Amid concerns about the change in venue, Dirtybird Campout seriously impressed once again for the third year running!
Entering its third year, Claude VonStroke and the Dirtybird Family faced many questions ahead of their annual gathering of amazing artists and the Dirtybird faithful. The announcement that Dirtybird Campout would be heading to Northern California was met with mixed emotions from many, but also serious questions. What will the new venue be like? Will the vibes remain the same? These were thoughts that ran through the minds of potential attendees, including yours truly, ahead of the event.
Answers to some of the questions came in the form of photos and updates, but for the most part, it was faith in the Dirtybird and Do LaB Crews that things would be okay. Sure, the drive from San Diego would be much longer than previous years and it would definitely be a harder journey, but the thought of missing out on one of the best parties on the West Coast was a silly one.
While normally it would make sense for my crew to arrive on Friday for the festival, with it being almost triple the distance from the original venue, we opted for Early Arrival this year. Setting off from San Diego around noon on Thursday, we began our trek to Bradley, California, anticipating an arrival later that evening at the campsite. Hitting light traffic the entire way up, the anticipation for what was in store for the weekend was growing at a rapid pace.
After driving for miles through low service areas in the mountains, our climb stopped upon hitting the gate for the festival. Checking in only took a few minutes, and we were quickly on our way further up the hill toward what would be our home for the next three days. It was only a few more turns to make before finding our camping spot, and we promptly hopped out of the car and began constructing our site.
It was hard to tell the true size of the venue upon arrival, but without being able to even see the end of the campgrounds you could just feel that is was massive.
My thoughts on the size of the venue were confirmed upon speaking with other attendees and staff that night, who stated that the walk from where we were camped, toward the entrance of the campgrounds, to the front gate, was around thirty minutes.
With our campsite constructed, we ventured out into the night in our efforts to explore and see what was happening elsewhere in the campgrounds. Some special sets from artists, karaoke that swung between both amazing and terrible, and renegade camps that were already blaring their beats dominated the soundscape of the evening.
I walked the roads in search of some friends and found myself quite lost in the web of roads that weaved throughout the campgrounds. This, more than anything, became one of the biggest thorns in my side over the weekend since it was difficult to figure out where exactly I was from time to time. Unable to find my friends at their renegade and tired from the drive, I headed back toward where I had left my group, which inevitably led me to my bed.
Upon waking on Friday, two things stuck out to me immediately.
First, it was refreshing to wake up at a festival in a tent and have it not be hotter than hell. I normally camp at festivals in desert conditions or even ones where shade isn’t exactly present, so it was a welcome start to my day. Second, it was clear to me that opting for early arrival was one of the best decisions we made, as being able to wake up and get the party started immediately was clutch.
Most of the daytime on Friday was spent bonding with my campmates and hanging out there. A renegade close by provided some epic background beats that we were jamming to, and it made a great soundtrack for the start of the festival. It was around 5 pm that we decided to head into the main festival area itself, opting to hop on the giant shuttles that were carting around attendees.
Half our group got cut off from the shuttle, even though it wasn’t full, yet they actually beat us in making it inside the festival. The shuttle itself had three stops in the campgrounds and had to go on a loop, so while it may have saved our feet it definitely didn’t save us time. The shuttles would prove to be one of the more inconsistent things about the weekend, but this could be easily alleviated in the future by adding more of them and running them for a longer duration.
Upon arriving at the actual festival grounds, it was clear that this year was going to be both new and exciting with regard to the size of the space.
Music was coming from both stages, which was a huge change compared to the past editions of the event where one stage was on during the day and the other during the night. While it did inevitably lead to some conflicts in set times, I actually think it was preferential since there were more artists than ever before.
We surveyed both stages and made a decision to head over to the Bass Stage first. Mikey Lion and Porkchop from the Desert Hearts crew were playing a massive set that had drawn a large crowd. The swing in temperature was something that was in the back of my mind, and as the Desert Hearts duo swayed crowds while the sun began to dip behind the mountains, I could tell that it was going to get a bit more chilly than I’d like. My desire to run back to camp for a warmer jacket grew, and so I headed back.
The inability to quickly go back and forth between the campgrounds and the venue for a majority of the campers would be the biggest problem many experienced all weekend.
Instead of the previous years where decisions could be made on the fly, you really had to plan things out if you wanted to go participate in games and activities during the day but also be comfortable at night. This actually led many to either make the executive decision to miss some sets around sunset or to simply cart in all your warmer jackets on a wagon like some smart campers did.
Donning warmer coats, we headed back to the venue to catch J.Phlip‘s set at The Birdhouse, which was an absolute blast. This was followed by an amazing set by Kill Frenzy b2b Will Clarke, two of my personal favorite acts on the Dirtybird roster. We caught some of DJ Funk‘s set, which was definitely a unique one compared to the other artists that had played earlier in the day, and closed out the evening with Claude VonStroke at The Birdhouse Stage.
We left Claude’s set to head to the shuttles, where we waited for nearly a half hour before some rangers came by to tell us the shuttle “might not be coming,” which changed to “it should be coming soon,” but it never showed. We ended up walking back after a near hour of waiting, which did take almost the same amount of time to reach our campsite.
The second day was hotter than the first, but I was in earlier than before.
After checking out some activities, chatting with the Dirtybird Crew, and catching some of Cut Snake, I made the journey from the venue back to camp. Tired, I took a nap and didn’t get back into the festival until 8:30 pm, just in time for Gene Farris. Coyu absolutely killed it after him, and it was followed by one of my favorite sets of the entire weekend, Walker & Royce. We closed out the night with Justin Martin and hopped on a shuttle to close out night two.
Now, while the first two days were full of amazing music, I don’t honestly think that they beat the third day.
Sacha Robotti to Chris Lorenzo absolutely started the night off right. Jesse Rose b2b Riva Starr was hands down one of the most fun sets I experienced all weekend, and upon hearing that it was Jesse’s final appearance on the West Coast it made that set even more memorable. This led into Matthew Dear, who we bounced between with Mija‘s FK A GENRE to go catch a bit of Drum & Bass action.
The closing few acts really made their mark on me musically. Shiba San absolutely dominated the crowd with his infectious beats, creating a deep vibe that everyone was grooving to. This had everyone prepped and ready to lose their minds for the legendary Eats Everything who I would also put in my top acts of the weekend. Closing things down at the end was the Family Set, featuring everyone from Ardalan and Mija to Worthy and Claude himself, each artist taking their turn on the decks.
Musically the weekend was amazing, but it wasn’t all about the beats either. The food, activities, and fellow campers are what made the weekend something else.
During Campout we sampled some of the cocktails that had been themed for the event, falling in love with the ginger-heavy VonStroke Mule and the refreshing Cucumber Margarita. While I can’t remember the name of the cinnamon-apple whiskey cocktail, it was also the least memorable of the three we tried. The pricing was actually not too bad inside the festival grounds, although the wait could have been improved with more bartenders.
Food-wise I was impressed by both the selection and quality of food we ate at Dirtybird Campout this year. Each year seems to get better and better, as there were more options this year than in the past. My two favorites were Middle Feast, providing me with some quality munchies, and The Dough Lab, who has perfected the art of the personal pizza.
Breakfast was cooked at the campsite each morning so we didn’t have to go far, shoutouts to Erin and Ben for their amazing creations to start the day. For lunch on both Saturday and Sunday, we opted for the Dirtybird BBQ itself, and I doubled down on the tri-tip that they offered. I think that the BBQ has definitely gone uphill since the first offerings at the 2015 edition, and I feel that the amount of food you get is well worth the money you spend on a ticket for it.
Coming in from all over the world, the Dirtybird Family vibes were in full force throughout the weekend.
While there were reports of people being aggressive, leaving trash behind, and other lame behavior, I didn’t seem to encounter any of that. For the most part, the attendees I interacted with were not just nice but actually happy, too. People in the crowds never got too pushy, people were saying sorry and excuse me, and there were plenty of drinks being shared and dance parties happening throughout the weekend.
I might sound like an old person for this, but it did become slightly annoying that there was no real curfew for renegades, or if there was, it wasn’t being enforced. Even with earplugs, it was hard to drown out the sound of a completely turned up system that is pointed at you from across the street. I think what made it more annoying was that the set wasn’t even that good, and they were clearly in a battle of “who has the bigger speakers” with a camp in another area.
Overall, I look back on the weekend as a success, and one of my favorite festivals I’ve attended this year.
While I think that the Dirtybird Family could use a lesson in the whole concept of “pack in and pack out” and the shuttle system needs improvement, the amount of fun completely outweighed those imperfections. Going in I had been concerned about the ramp up in size of the festival and about the changes that were made not fitting the vibe that made it special, but that most definitely wasn’t the case. I can’t wait for next year, and maybe even an adventure to the East Coast for their recently announced edition there.
If you love Dirtybird, or even if you just love tech house with some drum & bass and a dash of hip-hop, I highly recommend attending Dirtybird Campout.
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Feature Photo Credit: Juliana Bernstein