Words by: Tk Kayembe | Images by: Dave Vann
Symbiosis Gathering 2009 :: 09.18.09 – 09.20.09 :: Camp Mather :: Groveland, CA
Yosemite, CA hosted the fourth annual Symbiosis Gathering. This year's event was nestled in Camp Mather bordering the breathtaking Yosemite National Park. The lineup was overwhelming, the site was heavenly and the art installations were unbelievably imaginative; most seeming to be peculiar hallucinations. It was a celestial experience, and like most festivals, to fully comprehend its beauty you would have had to be there; to properly do it justice would take multiple pages and numerous pictures. So, that being said, here are a few highlights from the weekend.
Friday Top 3
1. Flying Lotus
Steve Ellison, aka Flying Lotus, along with his Brainfeeder label mates, seems to be running laps around the hip-hoptronic side of the scene. Fly-Lo's beats are ingeniously crafted, emphasizing luring offbeat drum samples often tied together with foreign percussion atop jazzy tear-jerking piano, el-p, synth and bass sections. Over the course of his set, genuine bliss was plastered upon his face as he passionately pushed through "Melt" and "Roberta Flack," dropping plenty of other beat junkie favorites from his collection. Watching the raw emotion he exudes while delicately mixing tracks in and out, fervently tugging at your heartstrings, you realize his music is truly a special gift to this world.
Friday night was unadulterated crunk-hop mayhem. Per usual, Tigran Mimosa's set was a multicolored mob scene of freely flowing bodies. Onstage, he had a hoard of dancers, a ring of supporters, who ensured the intensity onstage matched the insanity of the crowd. He seamlessly cycled through originals and appeased the crowd's hip-hop guilty pleasures with hyphy remixes of "I'm In Love With A Stripper," amongst others. With queasy, throbbing bass dressed down with 909 claps, Mimosa's soul penetrating sub-kick hits deep enough to shake your clothes off.
|Bassnectar :: Symbiosis 2009|
3. Anahata Sound
Anahata Pace rocked her Friday mid-afternoon Forest Stage set, coaxing the audience closer and closer towards the front of the stage as her performance took flight. Singing, dancing and sequencing throughout the set, the adorably quirky Anahata proudly maintained the attention of all while progressing through original arrangements. Her voice harbors a whispery calm as peaceful and gentle as a resting infant on a warm afternoon. When addressing her assemblage, she legitimately connects, offering humorous small talk as if we were all old friends catching up. Adorned in a fur cap, lens-less glasses and rose blush dotted cheeks, Anahata's sound was like a big loving bear hug, squeezing us all.
Saturday Top 3
The dreadfully curious, bizarrely eccentric CocoRosie unambiguously stole the spotlight Saturday afternoon. During the twosome's set, the stage was a diverse mess of various instruments. An assortment of children's toys, memorable from my early childhood - bells, shakers, etc. - were efficiently laid out upon a table for a face-painted Bianca (Coco) to meddle with. A few yards away, her sister and musical counterpart, Sierra (Rosie) was stationed beside her harp. Joining them onstage was bassist Josh Werner, human beatbox extraordinaire Spleen, along with a pianist who kept one hand on the keys and the other on a MIDI-keyboard. The quirkiness of "Japan" and haunting melodies of "K-Hole," "Beautiful Boyz" and Kevin Lyttle cover "Turn Me On" sent chills down my spine, remaining with me for hours after the show was over.
2. Beats Antique
David Satori and Tommy Cappel of Beats Antique pulled out all the stops on their original handcrafted tilt-a-whirl sound at Symbiosis. Their stellar set stood out amongst others, the stage a busily moving spectacle as Tommy bustled back and forth between live drums and his laptop while David juggled guitar and fiddle lines standing in front of his Mac. Zoe Jakes, an improvisational belly dancer (also part of the Beats Antique troop) contributed her visual magic from the side of the stage. Other highlights included the boys dropping brand new tracks off their latest album, an impromptu duet with LYNX, and the masked dance troops bursting out onstage at the end of the set.
|ANA SIA Sunrise Set :: Symbiosis 2009|
3. !Armageddon Prevention Team
A fun Symbiosis discovery I fell upon, the !Armageddon Prevention Team is a squad of top-notch DJ/producers/performers including (but not limited to) iLL Gates and Chris Sia. During their SG set, the artist collective completely filled up the main stage. The perfect nighttime music, !APT dropped dubby originals and smart remixes, ending their set with a clever mashup featuring an instrumental version of John Lennon's "Imagine" pasted atop The Temptations' "Ball of Confusion."
Sunday Top 3
1. Crying Over Porcelain For No Reason
This may have been my favorite set of the entire weekend. OOAH and edIT of The Glitch Mob combined both of their solo downtempo projects for an exceptionally rare, intimate ante meridiem set. In addition to running the usual Ableton/laptop/MIDI-controller setup, the boys alternated between a heaping Rhodes keyboard as well as Gibson and PRS guitars. OOAH's of Porcelain, a lot like edIT's COPFNR, is dominated by tranquil piano chords, smooth harmonizing guitar licks, glitch-y backing drums, and minimal but sexy accompanying vocal samples. Both projects faultlessly capture the true feel of downtempo and are so emotional it can bring a tear to your eye. For nearly two hours the boys went back and forth, trading tracks. The hypnotized crowd fluttered about like untied balloons released into the air as the pair performed "Ants," "Ashtray," "You Are the Sun" and other heart-wrenching selections from Crying Over Pros For No Reason, essentially draining the entire album before walking off stage.
2. Random Rab
The perfect way to start the day, Rab's lulling tunes pushed the sun up higher into the sky faster than the words out of a coked-out auctioneer's mouth. His set was deep and intensely seductive, and the enraptured crowd resembled a hulking pendulum swinging back and forth. I've never felt such a strong connection with Rab's music as I had that morning. It was enchanting and drew me in as I enjoyed it thoroughly while fighting off the morning cold with a piping hot mocha.
|The Glitch Mob :: Symbiosis 2009|
From packed clubs in Brixton, England to the forests of Yosemite, Mala, one half of the Digital Mystikz, brought originally produced dubstep to the ears of many on Sunday morn. The veteran vinylist, needing nothing more than two Technics turntables, a mixer, and an armful of records, quickly had the air thick with dub breaks. His infectious bass had the early morning crowd twirling about like post-apocalyptic zombies feeding solely on the sound being choked out of the speakers. Quite a sight to see.
All things considered, Symbiosis Gathering was a monumental weekend - an all-inclusive sensory overload freakfest. I still can't get over the astonishing lineup, plump with the best electronic artists currently touring. It sincerely made catching every set feel like an impossible feat. The Naked Lake will serve as a fond memory: every morning and afternoon the docks were packed with lovely, birthday suited people. A fascinatingly quaint Tea Temple in the vendor's village sold assorted aged teas and had an adjoined walkthrough shrine with artifacts ranging from Nepalese monkey skulls to Virgin Mary statuettes. On the opposite side of the road lay a Zen Garden. A bit further down the way rested the bust of an enormous unicorn, made from metal scraps, marking the fork in the road between the stages. The people, the atmosphere, the music were all magnificent. The Symbiosis experience is something to be treasured. My only hope is that next year's festivities will be at the same spot or another place as peaceful and inspiring as Yosemite was.
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