Now a $7 billion industry, Electronic Dance Music (EDM) began in the United States in the 80s as an underground movement in Chicago, Illinois and Detroit, Michigan.
According to Michaelangelo Matos with NPR, by producing early minimalist techno and house sounds, producers opened new doors for minority groups, specifically African-Americans and homosexuals, to combat authority and stand up against the mainstream.
Ironically, a lot of today’s dance music is arguably mainstream. It is rare to hear a track on the radio without an electronic accompaniment curated by a popular dance music producer.
With the booming popularity of the industry, many music event companies, like Insomniac and SFX, have capitalized on the opportunity by offering a countless number of festivals, events and shows with a list that is continuously growing.
In 2003, one group of friends saw something that was missing from the increasingly corporatized festival culture.
It was from there that the original Dirtybird Records crew, including Barclay Crenshaw, a.k.a Claude Vonstroke, Chris Worthy, a.k.a Worthy, Justin Martin, Christian Martin and Jessica Philippe, a.k.a J.Phlip, hatched the idea to hold free parties at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, California using a picnic permit.
After finding early success, Vonstroke and the other “Dirtybird players” started their own record label, Dirtybird Records, which has since gained international popularity.
The label has made appearances at many high profile festivals and according to Nicolas Stecher with billboard.com, they have even been invited to create “signature stages at mega-festivals like HARD, Electric Zoo and TomorrowWorld.”
Due to Dirtybird’s growing popularity, in 2014 the Golden Gate parties outgrew the venue pushing the crew to take the shows on the road, thus beginning the “Dirtybird BBQs.”
According to Stecher, this summer the BBQs brought in over 3,000 people to each city they visited—San Francisco, Seattle, Brooklyn and Detroit.
In 2015, Vonstroke and the team decided that they wanted to do something bigger.
“A lot of time when I go to play a festival or am booked to play somewhere it’s impersonal: just come in, play some records, shake some hands and leave,” Vonstroke told Stecher in an exclusive interview. “I thought, ‘Now what if we did the exact opposite of everyone else? And we were out in the festival with the fans, doing stuff?’ So basically just create a big hangout.”
From this, Dirtybird Campout was born.
Tucked away in Oak Canyon Park located in Silverado, California, October 7-9, 2016 marked the second year for this unique festival that immerses attendees into a three-day camping festival that feels a lot like “Wet Hot American Summer” meets Burning Man.
Festival-goers are placed on teams to compete in various camp games, such as kickball, ultimate frisbee, dodgeball, bean-bag toss, tug-of-war and many others.
Aside from the over-the-top camp theme, there is something else that sets Dirtybird Campout apart from other festivals.
Dirtybird artists participate in all of the activities with the attendees. They are completely and fully immersed in the experience with their fans.
The sense of camaraderie is truly unique.
Alisa Manzelli, a 27-year-old financial analyst from Los Angeles, California explained that Dirtybird Campout is a different experience.
“It is 100 percent different,” said Manzelli. “Every aspect is just significantly better than any other festival I’ve attended: the music, the sound quality, the venue, the activities, the people. There’s simply no other festival that’s like a summer camp for grown-ups and the Dirtybird community is truly one of a kind. The artists and the fans are all one in the same, and they are some of the nicest, most genuine people you will ever meet.”
The unique atmosphere of the festival opens doors for memories to be made between the artists and their fans that would not be possible at a more mainstream festival.
Shannon Farrell, a 25-year-old musician from Los Angeles, California who attended the festival, recalled one of his favorite memories from this year’s campout.
“I got to play tug of war with Claude Vonstroke the day after I watched him slay a set on the mainstage,” said Farrell.
Vonstroke told Stecher that the fans are at the center of what makes Dirtybird special.
“Everything we do is based on the fans,” said Vonstroke. “…Maybe we don’t have as many fans as Skrillex or Steve Aoki, but all our fans dedicated, for real. They’re here trying to live it.”