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Symbiosis Gathering 2013 ReviewOn the weekend of the Autumn Equinox, thousands of people gathered on the peninsula of Woodward Reservoir in Oakdale, CA. From September 19-23, these gatherers made the reservoir their homes, sharing intimate spaces, adventurous stories, and many spiritual experiences. Symbiosis Gathering, a festival celebrating the beauties of art, music, education, and health, gives you a whole new perspective of the festival experience.

When you go to Symbiosis Gathering, you leave all worries and negativities behind. What made Symbiosis Gathering 2013 a success are the people and location. Camping closely with strangers has never felt more joyous and relaxing. Trust is present, and at this festival you make new friends every day. The ease of jumping in the lake adds to the overall experience, swimming under the clear sky to the beats of Juke Shack. It’s something that you cannot experience at EDC or Burning Man.

Pass the entry archway lie a culmination of outstanding art and installations, 6 stages boasting a diverse line-up of artists and performance artists, healing areas, and a marketplace full of artisan crafts and festival gears. The vast open sky holds endless possibilities for the festival and its attendees. At any moment, wherever you may be standing, you can see water flowing in concert to the rainbow lights as they strobe to the beats of the songs or to the words of the poems. The whole venue is sectioned off into different zones; all vehicles are left farthest from the venue (the Metal Zone) while tents surround the entrance (the Water Zone). Once inside the Fire Zone, you become engulfed in the magic and spirit of a festival that you have never experienced before. You enter this “spiritual dimension.” In this zone, only positivity and good vibes exist.

22 art installations were spread throughout the reservoir. Each piece told a story and evoked emotional consciousness. Other pieces, such as Bryan Tedrick’s Coyote, allowed festival go-er’s to connect with them on a deeper level. Attendees could climb into the stomach of the Coyote and experience the piece from the inside, overlooking Symbiosis for above. Jason Bernard’s Last Tree provided a safe haven from above the Empire of Love stage. As you climbed the metal sculpture, you could feel the nostalgia of your childhood: climbing everything and playing with your friends in tree houses. Every so often the Jabba Barge, Adam Mostow’s art car, maneuvered throughout the venue, bringing life to the gatherers sitting down as 20 plus dancers grooved to the bass of the song. Live paintings were just as good of an entertainment as the musical acts. You could watch an artist transform a blank white canvas into something magnificent as the sun floats across the sky.

Symbiosis Gathering rounded up an exciting and diverse lineup of music, performance art, and spoken word acts. Highlights included An-ten-nae, special guest MiMOSA, Russ Liquid, STS9, Max Cooper, and Adam Freeland. Whether you were sinking to the floor as the dirty bass rumbled at The Cove or jumping high above the crowd at the Juke Shack, there was a genre of music for everybody. Vau de Vire Society’s tantalizing and seductive performance at The Big Island is something that will never be forgotten. Many jaws were dropped as the beautiful contortionist performed, bending into positions nobody else. The transition into a full-ensemble dance brought the performance to new heights…literally. Acrobats swung in hoops above the sky while dancers exotically entranced you with their sexy office-themed performance. Saul Williams delivered a powerful and emotional poem to thousands of people at The Big Island. His words, mixed with fear, sadness, pride, joy, love, and just about every emotion known to man, were simply amazing.

While many gatherers brought their own camp food, there were plenty of delicious options within the venue. The ever-so-famous and delicious Vatra’s Special captivated everyone’s attention. “What is that, and where can I get it?”” Lydia’s Organics.” So what is Vatra’s Special? Similar to nachos, Vatra’s Special consists of a Coconut Curry and Kale Salad topped with Avocado, Coconut Almond Hummus, Seaweed Crackers, “Kreemy” Chili and Sesame Dill Sauce. Another favorite, yet odd, was the Ant Soda at Drip Drop Coffee. The Changbai Mountain Ant Elixir is the base for this beverage, full of essential vitamins and minerals perfect for enhancing mood, vitality, and energy. On average each dish costs $8-10, and it’s worth the investment because you won’t find any of these selections anywhere else.

With a 4-day pass at $255, camping essentials at roughly $100, and a souvenir allowance of $100 (excluding gas), Symbiosis Gathering can be a very expensive experience. It’s worth it. The things you see, the people you interact with, the installations you become one with, the music you take in, the keynotes and meditation you absorb, and the pure joy of being with beautiful people with
beautiful minds are worth it. So, start preparing for next year’s Symbiosis Gathering. Be sure to keep up-to-date with their website and social media channels because Symbiosis Gathering occurs in different locations and on different dates. Wherever and whenever it may occur, you can count on us being there.

-Chris W. Hong and Edward A. Heinrich