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.