In 2008, a group of friends, from UNC Asheville, went on a camping trip that would plant a seed in the conscious shift. The campers set out to a remote nature preserve off the coast of North Carolina and enjoyed the presence of beautiful horses and sand dunes. In the time spent there, they started calling themselves “Tribal Council” and began holding meetings they called “Councils,” in which they would delve into some of the most interesting questions we as humans ask ourselves. Four years later TC has blossomed into a movement with hundreds of active members. Today this period has seen TC’s presence elevated by its eclectic network of human beings.
Through the means of the Universe, I was fortunate to cross paths with Tribal Council’s co-founder and coordinator, Clayton Gaar, early on in TC’s manifestation. I was instantly intrigued by Clayton’s presence and immediately asked him two questions: “What does the yellow sticker on your computer symbolize… And what does the logo on your shirt mean?” Clayton cracked a smooth smile and answered my questions in a friendly manner.
The sticker that appeared was the acronym for Sound Tribe Sector 9 (STS9) and the logo on his shirt that read “Rage With Awareness” is Tribal Council’s mission. Clayton’s responses to my questions introduced me to a whole new world of music and celebration. Since our first encounter, I have explored over ten STS9 shows and have indulged in these experiences deeply in the spirit and manner encouraged by the TC message.
Forever inspired by the TC movement, I recently reached out to Clayton to answer a few questions I’m sure all of us Sparkleberries have been pondering about!
SBL: Is there any clear or definitive explanation on how TC has grown from a small camping trip into a monumental group of individuals who come together on a regular basis to act as a family full of unconditional love? Were there any absolutely necessary events that helped push the group forward to what it is today?
CG: TC has grown organically. It’s been an effortless grassroots process really. I look back on the 2008 UNCA Fall Break camping trip, when we first started throwing around the words “tribal council,” and it’s difficult to wrap my head around what it is today. If I were to sum up an explanation of TC’s explosive growth in one word it would be: Love. At our very core, Tribal Council is a love tribe. We acknowledge and actively seek to remind others of the oneness of everyone, making us inclusive rather than exclusive. A lot of crews and tribes are wrapped in ego, perpetuating the illusion of separateness. No one needs to prove anything to us; they’ve already completed their rites of passage into our tribe when they chose to incarnate on earth at this critical juncture in human evolution. People often ask me, “How do I become a part of Tribal Council?” and I like to tell them, “What do you mean? We’ve been looking for you. You are a TC chieftain!” The only requirement for “membership,” (although who even knows what THAT means) is that you act from a place of love and bring the realness.
For years, I’ve watched people be mysteriously attracted to TC like moths to a light, but it’s clear to me what’s happening. We bring the realness, plain and simple, and that’s what people are looking for, even if they are still discovering that about themselves. At a quantum level, we are vibrating energy and energy attracts like energy. It’s the fundamental Law of Attraction of this reality. TC has been on the love vibration since day one, so over the years we’ve naturally gotten a lot of love in return.
The networking gift that is social media has had a lot to do with our growth as well. When I started our facebook group in 2009, my intention was to help us keep in touch and coordinate what upcoming shows we were going to. From the very beginning, TC members were spread out all over the country as we were, and still are, primarily young adults enrolled in college who like to travel and see live music. After spending a night or a weekend bonding with new friends at these gatherings, it was easy to stay connected by telling them to join the TC facebook group. At one point, the group exploded when word got out that we were trading quality music and the result was a massive influx of new members who didn’t yet understand what all TC was about. Those were interesting times that led to us all practicing patience and learning a lot. Since then we’ve taken measures to bring the group back in alignment with the original intention and plus some.
Today, I am quite pleased with the evolution of our online community, as people share not only music, but also tons of quality articles, documentaries, and other educational resources. Many people only know TC through our online community and are eager to meet up face to face. For the past couple years, it’s been awesome to finally put faces to names (and spirits) I’ve recognized for a long time. Occasionally, someone will introduce him or herself to me at a show and go on to share the ways in which TC has positively impacted their life. That absolutely makes my day and inspires me to focus that much more of my energy on this community.
SBL: Over the STS9 New years run you organized and held a TC after party on the 28th. That party was amazing and made the 28th the best night for my run. How was that party different from the sanctuary TC created recently at Aura Music and Arts Festival in Florida (being that the party was indoors in winter with limited space while the Dome sanctuary at AURA allowed for people previously unaware of TC to become acquainted)?
CG: Both the STS9 after party and the AURA sanctuary were important milestones for TC. The after party was a bit more intense as it was the first show we ever planned, booked, and promoted. As a natural result of that, finances were in the forefront of the experience for us. Due to the energetics of money, we like to keep our focus on other things whenever possible, which is why we are a not-for-profit community organization that focuses on pooling existing resources rather than hiring expensive outside talent and hosting donation based gatherings instead of making money off events. However, it was inevitable in this case to balance keeping costs to a minimum while still throwing a well-produced event that the community would enjoy. I decided to make the after party invite-only because my original intention was to throw a party for our close friends and family, and I knew there would be a different vibe if a bunch of random people showed up from the STS9 show. Although some strangers did show up, the vibe at the party was on point as the majority of the crowd was close family and we were able to radiate that warm frequency throughout the venue. And of course, strangers became family by the end of the night.
Apart from occasional public shows for fundraising, I have a feeling we will be throwing more private parties in the future because I think it prompts people to be on their A-game. Psychologically speaking, when an event requires an invite to be in attendance, I think a switch is flipped in the mind that says, “Hey I was included on this guest list for a reason.” I think it also makes it easier for everyone to feel comfortable around others and spark up spontaneous conversation with the person next to them because it reemphasizes the fact that we are one big tribe. If this invite-only idea comes across as exclusive to anyone reading this, I’ll put it the following way. When you have a birthday party or a special event at your house, are you open to anyone coming in off the street? The gatherings I am talking about are the same thing, and I would be hosting them at my house except for the fact that our family has far outgrown a house, just like TC outgrew a mere EZ Up shade structure at festivals.
Now as for the AURA sanctuary, this was monumental for us as it was TC’s official festival debut. The whole reason we were there was because the Art Director knew what sort of vibe we bring so he called me up and invited us down to hold sacred space for all the festival goers. It was a true honor to be invited to serve the community in such a way. We gleefully held sacred space all weekend for festival goers in the Ohm Dome, which looked fresh with its debut of the white flower of life patterned covering. We led a cacao ceremony, held impromptu yoga classes in the dome, and when the music ended at night we became the late night stage at the event, holding sunrise sets two days. Synchronicities were happening at a “wow” rate and collaborations with yoga instructors (Kelly Searcy), visual artists (CLVR ATL) and musicians (Anthony Thogmartin from Papadosio, Sound Duo, Andy Reed) happened organically. Fruition was the key word of the weekend! The most powerful lesson from the experience was how it redefined my understanding of what it truly means to be in service. When you are passionate about it, it is far from being work. It is joyful play. As a result of our setup at AURA, we’ve already been asked to be a part of Impulse, Gnarnia, Rootwire, and Wanderlust in Colorado, so we are stoked on our potential summer plans.
SBL: In a time of constant civil unrest (ideas mentioned in Thrive and other outlets) How is TC acting not necessarily to fight the problems in the world and our country, but rather to help members understand how we can help push the world in the right direction and find solutions to help us all move forward to a more healthy society?
CG: I´ve always been more interested in fundamental change rather than incremental change. Why treat the symptoms when you can eliminate the root problem? For a while I wanted to apply this to environmental issues only. But the more I learn, the more I realize that the true fundamental problem in our world, the one behind it all, behind economics, the FED, corporate greed, indigenous culture destruction, world poverty, environmental degradation, oil fracking, mass media brainwashing, Democrats and Republicans, petty crime, gang warfare, over consumption, anorexia, over population, police brutality, and so on, is a spiritual problem. We have forgotten who we are and what we are. I believe my efforts will enact the most enduring, holistic healing if I focus my energy on assisting in awakening all of us to who we really are and why we are here. I could sit behind a desk and work for a non-profit trying to increase awareness of paper packaging waste and spends hours upon hours trying to change that single behavior. I could do the same with lobbying against nuclear power. Or I could spend that time aiming to awaken the human spirit in those people, which causes them to rethink and change ALL their behavior. That, I think, is a much more effective use of our time and abilities. And then add to the equation the fact that those awakened people will be much more likely to help others awaken, just by the basic nature of what is at the core of an awakened person (that desire to make the world a better place), and this decision is a no brainer. On my UNCA graduation announcements, I wrote “B.S. in Environmental Studies and Joyful Living.” When I graduated from UNCA, I wanted to go into Environmental Consulting. Now I’m in the business of Joyful and Spiritual Living Consulting. In a sense, I believe that is what TC is doing. We are helping people have spiritual experiences and foster deep, meaningful connections in their lives. We are spreading and cultivating awareness and consciousness expansion and that is the most powerful game changer in the world. Daoist sages, Buddhists monks, and Hindu gurus have been on this divine mission for thousands of years, and we continue that mission today in a geodesic dome at music festivals, among other places. People, especially the younger generations, are hungry for it. I truly believe we – and I speak not just of Tribal Council but of the larger movement of visionary gatherings focused on community, consciousness, and creativity from where much of our inspiration comes – we are changing the world.
SBL: Were there any big inspirations for the continuing growth of TC? Are there other groups, or people who have inspired you or the group to become more in tune and enlightened as a collective? I know a couple TC members made it out to Burning Man last summer, what effect did that have on the ideas for the future of TC?
CG: Honestly, burns are the revolution. Haha, I feel silly using sensationalistic language like that, but there’s no other way for me to put it. Without a doubt the burner community (those who are involved with the annual Burning Man event in Nevada as well as the lesser known but growing regional “burns” all over the country) has had a huge impact on TC. We’ve learned so much from attending the regional burn just south of Asheville the past couple of years as well as Burning Man proper. The burner community has started a fast growing movement that is catalyzing serious spiritual awakening and complete overhauls of how people view the world and interact within it. Gatherings that incorporate the “10 Principles of Burning Man” are naturally very special events where people are not only safe but encouraged to try new things, express themselves fully, and be creative while staying aware of things like sustainability and holistic health. A burn is much more than a party; it is a celebration of the miracle of life, and it reminds us of our true selves that have been shrouded by mass media and MacDonald’s. There is a huge focus on personal evolution, self-improvement, community, self-expression, responsibility, education and celebration, all at the same time!
TC shares the same core values and characteristics as Burning Man. The more gatherings we co-create together – and I say “co-create” because even when you attend a gathering as a festivalgoer you are playing a key role in shaping the gathering – the more we realize our vast potential. My favorite idea from the Burning Man Principles is the idea of Participation. It reminds us that we are all creators, not bystanders. It is meant first and foremost in the context of Burning Man in particular, where there is no event production and regular attendees who purchase a ticket are in charge of bringing all the entertainment to the gathering. However, the real power of this idea comes from its application to every moment everywhere in our lives. Let us not be fooled anymore, by ourselves and by others, that we are merely bystanders in this game of life. In our essence, we were born powerful creators, so let’s create and let’s do it together!
TC has big things in the works. You can follow our blog at our website,www.tribalcouncilcollective.com and connect with Tribal Council on facebook. And let us know if you’d like to get involved, because after all, we’ve been waiting for you!