The recaps are in. The tribes have spoken. The West Coast’s kaleidoscopic 2015 festival season is over and Symbiosis Gathering near Oakland in September crowned the tail end of it, solidly claiming its place as the new destination du jour for the festival scene’s transformation-seeking, Burning Man crowd.
Symbiosis successfully pulled off the delicate balance between delighting and uniting different groups of people and delivering uncompromising creativity of the left-leaning artistic community, a combination enhanced by today’s technological advances that allowed for fantastical experiences. It was one of those rare festivals where I could truly feel the love and effort of all the individuals, not just the ones throwing the event. On top of this, here is my list of reasons why it’s going to stand the test of festies’ tastes as one of the region’s most significant transformational gatherings.
AMAZING ART AND IMMERSIVE SPACES THAT FELT SINCERE
Everything felt like it belonged and contributed creatively, with nary a pretentious display or blinding laser show. Symbiosis’s spot at Woodward Reservoir, a peninsula surrounded on three sides by a swimming lake, essentially made the event. It gave us much-needed H2O and art boats and interactive water installations like Drift that looked like a mirage straight out of Waterworld.
The art and interactive areas on land were equally delightful, with a few pieces that came straight from Burning Man, livening the landscape with their colorful brilliance, pyrotechnic displays, and overall artistic and spiritual value. Oh, and of course there were those amazing art cars, transporting travelers far and wide across the space-time continuum.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t notice that there were many bare breasts everywhere. Especially toward the end of the weekend, more girls seemed to be taking their tops off–as well as a few guys with their bottoms. Even as music festivals go there was a pretty high occurrence of nudity. If I had to take a guess it might have had something to do with the ample swimming and wet clothes, but who knows. Not that I’m complaining, I’m all for the tribal birthday suit look. And you have to admit, nudity at a festival gives it a decent amount of OG hippie cred.
ECLECTIC MUSIC CHOICES
Need I say more? House, psytrance, bass downtempo, even world–the genres were varied with musical artists like Nicolas Jaar, Tipper (and his secret sunrise set), Cocorosie, Shpongle, Polish Ambassador, and more across the electronic music spectrum. There were beats for all feet.
ATTENTION TO LUXE
Both the glamping and pedicabbers made my quality of life during the three days exponentially better. I stayed at the Lost Hotel (built and operated by my friends), a luxury, two-story structure, in a cube space with four walls and more than enough standing room. Some rooms even came with air-conditioning.
The pedicabs were available throughout the festival, though I didn’t ride with one until the very end when I was in the acres-wide parking lot trying to leave, looking for my car. Which I couldn’t find. Even after twenty minutes of walking around in the sun with my suitcase. And thank the festival gods that one of the pedicabbers biked me up and down treacherous hills until, forty minutes later, we finally came across my car in an obscure roundabout. Thank you, Ben, you are the best!
One thing I have to mention, though, are the portapotties. I was one of the lucky few who had access to private crew bathrooms, because by the second day I was there the portapotties were so full that you could hardly sit without touching human waste. It was the one negative experience and I hope the restrooms at the next Symbiosis get extra loving attention, because basic sanitation is pretty important.
CUTE LITTLE TOUCHES…LIKE B12 SHOTS IN YOUR BUTT
The rest of Symbiosis was an exquisite collection of details that altogether created a one-of-a-kind experience. Most notably, the B12 shots offered by Dr. Dana Michaels were something I’ve never had at a festival–or any other time in my life as far as I know–so on the last day I got an injection of vitamin B12 in my left butt cheek. I’m not sure if it worked, but I didn’t get sick after a weekend of partying, so I’m not going to judge.
This festival happens only once every two years, so if scarcity is any indication for demand be ready for very special gathering in 2017. The bar has been set high for transformational festivals hereafter.
RELATED: The Best Thing to Consume at Music Festivals is Not What You Think