I sit here recalling my weekend at Symbiosis Gathering in a slightly altered state. Very elated, slightly loopy, perhaps a little delirious, and listening to Rustie’s “Flashback” and Nickodemus “Sun Children”. I’m in a good place, I assure you, and I promise, I’m not on drugs. 🙂

But I AM definitely running on very little rest and a taxing week of mental & logistical preparation for the next adventure, to Machu Picchu, Peru until a return just in time for EDC: Las Vegas. May and June 2012 are promising to be some of the most ridiculous couple of months, yet as a professional festival hunter with LA Music Blog, there was absolutely no better way to kick things off than with a trip out to Pyramid Lake for the Symbiosis Gathering.

For those wondering what Symbiosis Gathering is, click here for our preview of the festival!

Be sure to check out our photos on our Facebook, album 1 and album 2!

*Note Rustie and Nickodemus were two artists I desperately wanted to catch. Rustie is a dubstep producer whose music has a fun bouncy feel that can only be obtained through heavily used video game-reminiscent synths and light-hearted melody lines. Nickodemus’s positive-feel brand of hip hop is perfect for any occasion, especially for a summer vibe.* Check them both out!

In our preview, we went over a basic premise of what the Symbiosis Gathering promised to be on paper and on their website. They provided a beautifully constructed video montage of one of the most eclectic looking forest festivals this side of Burning Man, complete with lush green trees, a cool inviting lake, dusty dance circles, and peaceful smiling party-goers.

On their website, they alluded to the significance of the lunar cycle and how it highlights the festival, and the importance of maintaining a green sustainable environment to run the event, comprised of everything from support for local organic-friendly food vendors to the use of solar, wind, and bio-fuels to power their stage set ups.

They promised stage performances, yoga, focused talks and work shops, an amazing musical lineup that ranged from quirky garage indie-rock to the stuff that would cause bass music fanatics to drip sweat in pure bliss.

Seriously, all of this and I couldn’t be more excited to go out there and rage my nuts off, kicking off my stupidly aggressive summer adventure marathon by replacing my Burning Man experience with a weekend getaway just a couple hours outside of Black Rock City (Pyramid Lake is also only a couple hours outside of Reno). And in the end… the beginning of the trip didn’t quite pan out as smoothly as I had expected. We arrived just in time for the gates to close on Thursday night/Friday morning (4am), slept in the car for the first evening parked at the gate, and found that all the car parking spots had been taken up, which left us with room in the aptly name “FAR LOT.”

Many miles & hours of walking/carrying our entire supply stores to our campsite later, I’ll admit, I was a little cranky with everything. I was glad to have finally gotten there but I couldn’t help but feel a little prickish. It was hot and dusty as all hell, and the terrain was far from Burning Man smooth, riddled with rocks, pitfalls, thorny brush, and little red ants. The stage set ups and pathway installs weren’t quite as ‘ooh aah’ sparkly as I had expected, and the blossoming city’s logistics frustratingly weren’t quite in order when we sought information.

Honestly, the frustrations and annoyances really packed on, and I just didn’t quite feel at home that afternoon. I’m pretty sure I mumbled “over it” a couple of times.

That was until….

…the sun started dancing along the horizon line and the temperature came down. The dust storms passed, our campsite was set up, and we hit the open plains to see the lake.

With a view like the one below, no one could possibly continue being a pompous prick like I had been all afternoon. And at that moment, I had never felt more like an utter dirt bag. I was surrounded by an irreplaceable calm, privy to a once-in-a-lifetime privilege of attending one of the most interesting music & arts festivals in N. America on the sacred land of the Paiute tribe. Who else can say they went to a music festival centered around COSMIC EVENTS on sacred land. Are you fuckin’ kidding me? You can’t even make up shit like that.

And as my heart and eyes opened, I began to really notice the details and see what all of this was about. The pathway flourishings, instead of being encrusted with jewels and rose petals like I had seen before at other festivals, were instead constructed with simple rocks, sticks, and minimal glitter (not referring to actual glitter, just chintzy shiny shit). Matter was not to be left out of place. The event producers had really thought long and hard to keep this theme cohesive, from their programming of learning cultural & survival arts (learning how to build fire below) down to the very rocks the event producers placed so neatly on the pathways.

And after we had recharged our spirit batteries, we set off to explore the festival grounds. Friday’s lineup kicked off with a sunset-set by Emancipator. As people rocked and swayed gently to his oh-so-smooth brand of orchestral-based, down-tempo hip hop, the sun began to dip below the horizon and give off an amazing golden glow across the huge mainstage crowd of dancing people and flow-toy artists.

The rest of Night 1 was comprised of exploration and slight LOLFAIL statuses (see Beats Antique below). We caught most of the next set, a lovely lady by the name of Lynx who did her one woman show without a stutter. Armed to the musical teeth with laptop, percussion, synths, and a guitar, she played and sang her way into the hearts of everyone at the Eclipse Stage, as they watched her dive into down-tempo hip hop covers (“No Diggity” by Black Street), deep bassy tones, and some acoustic guitar work. Beautiful set. You’ve made a fan out of me.

The night continued on with an exploration of the installs along the festival stage perimeter. The festival consisted of four main stages, the Eclipse, Sun, Moon, and Earth stages, each with their own respective vibes and feel.

  • The Eclipse (below), being the largest stage handled a lot of the headliners. Gorgeous geometric awnings and an impressively large size, this was a great home-base for us.
  • The Sun Stage was the 100% dedicated house music stage. Always an amazing go-to for bouncy beats.
  • The Moon Stage was a circus tent-reminiscent set up that housed everything from aerial and circus shows to cabarets and fire dancing. Was also the location of my favorite set of the weekend, Justin Martin.
  • The Earth Stage was home to all the misfits and the ultra-eccentric. Playing the filthiest of world music-infused bass music, the area was deeply decorated with rich wooden hues and a lot of foreign spiritual relics. Really brought you to another state of mind.

Night 1 continued with art install exploration until Beats Antique went on. We caught them for a little bit, but things got a bit too cold for Snow Leopard, so we went back to our camp to recharge with some hot soup and lay down for a bit in our sleeping bags. By the time my eyes opened up again, it was 3am…and I had missed Paper Diamond, Rustie (most anticipated set of the weekend), AND Photek. F…M…L.

But alas, I didn’t fret. Having run on fewer hours of sleep than hours spent moving heavy ass shit across the desert, I chalked the LOLFAIL nap to extreme tiredness and needed rest.

I’ll see Rustie and Photek some day. I promise!

We stayed near the Heart Beat Machine dome, an amazingly meticulously done dome with cool blue lighting and a propane flame thrower that would spout flames (very reminiscent of Burning Man) periodically upon the whim of a mysterious trigger-happy individual. Inside the dome was the actual Heart Beat Machine, a series of 3 lounge chairs with electrode hookups that measured your heart beat and generated a multi-sensory experience with pulsating lights, vibrating tactile response on your back, and an amplified sound playback of your heartbeat. Seriously beautiful stuff.

One of my absolute favorite activities of the weekend was joining in on a fire-making class. Going over multiple methods, the instructor taught us what kind of woods to use (cedar, yucca, etc.) and gave an amazingly deep description on what it means to have the power to create a fire.

To breathe your passion into your creation, by respecting nature and gathering your energies, you create a spark from generating friction through your selected natural materials and breathe life into a flame.

Pictured here is my favorite talk of the weekend, “Yoga of Bass” with Freq Nasty and Claire Thompson. They discussed the parallel modes of obtaining spiritual enlightenment through two seemingly very different “schools” of thought: music and yoga. At first I was pretty disappointed ’cause I actually thought it would be a yoga class with some nasty-bass drops playing in the background to massage me and deepen my stretches, but what I got was some seriously compelling content.

The flags of the Sun Stage, like a portal into the sky, allowing you to let yourself go into the infinite bliss while listening to some fuckin’ bouncey house beats. Absolutely loved this stage both at night and in the daytime.

If you’ve never attended a music festival in the desert before, seriously just look at the two photos above and the one below. No camera can even remotely capture just how amazingly the lights play off the sunset and terrain. Do yourself a favor and get yourself out to the desert. NOW.

Can’t have a desert fest without fire-dancers. This guy was seriously sick and performed at the Moon Stage’s outdoor area. Long poi that spun so fast lighter fluid flew off and splash zoned the surrounding audience. Absolutely insane.

Gang Gang Dance. I seriously don’t know what to say about these guys (and gal) except just how stupidly fun and carefree their music and show is. Definitely not for those who don’t appreciate eclectic tunes. The random Asian guy who dances around on stage and plays no instruments alone is worth the watch.

Found some tiger friends :).

And pictured here is one of my favorite surprises of the night. In the daytime this bamboo rib cage was the home of numerous talks and work shops, and at night, it was a serene chill-out spot with trance music playing off of an ipod lol. Or at least I would assume it was an ipod.

You’ll have to excuse me as I began writing this post in a very scheduled manner (planning to go through every line item one-by-one), but my flight leaves in 2 hours, I still have some packing to do, and you can get the play-by-play by looking through the Facebook photos!

Be sure to check out our photos on our Facebook, album 1 and album 2!

Plus I’m scarily nearing 2,000 words anyway, so I’m sure you don’t want to hear anymore =p.

And probably the three favorite/most important photos I would like to present:

A weekend’s live painting end result by the incredibly talented Andrea Tseng

Symbiosis Gathering attendees, gazing longingly into the solar eclipse

One ring to rule them all. The solar eclipse in all its glory

^”Flashback” from Rustie. Missing his set was one of my biggest regrets of the weekend for sure!

For more information about the Symbiosis Gathering, visit them on the web! See you in 3 years! (Their festival follows the annular lunar cycle and thus the eclipse won’t be ideal for viewing until 2015. Good luck =p.)