The 2017 Oregon Eclipse Gathering: An event in totality [Event Review]
As thick dust clouds covered the secluded desert terrain of Big Summit Prairie, Oregon, flocks of eclipse chasers converged onto Ochoco National Forest with its 360 degree views of mountainous pines. Their ultimate mission was to view the magic of totality, which occurred between 9-10am on Aug. 21, 2017, among thirty thousand like-minded people.
In an off-year of their globally renowned festival, the producers of Symbiosis Gathering teamed up with 13 of the world’s premier independent festivals — Lightning in a Bottle’s Do LaB (California), Rainbow Serpent (Australia), Sonic Bloom (Colorado), Origin (South Africa), Envision (Costa Rica), Beloved (Oregon), and many more—for a seven day global synaesthesia of art, ideas, music, dancing, community, and profound transformation.
An international melting pot of people were represented at the festival, including infants perched atop their mothers’ chest, families of four or more enjoying “Kids-biosis,” and retired burner folks with their decked-out light-up walkers. Also in attendance were spiritual leaders from the countries of Ecuador, Columbia, and Peru, along with strangers speaking every language from French to Japanese at every stage as it pumped eclectic electronic music from around the world.
Tribes from Standing Rock also traveled to Ochoco to give political demonstrations at the organically constructed arena, 1Nation Earth, as well as to ignite the three sacred fires placed throughout the festival grounds. One female shaman even journeyed from Okinawa to conduct ceremonial water blessings, in which she anointed willing participants.
Every installation paid such keen attention to detail that it was hard to believe most of Oregon Eclipse’s structures were constructed from raw materials used from the very land that housed each structure. Old moss covered branches and rocks formed the pathways and walls of the festival’s many temple-esque domains, with curtains draped from the ceilings, and walls of stained glass windows suspended into thin air. Sacred geometry artwork was the centerpiece of most installations. Live painters abounded, while Burning Man installations made guest appearances.
Symbiosis’ bold endeavor far exceeded any expectations, despite having never received money from a sponsor — ever. The production was massive and breathtaking, because this independently-assembled team of unique global collaborators constantly pushed out maximum effort to create a once-in-a-lifetime experience during the entire process. It’s safe to say they achieved their goal. Installations and exhibits were being completed all throughout the week, even as attendees arrived day-by-day. Construction never really ceased, nor did the grounds ever stop growing. Ochoco remained a constant collaborative community at all times, whose psychedelic installations came alive at night.
The festival’s music lineup was held across seven stages: one main, four slightly more specialized stages, and two stage dedicated solely to live performance. The main musical attraction, dubbed The Eclipse Stage, was utilized as a gigantic harp suspended from the tips of the stage onto its side structures that also would become integrated into live performances throughout the week. This stage hosted Bassnectar, Beats Antique, Emancipator, Random Rab, TroyBoi, The Glitch Mob, and many more.
The infamous Desert Hearts clan participated in a 5-hour takeover on The Sky Stage, pumping deep, dark tech house into the forest and hypnotizing house heads there with pulsating shamanic drum rhythms. Meanwhile, Dirtybird player Justin Martin delivered a 4-hour extended set of soul-penetrating house and techno that lasted into the wee hours of the morning.
But, make no mistake, the house stage DJs were guests in this global arena of trance and downtempo. International eclipse festivals are generally based around trance and downtempo insofar that the bass, jam, and eclectic circus acts were actually guests in this experience. In fact, The Sun Stage, which housed the beautiful blue spaceship-like structure used at the LIB gathering, pushed psy trance until 6am everyday. Even if you didn’t come for the trance, as one attendee put it, you were getting dosed with it daily anyway — courtesy of the full FUNKTION ONE system populating the stage.
While the sun baked the Prairie well into the high 80s each day, The Earth Stage pumped world-influenced glitch into the freezing desert nights, which reached into the low 40s. The Moon Stage served as the festival’s bass head haven, housing Bleep Bloop, French glitch supreme Clozee, EPROM, Minnesota, and, of course, Lorin Ashton’s coveted secret ‘West Coast Lo Fi‘ set.
As far as transformational festivals go, the Eclipse Gathering raised the bar on all counts. In workshop spaces like The Parlor and The Hub, lectures and dialogues ensued over mind-expanding topics ranging from permaculture, nutrition, and consciousness, to elemental alchemy, psychoactive substance, sexuality, and astrophysics. Entire structures were dedicated to yoga and dance shala, where hourly sessions were held of everything from bass yoga and vinyasa flow to belly dancing.
Perhaps the most inspired interactive digital attraction was Android Jones’ MICRODOSE VR dome installation, which opened up each night after dark. Participants would enter the large, white structure for a 30-minute sensory-engulfing cinematic experience featuring Android Jones’ psychedelic artwork coming to life before their very eyes. The kicker: the ‘film,’ of sorts, was being controlled by four audience members in virtual reality.
Then, of course, there was the main event. Most attendees stayed up through the night to experience the event in totality. An early Random Rab sunrise set was going off just before, as ecstatic hippies performed yoga in the morning sun. Hot air balloon rides peaked over the trees as they tethered over the grounds’ massive lake. Picture-ready burner clans turned up decked out in their flashy garb, as giddy festival goers filed the space between the sacred Sun and Moon Temple grounds wherein the native tribes lit their final sacred fire.
As morning turned into night, birds scattered, temperature plummeted, the sky went dark and eyes swelled as a ring of fire filled the sky. Attendees stood in awe as if a portal had opened up into another universe. A Woodstock-esque character shook his maracas. A young infant looked bewildered in his stroller. Delirious party-goers clanked their mimosa glasses. Strangers embraced, tears fell, and a deep sense of gratitude filled the air — Oregon Eclipse attendees had finally manifested what they originally intended to do, for it was learning the power of intention that was the most important takeaway from these sacred grounds.