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Symbiosis Gathering: An Unparalleled Festival Experience

Posted in Festivals, From the Front Lines (Show Reviews) with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 23, 2009 by worldromper
Symbiosis Gathering 2009

Symbiosis Gathering 2009

I spent last weekend romping around in a magical forest from sunset to sunrise and beyond, with friends from near and far and a lineup that quite possibly was the best I had ever experienced: top notch musical talent the whole weekend communicated through crystalline sound with a backdrop of insane natural splendor. I was submerged in art and dunked in a lake that bobbed with happy souls, next to tall trees that will be here long after you or I. Symbiosis Gathering was THE place to be in the whole entire universe last weekend, and I am so thankful that I was able to share in the unforgettable experience with so many of you.

Perfection

Perfection

Why is anyone living any other life than one centered around art and music and creative expression? Why do people go into toilet sales when they could go into event production or performance art? I know that humans are busy raising babies and prodding their genes along towards immortality, getting married because they are supposed to, saving up for bigger TVs and faster cars, and that SOMEONE has to sell toilets- but it doesn’t have to be you. I sink to my knees in gratitude for the life I have found on the road less traveled and for the beautiful, talented and creative people who fill it. AKA: you.

My favorite moment of the festival, predictable perhaps but no less immense, was the Glitch Mob slamming the sun up Saturday morning, the NoCal sky slowly becoming a sheet of sherbet rainbow behind piney silhouettes as my favorite artists in the world gave us their music on a forest platter. Fucking epic. Heaps of new tracks and a field full of adoring fans who had been up all night, dancing in a woodland home that no one will ever forget. The boys ended their set with a tribute to their home and my home (California Love, baby), dedicated to their friend DJ AM; I was not the only one on the dance floor with tears of joy in my eyes.

What Do You Create?

What Do You Create?

Symbiosis Gathering was everything I thought it would be and everything I told you it would be, and then some. One mile down the road was Yosemite National Park, and the dense beauty of the venue was complemented to perfection by the deep beats echoing through the leaves. I would buy my ticket for Symbiosis 2010 right this second, and I would probably buy one for you. If I had to pick one party to go to in 2010, it would be Symbiosis; I wish I could make everyone I love experience this amazing outdoor which really was the best I have ever been to. All my desert-dwelling SoCal homies were freaking out over the forest and the trees, and so was I- it is weird how much I miss my furry green friends from cooler, drippier climates.

Symbiosis felt much more open than Burning Man (in vibe, not geography), with much less of a police presence- I saw one cruiser. The smaller attendance and cozy venue created a more intimate feeling. I was lost for a fair amount of the weekend, but the grounds were totally doable and easy to navigate once you figured it out- which I had by late Sunday afternoon.

A few landmarks guided the wanderers along the way, like Raja’s Laser Guided Visions booth filled with hologram art and freaks; every single time I walked through, they were bumping the illest music ever (I am pretty sure I heard a Whompcast) with a crowd of people dotted with Seattleites. The last time I passed by, it was a straight-up madhouse with a couple dozen people dancing in the path and pratically blocking it off. Big ups Seattle! I have not met anyone in SoCal who parties half as hard as my friends from the 206. You kids crazy.

Mullet Wig Adorns the 'No Camping' Sign

Mullet Wig Adorns the 'No Camping' Sign

Some people ask me why they can’t make these outdoor festivals a little easier to experience: make them closer to major cities, not quite so expensive, and could someone plan out the whole camping thing so I don’t have to? But making it a bit difficult is kind of the point. These incredible outdoor experiences are a large endeavor; this is not Hollywood on Friday night where you hop in a cab, fork over $20 and are in. Festivals take planning, preparation, and prioritization in your life. And this is just how the promoters want it. If you could buy a ticket and show up after a five minute ride with no thought and little advance effort, well then it would be an urban massive like EDC. Which is not bad- I had a blast at EDC– but these outdoor festivals are a different animal entirely. No comparison whatsoever to the massive city raves. Everyone out there really wants to be and has made a big effort in order be there at that moment. It creates a distinct, caring tone to the party that you do not find and easy-to-experience festivals.

Beautiful People

Beautiful People

Symbiosis Gathering was a five-day event; I was there for less than two and a half days. Next year not only will I make going to outdoor festivals more of a priority financially, but I am going to fewer festivals and staying longer. Every festival I have been to this year, I have arrived late and left early. I like the variety to be sure, but to make the huge effort to camp several hundred miles away from my home and then miss a large portion of the experience has left a sad taste in my mouth. I want more!

There were three questions of Symbiosis:

  1. What time is it?
  2. Do you have a lighter?
  3. Where is my drink?

And to that I will add one more: Who the hell is this DJ?

Epic Party

Epic Party

I never wear a watch in “real life,” although I may have to get one for festivals. I really want to know who is playing and when; I like to know what DJ is up so I can make mental notes about their performance and check them out online when I get home. I recognize many artists, but not all. Lineups became slightly off during Symbiosis and pushed back an hour or even two, which made it hard to figure out who was who if you didn’t already know. Another minor issue in my mind was the fact that between several major sets, there was a huge lag time between artists, which allowed the energy that had been whipped up on the dance floor to dissipate through the forest as partygoers slowly wandered off in search of live music. But still, the energy that remained was golden and ready to go; it just could have been done slightly better.

Despite these few snafus (I also heard that people arriving on Thursday had to wait hours to get in), the festival was a resounding success and everyone was just really blown away by the event. I arrived Friday around 3PM, set up camp, and headed out to check out the stages and explore my world.

The Alt Stage was deep in the forest and had a giant inflatable SOMETHING guarding the gate; it was here we enjoyed fat techno the first night to the likes of Sammy D, Nikola Baytala and the Terrakroma crew.

Approaching the Lake Stage

Approaching the Lake Stage

Although there was a very wide variety of music at Symbiosis and you know I like the techno, this party was all about the midtempo breaks, glitch hop, beat music, bass music, and their many miscreant cousins. It is the music I love and champion on my blog every day.

I spent much of the night at what was to become my home for the weekend: The Lake Stage. At every festival, you seem to gravitate towards one stage and find yourself there more than any other place. I am a total festie nomad and can’t stay in one spot for long, but the Lake Stage held my heart this time around. The visuals were incredible and made it seem like the stage was boiling, teaming with life and squirming around. Behind the wooden stage, giant trees rose up to the brilliant night sky, projected onto with different shades of green and geometric shapes for a really neat effect- tree visuals on trees. Up top, the stars bested us all with their incredible blaze, brighter than I can remember them ever being.

More Lake Stage Goodness

More Lake Stage Goodness

Showing up at the Lake Stage, Mimosa had given part of his set to Ill Gates (nice combo!); following those two was the freaky duo Lazer Sword and then Flying Lotus, who as always delivered a mind-stretching set. I could write a thousand miles about how much I love his music. If you are reading this and thinking, I just don’t get Flying Lotus’ music- what is the deal? Please keep listening. Experiencing his music led me down the path to understanding jazz. Major mental breakthrough shit.

After FlyLo, one of my new favorites in this world took the stage: Pretty Lights, with a  funky and groovy set that lit the forest on fire. Pretty Lights aka Derek Smith was accompanied by a live drummer and of course, pretty lights like flying piles of worms which filled the night and my heart. I could jam to Pretty Light’s sound forever, and I just might.

The rest of the night: an-ten-nae, Caspa, N-Type and 3WS continued as thousands of fools in love with the forest danced and celebrated life and art and each other. My face hurt from smiling so much.

Chillin

Chillin

Saturday I woke up sweaty as hell in my hot ass tent and ready for the lake. Armed with a giant two-person floatie, I wandered down to the lake which seemed to be the perfect temperature: cold, to go with the sizzling sun. I bobbed along, drinking the beers stashed in the netting of my  inner tube to the happy sunshine sounds of Laura. She was setting the day off right with a set that was perfectly matched to the fun, summery mood. Following her was Djuma Soundsystem and then Worthy, a DJ I discovered at Burning Man. I think. Again, the time slots were off and in some cases, switched around- so I could never be totally sure of who was playing unless I recognized them.

Field Stage

Field Stage

Claude Von Stroke was a pleasant surprise, shoving us into the grove after Little John and plastering stupid smiles all over the dance floor. Going over to catch Les Claypool over at the newly opened and GIANT Field Stage, we waited for quite a while as the speakers blasted out AC/DC and all got a bit thunderstruck? Really? It was so out of place and amusing we thought it might be a joke. The dance floor was bleeding souls as people fled the screeching rock sounds. After a round of ‘Secret Agent Man’ (I am not joking), finally Les Claypool came on. The festival’s headliner had been talked up quite a bit for his eccentric ways and uncompromising musical attitude, and while I completely appreciate his talent and that beautiful ripping sound on the bass, I was unimpressed. The most entertaining part of his set that I heard was the funny banter at the beginning, imploring all the young ladies to continue with their clothes-less weekend. But I wanted to dance and I left before the set was halfway done.

AND THEN BASSNECTAR. Say what you want about this festival namedrop (and people do- it’s almost as trendy to hate on Bassnectar as it is to hate on dubstep)- but he blew the crowd away with his gnarly beats. His music was meant to be played outdoors on an epic scale, rubbing up on tree giants and creating fits on the dance floor- perfect festival music. Loren was loving it, too, and would stop and tell us so- I bet his face hurt from smiling the next day as well!

Forest Stage

Forest Stage

I wanted to check out Adam Freeland’s live band but the lag between the sets had me wondering off into the forest. I have yet to mention the intricate Forest Stage, which was adorned with two temple structures reminiscent of Southeast Asia and whose music fell on my campsite, which was just a few dozen trees down. This was the ‘weird’ stage, with more experimental beats and performers to the like of the Shamanic Cheerleaders- WTF? I never saw them- only heard them- and could only wonder what was behind this random chanting going on in the woods. Hey hey, get shamanic! Again: WTF?

Forest Stage Temple

Forest Stage Temple

Saturday night was COLD- at one point I went to my tent and put on every piece of warm clothing I had packed. A few hours later, I was back in a bikini. But before it had heated up enough for the lake, we hit the smokin’ hot Lake Stage. It was time for the Glitch Mob, and one magnificent sunrise experience. Like Bassnectar, the Glitch Mob’s music was in part inspired and grown by the West Coast festival circuit and seems to slide into perfect place amongst the trees and open air.

After the Glitch Mob? Mala. Holy mother of dubstep, great god of vinyl, wobble the wonk into my very soul. There were a few technical issues, otherwise known as the bass shaking the earth so much it was popping the needle out of the groove, so they quickly moved the set up back up on the stage while MC Lafa Taylor jumped up to keep the crowd’s energy going with funny rhymes on the mike. I couldn’t remember his name, only dancing and laughing my ass off and twirling around and smiling and loving. What a highlight.

MALA

MALA

And according to EVERYONE, waiting out the technical issues were well worth it, because Mala poured bass like steak gravy on our heads and practically ripped the forest in half. Wow tears just came to my eyes writing that sentence, as I recalled in my mind the dark and soulful music that he laid on us. Oh the sweet sound of analog bass, of the needle in that groove! I heard from people that Mala’s set was the first time that dubstep really spoke to them, that they finally got it, fell in a dancing trance and didn’t let go. I also heard from people that Mala’s set had reinspired them in the genre, awakening anew their love for the wobble and resparking that dubstep fire. Now those are some damn good compliments.

Random Rab picked up afterwards with a dreamy tone, followed by the more left-field Shpongle a few hours later as the day got into full swing and the sun heated up the field of dancers. I climbed around on hot metal art structures and had a piece of pizza muy excellente, made of beets, lemon rind, pesto and roasted garlic. Really? Yes. Believe it or not, it was FANTASTIC!

Where's the Gorilla?

Where's the Gorilla?

Sadly and due to a lack of a watch, I missed the Sunday AM set of edIT and OOah’s Crying Over Porcelain for No Reason. Don’t tell  me about it or I will cry over missing a set for a definite reason. Ah well c’est la vie. Back to the lake for a quick swim and cool-off next to a gorilla on a raft, my happyface self just wandered around to different stages, checking out Treavor Moontribe’s hard psytrance for a second, browsing sweet leatherwork at the tribal market, laying in the grass under the sun.

Soon it was time to begin packing up, all to the danky sounds of Mikhal and Neptune from the Forest Stage- thank God for dubstep. I did not want to leave, but alas- these amazing moments in our lives were never meant to last forever.

Awesome MC! Who is it?

Awesome MC! Who is it?

Overall, my favorites of the festival in this unparalleled natural location were the Glitch Mob, Bassnectar, Pretty Lights, Mala, Claude Von Stroke and Lafa Taylor, who jumped up after the Glitch Mob to keep the party going. It would be neat if there was some way for festivals to designate the artist on stage, and keep the list updated and accurate so people would know who the hell they were jamming to. It sucks to discover a new artist that you love, and have no idea how to follow up on it after the festival ends. I am pretty good and stalking down DJs after they perform to get their name, but it doesn’t always happen, and there are usually a few talented souls whose names are lost in the forest to me. I heard dozens more DJs than I wrote about here.

Although sustainability and art of all forms (traditional, live, graffiti) were well represented at Symbiosis, music was still very central. At many Burner parties, it sometimes seems that what the stage and speakers look like is more important than what is coming out of them, and that nepotism sometimes trumps new and true talent, but not at Symbiosis. Well done.

Many people are upholding Symbiosis as the best festival yet to take place in our universe, and I have to agree. What did you think? Leave a comment below and let me know about great sets I missed, your favorite moment of the festival, your biggest artist discovery surprise where a random name on a lineup became your new favorite, how pimp the cabins were and what you thought of the venue. Will you go back next year?

My sweet digital camera broke upon arrival to Burning Man, and the photos you see are a few of twenty I got out of two very shitty disposable cameras, which are better than nothing!

Much love to my festival people. You know what’s up. One outdoor art and music festival is worth 30 nights out on the town, at least. I encourage every one of you to make an effort to incorporate these life-changing festivals into your life and prioritize your time and funds to experience  communal gatherings and celebrations at every chance possible.

Or just go on living a normal life and save up for that big screen. It is your choice.

But I hope you will join me on an earthen dance floor in the forest of the future!

Decibel Festival Showcase Spotlight: Starborne Dirty Velvet Afterhours

Posted in Events, Festivals, Music News with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 31, 2009 by worldromper

If you like your afterhours dark, deep and dirty – slip on over to the Little Red Studio on Saturday night to wallow in beats so filthy they will stick to your skin for days, no matter how hard you scrub. Soap and water are no match for two rooms of talent, guaranteed to completely contaminate your Decibel Festival experience with a bass crunk-dunk of some of the freshest and finest sounds from the electronic arts underground.

Ana Sia

Ana Sia

The Main Room welcomes 3WS, the combination of San Francisco’s Ana Sia and Danny Corn, whose rough rumblings satisfy the body and the brain to simultaneously activate your limbs and uplift your mind. Mike Slott’s hip hop-influenced imagination and innovative future-funk wraps you in a dirty blanket of experimental movement, while Eprom kicks you in the face with fatty rawness – his slamming and crunchy twist on West Coast Sound is always a party favorite. Mimosa slides in next with sexy basslines and a thick psychedelic density, rolling deep like purple with a gang of dub-infused grooves.

Take

Take

The sounds will be smokin’ heavy in the lounge next door, where LA’s Take keeps the beats on a West Coast lean with his laid-back, acousmatic blend of hypnotic hip hop, otherworldly melodies, and space dust. Kotchy creates top-shelf pop reworkings with toes dipped in electro and hip hop; using live instruments he delivers sets as unpredictable as they are unique. Professor Steve Nalepa teaches us the true depth of dub and the grime of glitch from the beat blackboard, and J Roby of Portland’s Abstract Earth Project experiments with sounds that sooth you right onto the dance floor.

Come out and cloak yourself in delicious Dirty Velvet and realize how much fun getting filthy can be.

Starborne Dirty Velvet Afterhours takes place Saturday, September 26 at Little Red Studio. Click here to buy tickets and for more information about the 2009 Decibel Festival.

Symbiosis Gathering Changed My Life

Posted in Events, Festivals, Music News with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 6, 2009 by worldromper

This is a story of DF5K.

2007 Fall Seattle DMB Symbiosis Halloween 037It was nearly two years ago now that I moved back to the States from New Zealand. Summer in Seattle was swelling to the crusty-hot days of August and I had a shit job doing shit bartending work at a shit hotel downtown, working long into the night scrubbing bar mats and serving drunk tourists. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing with myself whatsoever. None.

I had never listened to electronic music before in my life.

new zealand is freaking epicWell okay that is not entirely true; I had stumbled upon the dub and reggae scene in New Zealand, and high on rotation in my iPod were Katchafire, Fat Freddy’s Drop, Pitch Black and Salmonella Dub as well as anyone who had remixed them. Guys in the Auckland record stores were always happy to school an interested American girl on their island music.

I had also spent many happy nights out on the town with my flatmate Ian, dancing for hours in Auckland’s happenin’ Viaduct area, and had walked home more than once from these “Heels Only” clubs with bleeding feet. Before in my life I had glided past a thousand dance clubs drooling out lame house music onto the streets, but for some reason, I started going in towards the beats and shaking what my momma gave me for the first time ever.

116I left Auckland, and months of traveling around New Zealand led me to discover pockets of counterculture dotted all over the two islands. Tiny camp towns like Marahau, barely even a freckle on the map, are nestled next to insane national parks and were populated by a swirling mix of artsy locals, hikers who were about to tramp the mountains or who had just returned from a month in the bush, world travelers, hippies, neohippies, surfers from Santa Cruz, stoners, seekers, searchers, and freaks like me.

These havens were full of people whose life was centered around sharing art and creating a sustainable and beautiful life, such a stark contrast to most Americans I knew whose only goals seemed to revolve around bigger cars, bigger houses, and more more more.

But soon enough I was back in the US of A and fairly floating through space and time with no plans and no idea whatsoever. I wondered where the beautiful spirits congregated on this continent, and if I would find them.

2007 Fall Seattle DMB Symbiosis Halloween 033And then a friend invited me to this music and art festival in the woods of Northern California called Symbiosis. It would be a very long day’s drive from Seattle with him and his girlfriend and we would stay for three nights at  place called Angel’s Camp. The festival was focused on sustainability and would be a pack-in, pack-out affair. Did I want to go?

Hell yes I did. I had the slight problem of a jobby-job, but I have never been one to let a bullshit job get in the way of my life. So, I faked pneumonia. I went to the hospital (to be fair I did have a cough) and when the doctor said he could write me a note to get off work for two days, I said, “well, how about until next Tuesday?” The doctor agreed and I was off work for a very long weekend, bound for my first true outdoor party experience.

I think you guys know how this story goes.

2007 Fall Seattle DMB Symbiosis Halloween 046Arriving early to the isolated location, my friends and I set up our tents in between the two stages, and what happened for the next four days in that remote wooded spot changed my life forever, as I now write to you deep in the thick of what will be my life’s work, writing for and promoting the music that I love and the artists who make it. It was not just the music I experienced that shook my spirit and lit my soul on fire, but the thick saturation of artistic expression and the community around it. It was a haven for freaks like me; I had finally found a home in this life, and it was beautiful.

When I look back at the lineup for Symbiosis 2007, it blows my mind: Shpongle, Flying Lotus, Ott, Bluetech, Glitch Mob, BLVD, Souleye, Ana Sia, Zilla, Lazer Sword, Audiovoid, Danny Corn, Hallucinogen in Dub, Chris de Luca, Mala, Bassnectar and dozens and dozens more. These artists were my first toe-dip into the world of EDM, and I think you can see why I turned out the way I did.

2007 Fall Seattle DMB Symbiosis Halloween 045I can’t remember if it was the first or second day, but around about five in the morning one night these four guys were up on the second stage, just tearing up the dance floor. They were slamming sound down with such force I thought my neck might break; I had never before experienced any type of music, electronic or otherwise, that was so fresh and unique and unlike anything else out there. I was not hearing this music, I was living it: I was breathless and losing clothes by the minute and probably had a long string of drool dripping off my lower lip.

I turned to a new friend next to me on the dance floor and asked, “What do you call this music? With the really heavy, fucked-up bass?”

You call it GLITCH,” was the reply. And a fiend was born.

2007 Fall Seattle DMB Symbiosis Halloween 035

Since that night I have seen the Glitch Mob dozens of times and have devoted my life to sharing not just glitch hop and its bass-slutty cousins, but the whole music and art and community experience that has meant so much to me in this life, which I think I can say, a DJ saved.

I returned to Seattle with an insatiable hunger for the beats and began going out six nights a week to electronic music shows, meeting new friends with open arms at every turn. While I might possibly have found another road to the electronic arts that I now so adore, I did not. Symbiosis opened my eyes and set me on my current life path of promoting and writing for musicians and artists. I am eternally grateful for the past, and forever stoked for the future.

2007 Fall Seattle DMB Symbiosis Halloween 036Now, after a year’s respite, Symbiosis Gathering is back for 2009, this time at Camp Mather on the doorstep to Yosemite from September 17-21 and with a lineup that will slap you across the face, pour fireworks into your soul and call you a cheesemaker. Check the whole lineup here; I am most looking forward to hearing Caspa, Amon Tobin, Bassnectar, Pretty Lights, the Glitch Mob, Shpongle, Flying Lotus, Hallucinogen, Mala, N-Type, an-ten-nae, Mimosa, Of Porcelain, Vibesquad, Heyoka, Kether, Lazer Sword, Lipp Service, Souleye, Welder, Random Rab, Babylon System, Jupit3r, Mozaic, Mr. Rogers, R/D, Treavor Moontribe, Sleepyhead, Sexytime, Nikola Baytala, Noah Pred and about eight zillion more.

2007 Fall Seattle DMB Symbiosis Halloween 042I will no doubt discover several new favorites, and I am more excited about this outdoor festival than any other this year. Not to be rash, but I have heard several people talk about how much more fun Symbiosis is than Burning Man. Whoa. That is almost party blasphemy, right?

Whether you are just hearing about Symbiosis Gathering or have been waiting with baited breath for this year’s installment, one thing is certain: the music will blow your mind, stamped and approved by DF5K.

And it just might change your life.

Ana Sia w/Danny Corn as 3WS in Seattle @ Analog Feb 27th

Posted in Artists, Events, Music News with tags , , , , , , , , on February 18, 2009 by worldromper

Ana Sia’s dynamic delivery of brain-fazing beats has earned this Princess Slay-ah a pioneering place in the West Coast future sound movement. Her love of the low end combined with an intense understanding of the importance of dance to the human soul fuse together to create unforgettable sets of experience, whether she is slamming spots in her home of San Francisco or taking her turn in forests and at festivals around the country.

Let this artist bring you on an eclectic musical expedition into the deepest reaches of your own brain, delighting the rumble-lover in your soul as your thankful body tries to keep up. Ana Sia masterfully mixes a wide spectrum of rhythms with a beautiful fluidity and a delicate sensibility, giving the dance floor a delightfully wonky ride that ends at the corner of bliss and oblivion. Uniting the best elements of dirty dubstep, grimy glitch, and her personalized blend of “global slut psy-hop,” Ana Sia’s sets confirm crunk status of all who dare enter into the seamless sound-world of this woman of whomp.

Prepare to be annihilated as Ana Sia performs alongside Danny Corn as 3WS; the two are connected by the love of a bass-drenched world and will no doubt be having as much fun as the dance floor onto which they drop reverberating rhythms from the sky.

3WS plays Analog XIX put on by Produkt at Rebar on February 27th with support from local bass sluts PrEssHa and Noisemaker in what promises to the dopest Seatown show of the month.

Shilo is jealous.