Planning on hitting Symbiosis 10 Year Anniversary this September?! You’ve absolutely made the right decision. After almost 16 years of events under my belt in the realm of the electronic music festival world here on the Left Coast, I have constantly said now for years that Symbiosis is by far, THE BEST, hands down, no questions asked. The venues they choose, the attention to detail in production, the crowd they draw, the incredibley diverse lineup, and more make this your one festival to never miss when they actually decide to throw one. It’s usually once every two years with a one back to back occurrence in 2012/2013.
Due to the fact that their lineups are so massive and diverse, you may not know who or what it is you’re looking at exactly when it comes to these artists. That is why I am here today. Here is my Official Crash Course to the Symbiosis 2015 Lineup:
:: ABSOLUTELY NOT TO BE MISSED ::
Nicolas Jaar (DJ Set)
If you don’t know who Nicolas Jaar is at this point, you’ve obviously been on another planet for the past few years. Since about 2011 Nico has made an incredible dent in the more mature and jazz influenced side of electronica. Literally everything he touches is gold, and thankfully, he just started his own imprint, Other People, to further the exploration into the world of his tastes. On Other People you can also find artists like Valentin Stip, Darkside, and other classy acts. His live show I saw a few years back was nothing short of amazing, and as much as I’m not usually into DJ Sets from prolific producers, Nico should bring it proper as this year’s main headliner.
Ahhh yes, the two beautiful lovely ladies that make up the Indie Folktronica group CocoRosie. I was turned onto these lovelies around 2009 and dabbled a bit into their music with a girlfriend at the time. They ended up passing through Seattle and I bought us tickets to go. Suffice to say, that show made me a firm believer. What really caught me was how incredibly unique and avant-garde their whole performance was – I’d never seen or heard anything like it. They had a whole table with an array of children’s toys, plastic music boxes, and more that were implemented into almost every song played. These beauties are not to be missed!
Dave Tipper. The man who is almost solely responsible for the squelching Left Coast bass music sound. A god amongst music producers. I’ve been fortunate enough to have watched Dave play back in his humble beginnings right after he moved to Seattle in 2003 or so. From the moment I saw him scratching with a CDJ over his own live beats, I knew something special had just landed on the West Coast. Over the past 15 years now Tipper has released countless EP’s, a few LP’s, a surround sound masterpiece, and most recently kicked a heart bypass surgery in the ass! Thank the gods Dave is still with us. If you want to see this man in his absolute element, do not miss EITHER of his sets here at Symbiosis this year. His downtempoish set during the eclipse at the 2012 Pyramid Lake Symbiosis was and still is in my Top 10 dance-at-a-festival moments EVER.
Kieren Hebden is one of my favorite musicians. Ever. The man has attributed to some of my very favorite songs, that have been on repeat now for fifteen years! We’ve seen Kieren’s Four Tet moniker go from 99’s ‘Dialogue‘ minimal electronic jazzfest to 2005’s quirky downtempo IDM filled ‘Everything Ecstatic‘ to teaming up with Burial in 2009 for some of the sexiest slow techno ever to 2010’s gorgeous slow house love fest on ‘There Is Love In You‘ only to end up here in 2015 where he just released ‘Morning/Evening‘, two twenty minute long Hindu chanting micro-house ambient opuses. Oh yah, in 2011 he did some work with Thom Yorke as well. Basically the man is a genius, and makes amazing music. Constantly. I’ve seen Four Tet now a handful of times, and depending on what style of set he’s booked for (Live vs DJ), the level of awesome can vary. That said, you’ll still more than likely see me in front of the stage when he plays!
I was just recently turned onto Sylvan Esso through my What.CD geekings. They’re straight up in this whole new wave of Hipster Folktronica, and I absolutely love it. Don’t know too much else about them except that their LP debut from last year is a must hear. Be careful, it may be on repeat in your room soon!
So I just looked up these 19 year old twin beauties today. Instantly fell in love. If you liked the Sylvan Esso vibe above, you’ll definitely dig Ibeyi’s Afro-Cuban take on Hipster Folktronica. I’ll definitely be trying to catch these ladies at Symbi.
Like the past few projects mentioned here, The Acid I just recently discovered. Leaning on the Hipstertronic side of things, they are in that same vibe minus the Folk aspects. You could almost call it ambient lyrical moody house/techno…or something. Regardless, I just listened to their first LP ‘Liminal’ and totally dug it. I’ll definitely want to check this live electronic trio out this year!
Normally you would only see Pantha at something like Decibel Festival (Seattle) or Mutek (Montreal), and not at some hippie styled festival here in Cali. This is an absolutely perfect example of why I consider Symbiosis to be the best Left Coast festival – booking artists of this nature. Pantha separates himself from the usual techno world with his ever so sleepy beats making you feel like you’re floating through the falling snow of some Norse country in the dead heart of winter. By infusing all sorts of bell and glass instrumentation, the music while thick underneath, sounds heavenly and full of light. I was fortunate enough to stage manage for Pantha at Decibel a few years back, and was astounded when he set up his rig – a computer, a midi controller, and sixteen different pieces of glassware – all randomly filled with different amounts of water – that were then mic’d and played throughout his live performance. While I don’t expect this to happen out at Symbi, I do know he’ll deliver one incredible set for us all OUTSIDE. Don’t miss it!
I first caught wind of Ooah back in 2005 when I spent four months on Maui with my girlfriend at the time and a whole posse of hippies. EPIC times those were. Ooah, Random Rab, and the late Rodman had come out during those four months as well, and were basically playing every or every other party during the whole time I was there. It was awesome. Ooah’s quirky, but hard hitting breaks to hip-hop sets were something to lust for over and over. Rab’s gear hadn’t been stolen yet and he was not playing via laptops. Then by the next time I saw Ooah, The Glitch Mob had happened. I couldn’t believe my ears. For one it was nothing like I was used to with Ooah. Two, edIT, this random name in IDM who I’d heard of from his mind blowing glitch quest entitled ‘Crying Over Pros For No Reason‘ on Planet Mu in 2004, was up there on stage with Ooah and Boretta and a whole slew of other folk churning out this psycho glitch glam hop that made me (personally) want to run away screaming. Regardless, the Mob’s (and Bassnectar’s) sound literally took over the Cali music scene for a good four years from 2006-2010. During that time however, Ooah self-released his own answer to edIT’s glitch quest, titled ‘Of Porcelain‘. Both of these emotive downtempo styled glitch fests are two of the boys best works, and possibly will be for a long time to come. To see this performed dually and live at Symbi will be a real treat that honestly will probably never happen again. Be there.
I first caught wind of Mr. Cooper like many artists – through catching him deliver an over the top excellent set at Decibel Fest a few years back. From then on he was on my radar. Then he was booked at the Juke Shack at Symbi 2013 – again another excellent set of diverse techno, blended perfectly for the time and slot given at the fest. That dancefloor was raging!!! Since 2013, the world has seen Max diversify his sound incredibly from mostly techno into the world of expansive IDM sounding downtempo electronica and more. 2014 saw the release of his debut LP ‘Human‘, which is an instant classic in it’s own right. 2014 also saw Max stepping up his game even further by launching his own Live A/V (Audio/Visual) tour called ‘EMERGENCE‘, which thankfully he debuted at Decibel Fest. This live set brings forth everything about Max that you love already, while placing sharp and crisp visuals programmed by the man himself behind it all to fully encapsulate your brain, heart, and body. If ‘EMERGENCE‘ comes to your town – do not miss it. I know Max will fully deliver another epic dance set at Symbi this year – I’ll see you on the dancefloor!
Thanks to the brilliant brain of the one and only KDJ aKa Kadeejah Streets aKa Dirty Ice do I get turned onto many incredible musicians I may have not found on my own. Bob Moses is yet another perfect example of KDJ playing something for my ears, and instantaneously am I finding myself addicted. (I probably wouldn’t have started spinning dubstep if it wasn’t for addictions like this, but that’s another story for another time.) This time it was through Bob Moses’ ‘Inner City Odyssey‘ mix from about eight months ago. I think I played it out something like 10-12 times the first week I got my hands on it (and it is still available for download via the link above, FYI). The mix is a heartfelt and laid back sunny day house set, with beautiful vocal melodies swimming around your head throughout most of it’s hour long play time. While I don’t know much about Bob Moses, I do know they’re relatively new to the house music scene, and so far have done nothing but turn heads wherever they play or their music is played. I’d fair to say this may be the one biggest dance set I’m lusting after at this year’s Symbi – I can only hope they get scheduled at that perfect moment!
Thugfucker. Say it again with me: THUG-FUCKER. What does not come to mind when you say this brilliant moniker is a tech-house duo. What does come to mind might be Master P or Dr. Dre’s new protege or something of the sort. Regardless, the Fucking of Thugs is definitely oriented towards house and is one of those odd projects that has randomly released some tunes here or there for the past 10+ years, has never released a full LP, and really only plays out every so often (from what I can tell). Honestly due to the name I’d skipped seeing them at a few previous festivals until I caught the tail end of their set over a Funktion One soundsystem at Symbi 2012. My love of house had full on returned at that point and I dug what I heard. It wasn’t until Symbiosis 2013 that I was fully converted into Thugfucking. That year from 5am-7am the duo laid down what has now been deemed the ‘Fogrise Set of a Lifetime’ by our whole crew who had been camped out at the Juke Shack for close to eight hours already. The music being DJ’d matched the time and setting so well that I was finding myself nearly brought to tears multiple times. Melodic, emotive, dance-forward tech-house perfectly mixed for two hours. Pure bliss. I can only hope they get a similar timeslot this year.
In a land that is overly saturated with immature bass music for days, comes the mature answer to that sound: Thriftworks. Introduced to me through The Jess a few years back, I’d heard the name a few times, but had dismissed it due to my jaded mindset on most Cali bass music. Then I pulled my head out of my ass and discovered Thriftworks’ not overly produced, not overly squelched, and not overly repetitive bass heavy goodness. The man has releases for days. They start to sound a bit similar if you go on a binge, but they really do all stand apart in their own ways. My personal LP favorite is ‘Terry-D‘. The title track alone gets my brain bouncing and laughing so hard at the same time, that I am only hoping he drops this one on large sound this year!
I discovered TRUTH when I was full on binging in my new lust for the dark, minimal, and grimey sounds of halfstep dubstep a few years back. Side Note: Remember folks – real dubstep is at 140bpm. Just because there’s annoying squelching sounds and lots of bass DOES NOT MAKE IT DUBSTEP. In fact it probably isn’t. Okay, that said, TRUTH was one of the few heavy hitters not from the UK that caught my ears. The duo has released a fair amount of tunes through most big name dubstep labels at this point including Deep Medi Musik, Black Box, and Tempa. While it definitely takes a bit of sifting through their catalog to find the gems, once you find those gems, you’re stoked. This was a bit of an odd booking to me for this year’s Symbi, as there is literally almost nothing like it on the lineup besides them. Regardless I’m curious to see what these guys pull off on large sound, and I just hope that it’s some form of a live set!
Another fairly out there but fantastic booking is the Swedish ambient/downtempo psydub project Carbon Based Lifeforms. Having been around now since 1998, they are veterans to the chillout scene and all things trippy. I’d heard of these two off and on for the past ten or so years, and always in positive discussion. A few friends are truly avid fans, so I downloaded a few albums a while back and turned out to really enjoy the music. It’s very relaxed, calm, and has many moments of weightless ambience throughout the songs and in between. Just like TRUTH mentioned above, these guys are kind of in their own world out at this year’s Symbiosis. I’d imagine an early morning sunrise set would be perfect!
:: IF YOU’RE NOT BUSY WITH THE ABOVE LIST, CHECK OUT ::
Justin Martin – Dirtybird Bassline Techno
Christian Martin – Dirtybird Bassline Techno
Extrawelt – German Techno
KMLN – Cali Techno Dj Duo
Mumdance – Tripped Out British Bass Music
Filastine – Epic Political Hip-Hop
Random Rab – Warm & Fuzzy Downtempo (Especially if it’s a sunrise set!)
Tara Brooks – Super Fun Dancey House Music
Treavor Moontribe – PsyTechno
World’s Finest – Americana Dub Grass from PDX
If you have some free time to kill while you’re not dancing your ass of to any of the DO NOT MISS list, then I highly recommend you check out any or all of the above artists. They’re solid performers, and you’re pretty much guaranteed to enjoy the show!
:: IF YOU GO TO FESTIVALS TO SEE THE SAME SHIT EVERY TIME, CHECK OUT ::
Shpongle (DJ Set by Raja Ram)
The Polish Ambassador
The Human Experience
Uhhhh, yah. The Festie All-Stars. They play every fest during the summer and some of you love it. Not really my thing, but if it floats your boat – go sailing! I’d personally recommend checking out some of the other music this massive lineup has to offer.
:: IF YOU’RE SUPER SPIRITUAL, CHECK OUT ::
Dub Kirtan Allstars
Fanna Fi Allah
I actually really enjoy the above bands. What I don’t enjoy is the excessively elevated and holier than thou vibes some of their fans bring with them. That said, if you’re into kirtan and chanting and what not, these groups are definitely for you.
Well that’s about that. Hopefully this has been informative, helpful, and fun. I definitely hope you discovered something new in the music world you’re now into. I’ll be at this year’s Symbi from Thurs-Mon, and would love to see any and all of you. I’ll be camped in the Seattle Camp, which hopefully will be pleasantly situated by the Lake once again. Have fun this year, and remember to DRINK WATER.