Photo by Get Tiny Photography
What founders of Symbiosis Gathering, Kevin KoChen and Bosque Hrbek, have built in the last decade is nothing short of extraordinary. The reigning kings of the West Coast music and arts festival circuit produced yet another breathtaking experience in Northern California for its final run at the Woodward Reservoir. The festival has become a safe space for humans of all ages, races, genders, and expressions to let loose in an immersible environment of music, food, art, and permaculture. The only thing that kept us clinging to reality was the fact that our Juicy RV Rental had to be returned at the end of the weekend.
A consistently top-notch music billing and a community teeming with talented artists has given Symbiosis its notoriety as a forward-thinking festival. The festival was set up on the arm-like peninsula that extends into the reservoir, with a stage on each finger of the site. Every venture between stages was accompanied with art and installations that covered the dust-caked property like Burning Man styled eye candy, leaving festival-goers in a never-ending state of awe on their commutes between sets. The fact that the artists that helped create the festival make up 5000 of the roughly 18000 gathering population is a testament to the magnitude of Symbiosis’ artist community.
While symbiosis books a wide array of music encompassing psy-trance, world, bass, they had plenty to offer for a house and techno purists like myself. On Friday, we were treated to a 6 hour back to back block where Desert Hearts crew members, Mikey Lion, Porkchop, Marbs, Lee Reynolds, and Deep Jesus conquered the Swimbyosis stage, which drew one of the largest crowds of the weekend to their unique and vibrant take on techno and tech house. Late night adventures on Saturday at the Juke Lagoon included a 3 hour, mostly vinyl set from Seth Troxler, who was billed next to guys like Lee Foss, Pan Pot and Symbiosis-regular KMLN. The Grotto stage hosted Dirtybird players, Christian Martin, Worthy, Ardalan, Claude VonStroke, and Justin Martin in consecutive nights spinning their usual brand of funky, silly, birdy beats.
What really sets Symbiosis apart from other festivals isn’t just their artists and music bookings, but the myriad of nooks and crannies that keep guests entertained throughout the entire duration of the festival. There are drummers on bicycles equipped with pyrotechnics, pseudo gurus debating NASA scientists on whether the Earth is flat or not, floating stages, Yoga workshops, tea houses, slam poets and speakers, as well as a Symbiosis classroom where graduates get bare ass paddled by a canoe oar. There are also vendors that will let you clean dishes and prep ingredients to pay for a meal. The amount of palpable love and genuine respect that people have for each other at this event is humbling and almost surreal on every return to the Gathering.
This year’s edition marks the last event at the Woodward Reservoir. Symbiosis’ usual patchouli-scented crowd shouldn’t fret though. The production team has always remained nomadic in its decade long reign as one of the world’s pinnacle music and arts festivals as is shown through their past events in Australia and Nevada. Next year, in the two weeks prior to Burning Man, Symbiosis will take its production to Oregon for the first full solar eclipse in North America since 1979. The eclipse will last a whopping 45 minutes, demanding the focus of every person on the 55,000 acre plot of land, and thus elevate next year’s gathering into what Symbiosis co-founder, Kevin KoChen deems as an actual transformational festival.