A Gathering for the Ages

Symbiosis Gathering

Photos by Nick Neumann.  Intro by Rourke Healey


Symbiosis Gathering is a transformational music and art festival held in California.  With headliners from Emancipator to Tipper it was truly one of the most impressive psychedelic dance parties imaginable. Over four days, 15,000 people from all walks of life came together to get weird.

Symbiosis could not be described better than a collection of people doing the absolute most. The effort and passion that was put into Symbiosis shined through best in the stages and art installations.

It was not the art, structures or music alone that make Symbiois Gathering, but also the people. The ones who wander into camp to roll J’s, paint faces or offer drinks. The people that introduce themselves to whoever they sit next to. The hilarious porto-potty conversations. The people that compliment you. The ones that invite rather than exclude. The ones that glow and express themselves to the fullest. It was hard to find a soul that wasn’t dancing, content or caring for others. And it was your one job, as a participant, to return the favor to everyone around you.

What ever Symbiosis participants did, they seemed to do it with the most effort. From costume dress up to unique dancing. Indulgence, though wildly abundant, was second to experience and contribution. With DIY and interactive art, participants felt as much a contributor as event promoters.

This phenomenon seems part of a growing trend of west coast events that uniformly lack authority, encourage individualism and offer nothing but good vibes. Spawned from the ideals of Burning Man, Symbiosis participants are allegoric to confrontation and refuse to judge. With some of the same art and many of the same faces, Symbiosis felt much like it’s sister festival, Lightning In a Bottle. The two events appeared coordinated in their defiance against mainstream festival values such as consumption and documentation.

The wave of these ‘be yourself’ festivals is a beautiful thing. But what makes this truly special is that there is nowhere else in the world like this. Nowhere can you escape for four days to a lake with thumping music, insanely expressive and welcoming people and be free from expectations like this. Not even the east coast of the U.S. can match this. Its almost like California is making a statement: We are California and we are going to party exactly how we want to.

Thank you Symbiosis Gathering. See you next time for the Eclipse.