Ocho Ojos performed at last year’s Synergy Fest.

For years, the Synergy Music and Arts Festival—or, as everyone calls it, Synergy Fest—has been a day when the community gathers to enjoy bands, check out some art, and become immersed in all that the valley’s talent has to offer.

This year’s eighth-annual Synergy Fest will take place on Saturday, Nov. 9, at Dateland Park in Coachella. Gabby Armenta, the director of Synergy Fest, said the festival has always been focused on building community.

“Synergy Fest started with an idea of wanting to bring more art and more music to the city of Coachella,” Armenta said. “There wasn’t really much of that back then, around 2007. The founders of Culturas Music and Arts (the organization that produces Synergy Fest) decided to gather our friends and family and see what we could do. It started off with the idea of painting a mural that is located on Shady Lane in front of Dateland Park, which is where we have the festival.”

If you haven’t seen this mural yet, you really should check it out. It’s 1,000-plus feet of art that shines a light on the culture of our valley.

“The first year was to showcase the mural, which depicts some of the pivotal events in Chicano history here in the United States, as well as in the Mexican culture. That’s how that started off,” Armenta said. “We knew a lot of graffiti artists who lived around the area, and we decided to set up a platform for them. There’s always a really bad misconception about graffiti, as a lot of people see it as vandalism. But we saw how much talent these people have—it’s an art!”

While that first festival was focused on the mural, Armenta and her team had discovered a formula that worked to benefit the community—so they continued hosting the event at Dateland Park, with more music and art each year.

“Music and arts are treated equally,” Armenta said. “Synergy is all about setting up a platform for local artists, whether that be a photographer, a painter, a dancer, an actor, etc. We treat everyone equally and try to shed light on the arts as a whole—all artists and musicians.”

The Synergy Fest has indeed become a platform for local artists and musicians to show what they can do.

“We usually send a call-out to artists, and whoever wants to participate can just sign up,” Armenta said. “Every year, we get people who approach us. We try to have a mix, and try to choose a diverse amount of different genres, but other than that, we really don’t seek out top bands. We’ve been very lucky to have everyone who’s wanted to be a part of the festival come and ask us, and we are very thankful that they all want to donate their time.”

This year’s lineup features some of the best music the valley has to offer, including local Latin-rock legends Giselle Woo and the Night Owls, up-and-coming metal prodigies E.A.S, and reggae masters Unity Frenzy, along with a mix of other local acts.

While the 2019 Synergy Fest lineup represents a high point in the history of the festival, Armenta has her sights set even higher.

“Ever since joining Culturas and becoming the director of Synergy, my goal has been to have a stipend for everybody,” Armenta said. “We try to at least throw in a little gas money or something. We value people’s work—and our goal is to one day have a really big headliner that can bring in more of a pool for the other artists and vendors. We want to make everyone happy and bring in even more people.”

The Synergy Music and Arts Festival will take place from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 9, at Dateland Park, 51805 Shady Lane, in Coachella. Admission to the all-ages event is free. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/synergyartsfest.

Matt King is a freelance writer for the Coachella Valley Independent. A creative at heart, his love for music thrust him into the world of journalism at 17 years old, and he hasn't looked back. Before...