Five-day music festival takes shape at Woodward Reservoir

etracy@modbee.comSeptember 17, 2013 

    Erin Tracy
    Title: Breaking news reporter
    Coverage areas: Breaking news, crime
    Bio: Erin Tracy started working for The Bee in September 2010. She has a journalism degree from Humboldt State University and previously worked at the Daily Democrat in Woodland and the Times-Standard in Eureka.
    Recent stories written by Erin
    On Twitter: @ModestoBeeCrime

— North of the city known for its rodeo and chocolate festival will come an event Thursday like nothing this area’s ever seen: Symbiosis Gathering 2013 at Woodward Reservoir.

The eco-friendly arts and music festival will be held on the east side of the reservoir near Oakdale and can accommodate up to 10,000 people.

Massive art installations that have been constructed at the site mark music stages along the reservoir’s shores, where dozens of musicians and DJs from around the world will perform everything from trance, house techno and hip-hop to any other type of “un-genrefiable” music, said Symbiosis artistic director Bosque Hrbek.

Featured entertainers include STS9, an electronic jam band from Santa Cruz, and Swedish electronic act iamamiwhoami, making its U.S. debut.

Hrbek and four friends started the festival in 2005 with an attendance of about 1,000, which has since grown into a following of as many as 8,500, many of whom are from the Bay Area. Previous festivals have been held in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Angels Camp, Camp Mather near Yosemite National Park and Pyramid Lake.

As of Thursday afternoon, 4,000 tickets had been sold, but Hrbek expects the number to grow to about 6,500. Tickets start at $275 and decrease to $100 on Sunday, the last day they are sold. Festival-goers cannot return once they leave.

Hrbek grew up attending Grateful Dead concerts with his parents and has been to hundreds of festivals in his lifetime, he said.

While the music is varied, Hrbek said, “I noticed the crowds were almost the same type of people; they looked a little different, but the energy still was the same. Symbiosis is two living beings coming together and helping each other beneficially. These cultures and movements and ideas can support each other even though they are different.”

Workshops during the festival will cover slam poetry, mythology, improvisational and sketch comedy, radical parenting and much more. One of the many presenters is Magenta Imagination Healer, a shamanic healer from Berkeley, who will lead a workshop on the evolution of festival culture. She will talk about those who are continuing the festival life all year long by moving into sustainable eco-villages around the world.

Los Angeles resident Brent Spears, who goes by the artist name Shrine, and San Francisco resident Joel Dean Stockdill built the stage called Empire of Love.

The bisected pyramid, 40 feet tall and 45 feet wide, is made from “old scaffolding planks that were rejected by the trades,” said Stockdill. From it hang dozens of metal cans collected for months that create a wind chime effect.

Shrine has been commissioned to make installations at festivals around the world, but he said Symbiosis is his favorite.

“A lot of festivals, they want to call themselves green – that’s why they want to hire a guy like me: ‘Can you make something out of trash so that we can be legitimate.’ And then you get there and they are faking it.”

He said Symbiosis is the first festival to serve food on bamboo flatware that requires a $1 deposit, which is refunded when it’s returned.

Only organic food will be served, and no beer will be sold, though people are welcome to bring their own alcohol. There are no commercial sponsors and there will be no advertising.

Symbiosis Events LLC is paying for the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department and private security to work the event, as well as the California Highway Patrol to direct traffic.

The cost paid to the county for event fees will vary depending on attendance but was estimated at $110,700 in an April Board of Supervisors staff report.

Hrbek said his staff will leave the area cleaner than when they arrived and already have spent two weeks cleaning up trash in campsites and in the reeds along the shores. He wants to leave a good impression on the Stanislaus County Parks and Recreation Department so that the festival might return in the future.

“We are hoping to be able to stay here because this place is beautiful,” he said. “It’s close to the Bay Area, the land is beautiful and all the locals that we have met have been really nice.”

Symbiosis Gathering 2013 is Thursday through Monday at Woodward Reservoir, 14528 26 Mile Road, Oakdale; gates open at 10 a.m. Thursday. Admission is $99 for a two-day pass (Sunday-Monday), $199 three days (Saturday-Monday), $255 four days (Friday-Monday) and $275 for all five days. Luxury preset camps are available for $899-$999 for five days. All passes include camping. No single-day passes are available, and there are no in and out privileges. Kids 12 and under are free when accompanied by a ticketed adult. See Bee staff writer Erin Tracy can be reached at or (209) 578-2366. Follow her on Twitter @ModestoBeeCrime.

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