Serenity Gathering Recap: From Chaos Comes Clarity
The desert is a place of contradiction, mystery, balance, and disturbance. It is ever-changing and chaotic, while remaining serene and stoic in its mystery. To survive in the harsh conditions, both being prepared and adaptable are necessary. This year’s Serenity Gathering followed a similar pattern to its last minute destination change, Joshua Tree; a high desert characterized by the alien-like trees that litter the space between the Mojave and Colorado deserts.
Planning a festival is no easy task, it takes months of preparation, outreach, building, and money, among other things. And then the big weekend comes and its a balance of preparedness and adaptability. On Thursday night I arrived to a chaotic welcoming scene. The desert was wide open to its visitors and our weekend home had been chosen in a ditch on the side of the dirt road. Just through the maze of Joshua Trees there was a small stage that had some late night music playing courtesy of DeFunk and Sticky Budz.
Serenity Gathering is a new festival on the scene, and one that I don’t think should be outright dismissed. In its third year, the festival has managed to get some big and talented names to grace its stages. This year Desert Dwellers, Emancipator, Nahko & Medicine for the People, Del the Funky Homosapien, and Shpongle headlined. The performances were all incredible- from Safi’s Lab to TV Broken 3RD Eye Open– I left each stage in a state of bliss.
But, with such a variety of music gracing the stages there are bound to be issues. The sound for the main stage especially had its fair share of problems. Bands following the DJs had to share soundboards, and most notably during Medicine’s set the monitors were malfunctioning. I give a big shout out to the sound guys, Tom from Medicine for the People and Ryan from Pimps of Joytime for hustling through and getting the music to the audience. As according to one of the sound guys, there seemed to be no lack of talented acts, but the production could definitely have used some work.
I mention the desert’s unpredictability earlier to highlight that not everything will always run smoothly and many factors go into correcting and accepting that flow when working in a harsh environment with electrical equipment. Unfortunately because of noise ordinances, sunrise sets were spent watching silhouetted Joshua Trees to muted beats and some acts had to be let go. It was all a lesson in adaptability, and overall the Serenity crew did what they could with what they had to deliver an amazing festival experience.
What does stand out for most of the folks that I spoke to at the festival is the sense of community that had been found. I can speak for myself and say that I engaged in a lot of meaningful conversations and lasting friendships. The vending booths especially being full of friendly faces and appropriately priced kombuchas, kavas, clothing, cacao, and plenty of food options. MeloMelo Kava Bar, based in Berkeley, had a booth where they offered free buffing to compliment a relaxing cup of Kava. The Blessed Booch booth offered low priced and deliciously refreshing kombucha to combat the desert’s intense sun.
The press lounge which rested just beyond the vendors provided a place of shaded sanctuary where my co-partner and I could plan for interviews and decompress. To the far corner was a table, littered with crystals and alien artifacts. Pillows were placed on top of bamboo mats creating a cozy corner to enjoy a cup of tea. RonJon, a freelance tea server, was brewing up delicious batches of green, oolong, and other exotic teas for whoever decided to step out of the sun and join us.
At one point on Saturday, we all gathered in a circle outside of the press lounge and took turns holding a spherical piece of Garnet and breathing in a specific rhythm; pulling energy from above and transplanting it into the Earth then back up again. One by one with the sun beating on our skin, eyes closed and feeling the vibrations of each-other’s practice we passed the stone back and pressed our palms into the Earth, giving thanks. RonJon gave us readings from what he felt during our turns. It was powerful and healing, and exactly what I needed.
There were many chances for healing that took place at Serenity Gathering through the variety of workshops offered during the weekend. Yoga classes were held several times a day and were always jam-packed with people– and dogs. There was a workshop where participants opened their chakras through sounds, smells, and touch. Adding to the lineup were live painters and flow artists who filled in the areas around the stages and vendors. There was even a children’s play area filled with books and bubbles and a whole lot of cute festi-babies.
Back in Oakland I have a garden box that I’ve hung outside of my window. It doesn’t get much sun, but I planted Alyssum seeds hoping they would grow with some love and care on my end. Celebrating the spring equinox in the middle of the desert is kind of like that. It’s hot and dry, then cold and windy and full of sand, which is not what spring is traditionally supposed to be about. But, just like how my seeds bloomed with a little love, so did Serenity Gathering. There were plenty of setbacks sure, but through a community filled with positive intentions and a little bit of adaptability the festival went on and proved to be a place of good music, good people, and good vibes all around.
*All photographs taken by Teresa Delfin*