivals. Don’t get us wrong — things like the DeLorean hovercraft and Tipper’s secret sunrise set put Symbiosis closer to Neverland than the real world. It’s the underlying focus on consciousness and personal development that engages beyond the typical music festival and makes Symbiosis the poster child for what festivals can and ultimately should represent.

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Comments

  1. Wow. Thanks for posting about this! It just made my bucket list!!! =P

    • Nik Crossman says:

      Thanks John! What other festivals/shows have made your bucket list?

      • There’s Burning man – I’m pretty sure you mentioned that one though haha. Idk, I’m from the midwest and I don’t get a whole lot of festival exposure up here, so my bucket list is pretty short. I guess the only other festival I KNOW I wanna get to is Soundwave in Australia haha.

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