October in central California means warm days and cool nights. It’s ideal weather for a music festival, especially one on a cerulean reservoir where swimsuits rule the day and faux furs are the de facto style choice by evening.
At Dirtybird Campout West 2019, which happened in Modesto, Calif. this past weekend (Oct. 4-6), the vibe was adult summer camp with an underground electronic music soundtrack, a combo that lured revelers to myriad dancefloors at the same time heated games of kickball spewed dust across the grassy expanses of the festival grounds.
Beloved competitive camp activities like floaty races, tug-of-war and potato sack races — with some activities hosted by artists on the lineup — kept attendees on their toes by day. After the sun set, festival founder Claude VonStroke played alongside a lineup that included Wajatta, Cut Chemist, Bob Moses, Christian and Justin Martin, and many more artists from the Dirtybird constellation and beyond, each of whom slayed their respective stages. After three days of camping, games and bumping and grinding electronic music, these were the top ten moments of the Dirtybird Campout West Coast 2019.
The Great Bingo Revival
What began as a humble game of Bingo ended in a twerking dance-off of epic proportions. We wandered into the late-night game — a Bingo party that in players with infectious beats at festivals up and down the West Coast — more so for the atmosphere than for the game itself. What was special about this particular round was that the grand prize was a Winnebego. As Rusty, the master of ceremonies announced the final number, I-22, three winners bum rushed the stage. To break the tie, a twerking competition was demanded.
The winner? Joshua Burns, a former professional dancer for the Portland Trail Blazers halftime shows, who twerked his way into owning a one-of-a-kind spray-painted, entirely non-functioning recreational vehicle.
VNSSA’s Birdhouse Set
Combining disco, house and reverberating bass, VNSSA sunk the sun with her lively set and bouncing entourage of fans and friends. Dropping Donna Summer as the sky faded from blue to pink to lavender to peach, the AstroTurf dancefloor was on the verge of spontaneous combustion as fans stomped, spun, gyrated and waved their “bury me in the club” totems — a nod to VNSSA and Walker & Royce’s “Rave Grave” track.
The Fungineers Ice Cream Truck Party
The eccentric Los Angeles collective known for their whimsical aesthetics and psychedelic puppet shows have taken their party on the road in the form of a souped-up, Pee-wee Herman-esque ice cream truck complete with a walloping sound system. (Their downtown LA headquarters, dubbed Creatington, has long thrown parties and fashion shows frequented by celebs like Wayne Coyne and Die Antwoord.)
The Fungineers and their unique brand of hip hop-electronic-parodies — performed by a bespoke, beat-boxing purple unicorn donkey puppet named Paragon — have become a fixture of the West Coast festival community. As a dance crew of neon gnomes and a sequined rapping triceratops stomped and gyrated atop the ice cream truck, vegan ice cream was dispersed among the crowd. Alongside Paragon was a singer with preternatural pipes, belting originals and parodies in the finest fashion.
Deep in the outskirts of the GA campgrounds exists a mind-melting labyrinth of renegade parties. A festival in and of itself, these stages were jammed with throngs of nocturnal ne’er-do-wells and GA DJs who kept the most hardcore party people dancing until sunrise. With little more than a thin layer of tent nylon separating the stages, each boasting professional sound setups, these unofficial events spewed all sub-genres of electronic music. Wandering through the serpentine pathways between geodesic domes and EZ-ups, the clash of sounds was both invigorating and maddening.
Podcast Recording and Chai at the Tea Drop Trailer
In the depths of the artist camping was a mobile cafe trailer and tea house crafted out of hickory-nut wood where “the tea is always free.” Its inviting decor extended beyond the trailer itself with lanterns, paisley floor pillows and a fully functioning podcast setup called the Tea Dropcast recording the lively, and sometimes bizarre, musings of passersby.
PillowTalk’s Set at the Bass Lodge
A four-piece group, a rarity in the solo-artist dominated lineup, PillowTalk played pure, live disco complete with a dazzling mirror ball. The dust was high and the sun was low, but PillowTalk’s funky grooves attracted dancers at that purgatorial time of day when the energy lost after a day in the sun commingled with the urge to continue dancing. With the boost from Pillowtalk’s set, most everyone did.
The Dirtybird Talent Show
From a Sriracha chugger, to a breakdancer, to a guy who squatted Claude VonStroke on his shoulders, the Dirtybird Talent Show is a barrage of odds-and-ends talents, and a favorite among Campout attendees. Judged by VonStroke and Dirtybird duo Walker & Royce, the competition was stiff, but the stand out performance was a harmonica playing beatboxer who won the competition. Runner up was breakdancer Chocolate Sushi — famous not only for his silky moves, but also for always coming in second. The legend continues.
Walker & Royce’s Birdhouse Set
The number of totems and T-shirts donning Walker & Royce lyrics, logos and song titles was indicative of the anticipation for their set. When they took the Birdhouse stage, their aviary of fans moved in unison, the atmosphere ripe with merrymaking — and perspiration.
The Librarian’s Bass Lodge Set
The Librarian never disappoints, with her deep love for the art of bass music reflected in her set as fans basked in the vibratory glow of the bottom end of the sonic spectrum. Ranging from the heart-palpitating rhythms of drum ‘n’ bass to the low and slow cadence of pure bass music, patrons sporting Dirtybird Campout bandanas pulverized the dancefloor as The Librarian took them on a tour through the kingdom of low end.
The Sunday Lakeside Sunset
Sunday sunsets at music festivals are always bittersweet. On Sunday evening, as gradients of cotton candy pink and peach streaked, tender moments were shared with friends and lovers and weekend reflections, favorite sets, and inside jokes were discussed. Meanwhile, a gaggle of geese waded and honked on a distant island. And as the sun disappeared behind the silhouetted hills, the ephemera of the moment was realized and attendees dusted themselves off to prepare for the final night of the Campout.