The term “transformative festival” has been used and abused for far too long. “Transformative festival” has basically become a calling card for hippies, crystals, psytrance, etc. Now, I’m a big fan of all of these things – except psytrance – but at the end of the day, for a majority of festival goers a transformative festival is actually just an excuse to go to a festival, party with their friends, and do drugs. I am the biggest proponent of the idea that parties and festivals that center around art and music can have positive effects on society, our day-to-day relationships, and a myriad of other things, but I am completely over the idea that labeling a festival as “transformative” has anything to do with its positive effects.
Dirtybird’s transparent intentions and flawless execution are what made the event so fucking awesome!
Dirtybird as a record label are all about fun. It’s about getting on the dance floor and shaking your ass to funky, chunky, bassy music – be that house, techno, hip-hop, whatever. If you’re not familiar with the Dirtybird family, watch their new mini-mentary now.
Dirtybird Campout 2016 was located at the beautiful Oak Canyon Park, a lush, tree-spotted meadow nestled in a canyon adjacent to a reservoir. The park features a quaint pond in the middle and a perfect amount of space and shade to accommodate the size of the festival. The venue featured one main stage and one after hours stage, basketball courts, plenty of room for other typical summer camp activities, and free water spouts, which are always a necessity. It was a perfectly sized venue and one could easily walk the entire location in a matter of ten minutes. The campgrounds were fairly large but manageable and, though I arrived after the rest of my campmates, I quickly and painlessly found my way to my friends where I suited up in my best kimono and hit the D-Flo. First up were Ardalan, Catz ‘N Dogz, Shiba San, and Claude Vonstroke on the main stage. I arrived in the venue and took a dancing stroll around the grounds to get my bearings. I then walked into the crowd, all of whom were clearly breaking it down and having a great time. I grooved and reconnected with old dance floor friends whilst Ardalan, Catz ‘N Dogs, and Shiba San all played fairly similar though entertaining Dirtybird house sets. Once “Okay” by Shiba San came on, I left the dance floor and took refuge in an awesome birds nest net structure which had been set up about ten feet in the air – mostly because I’m a techno snob and feel like “Okay” is overplayed. I later came down and caught a little of Vonstroke’s set which was, once again, entertaining and highly danceable, but pretty much the same as all of his other sets. No shade on you Claude, you do your thing and you do it well! The audience had fun, interacted with each other, and spread good vibes and cheer. I left the dance floor and found myself at a little side stage that was decorated all funny while people were lounging and talking.
My friends and I approached a group of hooligans and ended up meeting and greeting a New Yorker who had come to California for her first time solely to attend Dirtybird. I found this to be pretty awesome and I awarded her one of my signature “Ich Liebe Mein Leben” stickers, which she gladly accepted. A few minutes later a crazy group of shenanigan experts began performing a ridiculous puppet show in/on the stage, which quickly spiralled into some really strange shit. My friend and I walked to the now operating after-hours stage to see it was bumpin’ in full force. Billy Kenny played a stand out eclectic set and I danced to my heart’s content, found all my old friends, and made a lot of new ones. Some fool kept telling me techno snob jokes which is good because of the aforementioned statement. Worthy and Christian Martin also played good sets I’m sure, but they all blended together in a whirlwind of fun, house, and sunrise. I fell asleep happily only to be awoken by my friend’s subwoofers pounding dark techno at 9am. I ear plugged up, slept two more hours and awoke to a mimosa and a fresh kimono.
Photo by: Chris Dodds
I spent most of Saturday taking part in the various campout activities including, my favorite, archery. I also stole a dodge ball somewhere and ran through the crowds playing catch with some friends and whoever looked like they needed a dodgeball to the dome. I continued to bounce from friend group to friend group, lounging in puddles of shade until the highly anticipated Justin Jay & Friends came on stage. Almost immediately, the crowd filled in deep and Justin started playing raucous house to get everyone nice and warm for what was to come. The band came on strong with Josh Taylor on the mic singing sweet nothings to a well lubricated crowd. That young man really does have the voice of an angel and the penmanship of a young Jefferson, if I may say so myself. It looked like the whole crew of Friends joined Justin on stage including the highly acclaimed Benny Bridges on guitar, shredding his way past the deep billows of bass, Ulf Bonde, the Swede with a mastery of the production arsenal and an unlikely character on the mic, and Henry Was on the drum set, kick’n down the house (or in this case, the nest). The crowd went absolutely mental for this sunset party and no one held back on the dance floor. Justin Jay and Friends really do know how to bring the heat and they, without a doubt, take the set of the weekend. In fact, their set was so good it was extended from two to three hours. Following this performance, I was absolutely clobbered so I took a nap to prepare for a long night ahead. This was a mistake because I missed J. Phlip and most of Justin Martin’s set but, at least I was well rested for the long night ahead.
I came back to the dance floor just in time for Reggie Watt’s set which was incredibly impressive because he played every instrument and created every sample, vocal, etc. live on stage without any help. Though his set was a deviation from the usual thumping bass dance party that I have come to expect and love from Dirtybird, the man Watts is seriously talented and he blew the crowds’ minds as well as making us all laugh hysterically multiple times throughout the set. It was an honor watching Watts do his thing and the audience seriously enjoyed it and had a light time.
What ensued for the next four hours was actually pretty hellish, and was clearly the worst part of the weekend so I won’t dwell on it too much. Long story short, the afterhours stage played downtempo, drowsy, dreary music from midnight until roughly 4AM. The artists responsible for this time block basically played dance floor clearing sets and most of the festival goers retreated to either renegade parties, their tents, or actually fell asleep on the floor of the dance area. A message to Dirtybird: I am a huge fan of your parties, but the hours of 12AM to Sunrise should be reserved for high energy music so that your audience, who has been partying all day long, can continue partying if they want to.
Sage Armstrong threw on the first house song in four hours at around 4:30. The remaining partiers were slow to rise and few and far between at this point but it was the straight shot of bass and four to the floor that everyone was yearning for. Sage basically saved the night. Following Armstrong, the Martin Brothers played a Drum and Bass set which pretty much assured that anyone left on the dance floor stayed right where they were. Not because it, or drum and bass, was particularly good but more because they needed to make up for the four wasted hours. I’m personally not a huge Drum and Bass guy but the Martin Brothers did a good job and I danced until the sun was fully up and the man on the mic had to ask me to leave.
Sunday morning started slow and painfully, but the old hair of the dog helped and the taunting bass called my name once more. Once you start dancing, everything else really just falls into place. Sunday was a beautiful day like the rest, and I found myself sitting under a grove of trees with friends for a good part of the afternoon until Will Clarke started throwing down heavy swaths of bass which called my name from a distance. Clarke absolutely killed it and hilarity ensued within the crowd as people started getting freaky and doing all types of things ranging from dry humping each other to dancing with fake cat skeletons to slapping the bag out of people’s pants. It was a grand ol’ time to be on the dance floor. Marc Houle came on next but I had to skedaddle back to camp unfortunately due to my kimono being wet and the temperature drop so I missed his set and Kill Frenzy’s following. I made it back for the tail end of Green Velvet who played less aggressive house that had the good people grooving all the way through the Family Set and the end of the party. By that point the entirety of the festival was on the dance floor and people had made themselves at home bringing chairs, couches, etc. and really hunkering down for the end of the party. It was an exhausting weekend, but that’s how you know it was a great festival. The people were forced to dance because of the quality vibes and by the end of Sunday energies were at a low.
I’m sad to say, the festival season is practically over but Dirtybird was an amazing way to go out strong. Dirtybird is the perfect place to make a fool of oneself, percolate your ass and hips, meet awesome people, and remember what being a kid at summer camp is all about: FUN. It’s great because Dirtybird does not brand itself as a festival trying to “change the world”, and because of that it draws a crowd of awesome people just looking to have fun. Because of that, everyone attending learns how to have the maximum amount of fun and really let loose. In the end, that spills through to everyday life and who knows –
Dirtybird is a transformational festival after all…. Shit.