Global Eclipse Gathering made good on its promise of a once-in-a-lifetime celebration, serving as a tribal alliance of visionary festivals from across our wondrous planet. From August 17th through 23rd, on the majestic Big Summit Prairie in Ochoco National Forest, a dozen renowned international music and art festivals congregated to take in a total solar eclipse en masse. California’s Symbiosis Gathering spearheaded this conglomerate of collaborators, with eleven other tremendous international festivals (including Canada’s Bass Coast, Costa Rica’s Envision Festival, SoCal’s Lightning in a Bottle, among others) joining together for what could be termed the finest curation of progressive, psychedelic art and music to ever hit the shores of North America.
Affectionately dubbed Oregon Eclipse, the festival was the sum of many moving parts, some which had been in movement dating back to the inception of Symbiosis Gathering, and falling in line with previous Eclipse events going back almost two decades. With seven main stages at the festival, the international psychedelic community frequently rallied at the Sun Stage around Psy-Trance, feeling that the genre embodied the heartbeat of this event. However, from where I danced, the most tangible thing I felt flowing through the music was the brand-new comradeship of a jam band/Burning Man cultural alliance. The vibe at Oregon Eclipse was equal parts Shakedown Street and Black Rock City, as the huge art, radical inclusion, and free-wheeling, unpredictable music sessions made for a revolutionary affair unlike any festival I have been blessed to attend.
By day, hot air balloons floated in the clouds, cruising over the festival’s lush lake environs, sublime rolling hills, and illuminated forests. Art was everywhere, with a little bit of everything on display. Live art and music installations like Furtherrr, a project featuring the collaboration of a number of visual artists, or the sounds at the Guayaki Yerba Mate tent stationed next to Ken Kesey family’s Furthur bus were just a few of the supplementary art and music setups that flocked to Oregon Eclipse. Across these installations, the festival’s message was crystallized: their intent would be our delight.
From large-scale interactive settings like Android Jones’ dome, Samskara Microdose VR, or an improv game show like Psychedelic Friendship Bingo at the Fringe Theater, no matter what kind of participatory art tickled your fancy, it was easy to become fascinated by and learn about something new at the very same time. Folks could try the Symbioat, a pirate bar on a beached ship; Sensory Speed Dating with Guerrilla Science, the bar and pseudo-sleazy hang at the Glitter Ranch; or the fantastic family-friendly, far-reaching activities at the astounding Kidzbiosis. There was no shortage of anything at Global Eclipse Gathering (except maybe drum and bass and people of color, but more on that later).
From twerkshops at the Dance Shala to the myriad of disciplines at the Yoga Shala, there was also a surplus of movement art options. Dance, theater, and comedy were all available if one merely ventured across the sprawling, gorgeous festival grounds. Immersive environments like The Hub and The Parlor cultivated progressive conversations traversing topics from sexual identity to spirituality, astrophysics to crypto-currency. Paul Stamets examined Mushrooms and the Mycology of Consciousness, and Bruce Damer and Michael Garfield, both respected academics in the default world, offered seminars on a mix of philosophy, quantum physics, spirituality, and sociology.
Initially, the event espoused a Leave No Trace directive for garbage and recycling. Sadly, the infrastructure was not in place for people to adequately Pack it Out, so the trash situation at the end of the week left more than a little to be desired. From a transformational, West Coast festival ethos, Symbiosis and its partners tried admirably to incorporate these core virtues, but the scope and size of the event, in addition to some poor logistics and planning/staffing, made the event fall shorter in some of these areas than they hoped. In the weeks leading up to Eclipse, all signs pointed toward self-reliance being a core element of the experience. Therefore, attendees brought what we needed, and extra for others. However, judging from some post-event social media activity, some folks who expected (and paid for) a “plug and play” or “turn-key” experience were left wanting.
One area where the festival did not disappoint, but rather exceeded even jaded festival veterans wildest dreams, was in the vending department. There was a lengthy trader’s row that extended one side of the festival’s perimeter. This row was filled with a smorgasbord of righteous arts and craft vendors, clothiers, merchants, collectors, and trading post, from all corners of the globe.
One morning early in the week, I broke a zipper on my fanny pack; never fear #Mr.Zips at Zipper Rescue was on the scene with his mobilized, steampunk’d repair shop. I’m talking quicker than your average ab workout, problem solved in seven minutes. Definitely Burners to the core, Zipper Rescue made sure you left their spot prepared for your next zipper pickle. On the other end of the spectrum entirely, I took the liberty of spoiling myself on the last day of the festival. By then I had perused the entire Mall of Symbiosis, and I doubled back to high-end couturier Freeborn, where the designer/namesake himself was in the booth, and outfitted me in a hand-crafted blazer/vest combo that might be the finest, flyest article of clothing I own. Welcome to the Swag Olympics.
Later into this marathon of madness, as the rage wore on and our immune systems took a pummeling, I was fortunate to arrive at both Vital Yogi and The NOHM. These mobile apothecaries were an oasis in this dusty playground, as herbalists at each booth were able to offer alternatives to Western medicinal practices that were similarly practical and effective in the festival setting. As people felt themselves getting run-down or a bit under the weather, instead of soliciting a Walgreens on the corner for a fistful of Dayquil, the witches gracefully poured potions and elixirs gifted from Gaia herself to rejuvenate our bodies and consciously restore our spirits. On the pathway to Panacea, indeed!
When it came time to properly grub down, we were blessed to have two legitimate chefs in our krewe and a properly built kitchen in our camp—the Suwannee Shanti Ratchet-Squad. Though sometimes, it’s just easier to eat out, y’know? As was the norm for this event, there was something special for everyone, and the assortment of foodie options at Oregon Eclipse was mind-boggling. No matter what kind of eater you were, your tummy could find its happy place in a jiffy (although there’s something to be said about the long lines in the hot sun, but hey, the food was that good).
Some culinary artisans who made their presence felt in this writer’s gullet include Eugene, Oregon’s Asher Wren, aka The MAC (the Cheese). This was the first time I had encountered this pop-up pirate ship masquerading as a festival restaurant, and we were consistently wowed each time our squad stopped through, always partial to their mouth-watering “Truffle Mac & Cheese with Broccoli and Bacon.” We also had the good fortune of stopping by the stall before noon for a decadent “eggs benny” brunch dish that knocked our socks off. The gluttony of this comfort festy-food was counterbalanced by vegan delicacies on the other side of Eclipse, courtesy of the finger-lickin’ funk at Govinda’s Veggie Bomb. After three bites of her virgin “Atomic Taco,” my girlfriend declared, unsolicited, “These cats better cater our wedding, B!”
Apple trees beckoned folks to the Permaculture Plaza, where Jasmin Fuego and Ryan Rising of the Permaculture Action Network, along with Stephen Brooks (Envision Festival, Punta Mona) and a host of other worldwide luminaries, offered a litany of Permaculture educational endeavors, including lectures and workshops on awareness and activism for those festival-goers focused on sustainability. Across the shimmering lake atop a hill, Shrine On built an astonishing art structure created entirely from recycled bottles and aluminum cans. In between was a veritable university of all green enterprise.
Speaking of a return to the land, spirituality and sustainability were the core tenets of 1Nation Earth, a tribe who, in concert with Living Village Culture, promoted the protection of indigenous people and their way of life, doing so in a beautiful, prayerful way with an emphasis on unity, respect, dignity, and love. 1Nation Earth camp was also responsible for leading the breathtaking rituals and celebrations that preceded the actual solar eclipse on Monday morning.
Among the estimated 30,000 (festival reporting) and 70,000 (local authorities reporting) people in attendance were spiritual ambassadors from varying practices, hailing from Peru, Columbia, Ecuador, Japan, and elsewhere. One shaman missioned from Okinawa with water collected from many sacred sources from around the world, and she anointed festival-goers in a ceremonial water blessing. Burning embers from Standing Rock also made the journey to ignite each of the three sacred fires on-site—the last of which were used merely moments before the moon passed between our planet and the sun, creating the two minutes of the solar eclipse in totality.
The solar eclipse itself was the true headliner of this massive symbiotic endeavor, as the majority of the festival’s participants marched up the prairie to a clearing dubbed the Eclipse Viewing Area, complete with the magnanimous Solar Temple. To be totally off the grid with no phone or WiFi, fifty-ish thousand deep for one solid week sure did wonders to bring the attendees at Oregon Eclipse together. The festival collectively tuned in, turned on, but decidedly did not drop out. This was never more apparent than during the solar eclipse itself—the conscious cosmonauts took flight in such a manner that would make Tim Leary proud.
Every single individual that took in the eclipse on the prairie did so in their own personalized way. Though the festival asked for two minutes of silence when totality arrived around 10:20 am Monday morning, that simply did not happen. After a ridiculous night of music and dancing, the tens of thousand that had gathered howled at the moon to their heart’s delight, while others stared through their specialized glasses with slack-jawed aplomb. People meditated and made love openly, while a determined young man behind our group was throat-singing in a Tuvan or Mongolian tradition for a solid hour.
Personally, my reaction was something entirely unexpected—I wept uncontrollably in the arms of my beloved. I thought long and hard on suffering, not merely my own trials and tribulations and those close to me, but human beings the globe over. Particularly, I focused on the racial/cultural tensions that were exploding in our country in the days leading up to this monumental celestial gathering. I bemoaned to myself the dearth in people of color at this festival and wondered aloud if we even make them feel welcome when we invite indigenous people to engage in their holiest rituals before us. As the sun and moon engaged in a serendipitous serenade, I guess my emotions were laid bare by the overpowering feeling of Oneness.
A most-treasured reaction to the solar eclipse was from a group of older, silver-haired hippies seated on a blanket, not twenty yards away. They ceremoniously broke out into the chorus from the Grateful Dead’s “Terrapin Station” in a liberated, emboldened unison. “In the shadow of the moon, Terrapin Station; and I know we’ll be there soon. Terrapin, I can’t figure out, Terrapin, if it’s an end or beginning.“ Had we indeed arrived at the mythical Terrapin Station? This krewe sure thought so, and their enthusiasm was contagious. Beyond that jovial recollection, the dalliance betwixt the moon and sun was indescribable—truly one of those “you had to be there” moments.
In a triumph in booking, Oregon Eclipse produced a whopping seven main music stages. Each one sporting a unique atmosphere, theme, and vision. The Moon, Earth, Sun, Sky, Silk Road, Big Top, and Eclipse Stages delivered a dazzling assembly of musical offerings almost around the clock. Each of the seven standalone stages covered a wide swath of electronic genres such as house, techno, bass, funk, psy-trance, in addition to hosting performances from many leading purveyors of progressive, psychedelic, and globally-generated live instrumentation. Headlining artists included Bassnectar, String Cheese Incident (two shows, both minus Billy Nershi), G Jones, Shpongle, STS9, Opiuo, Beats Antique, and so many more.
STS9 on Eclipse Stage
Opiuo at Eclipse Stage
To conclude this diary in totality, I’ll briefly blaze through the best of the blessed personally experienced at Oregon Eclipse 2017.
Nevada City, California world-beat house general Brian Hartman dropped the bomb on no less than three different sets of music at Eclipse. On his birthday, he forwarded a genre-spanning selection at the Village Witches Elixir Bar, offering three hours of globalized grooves as the people rang in his birthday with fervent dancing and moon-howling. Hartman also laid it down with some proper Playa-tech and world house at the Furtherrr art installation before a final set mid-morning on the last day. Hartman hit the Silk Road stage with an earthy set of cumbia, latin grooves, and chill-beats that solidified him as a legitimate “person of interest.”
Goopsteppa and Leland Riivr are childhood homies and roommates up in Salt Spring Island, British Columbia. For the past half-decade, they have been on a slow-burn, meteoric rise to the heavens, representing a new breed of G’s in post-dubstep esoterica. Beginning with their one-two punch on Friday at Furtherrr, these boys were dedicated to the science of low-end theory, tunneling into the Earth’s core til the wee-est of hours. The next night the dynamic duo was at it again for the Dragon Fam Jam at Village Witches, lacing up their super-rare b2b set with a map of progressive styles en route to scale the new frontier. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard these boys flip Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing” into dub-bliss, then chase that with some luscious Timberlake crooning atop bulbous bass gymnastics. From grime to R&B and hip-hop, these bredren left no quartz unturned. On the last morning of Eclipse, Goop brought his unmistakable blend of sonic enrapture to the Earth Stage for a packed sunrise set filled with tracks off his new album. The Earth Stage’s assembly certified the word on the street that, yes indeedy, there is a new sheriff in town.
When I first saw that Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe would be rocking at the Big Top tent (along with STS9, Rebirth Brass Band, The Heavy Pets, Steve Kimock, MarchFourth, etc.), my heart almost exploded with excitement. As the sound crew took over an hour on Friday night to fix some persistent mic issues, it seemed that KDTU would never take the stage. Finally, the man they call Diesel and his band of brothers strode into the spotlight and kicked into high gear. The circus tent environment recalled Bear Creek 2009, and Karl did his damndest to bring the noise and the funk. Highlights from a spirited set included a rage through Cyril Neville’s ode to the G-code “Gossip,” which saw the guitar man DJ Williams mash it on and play it real funky. Later during the R&B funkathon, after a pair of Rolling Stones numbers that may have flew over people’s heads, Denson rolled out the KDTU classic “Satisfied”, which allowed drummer Robert “Sput” Searight (Snarky Puppy, Ghost Note) to really bring the smooth-type groove, working the Big Top into a full-blown frenzy.
Brooklyn afrobeat-mafia Antibalas detonated an atomic bomb at the Silk Road Stage on Saturday. Just before the clock turned midnight, that’s when shit got real. Lead by the steely, multi-disciplinary sax man Martin Perna, attendees answered the spirited calls to arms from singer Amayo, drawn in by horn wizard Stuart Bogie and the rumbling rhythm section of drummer Miles Arntzen and bassist Nikhil Yerawadekar. Erstwhile, guitar gangster Raja Kassis led this Nigeria-channeling armada in conquering this festival. With the most feverish dance floor energy and free-wheeling, meditative jams, Antibalas’ 150-minute set of fury ignited more fiyah, the flame of Fela Kuti, transforming Silk Road into a living, breathing funk leviathan.
On the heels of the an-ten-nae’s Medicine Crunk redux after the eclipse, we ambled over to the Sky Stage for the Danish “Tarantino of Tech,” Be Svendsen, where clad in his vintage top hat, he unleashed some sorcerer magic in the blazing prairie sun. The deep house got so sizzlin’ that the mixer began to melt, stopping the grooves for a bit before an assortment of umbrellas and fans were employed to shade the DJ. This two-hour narrative was told in four-on-the-floor, but with our arms reaching skyward, it felt more like a levitation station. The Sky Stage was headquarters for all of the finest house that bumps around the world, and notable sets were also turned in from Desert Hearts’ MARBS, European live-house chemists KMLN and Ecuador’s provocateur of Andes-step Nicola Cruz.
Soaring above the titanic Eclipse Stage were two diametrically opposite yet equally essential entities of the West Coast bass music spectrum. Early on Monday, beginning just before four in the morning, Oakland, California’s demonic duo Dimond Saints captained yet another excursion down the rabbit hole into the very center of a heart of darkness. Leaving the horns at home and doubling down on goth-minimalism, an-ten-nae and Releece set up shop in the cauldron and uncorked one thunderclap after the next with sparse, sonorous low-end, and inventive 808 programming. In the belly of the beast, a torrid, steaming dancefloor, we found all the usual suspects, drinking mate and tequila out of pinecone, with our third eyes blasted open. Besides debuting material from the forthcoming EP Shingetsu Chapter 3 and running through various haunting tracks with vocalist Yaarrohs from Prism in the Dark, the Dimond Saints also delivered to me my white whale. Incredibly, the boys dropped their very first song, an edit of Florence and the Machine’s cover of the Robert Palmer classic “Addicted to Love.” Three plus years of extreme fandom, and I’d yet to catch it live—they’d only played it once at their very first set. This colossal opener crafted the tone for a career-defining set that ran ’til the stroke of five in the morning.
Dimond Saints at Eclipse Stage
Just before the solar eclipse, Random Rab took front and center at the gargantuan main stage with appropriate reverence and delivered The Penumbra, a collaborative performance to ring in the celestial event. The Ashland, Oregon based electro-folk troubadour performed with a cadre that included Cello Joe, Dave Hoover (on harp), longtime collaborator Rigzin, visual artist Anthony “Flowers” Ward, and regal, vintage Rab dancers Elana Meta and Sophia Thom. Rab ushered in the main event like the wizard he’s become, eschewing his usual tranquil morning vibes for a primarily aggressive song selection, including material composed specifically for this momentous occasion. The intricacies embedded in the sonic afghan that is Random Rab’s music were transmitted with newfound crystal clarity on the Eclipse Stage’s ungodly Trinity rig, a sound system on steroids, courtesy of PK Sound. Key selections include opener “Parallels” off his brand new Formless Edge, and a mesmerizing take on the classic “Release.”
Beginning at midnight on Sunday (into Monday), the “Dons of Dub,” DEEP MEDi, dropped six throbbing hours of crunkalogic science at the Moon Stage. The selectas for this tornado-riding voyage were Mala, Kahn, Neek, and Truth, a duo consisting of Tristan Roake and Andre Fernandez of New Zealand. DEEP MEDi as a team balances screw-faced wobbles with sleek use of space, techno-textures juxtaposed with razor sharp percussion and dynamics. As the night raged on, we continued to return to the Moon Stage (and its fantastic Danley sonics courtesy of Know Audio) for slab after slab of the tastiest dubplates to wash up on U.S. shores in a decade. Now, there shall be no question—this is how dubstep should sound. Moon Stage honorable mentions go to West Coast Lo-Fi, which turned out to be a secret set from Bassnectar, Portland rudie PRSN, NorCal dub technician Andreilien, BC empress The Librarian, and the conquistador of (medical grade) crunk, an-ten-nae.
The Human Experience (David Block) delivered another magnum opus at the Earth Stage on Tuesday evening, cutting a wide swath across his labyrinth catalog spanning seven-plus years. Block debuted his project Semes and proceeded to bring out an endless stream of vocalists to accompany him on songs that are burned into the hearts and souls of so many in this festival community. Joining Block was vocalist Amae Love and dancer Shay Butta on the seminal “When I Grow Up.” The juiciness continued with Kalibri, Kat Factor, and finally Lila Rose on their collaborative gem (and a personal touchstone for our squad), “Dusted Compass.”
A couple of hours after Block transfixed the Earth Stage, the shamanic conglomerate Liberation Movement commandeered the control panels of the Funktion 1 rig and achieved liftoff. Grant Chambers, aka Resurrector, led this bombastic brigade in plundering the vaults of medicine music, delivering messages from around the world by way of hundreds of years of music among his onstage cohorts. Vir McCoy, Lux Moderna, Soriah, Noah King, Sasha Rose, Sorne, Wailer B, and the list goes on as a collective eminence took center stage. Performance artists Bad Unkle Sista swarmed the Earth Stage for the song “Resurrector” and had the audience engrossed. Liberation Movement’s Earth Stage seance, as well as their lengthier, sprawling set at Silk Road a night earlier, offered a glimmer of enlightenment through song, intention, emotion, and movement, if we would merely allow ourselves to enjoy the ride. For me, the trick was to simply surrender to the flow.
Liberation Movement at Earth Stage
If you would like to read a more detailed musical analysis from Oregon Eclipse by the author, GO HERE.