The palms of my hands accumulated sweat, saturating the textiles hanging from the clothing rack. As I swiftly combed through the dresses, skirts, and hosiery that dangled from the frame, I heard a voice coming from the stage say, "You're up next!"
Hastily, I proceeded to cover my upper torso with a red, skintight leotard while the bottom half of my body donned a black, loose-fitting skirt. An uncombed, short-haired pink wig sat upon my head, sunglasses covered my eyes, and I was rushed to the stage.
For the next three and a half minutes, the audience at Claude's Cabin was treated to a drag performance of Britney Spears' quintessential hit, "Toxic." Unashamed and unabashed, the presentation was one of the many activities I took part in during this weekend's Dirtybird Campout.
Setting itself apart from the monotonous festival crowd, Dirtybird Campout manages to marry the conventional music festival with the aesthetics of an adult summer camp. Not ones to stay stagnant, the team at Dirtybird continue to keep things fresh with a new festival layout, new and familiar talent, and the aforementioned games and activities.
Situated on the shores of the Modesto Reservoir, the Central California campsite is a picturesque locale. Abundant waterfronts, lush grasslands, and bountiful, shady trees adorn the venue. The campsite's amenities include full hookups for RVs, picnic tables, and restrooms/showers all set on the flat grounds that made walking to and from effortless.
Throughout its lifetime, Dirtybird Campout has taken place across various sites in California, from suburban Irvine to rural Bradley. However, it seems as though the festival has finally found a home in Modesto. After a successful run in 2018, the organization announced it would return for 2019 with a few changes to enhance the camper experience.
Urged by attendees, the entirety of the festival was contained in one area this year. Claude's Cabin (where many of the staged activities take place), the games field, the arts and crafts section known as Craftopia, as well as food vendors, bars, and merchandise, were all on the western edge of the park.
Also established on the left peripherals of the campgrounds were the festival's two main stages: The Birdhouse and The Bass Lodge. Different in sound and aesthetic, each stage offered a VIB (Very Important Bird) section and set the tone for the weekend.
The Birdhouse, perched on the upper edges of the camp and adjacent to the waterfront, was the heart of the festivities. As the home for house and techno, the main stage presented an array of Dirtybird favorites, as well as some new faces.
Names like Will Clarke, Black V Neck, Walker & Royce, Worthy, Kill Frenzy, Shiba San, Westend, Ardalan, VNSSA, Redlight, Yousef, Justin and Christian Martin, and Claude VonStroke himself all called the Birdhouse home over the course of three days. The traditional showcase of label artists known as the Family Set also took place here, closing out the weekend.
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The Bass Lodge was relocated to a more accessible spot this year, finding itself tucked away in verdant spaces shared by the games field. A haven for dubstep, drum and bass, and hip-hop aficionados, the stage delivered on the talent with a diverse roster of tastemakers.
Throughout the weekend, Justin Jay, Wajatta (Reggie Watts and John Tejada), Jhene Aiko, Mija, Cut Chemist, Bob Moses, Eprom B2B Barclay Crenshaw, Eric B. and Rakim, and The Percomaniacs (Rybo, Lubelski, and Wyatt Marshall) entertained guests at the hideaway. An enhanced setting alongside great beats made the Bass Lodge a trendy nook.
What sets Dirtybird Campout apart from the multitude of gatherings in the already inundated festival circuit is its ability to forego all the rules and allow party goers and party makers to become one. Absent are the lines between artist and fan, replaced instead by teamwork mentality and good, old-fashioned fun.
Among the dozens of games, sports, and activities held during Campout a few stood out from the rest. Those include jump rope and double dutch with J. Phlip, dodgeball with Black V Neck and Westend, jogging with Justin Martin, .5k floatie race with VNSSA, and screen printing with Will Clarke, Sasha Robotti, and Mija.
As I mentioned, one of the shows taking place at Claude's Cabin was the inaugural bad drag show. Ninety minutes in length, the program was an exposition of amateur and professional drag, the art of female illusion.
Other productions included yoga, dance battles, pie-eating contests, talent shows, lap dance for your life, comedy shows, twerkshops, and the infamous great bingo revival. A '70s disco dream come true, the bingo show closed out a whirlwind of commotion at the cabin.
Dirtybird Campout is the antithesis of the festival formula. It is a living, breathing example of what can happen when artists and fans alike drop their egos and convene in the name of fun. While the music plays a major role in the skeletal frame of the festivities, it takes a well-deserved break and only appears at stages and the infamous nightly renegades.
Taking its place is frolic and gaiety. Dirtybird calls on our inner child to savor in merriment - from your campsite to the watering hole. Whether it be sports, crafts, late-night-movies, or lipsynching to the Princess of Pop, Dirtybird Campout is anything but a drag.
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