Serenity in SoCal: An interview with Serenity Gathering founder Brandon Beebe
Published: April 4, 2014
Photos and story by: Matthew Meadow
Imagine a place in the forest, nearly an hour away from civilization and cell reception, guarded by rough terrain, small creeks and a woman who wants you to check in. There you have the basic idea of Serenity Gathering, the brand new festival which found its home this past weekend (March 28-30) at Zaca Lake, north of Santa Barbara, CA. Like most new festivals, it found its fair share of difficulties, however the immeasurable community spirit eventually worked everything out for the better.
The tagline on the official poster reads, "A conscious gathering focused on art and music. By featuring major and up-and-coming artists, we aim to create an environment where positive connection is possible among like minded people." In a time of festivals like UMF and EDC where "conscious" gatherings are more or less thrown to the wayside, Serenity was a huge breath of fresh air, both literally and figuratively.
Tucked away in the mountains, fresh air invigorated the souls of every attendee. Likewise, the new way of thinking surrounding this festival was one of great community and family. I met new people whom I will not soon forget.
I was also lucky enough, through quite random encounters actually, to be able to speak with Brandon Beebe, the main driving force behind the festival's creation.
So I was speaking with [another attendee] and he told me you pretty much dropped out of college to do this festival?
Uh, yeah, basically I was going for Div 2 hockey and studying film and Serenity Gathering started to take over about 12 hours a day, 7 days a week and it started to get a large following and it really started to look like it was going to be something that was really, really, really worthwhile. And I made the decision to put all my time and effort into it and really take it as seriously as I possibly could.
So this is the inaugural Serenity Gathering - how long has it been in development?
I'd definitely say about thirteen and a half months. Someone came across that said they had this really great opportunity, this really great venue, Live Oak Campground --
Right, that's where they have Lucidity Festival.
Right, right. And we just ended up have some issues with the county. We ended up having to switch venues and Zaca Lake was almost given to us as a present, and came to us at a great time. For a little while we didn't know what we were going to do and then we ended up with one of the most amazing venues I've seen.
As far as organization goes, I gotta say, when I arrived on Friday things were still a little hectic getting set up, especially at the live stage.
We ended up finding out what happened to that later in the afternoon on Friday while I was dealing with another crazy logistical problem. We had a couple of RVs get stuck in an area getting in on site --
Yeah, actually, my friend and I ended up picking up those guys on our way up. We picked them up and brought them on site (laughs). We thought they were hitchhikers.
Oh my gosh (laughs) thank you so much for that.
Unfortunately, Bluetech wasn't able to play on Friday. Could you explain a little bit what happened there?
We had a logistical problem with finding him and getting him at the airport and getting him here in time, especially with LAX traffic and getting him all the way to Zaca Lake. And by the time he got here we couldn't really make it happen. There's actually a really funny story. We didn't know what we were going to do for just a second and Andreilien said, "Don't worry, I'll play for a while extra." And it took me a while to find another artist. So then I get a radio from the main stage, saying Andreilien is done in seven minutes, he can't play any longer. I look over at my buddy Chris [Ponder], and I go, "What are we gonna do?" And he says, "Dude, let's go grab Pericles." We hop in the car, we cruise down to Freddy Todd's cabin, we burst in, we find Pericles, and we're like, "Dude, I know this is crazy, but we have six minutes to get somebody on the stage and we can't find Bluetech, we don't know what to do, can you please play a set?" I barely even got the sentence out of my mouth and he was in the other room, grabbed all of his equipment, didn't even need to change, and was in the car before I could finish the sentence. We jump in, the whole crew - Freddy and everyone gets involved - we cruise up to the main stage, I'm listening to Andreilien's last song, and I'm listening to it end, as we're pulling up. We get him up, set him up, just in time Pericles goes on to open for Freddy Todd who is his roommate, it was really awesome. It sucked that Bluetech didn't make it, but it was a kind of Cinderella story for Pericles.
So, plans for the future? After this event, what are you gonna be up to? Are there plans for another Serenity Gathering?
We are already in the process of planning Serenity Gathering 2015. We definitely would like to maintain this venue, it's so beautiful.
Do you think you guys might reconsider Live Oak again just because it's closer to town?
Our venue is a little bit up in the air, we definitely have some options and we're looking at a couple of different things. More than anything right now we've already been in touch with artists, some of whom have already played for us this Gathering and some of whom haven't. I'm more focused on getting a line-up of artists very soon.
Alright man, thanks so much.
Of course, thank you for coming!
I have to give special shout outs to a few great people, as well. ToMAD_LADz, who set up an impromptu house/garage set in an offshoot stage in the forest while everyone else was playing ambient and experimental. It really got the blood flowing and kept me warm at 8 p.m. To AWRY, who played an amazing impromptu set at the Buddha Lounge and whose friends introduced me to Brandon. And to Isaac, fromElvira's Voodoo Pizza, who showed me hospitality and great food.