Best. Festival. Experience. Ever. Comradery and community are back in the electronic music scene thanks to the Dirtybird Campout. The first-ever edition of the event made its smashing debut at Oak Canyon Park in Silverado, California, about an hour south of Los Angeles.
True to its name, a casual camping village welcomed travelers who brought along everything from an actual sofa for an outdoor living room, to a giant bouncy house open to all in the mood. And that mood was jubilant for the 4,000 attendees reliving their youth—only with a way better soundtrack this time.
Just like the summer camp of old—or think 'Wet Hot American Summer' if you missed out as a kid—activities for all persuasions abounded. Upon entering through the wooden Camp Dirtybird archway, the grassy playground lined with trees opened up and the perfect setting for an event was revealed.
The centerpiece was a gorgeous old tree perfect for climbing, complete with platforms and ropes to accomplish the task. Or one could merely hide out on the comfy sofas underneath to kick back and enjoy the scenery with a delicious IPA from the adjoining Tree Fort Taproom.
To the left, a cabin-like Birdhouse main stage. To the right, a lake, flanked by teepees that offered a variety of activities and classes such as tie-dye, coloring and watercolors and guided meditation. The Late Night Lodge for afterhours grooving is nestled in the distance.
Also within range were lawn games, a mini golf course, giant Slip N’ Slide, volleyball and even archery. But if that wasn’t enough to keep you engaged, the Bunkhouse stage featured a talent show, comedy and an exotic animal presentation. That stage’s pièce de résistance was a badass purple unicorn puppet named Paragon on live-loop and beatbox duty, who threw down with more skills than the average mega-festival main stage DJ.
To encourage campers to make new friends—and a healthy rivalry with existing ones—Games HQ assigned one of four random color commemorative Dirtybird Campout bandanas to each camper to mix up teams. Competitions included tug-o-war, kickball, sack races, dodgeball and more.
But if that wasn’t enough to make you a happy camper, you could earn custom merit badges for being a good sport (we earned three separate ones while helping camp counselors pick up trash after some people didn’t get the “leave no trace” memo). That being the only real negative to the campout—even rain late Saturday night into Sunday didn’t mar the experience—most everyone was on scout’s honor and behaved themselves quite well.
Counselor Claude VonStroke commanded the experience, fully embracing his role on the campground as not only the leader of the Dirtybird crew, but the campers as well, encouraging participation and spreading good vibes.
“I think that nobody else has really anything to do [at festivals] when they’re not listening to music,” he tells DJ Mag USA backstage. “We tried to make fun activities and stuff that you liked to do when you were a kid that’d still be fun now—but the people running it are a bit more sarcastic and dirty.”
The idea for the Dirtybird Campout came to fruition with a simple flyer online. “I just made a flyer with the date on it and I had no partner, no venue, no DJs and I just put it online and 400,000 people liked it—twice as many people as I even have on my Facebook,” says VonStroke.
“I was like, ‘Oh yeah, we’re really doing it!’ And it worked out magical and just came together.” Besides digging Christian and Justin Martin’s sets, VonStroke was all about interacting with fans. “I had fun on the first day at the balloon toss, and the rowing race was hilarious,” he says.
“I stopped at the yoga because I was going to just make a showing and thought, ‘Okay, I’ll do yoga for a few minutes.’ I ended up doing the entire hour, I didn’t break character and I was drenched [because of] my stupid hat.”
Recent Dirtybird signee Billy Kenny equally enjoyed the experience. “It’s great!” he said backstage. “Really positive vibes. Everybody’s happy and it has a very free-spirit-y, kind of a hippy feeling to it. There’s no judging, everybody’s just being themselves, wearing what they want to wear.
There’s such a different crowd, too; there’s much older people, younger people. It’s really, really cool.” On the music tip, choice cuts during Kenny’s set included ‘Static’ from Justin Jay, his own edit of Eats Everything’s ‘Entrance Song’, and Kenny’s ‘Work’. “It’s kind of like no rules here and you can just play what you want!”
Will Clarke was equally wowed by the Dirtybird Campout. “[It’s] unreal! Seriously, this is on par with Glastonbury—and that's saying something. I've never been to a festival that's been so much fun, where the campers are so nice, where the artist are all so friendly and where the music is so fucking good all the time,” he says.
“Obviously I'm biased on the music genre taste, but it was just fun!” Clarke got everyone going with ‘Spandex’, then tested out a few new tracks with positive results. Jimmy Edgar’s ‘Tik Tok’ also went off for the Dirty Birdies in the crowd.
Though one bummer for Clarke was missing out on the activities. “I hope Barclay [VonStroke's birth name] doesn't read this—he will kick my ass—[but] I spent most of the weekend catching up with friends and partying with the campers. Next year, I'm definitely doing yoga and [ultimate] Frisbee. The archery looked pretty fun, too. Literally everything looked fun!”
Sacha Robotti connected with campers for his first Dirtybird crowd in the States and was happy about the reception to his tracks. “I feel the vibe of the festival was totally in alignment with what I love to get down to, so it was great to see the fans dance hard to my music,” he said. Robotti featured tracks such as ‘The Major’, ‘Loca Lola’ and ‘Thump Bumper’.
“It was one of the dopest festivals I've ever been to and played at," he told us after. "Also, I am so happy to have been welcomed so well as a part of the Dirtybird crew and by the fans. I love California and it felt like it loved me back!” He added, “It was a gathering of like-minded spirits who were there for the fun and the funk! So stoked to be part of this community and experience… So much love.”
Words: DEANNA RILLING