SILVERADO, CA -- Event company Do Lab wrapped up their second annual Woogie Weekend festival last weekend, a dance music festival showcasing house, techno, and disco over July 8-10th in the sunny backdrop of Southern California's Irvine Lake. Being a spin-off of international festival Lightning in a Bottle's treehouse stage dubbed "The Woogie", in just its second year Woogie Weekend solidified itself as the younger sibling of LIB, paired with heavy hints of Do Lab's stage at Coachella.
Taking place at the picture-esque venue Oak Canyon Park, LIB's former home as well as the setting for several smaller festivals, the three days brought sweltering temperatures to the gorgeous location that consisted of grass in the festival grounds and dirt in the campgrounds. As Do Lab is known for their impressive builds, the festival area was adorned with colorful shade structures above stage areas, along with natural shade from trees. With only two main stages, there seemed to be just the right number of people to fit under the shade (like a draft beer filled right up to the brim!), although they should probably add more structures if more people attend next year.
That being said, one of the most noticeable differences at this year's festival compared with others was the separation between campgrounds and festival grounds. In order to enter and exit the festival grounds, you were required to show a wristband to security guards, rather than be able to roam freely between the two.
On that note, there was another surprise that was not advertised before hand: no alcohol was allowed to be brought in to the festival grounds - only the campgrounds. Therefore, if you wanted to drink in the festival area, you had to buy a cup from the vendors.
Both of these changes demonstrated a shift in the persona of the festival, as Woogie did not impose these rules last year. Additionally, the entire layout of the festival was changed; instead of camping on the North side of the grounds by the lake, the campgrounds were placed on the east, resulting in one entrance / exit to the event. Going through security is not something usually seen at campout events once you are already inside the venue, but it doesn't take a genius to realize their reasons for doing so.
Having been one of the few thousand people that attended Woogie's beginning last year, the event appeared to be rebirthed with an extreme makover. As the dance music scene evolves rapidly, new festivals must simultaneously morph and adapt until they find their unique niche that differentiates them from the rest.
To sum up 2016's event, Woogie Weekend distinguished its piece in the dance music puzzle as a creative arts house and techno festival, drawing rambunctious party animals that exhibit tenacious L.A. and Orange County vibes. To say the 18+ event was rowdy would be an understatement, with college students home for the summer and overall boisterous summertime fun as a common theme. Water balloon fights and slip 'n' slide action composed the day activities, while themed costume days Safari Saturday (dress up like an animal) and Wiggie Woogie Sunday (wear a wig) were encouraged. A hefty undercurrent of Coachella-like vibes permeated throughout the weekend, due to the sole focus on music, followed next by art. There were no workshops, speakers, or other daytime activities, besides one yoga class per day.
The crowd seemed to be heavily mixed with attendees from all walks of life; first-time festival goers, long-time techno veterans, imaginative artists and actors, seasoned campers, plenty of young folks, SoCal locals and more. Contrasted with last year's tight sense of community, this new crowd was all over the map, displaying personalities and conduct from extreme sides of the festival spectrum. To put it plainly, it seemed like everyone was kind of doing their own thing. Yet, last year's Woogie Warriors meshed greatly due to the severe thunderstorm that hit the festival in its first year, which helped bring everyone together to celebrate through the 2-day storm. With no phenomena occurring like that this year, it's no wonder why the festival evidently had such a different atmosphere.
Last year's barefoot mud bonanza was replaced with lots of far-reaching fashion, which isn't shocking as us SoCal socialites are extremely fashion-centric. Going off that point, though a good deal of attendees emanated from Do Lab's formerly transformational side - hippies, burners, whatever you want to call it - the wild side overpowered the Woogie this year, with bro's blasting bay area hip hop in the morning, woo girls getting wasted by sundown Friday night, and a younger party crowd growling with an overt ferocious energy. That Mountain Dew must be stronger these days! Nonetheless, there were overall welcoming vibes in the air, and smiling faces blooming towards the sky like celestial sunflowers throughout the weekend.
Placing the audience, layout, and logistics aside, the prime takeaway from Woogie Weekend was the lineup of outstanding artists from alternative DJ sets to live sets, with "live" meaning the artist is creating original sounds in plain view. Of course, the entire set is not orchestrated as with a live band, but the callibrated creations combined with original beats made each set feel special. The live performances were delivered by Extrawelt, DoubtingThomas, Beacon, Jon Hopkins, Benoit & Sergio, Dance Spirit, Mathew Jonson, Rodriguez Jr., and Sebastian Mullaert AKA Minilogue.
It was certainly refreshing to experience a lineup that swayed from the usual agenda. Though several are leaders in the house and techno communities, most artists on the bill were not huge dance music festival headliners, and in my opinion that may be one reason why they put their heart and soul into every performance. Although we can't say that every set hit the nail on the head, as some house acts lagged on the minimal side or just didn't excite the crowd as much as others.
A handful of the most talked about acts were Damian Lazarus, Extrawelt, Claptone, Taches, Oliver Huntemann, Eli & Fur, FDVM, Lee Reynolds, and TEED (Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs). Alright, maybe that is more than a handful, but the variety of house and techno styles demonstrated that there was something for everyone (except the bass heads, but at least after hours crews Respect and Killahurtz brought the ill carousal of drum and bass).
Speaking of after hours, swaggy renegade stages were prevalent throughout the campgrounds, with two official after hours ministages within the festival. Five crews graced the after hours stages - Subtract, Deep, Favela Bar, Respect and Killahurtz - while the renegades lit up the campgrounds with remarkable sound systems and fly looks, as if Do Lab built them themselves.
Despite the fact that the majority of house and techno acts beat to the same BPM, we admired the artists that pushed the limits of music and creativity, stretched the boundaries of sound, surprised us with thrilling journeys to the highest highs and lowest lows, evoked emotion into each track and transition, and spun the drops that made you go - whoa.
Looking towards next year, there are a few tweaks Do Lab can make to cement their niche in the scene, in order to strengthen the character of the festival. With a bit more shade and preparation for the earth's elements, more freedom and composure by making the event 21+, and more artists on the lineup that deliver a festival punch rather than a minimal mood, Woogie can appeal to a more seasoned musical crowd. Nevertheless, by handpicking an array of interesting acts, incorporating live music into the bill, making use of charming Oak Canyon Park, and attracting a wild and youthful crowd, Woogie Weekend has made its name as a player in the party wave of SoCal music festivals.
Sincerely written by...