In 2006, under the watch of a DJ who is known by his stage name Claude VonStroke, Dirtybird Records was created. For the last 10 years, the label has been releasing tracks with a creative take on house music and has gathered quite a fan base. This past weekend, select individuals and specifically hardcore fans of the label got to enjoy the ultimate Dirtybird experience that Claude envisioned. This year’s version of the Dirtybird Campout was held at the beautiful Oak Canyon Park in Southern California. This festival was created to expand on the idea of the BBQs that the record label is known for hosting around the country. When you hear about the parties that Dirtybird throws, you would expect that a music festival created by this record label would be all about the music. While that was definitely one of the main elements at the festival–there were so many more activities that you could be a part of.
I personally arrived just around sunset on Friday night and luckily made it into the festival grounds right in time to catch one of the newest Dirtybird artists to gain huge popularity, Ardalan. His set featured tracks from his newest release on the label entitled the Thunderdad EP and also some songs deeper into his discography, including the catchy track that catapulted him to popularity “I Eat Beats.”
The first night of the event featured a lot of the artists that have had extremely popular tracks, which crossed over into the more mainstream electronic scene. Alongside Ardalan’s funky take on house, the night included Catz N’ Dogz, featuring seamless incorporation of vocal samples with their tracks, and Shiba San’s heavy bass stylings that took over the scene, starting with his massive track “Okay” in 2014. The founder of the Dirtybird label himself, Claude VonStroke, closed out the main stage on the first night with a perfect blend of some of his oldest tracks such as “Who’s Afraid Of Detroit” and some newer songs like “Make A Cake,” plus one of the tracks of his Get Real collaboration EP with Green Velvet, “Mind Yo Business.”
After the first night of insane music, the crowd got to be some of the first to watch the Dirtybird documentary, which you can watch now thanks to their partnership with Smirnoff. I headed back to camp immediately after the screening of the film and finally met up with some familiar faces. Every night, they had the Birdhouse stage running up until midnight, which is where I saw all of the sets up until this point. At about 1 a.m., the after-hours stage started playing music a little further away from the campground, in order to allow the people who chose to sleep the opportunity to catch some zzz’s. For the rest of the night owls like myself, we could head over to the other stage to catch some more DJ sets. Here I enjoyed some of the best sets I saw over the weekend, including a newer Dirtybird artist Billy Kenny who closed his set with Purple Rain by Prince, and some DJs who have been with the label for quite a while, such as Worthy and Christian Martin, who brought in the sunrise.
The next morning, after receiving less than two hours of sleep–due to the sun beating down on my face, as well as neighboring campers chanting “cake cake cake cake” and “that booty percolating,” in honor of some the recent hits that the label has released–I awoke ready to see what the next day had in store.
After waking so early and not having any chance of falling back asleep due to the heat and bumping campground parties, I decided to head into the festival grounds to see what kind of activities they had to offer. Dirtybird advertised that these activities would set this festival apart from other major festivals. As I walked in I was greeted by the sounds of Ciszak playing an early daytime set. I arrived right in time to hear him play his hit track “I Want,” which came out on the new sister label Dirtybird Selects earlier this year. The great music selection perfectly accompanied the insane amount of options of camp activities that were available. Over the course of the weekend, I got to paddle a rowboat out into the lake on site with random people that I happened to meet, learn archery over by the targets on the side of the field, rock climb across the wall they had set up, and even kick soccer balls around the dance floor while people hung out in the shade avoiding the beating sunlight of the daytime sets.
These different daytime camp activities are what really set this festival apart from any other festival that I have ever attended. With each of the activities I took a part in, I was joined by different attendees who I didn’t know, which created an incredible amount of camaraderie. One of the highlights of the entire weekend was at the karaoke stage, when me and a friend happened to be passing by as two girls on stage starting to sing Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back.” Everyone in the area sprinted over to join in the sing-a-long of “I like big butts and I can not lie,” while dancing like crazy. You could find cool people to talk to and find something to do that you would be interested in, no matter where you went during this festival.
As the sun began to set, Justin Jay & Friends played a live set to bring in the night. I had seen Justin Jay perform DJ sets a couple of times previously and always loved his very soulful style, but his live set including a drummer, guitarist, and vocalist, which took that sound to a completely new level. Later in the night, Dirtybird favorite Justin Martin took the decks and played a killer set showcasing music off of his recent full length album entitled Hello Clouds. The main stage on night two ended off with a set from comedian and live instrumentalist Reggie Watts. His set was definitely different than every other set from the weekend, in that his music is based off of adding layers on top of his own beatboxing loops. The people who witnessed it definitely got to experience something special.
After the main stage on night two closed down, the late night stage featured many artists that you wouldn’t really think of when you think of the Dirtybird label. The stage included sets by some experimental hip-hop producers including Machinedrum, Mr. Carmack, Mad Zach, Barclay Crenshaw (aka Claude VonStroke playing a hip-hop/trap set) and Sage Armstrong, one of the newer Dirtybird members, who seamlessly blends 808 hip hop vibes with banging house beats and his own vocal deliveries on top of his tracks. The people who decided to stay through all of these sets were treated to a surprise set from Justin Martin and his brother Christian Martin playing drum and bass back-to-back, as requested by tons of fans on a petition from Change.org.
The third day I was awakened in a similar manner to the second day, but despite the lack of sleep, I wasn’t going to let that make the last day any less enjoyable. The first set I caught was Doorly, who played an incredibly funky set and had the crowd losing their minds when he dropped the Soulwax remix of Tame Impala’s “Let It Happen.” Following his set, we took a quick break back at camp to change into warmer clothes and headed back onto the dance floor to catch Will Clarke, who had an absurd amount of booties percolating on the dance floor. Following his set, techno legend Marc Houle treated us with a live set. Following his set, Claude came up on the mic and let the crowd know that Marc was the first person to ever give him a music production software. Without him, this festival wouldn’t exist. As the sun started to set, Kill Frenzy took on the decks and played a perfect blend of techno as well as tracks off of his album Taylr Swft. I noticed that the pacing of the music throughout the weekend flowed extraordinarily well–with heavy hitting house on Friday, deeper house on Saturday, and mostly techno on Sunday. The second-to-last set on Sunday night was the techno legend Green Velvet, who played a lot of his most-famous tracks, including live vocals from the man himself. His set ended a little earlier than expected and he ended up going back-to-back with Claude VonStroke for a Get Real set that included the track “Snuffaluffagus” off of their debut collaboration EP. The night ended with a set from the Dirtybird family, which allowed every DJ that played over the weekend to play one track each and had the crowd losing their minds.
Overall, this was the best festival that I’ve ever attended because of the incredible music, insanely creative camp activities, and fans who all listened to the same style of music. I cannot wait to go back and be reunited with my fellow Dirtybird fans!