This year’s Symbiosis Gathering in Woodward Reservoir, California, was my first and I had been preparing myself for a collision of expectations with the new. I had heard that this transformational festival was thoughtfully organised, every detail seen to with mindfulness. I didn’t quite foresee a 26,000 strong EDM party that felt like Burning Man’s little brother, the installations and art cars of Symbiosis arriving flecked with playa dust and laden with the energy of Black Rock City from a few weeks previous.
Symbiosis is a haven for hedonists and hippies alike. Though it seems to have evolved far from its roots as a spiritual gathering, it still retains strong links to its origins. The talks, workshops and luminaries offer a wealth of information on permaculture, anthropology, psychology and, need I say it, yoga. Ceremonial spaces honour the four elements, with indigenous elders often leading medicinal rituals.
Yet at an event of this scale, every shade of hippie was present and the gathering invited aspects of capitalism and mainstream festival commerce. Punters were adorned with several-hundred-dollar garments that flashed electronic lights and outfits were demonstrative of the extravagance, creativity and frivolity that makes this festival.
Highlights included the life-changing art installation/immersive DMT trip by Android Jones; the art boats blasting music across the lake, and performances by the Pizza Goddess. The music selection was eclectic, and artists like Santigold and FKA Twigs owned the stages. And let’s not forget the moment when the three-boobed alien who was presenting the strip show addressed the unruly crowd with “ladies and humanoids, please put your hands together…”