Two hours east of Seattle this weekend a mountain of energy was created deep in the woods, far away from civilization, far away from everything except what really matters. Photosynthesis 1.0, presented by Collective Flow, brought together old friends and new, a stupid number of local DJs that we all know and love, along with a copious amount of hula-hooping, fire-twirling, bubbles in the breeze, giggling children, hours and hours of music and dancing, silly dogs, a deep indigo sky bursting with stars and framed by evergreens, legions of mimosas, body paint galore, and a naked guy. Now this was a party. Up on top of the ridge it was sunny and warm in the day, windy and cold as hell at night. I arrived in a sheer sundress and hours later had on not one but two pair of wool socks, June be damned, living the wisdom that there is no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing. Good thing I brought some.
Beats, beeps, scratches, and whomps found a temporary home in the forest and were sent out into the trees from three stages. The combination of the great outdoors and electronic music generates an incredible sense of enchantment; what should be an odd match of opposites instead creates an all-encompassing feeling of happiness, of wholeness, of everything being right in the world. I pitched my tent by the Main Stage, the Nama Stage, which gave me easy access to the art dome, the big heart-shaped campfire, and to the festival kitchen to whom I must give mad, mad props. A huge amount of time and effort went into the food preparation; nobody at the festival went hungry because heaps of people worked very hard to make sure of it. Every time I passed by the kitchen there was a flipping buffet of healthy food, made with love. Pho the first night, then veggie gumbo, a van-load of tamales, A ROAST PIG, fresh fruit, homemade breakfast muffins; everything I tried was absolutely fantastic. Mad, mad, props to the Sweet Peeps kitchen for their hard work and delicious chow.
The Main Stage rocked consistently for two nights with sick DJs from all over the Pacific Northwest. Novatron laid it down in the middle of the dance floor, his dog Ziggy running around like an idiot and the rest of us shaking our souls and asses for the artist. I never ever miss one of Novatron’s live sets, he is a master. My favorite player of the festival though (do I have to say it?) was the brilliantly original Noisemaker who played two random time slots around 5AM and 5PM. Come on now yall, this DJ belongs in the middle of the fire and frenzy and madness of the night. That is his home. Noisemaker had the freshest and most unique sets of the party; I really loved watching people stroll up who had never before heard his brand of crunk. They first look a little confused by the frog noises and Big Band music, then they start smiling, and then they start dancing. Curious DJs wandered up to check out his set as well, and one of my friends laid out the reason he loves Noisemaker: “It’s just like, ‘I’m Noisemaker. I’ll do what I want. I spin Britney Spears, bitch, and you’re gonna love it and you’re going to dance.” And dance we did.
The second stage out in the woods was Vex Village, where I spent the least amount of time, though I did catch the unbelievable KJ Sawka set on Friday night; could he possibly be a more bad-ass drummer? No. He couldn’t. And do the ladies love him or what! “Blah blah blah I love Kevin Sawka” is all I heard that night. I was also lucky to catch Von Dewey on the second stage as well who laid down quite a fat set of beats for the crowd.
The three stages were a nice walk apart from each other, but traveling the cold path between them birthed ample opportunities for random social encounters. I love being a nomad, wondering around in the dark woods by myself (sorry Mom), meeting strangers and strange friends in the night. On the liminal path, that dirt space between worlds and stages and social circles, anything can happen- there are no rules.
My favorite home of Photosynthesis 1.0 was the rock-strewn dance floor of the third stage, the Orca Sound Lab. When I came upon the area the first evening, it was nothing but three speakers on the grass by some trees. The following day however the wooded area was transformed into a sacred circle of dance. The beats started out strong there Saturday afternoon with Awggie and the Mendicants, and then HOLY FREAKING TECHNO! Can I say it again? HOLY FREAKING TECHNO.
What had been just three speakers in the forest became a temple of unrelenting beats that continued deep and deeper into the night as one DJ after another ripped it in half, a blazing lineup that spiraled through the forest into a incessant explosion, a rampage, a frenzy. The stage was on fire the whole night; this is the reason I don’t mention any of the headliners of the festival in my review. I was possessed by the techno. Nordic Soul ignited the madness with quite the ridiculous set; he cannot hide the fact that he thoroughly enjoys what he does to the dance floor as much as we do. I am in love with this DJ. The techno continued its unabated aural penetration as the evening continued; the one-hour sets went quickly and we were treated to a succession of gifted electronic artists. Manos was laying down straight crazy, dubby shit; Panty Control, Milkplant, Brian S., Jesse, and to all the DJs that night who I met and can’t remember your name, you guys destroyed us there in the middle of the forest. The sloped and rocky dance floor did not stop the party from giving it up to the Dance.
I danced in the forest all night and into the morning, not a creature of my own volition but a slave to the music. The beats go inside of my body and move it for me, I have no choice in the matter. The incongruent blend of electronic music and campfires puts something in your soul that cannot be explained, it can only be felt. And can I shout out to the DJs who dance? I absolutely love to see you guys on the floor getting down. I love it. I nourish myself with the symbiotic relationship between the DJ and the dancers and the energy it creates. Music changed my life, music saved my life, music is my life. There is no one in existence who can say that music has not contributed positively to their world, and most of you probably even agree with my three hippie-face declarations above.
However at any festival or party there always seems to be one DJ who completely destroys the dance floor and whose name is on everyone’s hungover lips the next morning around campfires and smoke circles. At Photosynthesis 1.0 it was Ctrl_Alt_Del. This boy absolutely rocked the minds and bodies of everyone who heard his set late Saturday night, his own as well if I am not mistaken. I don’t know crack about minimal techno, but my body does. I feel the energy trapped in the pulsing beats, the intense throbbing that stays just below the surface, rising and falling and threatening to bubble uncontrollably to the top of our minds. Ctrl_Alt_Del kept us on that threshold; speaking to our subconscious desires and the nethermost chasms of our very beings with the pulsing undercurrent. Techno rouses the ID, the animal inside of us all who just wants to grab the person dancing next to us and run off into the woods naked and screaming, social-circle cohesion be damned. Ctrl_Alt_Del woke up this beast on his dance floor, and short of going raving mad and frothing at the mouth and howling at the moon, we danced. We danced all night in the woods like our ancestors did for hundreds of thousands of years, warming ourselves with the fire and our feet.
Which, of course, is why we go to festivals; to dance on the earth with bare feet, to experience the feeling of walking up on a campfire encircled by strangers in the middle of the night, to see children playing free in the forest, to wear feathers in our hair, to walk paths drenched in falling light alone. Time returns to it’s true and undefined nature and exists only as a DJ lineup. For a few days, we commune with the earth and each other as humans have done long, long before the time of texting and Myspace and traffic. We share food, and water, and energy, and life. The weekend was almost perfect.
Sunday morning I woke up and found out that a boy had died. His name was Shawn-e. I met him the night before, he was fishing for ravers with a pole and a glow stick. He caught one; it was me. We said our hellos-my-name-is and went along our separate ways in the dark forest. I really wish I could leave this out, that I could skip this unpleasant part of my annoyingly positive review, that I could keep the weekend lingering in your minds as singularly and wickedly beautiful. But I can’t. That morning as I sat at a friend’s campsite with a circle of strangers sharing a bottle of warm Champagne, a sound met our ears, the echoes of a girl weeping in the woods. The small circle of humans froze. Our eyes locked; we were strangers bound together by the sound of the absolute despair of one of our own. Once again this weekend we were reminded that we are all connected. We all live together and we will all die.
But you are alive, right now, reading this. So guess what? You have to live for Shawn-e now. All of you. You have to dance a little harder, you have to sing a little louder, you have to live a little more. You have to devour every new experience that presents itself to you and is good. You have to suck out the marrow of life just a little more now, not just for Shawn-e but for all of your friends who drop away from this world. Add Shawn-e to the long list of reasons why you refuse to have anything but an absolutely incredible life, rich with experience and human connections. My heart aches for the friends and family who knew Shawn-e well; know that I met him but a few tiny moments on this earth and in that brief encounter, he made me smile and laugh.
The music was turned off, the campers slowly left, and the energy dissipated, carried away bit by bit in each of us to be dispersed around the Pacific Northwest. I packed up the car and went to pay my respects to the dance floors, finding once again that the third stage was just a few speakers sitting in the middle of the woods. The only evidence of the party mania and techno fever the night before was a charred campfire and grass stomped away by dancing feet. Ashes to ashes. I made a huge trash sweep over the forest campground and found only one gum wrapper on the grounds; this place had been well-loved and taken care of. I walked away from Photosynthesis 1.0 filled up, with renewed inspiration to live every single day as fully as I possibly can.
Heading home over a rock path with a few wrong turns and a late lunch at random cafe #3 in Cle Elum (complete with deer chandeliers and a bear skin rug on the wall), my carload was salivating for more electronic music. Seriously. Drool was dripping off our chins. Thankfully I had a downloaded CD of Ctrl_Alt_Del in my car- however it only plays when my navigator has not jammed a second disc into my car’s stereo system. Alas, for the two-hour ride home, we were stuck in radio hell, which is no mild exaggeration after a weekend of such mind-melting music; going back to Top 40 was pure aural torture. I have a bad habit of screaming at DJs to drop the beat when they hold out too long, which is what I was yelling at my radio by the time we reached North Bend. Jazzy-F Lips on KE-whatever didn’t seem to hear me, but somehow I made it back to my favorite home-of-the-moment, Seattle.
I am satiated with positive energy from this weekend. Thank you, thank you, thank you, to everyone who shared this time in the woods with me, every single one of you: the people who worked hard to give us a party, the new friends I made, the people whose names I’ve already forgotten, the ones of you I didn’t get to meet and the one of you who will not dance again. To the girl in the woods, I wept with you. Thank you for sharing your energy, all of you, and in exchange I give you my words and will share my filled-up spirit to everyone I meet.
Damn I sound like a hippie.
So what is this techno music I keep going on about? Pulsing? The ID? The undercurrents of penetrating electronic beats that moves your body and fills up your head and will not goes away? Find out this Tuesday at Vito’s when Oi Vay gets MADE: Struggle, DJ Eddie, and Jeromino will be spinning a lovely evening of techno in an Italian mobster cafe; come out and dance and live a bit more than your normal weekday night. Who knows? It just might change your life.
If you would like to comment on Photosynthesis 1.0, or my review, or on some of the amazing DJ sets I missed because there are not two of me, please comment below. I would love it.