‘The Symbiosis Gathering’ 2013 Review
(1) Location ‘Woodward Reservoir near Oakdale California’
A perfect waterside location for such an event. We were located on a peninsula with plenty of swimming water on all sides and buoyed off especially for us. And the water *ohh the water* refreshing, clean, and convenient. So unlike Burning Man, everybody was nice and clean thanks to the Reservoir – I swam like a fool. Rumor has it they’re trying to bargain a lease of this area for the next five years; I hope it comes to fruition. The grounds were weed whacked sufficiently and the weeds seemed daunting at first, but they weren’t. I went barefoot a lot, and I’d occasionally get a pricker, but that’s about it.
I rarely found toilet paper in any of them (bring your own) and never witnessed any cleaning. Hey Drunk People! – ‘Hovering’ to pee is fine, it’s just piss, but when you shit hovering drunk ‘anything’ can happen. Folks you simply miss the mark and the rest of us pay the price of an uninhabitable porta-pottie. Urine is sterile and you can use the seat cover paper (which was always plentiful) to wipe off the seat prior to relieving yourself. NO DRUNK HOVERING TO SHIT – sober is fine. Needless to say, the porta-poties could be a rough go, but they were there and we all lived.
If you don’t like to haul your supplies over hill and dale, get the car camping permit (an extra $150.) it’s well worth it. The car camping space was 12’ by 40’, which I know seems small, but you and your neighbors will work out more room if you need it. If you decide to do the walk-in camping, pack light and bring something that rolls to transport your gear in ‘one trip’. Otherwise you’ll exhaust yourself humping all your stuff thither and yon. I was a little bummed that bikes were not allowed, but I got used to walking. The venues and the food court were pretty close together, with the art, clothing, and whatnot nearby. Ice and water was readily available and plentiful. I just wish the pedicabs would have followed the bands, after ‘STS9’ I would have paid them twenty bucks to shuttle me back to camp, I was dog tired. I did hear they were gonna increase the number of pedicabs next year, I hope so.
(4) The Food
Fresh, organic, delicious, and reasonably priced – they even had pizza! But there was only one small table with a few chairs to sit and eat, so most of us just sat in the dirt and made do. During the evening the food court had this killer cello player laying down the beats with guest rappers, fantastic entertainment while one chows down. Having food available takes the pressure off the preparation for the event; you can just bring cold-cuts, fruit, and beverages, then dine out on a whim.
(5) Law Enforcement
As opposed to the Police State known as Burning Man, Symbiosis was the polar opposite. Comparing Burning Man to Symbiosis is like comparing an Uzi to a Banana, it was ultra chill. Driving in Thursday from my home in Modesto, to when I pulled into my camp site, I saw one County Sheriff! – and they tend to be cool anyway. There were No Arrests and No Incidents ‘whatsoever’ reported by the Stanislaus County Sheriffs Office. Symbiosis had their own security and they just kept the peace, checked our wristbands and looked out for our safety, that’s about it. You felt both secure and free at Symbiosis.
(6) The Music
Yes there were workshops, lectures, art, clothing, sweat lodges, and tons of yoga; which I heard (especially the sweat lodges) were great, but I came to dance. I did see three of the headliners, STS9, Shpongle, and Chet Faker, as well as a shit load of others including Mortar and Pestle. STS9 (Sound Tribe Sector 9) out of Atlanta, ground me into that lake-side dirt like an errant beetle. I danced furiously to both of their sets then slowly slogged my way back to camp. I had planned to see Dragonfly and Cashmere Cat after STS9, but I left everything on the dance-floor to that band of five. The English duo Sphongle, composed of Simon Posford and Raja Ram, were extraordinary. Their world music was ethereal, combining psychedelic trance and sonic textures to die for. The Australian Chet Faker was like seeing Frank Sinatra on acid. Accompanied by his polished band, Chet combined loungey with bad ass world beats, it was awesome. The trio Mortar and Pestle out of Oakland, just knocked me out with their depth of soul and ambient rhythms – and ‘shit howdy’ they’re local! There was music for all taste especially at the less popular ‘Living Room’ stage which featured eclectic small bands, but if tribal beats with sonic textures is your bag, hello nirvana.
In conclusion, this venue was a breath of fresh air. Being a long time Burner, I wondered if I would ever experience the freedom I felt at my first Burn in 1992? And I did, in spades.
I couldn’t recommend this venue highly enough.