~Simply Serenity~

This should have been done so long ago but this past month has been pretty hectic and this review/recap kind of escaped us. Apologies!

Our lady group was driving on a dirt road zigzagging through grassy hills, not entirely sure if we were on the right path, until BAM, we heard the sound of electronic music playing loudly in the distance and a box office in our view with people waiting in line. Serenity Gathering is a 3-day electronic music festival that occurred April 26-28th this year in the beautiful Woodward Reservoir, which is about an hour and a half southeast of Sacramento, California. The festival included a range of music from Troyboi, Yheti, to Kaminanda and an array of workshops to attend throughout the day.

We figured we would have to wait in a long line to get into the venue and have to fight for the size camp we needed, but we were actually shocked to find out neither were the case! We drove straight in with no backed up traffic, almost no line at the box office, and a great spot! While there were already plenty of people that had gotten in before us (they provided early arrival camping for an extra fee), our campsite was still only a mere 10 minute walk, if that, from the center of the festival grounds! We knew this festival was about small-medium size but were so happily surprised with how quick and easy everything came in terms of arrival and set up. The lake was only a couple camps over from ours, and we took full advantage of spending our afternoons relaxing in our floaties while enjoying some drinks.

Something that my fellow festival babe and I do have to be honest about is the fact that there weren’t a lot of art installations or interactive art like we were anticipating. We are by no means throwing shade, simply just stating what we observed and what we wished there was more of. We have been to our fair share of festivals on both ends of the size spectrum and were definitely expecting more items that attendees could gawk at and/or climb on given the vibe that Serenity was promoting.

There were a few pieces, though, that we did enjoy! The first was a giant art car that was actually an old bus designed to look like a willow tree; you could actually climb up to peer out from a deck that was atop the car. There was also the Frick Frack Blackjack table where festival goers could play their hand at blackjack while using items they have on their person to use for bets (since they don’t allow any cash). I have to admit that was probably one of our favorite spots to be at since there were always people playing with such joy and excitement as more and more obscure items were brought on the table as the betting continued throughout the night.

They did do a good job with the stages! There were 5 stages each styled with very intricate designs and structures that promoted its vibe of music: Serenity, Psyrenity, New Moon, Heart of Serenity, and The Cove.

Serenity stage was the main stage and that is where the headliners of the festival performed, like Blunts & Blondes, Emancipator, and Mr. Carmack. What we liked about the Serenity stage was that it was big, had a great view of the other stages across the land’s many peninsulas, and all throughout the crowd there were flow artists moving to the music while their LED toys lit up the darkness. Of course our favorite headliners were Minnesota, Emancipator, Medasin and Troyboi; each had amazing sets that kept us wanting more, and we had a great time grooving to their energy regardless of whether we were front and center or in the back with the flow artists.

The Psyrenity stage is where, you guessed it, they had psytrance artists performing pretty much all day and all night, so there was plenty of music to go around. We aren’t big psytrance lovers so unfortunately we have nothing to report about that stage since we would only walk by it and never stayed to listen to any artists, don’t hate us! Haha

The New Moon stage was really dope. This stage played different types of dubstep and bass artists. What kept it interesting, besides all the bass heavy goodness, were all the fire dancers and aerial artists that would perform on their own side stages during various sets. One artist I did not know well prior to the festival was Tiger Fresh, and damn did he HIT IT, our group was getting down so hard to his set! Props to you man for getting weird and letting us feel those beats. I wish we had some pictures of this stage and the performers, but we were too caught up in the moment.

Heart of Serenity was another favorite of ours, with anything from experimental beats, psychedelic bass, to world singer-songwriters with haunting voices. The stage was set up more like a traveling performer’s tent with string lights hanging everywhere and foam pads on the ground, so if people wanted to dance barefoot they could do so without problems. Two artists who I’d like to give a shout-out to is Heather Christie and Arula, both I didn’t know about prior to attending, and their performances were so chilling and wholesome. They had the whole tent dancing freely and sensually to their sets. Another good point about Heart of Serenity was the fact they had many workshops held in it, making it a very relaxing yet engaging environment. From a relationship building class to a twerking class, there was plenty to learn, and many ways to open yourself up to new experiences and new people.

The last stage was The Cove, this stage played an abundance of house music and had a very mysterious yet appealing feel about it. We’re not sure if it was the moody lights or the fact it was tucked back on the left side of the festival grounds, but it always seemed to have many people dancing at any time of day. We never got a chance to check out The Cove since we don’t listen to much house music but there were some recognizable names on the schedule.

Another point we wanted to make was that considering this was a smaller festival, similar I’d say to Northern Nights, there weren’t many shop vendors or food vendors. What was nice was the fact the ice vendor also sold popsicles and iced coffee, which was much appreciated during the hotter parts of the day. Killa Dilla, the quesadilla extraordinaire vendor, was there whipping up insanely good ‘dillas into the late hours of the night. The water station was also very easily accessible and at the beginning of the festival grounds so the paths didn’t get too muddy.

Overall, the festival was a solid good time. The lake made for fun and relaxing afternoons with friends, and the festival’s smaller size made crowds nonexistent. This also meant no crazy lines when needing to use the Porto-potties, which by the way were always very clean and close by. Camp setup was not stressful at all and an easy walk from the festival grounds. There were no cops wandering through campsites making people uncomfortable. Everyone we encountered was very pleasant, friendly and open for conversation. The weather was never blazing hot nor freezing cold and most importantly there were different types of electronic music for pretty much everyone!

If you’re looking for a smaller electronic fest closer to you, if you live in Northern/upper central California, and need a body of water to relieve yourself from the warmer temps, this is a festival to check out. This is also a good festival to go to if it’s your first time going to an electronic festival, and even more so if it’s your first camping music festival, since it’s low-key and those with social anxiety won’t be overwhelmed. We hope this festival brings on more art installations so festival attendees have more to interact with, as well as get more food and/or shop vendors so there’s a little more variety in the future, but all in all our lady crew enjoyed our time and are happy we experienced Serenity Gathering for the first time.

For Funks Sake: For the Funk of It

California has many unique locations to choose from when it comes to festival venues; there’s the redwoods in the east, deserts in the south, and snow capped mountains in the west. With all these locations to choose from, dozens of electronic festivals, bass raves, mainstream mega festivals, and low key jam/folk festivals occur through the year…but not a lot of funk/soul type festivals if you think about it. Well…let me tell you a little bit about a funk festival that is located in the beautiful Sierra Nevada mountains that usually occurs the second weekend of the month of August.

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For the Funk of It Music Festival is California’s only 3 day all funk camping music festival and is located in the Plumas National Forest two hours northeast of Sacramento, CA in a hidden gem of a town called Belden. It took place from August 10-13th this year and celebrated its 5th wonderful year at the beloved Belden Town. With a festival max capacity of just over 1000 people, due to the land space of the town being so small, it makes way for a very intimate and wildly euphoric experience as you are implanted into the mountainside as this lively festival takes place.

Belden

Besides a small motel, restaurant, bar, a few cabin homes, and a tiny post office not much else is there but open land, which makes finding a camping spot for you and your crew very easy. While some people may bring their RVs and camp at the front of the festival grounds there are many beach access locations, tree covered flat land or hammock worthy spots to choose from as you walk down the path to get to the rest of the venue.

The overall vibe of the festival is something I know and love and is probably one of my favorite aspects of the festival. Everyone who goes there, whether it’s families with kids, young adults,  old hippies, unfamiliar festival folk with a love for brass, whoever…everyone gets along and no one puts up with any bad energy, shady behavior, or close mindedness. Every attendee smiles as they cross in passing and you can just feel the accepting nature of those that come to this festival. Every individual who comes to this festival just wants to have a good time enjoying good, live music in a beautiful environment during the summertime!

For the Funk of It, though small in size due to the intimate size of Belden, has 3 stages: the main stage, which sits more towards the front of the festival venue in a cleared out space with trees shading around it; the beach stage, which is pretty self explanatory- a stage on the main beach access part of the river where hundreds of people bring out there floaties while raging to the music; and the bar stage, which is inside the restaurant/bar part of the motel building that allows folks to dance inside while enjoying their cocktails and food. With all the music played at the festival being of funk genre, For the Funk of It does a good job of making sure bands do not overlap too much so the attendees are able to optimize their time at each stage without missing too much.

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Speaking of music, FTFOI always seems to get a lively bunch of artists to be on the lineup. From Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Afrolicious, Nigel Hall Band, and funk bands everywhere in between, FTFOI bring in musicians that the crowd will dance their asses to until the sunrises, literally! There technically is no noice ordinance so the festival is allowed to schedule music to play until sunrises, which of course it does! This year some of my favorites who blessed us all with their talent were: Big Sam’s Funky Nation, Smokey the Groove, Mojo Green and Diggin’ Dirt.

When a last minute band cancellation happened Friday afternoon of FTFOI, none other than Smokey the Groove saved the day by gracing us with their lively sound during that Friday evening slot. Their music is unique and one that I thoroughly enjoy listening to every chance I get; their progressive yet upbeat, trippy style funk music has you breaking out in an energetic dance that you are happy to get lost in. Their stage presence is also so fun and memorable! They always bring different signs, toys, props, etc that they decorate the stage with and will sometimes dance around with masks on, to me that brings such an authentic vibe. I truly enjoy their music and get more and more excited about their sets each time they play whether at a festival or show, love you guys! Diggin’ Dirt came on later that night and oh man was that a fun show to witness and dance to. They gave the audience a sexy, smooth funk style whose sound ranges from old school blues to reggae-rock. Diggin’ Dirt is the type of music you can feel your whole body swaying to as you feel the sounds of the drums, brass and vocals flowing through your soul. Jenes Carter from Mojo Green ended up being a special guest during part of their set and hearing her and DD’s lead singer, Zach Alder, vibe together was such a good time.

Ok now for my other favorite sets this year. Mojo Green with Hornmageddon both seem to be a staple group and performance that happen at For the Funk of It. Mojo Green bursts onto the stage every time with such energy in their funky music that it will surely light you up. Their lead singer, Jenes Carter, has a beautiful voice and her spit fire dance moves get you excited as you see her petite self groovin away. A fun surprise during their set this year was that they brought Big Sam, from Big Sam’s Funky Nation, onto their set and let him absolutely kill it on his trombone, hitting these intense brassy notes that had us all vibrating. Now, what is Hornmageddon you’re probably asking? Well during the Mojo Green set they had a large selection of brass players from the various bands that were also performing at this festival come onto the stage and basically rage out all together on their instruments! How crazy is that?! It’s honestly one of the highlights of the festival because that’s just so much brassy, funky goodness all happening in harmony and there’s nothing better than that.

My final favorite set at For the Funk of it was the one and only: Big Sam’s Funky Nation. Big Sam and his band have such a presence to them, both in person and in their music. Their music is both invigorating and smooth, all while blasting you with that true New Orleans jazz-funk that we don’t hear enough of on the west coast. Big Sam’s Funky Nation has a way of getting you to move your entire body in such a way that could honestly only resemble that of a noodle, you find yourself doing endless body rolls all over the place and it’s as if you are under some kind of spell. Big Sam always gives it his all and you can tell him and his band have such a great time performing and dancing to their own music. They also love to engage the crowd in their performance; during part of their set they ended up hand selecting different women from the crowd to come on stage with them and shake all that junk in their trunks; it was so fun and a carefree show!

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For the Funk of It is a wonderful festival experience that I think everyone should go check out; whether you’re a die hard funk music listener, only know of one James Brown song, or enjoy live music but have never gotten around to the funk genre! The venue itself is quaint and perfect for people that want to get away from the large, hectic festival life or just want to enjoy a more intimate camping experience in the woods. Music goes all day and all night and people have the freedom to sleep into the afternoon, run around in the wildest toucan onesie or splash around in a floatie on the river at 4am (while of course being careful and at their own risk). The people who go to For the Funk of It want to enjoy live music in a beautiful part of California and make the most of an August weekend. I have yet to have a negative experience at For the Funk of It and I can’t wait to watch this festival grow even more.

On another note I’d like to thank Tony Dellacioppa for allowing me to share with you a few pictures he took of my favorite bands I enjoyed seeing this year, I only took a couple videos the entire weekend so I appreciate him so much for his quality photography. Thank you For the Funk of It for a memorable 5th year, see you next year!

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