Oregon Eclipse
Symbiosis Music Festival 2017
By: 🦊 Isiah Kurz - 02.21.18

And then there is Symbiosis. This festival is truly out of this world when it comes to spectacle. This past year, Symbiosis joined with a dozen other festival producers (“collaborators”) to create Oregon Eclipse. Or as one Lightning in a Bottle attendee put it, “I heard they're bringing in an eclipse this year!” But all joking aside, the Kusheen staff journeyed to Oregon Eclipse.

This is our experience.

That Almost-Alien Orb

There, up in the sky hung an almost-alien orb. I had seen the sun before. I had seen it hung in the blue sky, looking down on me with its joyful yellow gaze. I had seen it set in blazing orange as it sunk closer and closer to the horizon. I had even seen it turn green as a hurricane rolled into the Gulf of Mexico.

And, of course, I had seen the moon too. I had seen the large, orange harvest moon in October. I had seen the pale white face that greeted me at my window some nights; and the thin sliver of a ‘wishing moon’ on my late night walks. I had even seen Earth’s only natural satellite turn crimson during a lunar eclipse. But I had never seen anything like this.

In the sky was a fierce black hole surrounded by an ethereal white aura. Light and wispy, the corona stained itself into my memory, as I safely removed my heavily darkened eclipse glasses. Around me 30,000 festival goers and participants vocalized their amazement. It was a truly special experience - and it was all made possible by Eclipse Gathering 2017.

Come Together

Eclipse wasn’t just an event. It was a trial. Based in central Oregon, the trip was a real haul for us; about a 10.5 hour drive. We had spent weeks watching the Facebook group. Trying to prepare for what’s to come: Do we need to bring spare gasoline? I think we can sleep in the car. Where should we meet up? I heard you can’t come in before noon the first day. Should we drive all night?

In the months prior, we stayed glued to the “unofficial” Oregon Eclipse attendee group on Facebook. The folks online were more than willing to help or provide a hilarious meme. While we weren’t totally sure what to expect for months before, we already had a sense of community and family with the other festival goers.

And that was one of the greatest parts about Oregon Eclipse – the people. Everyone was refreshingly weird. From the DeLorean art boat spinning out on the water, to the mud bathing nudists a football field away. People were very giving, not just of food and water though. They gave each other their time and talents.

We saw flow artists showing newbies how to spin hoops and poi; we saw pseudo-massage therapists giving tired bodies much needed TLC. It seemed that everywhere you turned, something was happening. And in some ways, you were a spectator in a world of wild abandon. In another way, you were a part of the action. Nowhere was this more true than under that black hole sun.

But before we revisit that magical experience, it’s important to talk about the art, the music, the flair. Oregon Eclipse was littered with art installations. From the Helianthus Enorme psychedelic flower to the Shine Brite light bright, there was always something to interact with or wonder at.

Then there are the sounds. The laughing. The yelling. The cheers as the sun sets each day. And obviously, the music. Oregon Eclipse beats every other festival on the sheer scale of their line up. With over 400 artists, Oregon Eclipse is a musical behemoth.

Opiuo, for instance, laid down a killer set. He opened with his remix of GRiZ’s “PS GFY”. An incredible song that commanded huge energy from the crowd. And as an opening track? It was brilliant.

Bassnectar played a similarly stunning set. But before it started, he invited people to come up and join in a “water is life” chant. Later he surprised fans with a separate secret set under the name West Coast Lo Fi at the Moon Stage. It just goes to show that there was always another surprise around the corner.

It would take too long to name all the stellar acts the Kusheen crew saw. So here are a few shoutouts: Beats Antique for their live show. Shpongle for his weirdness. Thriftworks for their bass. William Close & The Earth Harp for their acoustics. CloZee for her worldly sound. Climbing PoeTree for their spoken word.

Most notably, the festival brought in a slew of psytrance artists including Tristan, Captain Hook, Ace Ventura and Treavor Moontribe. As a huge fan of psytrance, this was a dream come true as the genre has a small presence stateside. But bring up this genre in the Facebook chat and you’ll see a sudden divide between fans and haters.

Oregon Eclipse wasn’t all perfect, of course. There were some trials and tribulations. We met numerous festival goers who complained about nearly 14-hour wait times to get in.

“It was so fucked, dude. You’d be sleeping in line for hours until a police patrol car would drive by with a megaphone telling everyone to pull forward a few feet. Then it was back to sleep,” said one festival goer.

Some folks who had early arrival tried to arrive early, but failed to enter the grounds due to the lines.

There were other problems too. Vendors ran out of food. The water stations were damn near invisible. The stages weren’t labeled until days into the festival; which wouldn’t be so bad except that very few people had maps. Hell, even the set times weren’t available until we arrived.

The whole thing is probably best summed up by one attendee: “What they did well, they did extremely well. But what they didn’t do well, went totally fucking sideways.”

Then again, these problems aren’t exclusive to Oregon Eclipse. Every festivals has its fuckups and missteps. But for the experience they deliver, the cumulative good they give us, we put up with it.

Over Me

The build up to the eclipse was integral to our experience. We headed to bed around 1 or 2 in the morning. We were glowing from the shows we had just seen. “But that’s not even the coolest part,” said Sweet D, “Tomorrow, we get to see an eclipse! These [bands] are just the openers.” We all laughed. But it was true, even if we didn’t realize it yet.

We woke up early in the morning. Two members of our staff took a hot air balloon ride, where they got a bird’s eye view of the festival. The others headed to the Solar Temple; an eclipse viewing area set up specifically for the occasion. We put our blanket on to the dirt and sat under the already-warm sun.

In the center of the Solar Temple was something special; a Native American ceremony, known as OneNation Earth Camp, welcoming the eclipse. Indigenous speakers were invited from all over the world to share what the eclipse meant to their peoples and their cultures. While the myths varied, the story was the same. This is a time when two opposing forces (Sun and Moon) come together, and call for healing on Earth.

These talks mentioned Standing Rock over and over again. They called for healing; personal and global. They told created an atmosphere for receiving. And then the eclipse came. After an hour of watching the moon slowly eat away at the perfect orange circle, the ball of fire disappeared and was replaced by a dazzling white corona; like silver hair reaching countless miles into space.

I sat in the shadow of the solar phenomena, I realized that I was the last piece of a cosmic puzzle. The sun, the moon and the earth conspired to create this special moment and I was perfectly in line to see it happen. There was a thousand and one reasons not to go to Oregon Eclipse. It was far. It was expensive. It was a hassle. But I wouldn’t trade it for the world. And isn’t that what a festival should be?

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