All Photos by Get Tiny Photos
Dirtybird Campout West Coast is honestly not like any other festival I have ever been to. I have been to over 100 different festivals all around the world, and I have to say – Dirtybird Campout is my favorite of them all. Electric Forest always has been my favorite, and it still might be just because of the sheer size of it, but Dirtybird Campout is giving it a run for its money in terms of location, quality of people, and uniqueness of the festival. Not only is there music, that’s a given at any festival, there is also so much more. The additional things that festivals offer is what makes them unique, and in the end what makes them stand out among the oversaturated market. A lot, I mean A LOT, of music festivals exist and most of them can pull together a decent lineup and put up some decent stages with decent sound quality. But that makes them just like everyone else. It’s the small touches, the enchanting moments, the weirdo vibes, that make a festival stay in people’s minds forever. I have always had people tell me that Dirtybird Campout is one of the best festivals but after a disappointing Dirtybird Campout East Coast – I wasn’t so sure. But from the second I drove into the venue, I could already tell that this was going to be a good one.
The line to get in through security ranged anywhere from 30 minutes – 2 hours if you came at peak times. For a camping festival, I’m used to waiting 9 hours (thanks Shambhala) and 4 hours (Electric Forest) respectively so 30 minutes wasn’t too bad. After an easy security check and wristband dispersal you drive into the campgrounds. It’s not a free for all, but they give you so much space between cars to park. My neighbors had 3 canopies and multiple tents and it all fit easily in the space they were assigned. I know people who got there late on Friday night after the masses had already arrived and they were allowed to just park anywhere that there was space. Most people honestly camped in group camping, the VIP Bird’s Nest, RV camping or ADA so everyone was spread out across the grounds. I was surprised at how many people had RVs – and at the extravagantness of the campground setups. People had created lemonade stands giving out free lemonade, a shark stage, a pineapple art car, a geodome filled with unicorn stuffed animals and comfy couches called “The Temple of Fluff”, a converted bus called the Struggle Bus that was also a stage, and so much more.
The camping was located at the Modesto Reservoir so almost all of the camp spots were close to water. There were little lakes everywhere that you could swim in. I definitely got in for a refreshing swim after waking up sweating on Sunday morning. The sunrises and sunsets over the water were honestly magical. The water also backed right up to the Bird House stage so at any point you could go sit by the water, or get in the water, and still listen to music. Besides having the most beautiful backdrop, the weather was perfect all weekend – October is honestly the perfect time to have this festival in this location.
The main stage, also called the Bird House, was located on an asphalt strip of parking lot, covered in astro turf. I personally like when stages are on asphalt or concrete, it creates a perfectly flat surface (a shufflers dream) and also mitigates dust. The angle of the stage seemed strange because you almost had to walk around a corner of vendors to see the stage, but I think this was to minimize noise pollution from the Bass Lodge. The location of both stages just seemed slightly awkward – and I think they are still figuring this out since they’ve moved locations of stages since last year. The sound quality was pretty good and the production of the stage was minimal, but fit with the camp vibe. Most of your typical Dirtybird house sets were on this stage and they closed out the stage with a Dirtybird Family Set – with almost every artist on the lineup playing a few minutes. It was fun to watch everyone feed off each other and set a unique tone.
The second stage, the Bass Lodge, was the stage for any set that wasn’t your typical Dirtybird tech house set. It ranged from vocalist Jhené Aiko and Wajatta, to drum n bass from Adam F, to a downtempo deep house DJ set from Bob Moses, to beatboxer Honeycomb, to a experimental bass set from Barclay b2b EPROM. I stuck around this stage most of the weekend just because of the wide variety of music – literally every set was a surprise of new genres or new artists I hadn’t seen. I love me some Dirtybird tech house but I also think it’s fun sometimes to change it up and discover new music and I was maybe influenced by someone else who has different music taste than me (thanks Sam). The only problem with this stage was the dang dust. I didn’t know that much dust could be kicked up from that small amount of ground. I don’t think they were expecting the ground to erode away so easily in that spot and maybe they can put the stage in a different place next year, because man was the dust bad. I watched a lot of the sets on stage just to escape the dust, but if you were a normal festival attendee you were just out of luck (come in handy Dirtybird campout team bandanas).
The third stage, which was mostly a stage for events and acts, was called Claude’s Cabin. The Cabin featured crazy performances all weekend including a drag show hosted by the most hilarious queen, a weirdly erotic shirtless bobbing for apples, a pie eating contest, a 70’s style dating show where contestants had to answer the hosts’ questions, and much more. Besides the weird smorgasbord of performances, they also had the most epic dance party (and the only DJ set) on Claude’s Cabin with the guys from Fantastic Voyage.
The camp games were epic and hilarious and fun to participate in or just spectate. From potato sack races (where every single person fell), to kickball, to dodgeball, to wheelbarrow races, and more – Dirtybird Campout had it all. The best part was the commentators and referees. I honestly don’t know where they found these guys but listening to them lead the games was even more entertaining then the games themselves. Everyone could get a team color when they arrived at the festival and then participate in games and events under their color to earn points. The teams are green, red, purple and orange. I’m a green team-er but team orange took the win this year. I spent the majority of my time at the festival playing or watching games and doing other activities besides seeing music, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
But wait there’s more! If you were still bored after all the things listed above, you could still find other things to do. You could take out a kayak or paddleboard into the lake for free, you could join in the boat and floatee races across the lake, you could jump double dutch, you could practice your archery skills and shoot a bow and arrow, you could tie-dye t-shirts, you could do yoga to deep house or along the edge of the water. Honestly, this festival had it all.
And to top it off, at the end of the night after music on the stages ended, you could just head to a pop up renegade after party at literally any campground. Apparently 50% of the Dirtybirdies are DJs themselves. But as I said earlier, the campground and RV setups are extravagant and so well done. So the renegade late night sets in the RVs were high quality – I mean almost better sound and light production than the Dirtybird stages. You could expect over 30 different pop up stages on any night. It was fun to just wander around the campgrounds finding new music at each turn until the sun came up. Again, this is something that makes Dirtybird Campout so unique.
Not only is this festival unique because of the activities, events, pop up renegades and games, it truly is special because of the people. It’s rare to have every single person at the festival be into the same subgenre of music, but since this is a record label festival everyone there truly freaking loves Dirtybird and Dirtybird music. That makes a more homogenous pool of festival goers and it makes the interactions with other people so much nicer. I’ve always thought that house and techno fans were the nicest anyways. But Dirtybird fans are just loveable weirdos! Overall this festival made a lasting impression in my mind and moved into the top spot for most fun at a festival ever. I would not miss out on another Dirtybird Campout and if you’ve never been before, you better get yourself there in 2020. How you like yo’ eggs?