Laughter, Love, and Lessons at Serenity Gathering 2016

*written & photographed by Lizzie Rose for Electronica Life
Serenity Gathering is always a powerful experience. This was my second year attending, and the anticipation of traveling to Joshua Tree for the festival grew as it loomed closer. As it was the first festival of my 2016 season, the Serenity Gathering experience began with gathering for Serenity. Digging through closets and garages to put together the necessary gear, clothes, and supplies that hadn’t been touched in months for the upcoming season was tenuous but also rewarding as I finally shut the trunk and began my four hour drive.

I arrived at Serenity Gathering greeted by an awesome welcoming team full of smiles. Driving in I saw so many colorful and creative camping set ups and people walking around greeting each other and preparing for the weekend. I followed the windy and sandy road lined with joshua trees and desert foliage until I found the perfect spot to set up camp. This year Serenity had a three stage set up, with two smaller stages out in the desert and one main stage surrounded by vendors and art. The main stage played music each night until midnight, with the two smaller stages going until sunrise. As my friends arrived we geared up for the first night, the vibe was high and the sunset was beautiful- little did we know what an experience the weekend would bring.
Friday night the sun set to Big Wild on the mainstage, followed by my favorite set of the weekend- Ill Gates. Desert Dwellers delivered their signature sound closing down the main stage for the night and leading us to the Bridge Family and New Moon stages for Labrat, Nico Luminous, and Andrelien. Saturday we caught Mr. Bill, Phutureprimitive, and Shpongle. I always seem to miss Shpongle at festivals so seeing him was a highlight of the night. Fire dancers and performers enhanced each set and created a stimulating experience for the audience. Late night sets included Lafa Taylor and Govinda’s melodic sounds as our 3:00 am lullaby. The last night of Serenity faced some technical difficulties and therefore time changes. I caught Nahko & Medicine for the People followed by Emancipator on the main stage, and Thriftworks, one of Pumpkin’s last sets, and Random Rab late night on the smaller stages.

Serenity Gathering was an emotional weekend for my group of friends for reasons aside from the festival. We faced a rollercoaster of as we endured external hardships, personal loss, and the delicate state of life and love on this earth. Together we faced these challenges with Serenity as our space of healing. Serenity reminded us that no matter what happens, we have each other and we are supported by the communities that we create through art and celebration of life. We share emotion as we share experiences, our hardships as well as our accomplishments. I will always remember this gathering as one that taught me huge lessons about myself and my family.

Serenity Gathering is a family event. By that I mean that it is not a huge festival with over the top performances by distant artists. It is a festival where an artist will play a set and then wander around with the attendees. It is a festival that gives the attendees space to create and flow, manifesting the overall group experience. The intention of Serenity Gathering is a genuine one, and though there were issues with organization, there is no doubt in my mind that I will be returning for whatever lessons it plans to teach me in 2017. Thank you Serenity for bringing me closer to myself and my friends, see you next year.