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Six reasons why Symbiosis Gathering wasn't your average dusty festival

Floating stages, spinning fireballs and Justin Martin

  • Words: Carré Orenstein / Photos: Jamie Rosenberg
  • 23 September 2015
Six reasons why Symbiosis Gathering wasn't your average dusty festival

Symbiosis Gathering just hit its 10th anniversary. To celebrate, the transformative festival exceeded expectations, from event newbies to Symbiosis-veterans alike. The 15,000-person Gathering took place in the same spot as the last one in 2013, surrounding the Woodward Reservoir, right outside a tiny town called Oakdale, California.

While the name may ring as an alert for yet another dusty festival that Californians hold so dear, there are many reasons why Symbiosis has officially set itself apart from the rest. But yes, there was still plenty of yoga, nudity, LSD and psy- trance.

Organisers have managed to create an expansive, impressive adult-Disneyland type of festival, with a line-up that well considers the variety of attendees. Justin Martin, Nicolas Jaar, Bob Moses, Four Tet and Max Cooper were joined by the likes of Griz, Mumdance, Esta, G-Jones and many more.

See Mixmag's reasons why Symbiosis is now the dusty festival to beat below.

1 The reservoir

To be honest, the 2900-acre reservoir was the real MVP of the weekend. Not only could you stumble into the water straight from your campsite, you could swim on all ends of the festival. People didn't smell nearly as bad as they usually do after four days of camping.

2 Justin Martin

Justin Martin played the sunset set on Saturday evening at the Swimbiosis stage. Naked people were shaking it on land, in water and in hanging nets in the trees. Over two hours of fire from the Dirtybird all-star that set the bar for the rest of the weekend.

3 Mind-blowing art installations

Yes it was fun to just look at things. Symbiosis paid tribute to its Burning Man roots with the impeccable art installations that were all but 'just sculptures'. From 10-foot flowers that slowly bloomed if you stared long enough, to huge spinning fireballs above your head, there was more than enough to see on a nice, long wander around the festival.

4 The structures and stages

There was a stage made to look like a collection of abandoned shacks called Juke Town where the takeovers were proper courtesy of two of the best party crews in the world, Desert Hearts and Dirtybird. The main stage was decorated to make even the trussing look magical and there was a mini stage you could swim to that was built like a tree house. And if by day three you were too tired out to dance, there were plenty of shade structures to pass out under. There were only six official stages on the field guide, but with a little light exploration, you'd have found many more.

5 Music discovery

In a flooded festival market where every line-up seems like a clone of the next, it's rare to stumble on the obscure gems. This was not the case at Symbiosis. Since the line-up is not the primary selling point of the festival, organisers were able to put together a unique, underground bill which of course paired well with the bigger bookings like Nicolas Jaar and Damian Lazarus. Riktam lit up Juke Town as a solid kick-off to Friday night, while another little known artist Little John dropped tech-house banger after banger warming up The Grotto for a heavy, powerful set from Max Cooper who delivered one of the best performances of the weekend.

6 The people

Aside from the fact that people were generally nice and respectful of your things (i.e. tents weren't vandalized), everyone went full-on for this one. No empty dance floors, little complaining and super-charged vibes can either be attributed to Symbiosis nailing it or maybe some really good drugs. Point being, hippie festivals aren't just for hippies anymore.

Special shout-out to the insightful man who eloquently explained his outlook on life with one simple analogy, 'It's just like chicken, it's easy to transform it'. Go on, mate

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