Oregon Eclipse Gathering: A Journal.
A Musical Breakdown
All photos by Colin Hudson
With a few exceptions, the Pacific Northwest is home to many lively, but quaint music festivals. From String Summit to Pickathon to What the Festival, these events barely top out at 5,000. When Symbiosis announced their plans to host a party in Oregon for the eclipse, it was clear it would scale on the larger side.
As the weeklong event went on, vans full of music lovers continued to fill out the campground. There were varying degrees of head counts anywhere from 20 to 70 thousand. The closest official word rested at around 30,000 festival goers plus artists and staff, larger than Sasquatch, a notable feat without a top-40 headliner herding people in. The closest thing to a Kendrick-sized artist was Bassnectar, whose legion of fans in the EDM kingdom is one of the most devout. The String Cheese Incident was the only band resembling a mainstream headliner. Their legacy amongst the jam scene stretches over several decades, and they might be the most popular faces not named Phish within that community.
Clearly, this wasn’t a typical music festival. If organizers are able to draw in a crowd of this size and the closest thing to mainstream they went with was Bassnectar and a band with the worst name since the Flying Burrito Brothers, there must have been something else. What the Oregon Eclipse did was put together a fluid lineup that dove deep into many EDM subgenres like deep house, bass, psydub, and psytrance which are known for their relationship with festival culture.
Music began Thursday evening, but to a much smaller scale than it would the following nights. Not all stages were up and running, and the ones that were didn’t go deep into sunrise. Festival-heads got their first chance to see the stage designs. The Earth stage quickly became a fan favorite with a multicolored LED backdrop attached to a tent full of live painters and more speakers made for a unique dancing experience. UK based producer, Frameworks was one of the first to deliver in front of the vibrant display. Sitting beside him was a live cello player and a team of dancers to go along with the downtempo set.
By sundown the following day, all stages were up and running. This gave the audience their first view of the Eclipse Stage, which held the festival’s largest acts. The stage design was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. The outline appeared to resemble a dark sun, but also looked like a clam shell with sparkling lights and shot out powerful lasers. The night began with the smooth violin and soundscapes from Emancipator and flowed right into a danceable set by the Polish Ambassador. Once the night was in full swing, it became a choose-your-own-adventure story as there was an endless amount of ways to fill out the dark hours. Oregon Eclipse boasted seven stages, all of which were bumping heavy tunes throughout the night. However, those that witnessed the Beats Antique show just after midnight saw one of the most epically theatrical sets of the weekend, which culminated with a prediction that the solar eclipse would end in eternal damnation.
The psytrance at the Sun Stage kept bumping at 140beats per minute, with this stage going for 24 hours a day three days in a row. The psytrance scene, while extremely divisive within the United States (especially those camped within an earshot), carries a large international draw with enthusiasts from Australia, Japan, South Africa and several other countries who travel long distances to get their fill of the fast-paced thumping.
The rest of Saturday played out in similar fashion as the night before except with a different set of artists taking the stages. STS9 threw down an ethereal set as the sun rested behind the hills of the main stage. While Big Top, the festival’s circus tent stage boasted funky performances by Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe and Lyrics Born. The festival’s unofficial headliner, Bassnectar, continued this theme of funk and bass to put on a show so heavy, there were rumors of faces being melted off and never to be seen again.
Come Sunday, aside from the once in a lifetime cosmic event, there were also two nights of the String Cheese Incident still to go. As the evening settled in, the elusive duo, CocoRosie, played the main stage before SCI. The bar was set high as their vocal range and all around originality went unmatched. When String Cheese took stage directly after, they began by informing that one of their founding members, Bill Nershi would not be able to make it and they would have to play their first show without the integral member. Without their acoustic guitarist and folk singer, this prompted to longer jams and more sounds from keyboardist Kyle Hollingsworth. Directly after this, the organizers played their dirtiest trick of the festival by making late-nighters choose between a set by Opiuo on the same stage or heading over to Silk Road for Dirtwire. And as if these two choices weren’t hard enough, they threw in a second set by STS9 at the Big Top. Music continued all though the night with early morning sets by Emancipator and just before the eclipse Random Rab guided 30,000 people into the celestial event.
After the eclipse, the rest of the day was filled with more music including second shows from CocoRosie and the String Cheese Incident, but at that point it hardly mattered. We had just collectively witnessed a rare cosmic event and not even Jimi Hendrix reincarnated could have topped such an experience. However, it certainly didn’t make it worse, so a crowd of people stayed out to see Moon Hooch close out the Eclipse Stage for the festival.
The lineup put together by the Symbiosis team impressively stretched far across the musical spectrum and no matter what part of the globe people traveled from, no one had trouble finding something to suit their style. The only issue at hand was the overlaps and need for sleep that stopped people from seeing everyone on the schedule.
Click HERE to view more photos. Also read Oregon Eclipse Gathering: A Journal – Festival Overview.