Our secret set of directions led us up some pretty rocky roads deep into Los Padres National Forest. These very unserviceable roads
branched out into more, like the veins of the forest. We had no idea if we were on track to the mysterious Integral Gathering 2012. As we strained our ears for the bass or any signs of life, we observed the gigantesque pinecones fallen from the towering pines native to this Los Padres area.
Finally, we arrived upon a few tents which we assumed to be the gathering. False — they were hunters, shotgun shells littered the ground and we crunched onwards. These hunters pointed us in a different direction towards a more peaceful gathering, so far consisting of one mini-house. It was here, on an old hunting ground, overlooking a Cliffside view of San Bernadino, CA, that we set up our hammocks and tents. We had arrived to Integral Gathering, and so far it was the three of us.
Soon to follow, a slow trickle of festival-goers arrived. Gradually a stage and dance area was set up and a musical act began to form. The gurgles, mouth farts and strange noises on the mic were obviously signs of a goofy sound check, so, naturally I went over to get in on the fun!
As soon as I stepped up to the mic, I began to get interviewed, radio-show style. The boys introduced themselves as Ghost Fabric, a psychedelic jam band who happened to be high on life, like me! No one else at the campground was even listening, but these guys were busting a nut at this giggle-fest sonic show they had created, that began to evolve into a jam session.
I took on the recorder, Lusid Dreamer on the djembe, Sound Fox on didgeridoo, Cocoon Man on the sound board, and Skunky on the keys. We became one vibration through the music ~ all we needed was this musical flow to have a good ol’ time.
As the gathering continued, no one ever took our tickets that we had bought online. Festival anarchy, at it’s finest. We enjoyed the artistic artifacts that others had brought, including a giant couch, a telescope, a bonfire with a rotesserie chicken filled with California’s most special herb, lots of hippie mobiles and a few performance artists with hoops, poi, and fire. The coolest campsite had a green fractiling laser projecter that hit the pines like a thousand eerie, glittering stars as night fell. People began to get wild in and around this firefly land and the night rolled on into classic drum and bass dancing and shenanigans. No sleep for the restless.
The next morning was someone’s bizarre idea to work alongside some rangers (who would later attempt to kick us out) to do good for the forest and plant trees. While I’m all about volunteerism and environmentalism as principles, this idea became messy quickly. The whole charade seemed to be an attempt at befriending the authorities who (no offense) didn’t have a snowflake’s chance in an oven of understanding our unconventional ways of camping with thumping electronic music, lasers and hula hoops.
It pretty much turned out for the worst when later the rangers arrived on the scene and no one really stepped up to the plate to defend the festival. I guess you could say somebody who thought they were somebody didn’t think we were anybody and were defending their territory and egos. Snooze. Keep the cops out of the parties, man!
Another few nights of bonfires and dancing commenced, but the band named Ghost Fabric remained the closest to my heart. (Check out their music: here) We stayed on the grounds after the festival to help clean up.
As everyone said their goodbyes, it came down to just us and the mini-house yet again. The owner turned out to be the sound guy, who directed our cleaning efforts, and we had a grand old time of our own. Have you ever met the porta-potty clean up guys? Well, this one blasted Tupac on the festie speakers and spoke Spanglish to us for a while. The sound guy even gave us a beautiful glass pipe for helping out! However, his freaky, manipulative, and possibly addicted wife ended up stealing it…There are always bad eggs.
And, as nonchalant as it seems, our hello and goodbye to Integral Gathering 2012 were both met with a “meh” and a “?” . I always carry a posi-tude, which ensures my own blissful reality , so no cause is lost. But overall, I give the Gathering a resounding “neutral” – it is what you make it. Peace out, forest scouts!