The only thing worse than sitting in Row ZZ at the opera is camping at a festival 20 minutes away from the gates. Arriving early to Serenity Gathering afforded me the privilege to score some sweet-ass waterfront real estate. Slowly but surely, the sites filled in with fresh humans, making sure we had a solid conduit to keep the festival frequencies high.
Held over the last weekend in April near the Stanislaus County town of Oakdale, Calif., the festival sprawled out on little peninsulas next to a lake, all dressed up in lasers like it was Disco Christmas. On four stages over three days, thousands of people danced and partied — with the New Moon Stage going continuously from Friday afternoon until Sunday at midnight. Here are the top five moments.
Collectively, a festival’s topography, geographic location, air quality, and weather can make or break an experience, and Serenity’s setting nailed all of them. The lush, green parkland stretched for miles over gently rolling hills with no highway in sight. All there was was green earth, crystal water, and night skies. (To qualify that further, there were totally day skies, too.)
At the Pisces Moon stage, Potions describe themselves as a lab group project from Santa Cruz who’s member(s) put together tumbling tuneage in a genre they call “research”. Potions put on a tasty set Friday night with some wobbles and break-beats that smelled a little of an Amon Tobin influence.
It was incredible. The organizers went to the next level, projecting lighting to the focal point of the DJ and out onto the crowd, which gave a unique feel to everyone bouncing to the tunes.
G-Jones was one of the biggest names at the event. He built a solid following of +100k on SoundCloud with his acid-frothy bass beats that I would assume to have come from another planet but in reality an underground lab in Santa Cruz. He played a massive set Friday night on the main stage. At most stages, during the festival, you never came close to feeling crowded. There was always elbow room to get will with your dance moves — or space to hula-hoop — but when G-Jones came on, the vibes lassoed everyone in close.
The Chill Zones
Although you may want to, it’s just not always possible to dance your heart out all day and night. The Heart of Serenity provided sound healing to re-calibrate your body and mind from the barrage of awesome sets you’d been getting funky too. Post up next to your favorite stage with some of your favorite people, and kick back while your feet attempt to get the blood flowing in them again.