Among the flowing grass plains and the twinkling lakes of the Woodward Reservoir, festival goers kicked up the dust and vibed their cares away at Serenity Gathering Music Festival in Oakdale, California. A three-day extravaganza (April 26-28) featuring music from headliners such as Emancipator, Troyboi, Mr. Carmack, and Minnesota, there was an abundance of groovy tunes to last all weekend.
Organized as a camping festival, the stages were about a 10-15 minute walk from your site, so it was easy to travel from one stage to the next. We were blessed with ideal festival weather, with highs being in the low 80s and lows being around mid 60s. In the mornings, the lake provided a nice refreshment spot to dip in and clean off the dust from the night before. There were also many unique vendors, including the famous Killa Dilla with their extravagant quesadillas, and Third Eye Pinecones with their one-of-a-kind statement necklaces. Scattered around the festival were different art installations, my personal favorite being the walk-in gigantic art car that was decorated like a willow tree that had a view of the entire festival from the top tier.
There were five stages, all holding different musical themes. All of them overlooked parts of the lake, which provided a nice breeze in the hot crowds, and beautiful picture-perfect sunsets and sunrises. The Serenity Stage (the main stage) held the headliners, and had a huge speaker system which could be heard all the way from the campsites (even though it was the farthest stage). The New Moon stage, where I spent most of my time, became home to the dubstep, drum and bass, and experimental bass artists. This stage also had a performer section, where hoopers, aerial artists, and fire dancers all showcased their work during sets. The Cove Stage kept the music bumping into the early morning, with classic house artists like Christian Martin and DRMWVR. The Heart Of Serenity stage was a hidden gem, surrounded by twinkling string lights. It featured artists like Soulacybin, Kaminanda, and Dissolve who provided the unique, trippy experimental bass to the lineup. If you wanted to party into the morning from 10 am to 10 am the next day, the Psyrenity stage was where it was it. Keeping the heart of psytrance alive, this stage had music playing literally any time of the day. There was music everywhere, all weekend!
Friday was the day to really start off the weekend with a bang, featuring many bass artists that have taken over the electronic music scene. The set I enjoyed the absolute most from this day was from the rising deep bass star Khiva, the Canadian-based producer whose sets convey of extravagant bass mixed with trippy beats to create music to spark the senses (check out her Road to Bamboo mix here: https://soundcloud.com/realkhiva/road-to-bamboo-2019-khiva . ) Another great set from Friday was the high-energy Minnesota, a UCSC alum whose music brings a nonstop hyphy mix of trap, dubstep, and everything in between – never a disappointment when he plays (you can check out my interview with him here (https://www.kzsc.org/blog/2018/04/12/kzsc-interviews-dj-fizzi-pop-interviews-minnesota/). Caspa followed him, whose been on my list to see for years (the visuals and lasers for this set was fantastic as well!). They brought the night into even more dark dubstep, smashing hits like Deja Vu and The Nothing. Mr Carmack closed the main stage with some good old urban trap, however I’ve enjoyed his past sets a little more. After taking a three hour break, I headed over to the New Moon stage at the crack of dawn to experience the famous Yheti sunrise set. With music so eclectic and experimental, Yheti’s sets never fail to blow one’s mind. Overlooking the lake as the sun came up, it was almost captivating to hear a mixture of unique sounds mixing with the energy of the early morning crowd – a great end to Day 1.
Saturday was personally my favorite day, as it was filled with a pleathera of drum and bass icons as well as deep dubstep. To start off the night of music, I headed over to the New Moon stage to catch Dubcoling’s set, filled with alien sounds and wonky beats. After I checked out dela Moontribe’s set. Her music has tastes of chillwave and psychedelic bass to create a dreamlike sound – she also had quite a fanbase show her set some love! Afterwards, I ran to the Serenity Stage to check out Blunts ‘n’ Blondes’ set – his mix of hip hop and deeb dubstep makes his name one of the biggest right now in the electronic music scene. He even brought his South Park-esque visuals that he had when I saw him at Toxic summer (you can check out my review here: https://www.kzsc.org/blog/2018/10/15/dj-fizzi-pop-attends-toxic-summer-2018/). One of the cool parts of Serenity was the openness of it to where you can explore any part you want, and the free walking between the camping and the stages to make travels in between easy. I was able to head back to camp after Blunts and Blondes’ set to grab my camp’s inflatable couch to bring back to the New Moon stage. I was able to watch my favorite set of the weekend from UK drum and bass duo Calyx and Teebee from the comfort of a couch on the grassy plains! Their set topped my personal chart, playing their hits like Long Gone, and Scaramanga (you can check out their track ‘Scaramanga’ here: https://soundcloud.com/calyxteebee/scaramanga-feat-mortlock). I stayed at the New Moon the rest of the night, switching between chilling on my inflatable couch to dancing in the pit, until it was time for the Basswaffles Sunrise set. If you ever have the chance to check this set out, do not miss it. I never knew that waffles and dubstep would go together so well at 6:00 AM – but when this collective of DJ’s showed up and played music with a giant waffle maker next to them handing out food to audience members, it was a match made in heaven.
Sunday had an ideal lineup to close out the festival, with lots of feel-good tunes to keep the energy levels high, but the space positive. Maddy O’Neal opened the start of my night at the Serenity Stage with her groovy electro-funk tunes. As a self-made producer, it was admiring to see her have such a fun time playing and debuting some new tracks for the audience (you can check out my interview with her from November here: https://soundcloud.com/fizzipopmusic/dj-fizzi-pop-interviews-maddy-oneal). Following her wad, the iconic eclectic duo Emancipator, who have been blowing festival goers’ minds since the early 2000s. After seeing them at Lightning in a Bottle last year, I was ecstatic to see them again. I was amazed yet again at the talent and uniqueness their music brings to the table, with their feature of live violin and electronic mixing combo during the sunset. I then headed over to the New Moon stage to check out Ultrasloth, a trio made up of kLL smth, Duffrey, and bioLumigen, they brought epic sounds of deep dub and drum and bass to kick up the energy at night. Following was Stickybuds, who kept the crowd going with elements of funk sprinkled in his set. To end the night was the legendary producer Troyboi, who exceeded my expectations and played all the big hits like ili and O.G. His feel-good urban tracks closed off the weekend, putting everyone in a great mood for the next day.
My overall experience of Serenity Gathering was one I will cherish. The organization, sustainability, and cleanliness of the festival was something I especially appreciated, as it showed their responsibility and consideration for the environment. The music selection was prime, with an eclectic mix to please everybody who attended. The weather was ideal, keeping everyone cool in the hot crowds. Overall, my rating for Serenity is a 9/10. See you next year, Serenity Gathering!
DJ Fizzi Pop’s show Soundwave Sanctuary airs on Fridays, 5-6 PM, only on KZSC Santa Cruz 88.1 FM.
You can check out other interviews and festival coverage by DJ Fizzi Pop here: https://www.kzsc.org/?s=dj+fizzi+pop