Who remembers those carefree days when vacation seemed endless and summer camp beckoned with fun activities, new friends, and maybe even a kiss or two? Sigh, yes, we do too, but those times are as faded as a tie-dye from ’83.
Cue reveille! There’s a new kind of festival seizing on the nostalgia and energy from those days of yore: the Dirtybird Campout, the brainchild of DJ/Dirtybird Records head honcho Claude VonStroke, né Barclay Crenshaw. Having just wrapped up its sold-out second year, the Campout is an intimate festival of 5,000 with music from the Dirtybird crew and friends, plus camplike activities (tug-of-war, boat races, dodgeball, capture the flag) and a talent show, karaoke, and comedy night. By all accounts, it’s a ridiculously good time.
“I went to a camp that’s no longer around in the Adirondacks,” says VonStroke, recalling his summer days as a preteen. “It was beautiful. . . . I just remembered that being the most fun I had when I was a kid.”
That’s the spirit the DJ wants to evoke for his labelmates, pals, and attendees in Silverado, California, where the Campout takes place (with no cell service, we might add, for a truly old-timey experience). To do this, Dirtybird partners with The Do Lab, the SoCal-based production company behind festivals like Lightning in a Bottle, Woogie Weekend, and its own stage at Coachella. Known for its whimsical aesthetic, naturalistic designs and transformative ethos, The Do Lab had to change its approach for the Campout but had no less fun doing it.
For one, they studied intently, watching classic movies like Poison Ivy (1985) and brainstorming every potential camp activity and detail they could bring to life. Producer Dede Flemming says the pop culture time machine provided “instant inspiration,” and they almost couldn’t believe how people embraced the activities, especially the talent show, in the first year.
“It’s really easy to look around and see if people are bored, looking for the next thing to do, or if they are running gleefully to the next thing. A lot of times we saw people doing that hop, skip, jump, and smile, and we knew that we nailed it,” says Flemming, one of three brothers who founded The Do Lab.
“My absolute favorite thing last year was the talent show because I went into it thinking that everyone was going to be so bad that it was going to be hilarious, but everyone was so good that it was hilarious in the exact opposite way,” remembers VonStroke with a laugh.
Let’s be clear: The Campout has some of the most bumpin’, booty-shaking music in the land thanks to Dirtybird’s killer roster, but the event’s real magic comes from people’s willingness to let loose and not be afraid of looking silly. It’s like being a kid again, when you didn’t care about what you looked like, or how you danced, or that maybe you weren’t really as talented as your mother always told you. Who cares! The moment is now and the times are good.
“You’re not thinking about being cool or trying to wear the right clothes—you’re just laughing and you don’t know why,” Flemming says of the Campout’s ultimate mission. “We take that energy and spirit from our childhood, and we put it at the forefront and take out the stuff that clutters it. Let the guard down. Do those things that you used to do that brought you joy.”