5 Perspective Changing Music Festivals & The Lessons They Teach

Techno or funk. Ragers or transformational events. Dark warehouses or illuminated skylines. Stabbing synths or soothing chords. Camping in the jungle or showering in your glamorous hotel. Existing are countless variables that combine across the music festival landscape, creating unique experiences that cannot be duplicated.

The commercialized dance music boom played a significant role in drawing people into the scene, exposing them to the lifestyle and communal nature that resonates with millions.

The Plur Heart via intotheam.com
The Plur Heart via intotheam.com

But as the “EDM generation” matures, they gravitate toward unique events that go beyond the pageantry of flashing lights and big-room sounds. These gatherings are committed to cultivating a platform that perpetuates something collectively larger than the individual sum of its’ parts.

They not only provide, but encourage, artists and musicians who took the same risks they did with a platform to share their creations with the masses while exposing attendees to new ways of thinking. These music festivals go way beyond the music.

1) Symbiosis Gathering

Symbiosis Gathering 2016
Symbiosis Gathering 2016 at Woodward Resevoir in Oakdale, California. Photo by Eric Allen via Symbiosis Gathering.

The road to Symbiosis Gathering forces you to disconnect from conditioned daily life before you even arrive at the festival gates.

Heading East of the fast-paced, technology-centric climate of San Francisco, the winding roads of Northern-California lead you through rolling hills decorated with wind-turbines and flourishing vegetation, slowly acclimating you to the personally-connected atmosphere that is prevalent throughout this transformational festival.

Upon arrival guests are funneled into a vehicle entry caravan that is notorious for exceeding 3 hours. However, whereas this might discourage other festival contingents, the demeanor of attendees at this Burning Man spin-off quickly becomes apparent as the parking lot turns into a full-blown party that exceeds the apex of most other events in itself.

Nestled on the banks of the protected, desolate Woodward Reservoir, sunsets and scenery at Symbiosis Gathering rival those of even the most exotic festival settings.

Symbiosis Gathering Sunset
Photo by Daniel Zetterstrom

The dynamic of those in attendance is further illuminated by the autonomy granted to people throughout the weekend. Whereas other festivals might prohibit access to the water, Symbiosis grants a level of trust that won’t be found anywhere else.

Campsites extend to every shoreline throughout the venue allowing people to take full advantage of everything over the course of the weekend.

The familial vibe extends way beyond just those in attendance.

Symbiosis Gathering 2016
Symbiosis Gathering 2016. Photo by Eric Allen via Symbiosis Gathering.

Tightly-knit vendors and artists, children-friendly activities (Kidzbiosis), hand-made stages crafted from sustainable and recycled materials that rival even the most tech-savvy production rigs, and musicians coalesce to make Symbiosis one of the best, all-encompassing, sensory-stimulating, heart-opening experiences money can by.

Not to mention one of the most carefully-curated and diverse music lineups you will find anywhere.

The organizers behind Symbiosis Gathering are genuinely committed to curating life-changing experiences in every sense of the phrase.

On August 21, 2017, a total global solar eclipse will pass across the entire United States, and Symbiosis has partnered with transformational festivals from around the world for a 6-day gathering celebrating this – quite literally – once in a lifetime event.

Oregon Eclipse // Photo via Facebook
Oregon Eclipse // Photo via Facebook

Oregon Eclipse 2017 will be a international effort like never before as we partner with Bass Coast Festival (Canada), Envision Festival (Costa Rica), Noisily Festival of Music and Arts (UK), Festival Ometeotl (Mexico), Origin Festival (S. Africa), Rainbow Serpent Festival (Australia), Re:birth Festival (Japan), and Universo Paralello Festival (Brazil)!

Super-duper early bird tickets for Oregon Eclipse go on sale November 3 and can be purchased here.

Life Lesson: We are all connected.

2) Suwannee Hulaween

Suwannee Hulaween 2016
View from the Amphitheatre Stage at Suwannee Hulaween 2015. Photo via Facebook/Hulaween.

Two years ago we wrote that Hulaween was quickly becoming the Electric Forest of the South and the it can be argued that this annual Halloween-weekend event has exceeded that comparison entering its’ 4th year.

With acts like The String Cheese Incident, STS9, Big Gigantic, and Disclosure slated to perform during this year’s edition, there is no question surrounding the lineup.

However, it is the setting and musically-rich history of the 600-acre venue that puts Hulaween in a class all it’s own.

Spirit Lake comes alive at night with innovative art installations the reflect off the majestically calm waters, Spanish Moss dances above the Amphitheater Stage, pristine white sands contrast the black waters of the Suwannee River swimming area, and the ability to have campfires at your site sprinkle in another element that allows you to decompress at home base while becoming more connected to those around you.

Spirit Lake - Hulaween Music Festival 2015 - Spirit of Suwannee Music Park - Live Oak FL - Photo © Dave Vann 2015
Spirit Lake – Hulaween Music Festival 2015 – Spirit of Suwannee Music Park – Live Oak FL – Photo © Dave Vann 2015

Did we mention it’s Halloween? Costumes and eccentricity are already a central pillar of the festival community but themed nights at Hulaween – this year being Stringier Things, a play on the Netflix cult hit Stranger Things and testament to festival-staples The String Cheese Incident – encourage a new level of weird that takes creativity and humor to an entire new level.

Limited tickets are still available and can be purchased here.

Life Lesson: Weird is normal. Let your freak flag fly.

3) Electric Daisy Carnival Las Vegas

Electric Daisy Carnival 2016
An aerial view of Electric Daisy Carnival 2016 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Photo via Facebook/EDC.

Electric Daisy Carnival Las Vegas is an adult playground that cements your status as a fan of EDM. The Golden Child of Insomniac Events and industry icon Pasquale Rotella is beyond any spectacle that exists on the festival circuit.

Placing an emphasis on attendees over the music, who Insomniac refers to as The Headliners, EDC Vegas is a grand spectacle that meticulously unfolds over three days in the Nevada desert.

Everything from the flow of foot traffic and set times to trash can placement to the parade procession on the final day is carefully thought out to maximize the experience.

Electric Daisy Carnival 2016
An aerial view of Electric Daisy Carnival 2016 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Photo via Facebook/EDC

While music is seemingly secondary, nearly every major electronic dance music act on the planet graces the lineup each year, offering ticket holders the chance to see their favorite act – from bass music and trance to techno and deep house – that they might never have the opportunity to see ever again in a single place.

The pilgrimage to the electronic dance music mecca culminates June 17-19 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Don’t sleep on scooping up your EDC Las Vegas experience passes because this one is guaranteed to sell out.

Life Lesson: There is always room for growth.

4) Movement Electronic Music Festival

Movement Electronic Music Festival 2016
The Beatport Stage against the Detroit skyline. Photo via Facebook/Movement.

Stepping back into the concrete jungle finds us in the city that is responsible for what we know as modern electronic dance music. What started in 2000 as Detroit Electronic Music Festival has – literally and figuratively – blossomed into Movement.

Taking over Hart Plaza overlooking Windsor, Canada on the bank of the Detroit River, Movement is as authentic of a music festival as you will find anywhere in the world.

Local pioneers like Carl Craig and innovators like Kraftwerk remind us from where music as we know it evolved while gifting guests in a sea of techno black with a sonically-stimulating auditory journey – one where even the most seemingly insignificant sound within each track has a purpose beyond what most music lovers can even comprehend.

For those that tend to gravitate toward underground sounds, this is one festival where you will have no problem spending the duration at the Main Stage.

Detroit Movement Festival 2015
Detroit Movement Festival 2015

Movement Festival returns to the techno mecca May 27-29, 2017 along with Movement Getaway – a more intimate, half-way event in Puerto Rico – November 18-20 in San Juan, Puerto Rico and tickets are only $33 for both days! More info on Movement Getaway and Detroit’s Movement Festival can be found here.

Life Lesson: This is what real music sounds like.

5) Envision Festival

Envision Festival 2016
The Main Stage nestled among the Costa Rican jungle. Photo by Eric Allen via Envision Festival.

Step outside the comfort of domestic festivals and invest in an experience rivaling any music event in the world. It’s a 3-hour car ride from Costa Rica’s capital city of San Jose to the quiet community of Uvita on the Osa Peninsula, where cell phone signals and Wi-Fi are all but a flickering memory of the past.

Set up in the middle of the jungle, Envision Festival rises from a plot of land owned by organizers where food served and materials used to erect the structures are grown year-round on site.

3D projection mapping illuminates the main stage. Photo by Eric Allen via Envision Festival.
3D projection mapping illuminates the main stage. Photo by Eric Allen via Envision Festival.

During the day, nutrient-rich clay baths are offered free of charge while a winding gravel path leads you through the vegetation, emerging on the Pacific waters where more local vendors offer hand-made trinkets, surf instruction on some of the best barrels in the world, and sunsets that you can’t even articulate with modern language.

At night the howler monkeys come alive, caroling from the treetops with as much enthusiasm as their human counterparts as the bass music resonates throughout the canopy. Only one thing is guaranteed at Envision Festival – you will leave with your misconceptions of reality shattered with a rekindled passion for life.

Life Lesson: The music is about much more than the music.