Date: September 19th-23rd, 2013
Location: Oakdale, CA
Price: $300 for 5 days
Years Running: 9
Summary: Symbiosis Gathering is a 5 day transformational festival that changes locations from year to year. This change of location really makes each festival feel like a completely separate festival from the year before. Over the course of the festival, attendees have the opportunity to listen to music that goes all day and all night, educate themselves at talks led by leaders in their field, and grow a community of like minded, world-shaping individuals.
Crowd: The crowd at Symbiosis is made up of some of the most beautiful individuals you will ever come across. Symbiosis is the closest thing to a Burner (people who go to Burning Man) event you will find. There is a very wide range in age as Symbiosis; it’s family friendly festival, so you see lots of families with children. This crowd does a great job of dressing up and expressing themselves, as you would expect from the Burner community.
Organization: Symbiosis Gathering as a whole was not a very organized festival. When I entered the box office (four hours after they opened) and gave them my name, they said the media list was not updated yet. Once I did make it in and went to get a schedule, the information booth said they did not have them yet. This was kind of the tone for the weekend. There was enough bathrooms for everyone, but they were kind of hard to find at night. The biggest folly was the program of 30+ pages filled with information, making it difficult and frustrating to find out who was playing at each stage. The lax organization did give the festival a more organic feel, which was nice once you got use to it.
Stages: The stages at Symbiosis were absolutely stunning. Each stage had a very unique look and feel to it, which made it a great place to dance to some of your favorite artists. Combine this with great sound and you have a truly wonderful music experience.
Landscape: Symbiosis was held at Woodward Reservoir, which ended up being one of the coolest festival venues I have ever been to. The entire venue was next to a lake that you could swim in. This turned the entire weekend into your own personal pool party and leading me to the conclusion that every festival should have a place to go swimming.
Food: The food at Symbiosis was really great. There was plenty of vendors that offered a wide variety of food. There were even a couple places that served meat dishes (this isn’t always the case at transformational festivals).
Art: The art at Symbiosis was absolutely incredible. There were dozens of installations that looked great during the day and lit up at night. Many of them were interactive and allowed you to climb on them. Other festivals should follow Symbiosis’ example of how to create an all encompassing festival experience.
What makes this festival special? The venue, the crowd, and the fact that the music goes all night long makes this festival special. There is just something magical about dancing with all of your friends as the sun comes up.
What could be improved? The festival program (schedule) needs a complete overhaul. It was a nightmare to operate because it was 30 pages long and each stage had a different schedule instead of each day having a different page. They also made attendees pay $1 per gallon of water. This was a mistake because they need to encourage attendees to drink as much water as possible and give it away for free like the rest of the festivals.
Overall Rating: 3 stars. It was a fun festival but, $300 is a really big ticket price for a festival without big name artists.
How would you improve the festival? Tweet me! @TheFestivalGuy