For many people, an annual journey to sleep-away camp was an integral part of their childhoods.
Last year, San Francisco’s premier group of booty bass and BBQ connoisseurs gave their rabid superfans an adult sleep away techno camp of their own in the form of Dirtybird Campout.
Put on in partnership with the Lightning In A Bottle masterminds at the California-based event company The Do Lab, Dirtybird Campout is essentially Wet Hot American Summer come to life with some blistering ghetto tech thrown in the mix. The three-day fest is located approximately an hour south of Los Angeles in the mountains of Silverado’s Oak Canyon Park, offering some stunning nature views and more bouncing basslines than even imaginable.
The magic of Dirtybird Campout lies in just how hard it bucks the traditional notion of what a music festival can be. Throughout the weekend, campers are encouraged to break away from the music to participate in group activities to win points on the leaderboard for their assigned teams. Whether they’re playing Capture The Flag, Tug-of-War, water balloon tosses, or any of the other myriad of game offerings, festivalgoers are given an experience totally unlike any other event this summer.
Of course, the music certainly had to be on-point in order for it have drawn 6,000-plus attendees for its sold-out weekend.
Label mainstays like Justin Martin and Shiba San delivered expectedly solid sets on the Birdhouse, which served as the music’s home base throughout the three days. However, the weekend’s highlights came from several fresh faces and unexpected surprises.
On Saturday night, duo Paranoid London delivered the event’s most off-the-wall performances with a raucous explosion of techno and commanding vocals. Similarly, it was bearded Bristolian wonderboy Will Clarke who weaved through tech-house, jacking house, and techno to dominate Sunday’s late afternoon crowd with a masterclass in programming and energy (A mid-set appearance of Traumer’s “Hoodlum” in particular).
The Late Night Lodge on the other side of the grounds was where the BPMs switched up considering during the late night, early morning hours. Christian Martin pulled sunrise duties two times: once solo and the following morning going back-to-back with his brother Justin to drop some furious drum-and-bass tunes. Our favorite though? Machinedrum’s Saturday night journey that took his skittering hip-hop soundscapes to the people. It seriously doesn’t get better than hearing his “Do It 4 U” collab with D∆wn on a festival speaker, and it went down a storm with the frenzied campers.
One thing of particular note this year was the distinct air of celebration and nostalgia that was present everywhere. Despite the event’s debut edition and the 10th anniversary of Dirtybird taking place in 2015, Dirtybird Campout 2016 very much felt like a true celebration of the San Francisco-based collective’s history and journey.
While acts like Green Velvet and Kill Frenzy were crushing the crowd with a blaring techno assault, fans to the left of the stage could take a trip down memory lane with a slideshow compiling photos of all of the Dirtybird Players during their first few years together. It was a fitting complement to the label’s 10th anniversary last year, which was also commemorated with the premiere of a new documentary that tells the big tale behind those 10 years via interviews with Claude VonStroke, Justin Martin, Aundy Crenshaw, and more.
Nothing quite served as the cherry on top of this celebration like Claude VonStroke’s official crowing as America’s Best DJ 2016 before his headlining set on Friday evening. Surrounded by his peers and more than 6,000 of his biggest fans and friends, the magnanimous DJ/producer soaked in the love as he was presented with a gold-plated Pioneer DJ DJM-900nxs2 mixer in front of an adoring crowd (many people of which helped vote him into the position).
It was a symbolic moment, as although the crowd of one Barclay Crenshaw was exponentially larger than the ones that populated Dirtybird’s founding Golden Gate Park parties in 2005, the feelings of community and the depth of those rumbling basslines haven’t changed one bit.