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Dirtybird Campout West: “More than just a festival but an experience”

by Denzil Chung

Driving up the coast of California, seeing the views while I reminisce on my rave life over the past year, I knew Dirtybird Campout was going to be special. Up to this point, I have attended numerous festivals and raves where Dirtybird players were performing. Each one fueled the hype for campout even more, but it didn’t become real until the moment my rave family and I pulled in to the Modesto Reservoir. Speaking of my rave family, the crew I rolled with was special because the couple who planned and included me in their camp inspired me to become the shuffler I am today. I met the Shankers a year ago at EDC Las Vegas and saw them shuffle so magically that it inspired me to pick it up.  A year later seeing them at the Get Real show during this year’s EDC week, they were happy to include me in their camp after not knowing how I was going to go this year. More on that later, but let’s get back to camp out.

Dirtybird West Coast Campout | Photo by FMF Devon Meyers

Dirtybird West Coast Campout | Photo by FMF Devon Meyers

From security check-in, I knew this festival had good vibes. The staff greeted us with open arms and even made jokes with us as we entered. We drove to find our RV spot and even though it took a while, I didn’t care because I felt this urge to get lost a bit and meet other campers. Then the best thing happened: counselor Claude Von Stroke was driving around in a golf cart greeting all the campers with his mega horn. Now that is real love right there. How often do you see not only a world-renowned DJ but a festival organizer greet the people directly? I know I haven’t seen this before and I’ve been to a lot of festivals at this point.

Denzil Chung at Dirtybird West Coast Campout | Photo by FMF Denzil Chung

Denzil Chung at Dirtybird West Coast Campout | Photo by FMF Denzil Chung

As soon as we found our RV location, my rave fam and I wasted no time to explore and head towards the Basslodge to hear Claude Von Stroke and Patrick Topping play on Day…..0! Yes, there was an opening set for all early arrival campers and I was excited to be a part of that. On the way, we saw so many renegade DJ setups, one of which had a nacho bar! I mean two of my favorite things, techno, and nachos and it was all free. My rave family didn’t hesitate at all to take some for the road as we made it to the Basslodge. Now being this was my first time at the campout, I am not going to lie, I was a little nervous roaming solo. As soon as I heard all the House music being played I just got lost and immersed in the crowd! I somehow ended up in the front where I met some of my other Boston rave friends and we raged all through the night. There was a moment Claude was playing and he looked over at us when we were chanting his name and he smiled. That moment fueled me up to go even harder and when Patrick Topping went on I knew it was game time. I normally don’t go too hard the first night but my legs didn’t care because I shuffled the night away. When his set was over and done, we walked back to our RV and I knew this festival was going to be special.

Day one began and even though I was still kind of tired from the first night, I got up early. I was super excited and I couldn’t wait to explore. I went to the merchandise line to take in the sights and met other campers who were very nice. We cracked jokes, expressed our happiness to be here and I even got some shuffles in just to kill the time as my friends were waiting to get their merchandise. Once we were finished, I immediately headed towards the Birdhouse where I spent pretty much my whole day after that. It was nothing put pure House music fire! I don’t recall everyone who I saw for I wasn’t trying to chase sets… but I do know that personally for myself the iconic ones were Walker and Royce and Justin Martin. I’ve heard their music before and have been a fan for quite some time. However, something about seeing them at campout was different. Never in my life have I connected with their music at this new level. I heard layers of sound that I never knew existed in Walker and Royce’s/Chris lakes song “Dance with Me”. It truly was something out of this world and made me feel abundantly happy.

Dirtybird West Coast Campout | Photo by FMF Devon Meyers

Dirtybird West Coast Campout | Photo by FMF Devon Meyers

Day two was just as incredible as day one. My rave family and I connected all day sharing stories of our love for music, dance, and our personal relationship to the EDM scene. A few of us, including myself, had birthdays that day so we decided to all celebrate together. Continuing our trend from yesterday, we rallied all day at the Birdhouse stage. I danced like it was no tomorrow. I was a bit fatigued, however after going so hard that I did take a break and head back to my RV campsite. I wanted to rest up to see Shiba San, as he was the first Dirtybird player I ever heard and liked. That night I made sure I gave it my all to his set and left nothing on the table. I remember setting back in between his set and looking up at the stage and just cried tears of joy. In my mind, I felt such good energy, being among positive people in a place who also shared this thing we all love which is House music. This was my home and I loved it! As happy as I was nothing would beat Day three.

Day three was even more special than the previous nights, not because of dance, or a set, but because of a girl. I will not name her here but if she reads this she knows who she is. A little backstory, I’ve known this girl for some time and she was also attending campout. She knew I was doing a whole west coast trip including Dirtybird campout for birthday and wanted to make my time here memorable. Memorable was an understatement. By the time Day three rolled by, I started to have what I call an awakening of a sort, ignited by all the events and encounters I experienced at Dirtybird campout. She happened to find me at the Birdhouse stage and I explained to her what I was feeling and without finishing she knew. From that point on she took my hand and we danced, I mean really dance. During this time Green Velvet and Fisher played and it felt like I was going on a musical journey with her. It’s hard to explain but it was as if she was controlling the rhythm of my heart to sync up with hers and there was a moment where I felt her. I looked at her with pure bliss, and she smiled back at me and said: “I know what you’re going through”. All of a sudden, I felt the energy in the air change and the DJ changed to a more melodic tune and I held her in my arms. I knew she was feeling sad and I told her “I got you”. We must dance for hours all up and down the campgrounds, but to us, time didn’t exist. It was just the moment.

Dirtybird West Coast Campout | Photo by FMF Devon Meyers

Dirtybird West Coast Campout | Photo by FMF Devon Meyers

The fun didn’t stop there and even though day three was over, we still kept the adventure going. We tried getting to the silent disco but what we ended up finding instead was something even better, a renegade set. I followed her into this warehouse-looking room and probably heard one of the best tech house sets of the camp. We continued to dance as she still had me in this state of trance, and I loved every single moment of it.  But of course eventually we had to call it and I walked her back to her camp area. We laid down in the back to the car and just held each other, reminiscing on the experience we shared. She fell asleep in my arms, and I looked up in the sky and smiled. I knew that was the defining moment of my campout and I’ll admit it, for a minute I fell in love.

With the festival at its conclusion and reality sinking in, I left the Dirtybird campout with a new perspective on life. Electric Forest had a similar effect on me earlier in the year starting my love for camping festivals, but Dirtybird was an experience. I became in tune with my environment and connected with people beyond what words can say, or actions can do. It’s hard to describe it but it’s a feeling, a feeling I knew I couldn’t get anywhere else. The music I heard, the bonds I made, and the dancing I did, at campout I will never forget. And to the girl I spent my time with on the final day, I thank you. Until next time campout, I could not have asked a better way to celebrate my birthday.

Dirtybird West Coast Campout | Photo by FMF Denzil Chung

Dirtybird West Coast Campout | Photo by FMF Denzil Chung

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