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5 ways Dirtybird Campout is changing the festival model

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San Francisco-born house label Dirtybird has been breaking conventional molds since its inception. The collective has amassed a loyal following in recent years around its signature BBQ events and its multi-day adult camping experience: Dirtybird Campout. The whimsical campout has been a huge success, which can be primarily attributed to the authenticity of the brand behind it. We’ve compiled our thoughts below on the ways that Dirtybird Campout is changing the festival game.

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Photo credit: Juliana Bernstein

1. Attendee-focused activity programming 

It goes without saying that music festivals don’t often develop their daytime activities with the same care and effort with which the musical lineup is curated. Not so at Dirtybird — attendees, or “campers” for the weekend, tossed water balloons, played Tug-Of-War and Capture The Flag, and competed for ultimate glory in Color Wars. Campers who attended in 2015 will remember many of the same activities were offered at last year’s campout, but word of the festival travelled wide in the year interim, and participation was as robust for activities as it was for the sets at the adjacent Bird House stage.

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Photo credit: Juliana Bernstein

2. Spontaneous new traditions

Congruent with the community-first mentality of Campout, attendees drove the direction of the event alongside organizers, creating new experiences like a beat-boxing competition and Lap Dance musical chairs; as well as re-celebrating existing traditions like the Martin Brothers sunrise drum ‘n’ bass set. While many memories were made while participating in planned events, or during scheduled sets, the most telling tales came from the unannounced experiences. The fact that just a few campers may have witnessed them made them all the more magical for those who were present.

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Photo credit: Juliana Bernstein

3. Negligible barriers

Once campers arrived at the gates, categorization largely dissolved. With the exception of the Backstage Party Pass, which granted on-stage access, there was no VIP ticket tier or cordoned-off area of the festival. As Head Counselor Claude noted in the Arrival Guide, “inside the Campout, levels of superiority no longer exist- artists, volunteers, and attendees are all here as one campout community. Check your egos at the door and don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zones.” Even the premium access allowed by a Party Pass merely reduced barriers between artist and attendee — a rare event even at smaller camping festivals, let alone larger corporate-sponsored festivals. The democratic and equal-access attitude truly translated into more community-minded behavior from everyone. When no one is quite sure who they’ll run into, the experience becomes more exciting, and more positive, for all.

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Photo credit: Miranda McDonald

4. California-bred collaboration

Dirtybird Campout, only in its second year, is already considered an indispensable annual event for many of its attendees. In just one year alone, attendance for the weekend spiked to 6,000, with many campers flying across the continent just for the three-day event. The draw to Dirtybird Campout is twofold: the label, and the event. Dirtybird Records has managed to create the demand for the former, but the latter is helped tremendously by The Do Lab, which puts on Campout alongside Dirtybird. The Do Lab is renowned for its Lightning in a Bottle and Woogie Weekend events, as well as the popular activation at Coachella each year. The seamlessly executed, immersive, and whimsical experiences the production company creates are second-to-none. When two of dance music’s best-loved brands come together, and each handles the component for which it is known, the result is greater than the sum of its parts.

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Photo credit: Watchara Phomicinda

5. Family over everything

One of Dirtybird’s preeminent characteristics as a collective of musicians is the tangible fiber of community at their events. Though special guests like Reggie Watts and Mr. Carmack made appearances (which were met with great enthusiasm) at Campout, the majority of the lineup were repeat offenders on Dirtybird’s roster. Smirnoff Sound Collective premiered a documentary from their Tribes series about the label on Friday evening at the festival which encapsulated the ethos from which Campout, and all of Dirtybird’s events, grows. Label head Claude VonStroke spoke about striving to make every party a Dirtybird family party, and how in the decade that the label has been putting on events, there has never been a fight between attendees. The ideology permeated the Campout for the rest of the weekend, providing an unshakeable reminder to do one’s part to make the festival the best for all involved. Watch the full documentary below:

Read more:

What you need to know from the very first Dirtybird Campout

Meet the artists behind Dirtybird Campout: Worthy

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