Woogie Weekend provides the perfect underground oasis for sophomore edition [Review]
On the weekend of July 8, the Do Lab’s Woogie Weekend officially returned to Southern California. Those descending upon Silverado’s Oak Canyon park found welcome solace in Woogie Weekend’s scenic confines. Sans cell signal and other ways to connect to the outside world, participants in the festivities found themselves in an intimate bubble, escaping relentless stories of violence and civil conflict from the week prior for grassy dancefloors where freedom of self expression and camaraderie reigned.
Inclement weather surrounding Woogie Weekend’s inaugural year allowed the Do LaB a “clean slate” of sorts for its sophomore edition, where the Do Lab were able to show off their ameliorated version of the house and techno haven without any stormy interruptions. Idyllic temperatures hovering between 65 and 85 degrees cultivated a palpably positive atmosphere that commenced as soon as the first round of revelers lined up for their wristbands, steadily magnifying as the weekend progressed.
One of the first noticeable tweaks helping to streamline Woogie Weekend 2016 was a brand new campground layout, including the valued addition of labeled roads, making coordinating with friends far easier than with uncharted territory during the year prior. Paired with the overall small size of the venue, navigating in-and-out of the stage area proved exceptionally easy — a much-appreciated benefit that easily played a role in the festival’s relaxed atmosphere.
Entering the festival grounds revealed another source of heavy praise among attendees: shade, in the form of colorful awnings covering both stages. By the late afternoon hours of Friday, a sizable crowd had already amassed at the Kaleidoscope stage — modeled after this year’s neon pipe setup from the Woogie stage at Lightning in a Bottle. Canadian duo Blond:ish took over the stage, helping kick off the 72-hour dance party, and bringing their audience to the sandy beaches of Ibiza with a smooth set filled with an intriguing mixture of exotic deep and tech house.
The Kaleidoscope stage packed in many enchanting and eclectic sets throughout the weekend. Some of the more far-out names on its roster ended up being its most celebrated, such as Thyladomid’s imaginative set that floored viewers with a barrage of techno, and Extrawelt, who played a wildly bizarre yet brilliant live set that managed to out-weird Damian Lazarus’ relatively tame set at the Hive. TÂCHES provided an energy boost on Saturday evening, pummeling his audience with raunchy beats, while Jon Hopkins brought things to a calm level later on for his ethereal live closing set. Sebastian Mullaert and Mathew Jonson both stunned on Sunday, closing the festival out on a well-executed and hypnotic note.
Meanwhile, the Hive summoned everyone’s inner party animal. Mark Farina took his audience on a ride through a veritable soul train fueled by vintage-inspired deep house and disco-esque hits. Desert Hearts “Papa” Lee Reynolds rejuvenated Sunday’s tired crowd, possibly the biggest of the weekend, with lively measures of house fueling the non-stop dance party before other Sunday highlight Rodriguez Jr. presented his crowd with an upbeat, unforgettable performance. Oceanvs Orientalis set a high standard for Saturday, meshing together seemingly random textures into a mystical soundscape. Öona Dahl played off this theme later on, sailing into the sunset with emotive melodies before Heiko Laux dominated the night with a cunningly evil techno set.
After hours artists stood out as much as Woogie Weekend’s headliners. Tucked away between Hive and the Kaleidoscope, renowned LA collective Subtract reigned the Dusk stage on Friday. Those stumbling upon it were treated to quality sets by head honcho Anton Tumas, Tara Brooks, and more. Favela Bar hosted the area on Saturday, carrying its guests into the morning with groovy house clips.
Meanwhile, the Dawn stage played home to Deep and Respect crews. Marques Wyatt and Doc Martin played a contemplative, nostalgic b2b set on Friday night, reminding us of the music’s early roots, before Canson brought along a desert vibe for his sunrise slot. Saturday was dominated by Respect adding a drum ‘n’ bass twist to the weekend, providing a break from the consistent 4/4 time signatures elsewhere on the grounds.
Josh Flemming, who played an integral role in the event’s execution, stressed the importance of “keeping it simple” in planning such a boutique gathering. Where Lucidity and LiB might fill their schedules with yoga, workshops, and speakers, Woogie Weekend by contrast had a only smattering of art pieces and yoga reserved strictly for morning hours. A vibrant, yet solitary art car called “The Pink Flamingo” roamed the grounds.
This meant that, for the large part, the festival’s participants became the main attractions. The audience arrived as as their most pure, uninhibited selves, feeling safe to be as weird as they wanted in a place free of judgement. Various themes amplified this effect, as people adorned themselves in animal accessories for Safari day, and neon silly wigs on Sunday’s Wiggle day. An overarching “Wet” theme that played on last year’s storm continued this year with giant slip ‘n’ slides and water balloon fights.
Flow artists brought an abundant supply of poi, flames, and crisply-lit hoops to each set, enrapturing those watching them with their creativity. Lowered personal barriers gave way to increased openness and friendly conversation, promoting a sense of unity amongst attendees — much desired after the tragic national events of the week prior.
Ultimately, Woogie Weekend combined finely-curated talent with an intimate venue and crowd, making for an ideal festival experience that emphasized both community and simplicity. Surrounded by scenic hills where constituents’ only distractions were each other, blooming friendships were nurtured by widespread creativity and equal fervor for the pioneering DJs in front of them. The festival’s second iteration not only showcased the Do LaB’s ability to overcome previous setbacks with ease, but provided a much-needed reminder of music’s ability to unite people against divisive outside forces.
Photo Credit: Wesley Chen