Woogie (noun): The building block of all organic life on Earth. One of the 5 elements, alongside Fire, Earth, Air, and Water. The only thing that is constant. A house and techno playground with all of your friends.
“Hey, want to meet me at the Woogie at midnight? Front left speaker.”
“Wow, those Woogie vibes were on point last night!”
“Hey, what are your plans for the day?” ‘Nothing really. Gonna go catch some sunset vibes at the Woogie later though.’
Woogie (verb): to Woogie (usually at the Woogie)
“Hey, let’s Woogie!” ‘Sounds good! Meet me at the Woogie.’
“Hey hot stuff. Looking good. I like the way you Woogie.”
“Bro, do you even Woogie?”
I didn’t choose the Woogie life. The Woogie life chose me.
And what a life it’s been.
Do LaB’s Woogie Weekend returned to Oak Canyon Park on July 8-10 for its second installment. The house & techno festival is a spin-off of sorts of the legendary Woogie stage at Lightning in a Bottle. But make no mistake, this is nothing like Lightning in a Bottle. Lightning in a Bottle is a huge environment that offers a seemingly unlimited number of things to do. At Woogie Weekend, there are only two things to do: House and Techno.
Festivals can often be overly stimulating. They can be vast and epic. There can be so much going on. So much to do. So much to see. So much to hear. So much to experience. It can be quite overwhelming. That’s not a bad thing, of course. Stimulation is great. Being overwhelmed is a good thing. But the simplicity of Woogie Weekend is, quite frankly, a refreshing change of pace.
If nothing else, Woogie Weekend is simple. One small venue. One camping area. Two stages. All house & techno. And that’s about it. There’s some yoga, there’s some activities, and there’s some art, but at its core, Woogie Weekend is just a bumpin’ house & techno party in the park. The entire main festival grounds (not including the camping area) can be explored within a matter of minutes. (Quite the departure from the gargantuan scale of Lightning in a Bottle. Hard to believe that LIB used to be held at this same venue). No large-scale art installations (aside from the beautiful stages). No big, immersive, interactive environments. No sense of magical adventure or epic exploration. Just house and techno, baby. Just the way we like it.
Who’s “we,” you ask? Why, that would be us, the faithful devotees of California’s growing house and techno community. Call us degenerates if you will. Lord knows we sure as hell act like it. And we embrace it! I mean look at us. Colorful shirts. Colorful pants. Colorful hair. Colorful personalities. What’s wrong with us?! When will we ever learn to fall in line? Oh no. We don’t fall into the cookie-cutter ways of modern functional society. This community is one that, if viewed by an outsider, would appear to consist entirely of lunatics and idiots. “What on Earth are those people doing over there?! Are they okay?” It is a community that celebrates debauchery with pure joy while also celebrating a genuine passion for the music. It is a community that embraces being wild and silly and ridiculous, and one that prioritizes having a good time. And why not? Life is short. Have a good time. Listen to techno.
California’s house and techno scene is all about creating and experiencing good vibes, and if anyone knows how to curate a vibe, it’s Do LaB. As such, Woogie Weekend is a more-than-welcome, humble addition to the West Coast festival scene. There’s no denying that the recent house & techno cultural boom in Southern California, particularly when it comes to festivals, has a lot to do with Desert Hearts. The unique culture they have created, one of silly totems and colorful costumes and hilarious conversations and kindheartedness and a sonic focus exclusively on house and techno, has blossomed into a beautiful thing with incredible gatherings each year. The music is not new, not at all– but the Southern California culture that has been birthed as a result of that music is. Now, Woogie Weekend is a welcome addition to serve as another annual gathering to celebrate that very same culture. It’s not for everyone, though everyone is certainly welcome to participate in this culture, and with an open mind, everyone would fall in love with it. But if you’re already into house & techno, then Woogie Weekend is going to be one of your favorite festivals of the year.
In only its second year, Do LaB has kept Woogie Weekend small and intimate. Considering how popular Do LaB has gotten in recent years, it is comforting to know that they are still willing to put in the time and effort to host this small gathering. By my estimations, between 2000-3000 people attended Woogie Weekend 2016. Two stages, The Hive and Kaleidoscope, featured all of the house & techno acts listed on the lineup, while two late-night stages, Dusk and Dawn, kept the parties going on the main festival grounds after the headliners closed out the main stages. Speaking of headliners, holy shit what a pleasure it was to get to see a top-notch techno act close out one of the stages each night. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my years of going to Lightning in a Bottle, it is to always catch the headlining act at the Woogie each night. They really do save the best for last. Headlining acts at Woogie are on a whole ‘nother level when it comes to interesting sounds and dark, night-time techno vibes. This is where the over-stimulation comes into play at Woogie Weekend– it’s in the techno. Naturally, the techno headliner acts each night at Woogie Weekend (Extrawelt, Oliver Huntemann, and Mathew Jonson respectively) were by far my favorite acts of the weekend. Extrawelt and Oliver Huntemann delivered dark, disturbing, mind-bending German techno sets that took advantage of our helpless bodies and brains. I couldn’t even see straight or come up with any sort of actual thought after those sets. It was messed up, man. Such is the beauty of good techno. Mathew Jonson closed out the weekend with a melodic techno set that spanned a variety of sounds, genres, and regions, as he does best. The brilliant Claptone also delivered my favorite house set of the weekend and had people smiling and dancing with joy for two hours straight.
When it comes to the quality of music at Woogie Weekend, Do LaB absolutely nailed it. Music is undoubtedly the focus of Woogie Weekend. Do LaB, as always, did a killer job of curating the soundtrack to this little party in the park, and the energy of the people that populated that party is what gave the festival it’s fun, funky, friendly vibe. Build it and they will come, as they say. The crowd seemed to consist mostly of young locals from Orange County and LA County. This isn’t a remote location by any means. Oak Canyon Park resides in Silverado, just outside of Irvine, and is easily accessible by anyone in the area. Having never been to this venue, I was somewhat surprised by how close it was to town. The park (and it’s a beautiful park) is literally right down the road from shopping centers, strip malls, and residential neighborhoods. It keeps this festival grounded in reality. Don’t come here to lose your mind for a weekend– we are still very much in civilization. I like that about it. It is refreshing in some ways. The music begins Friday afternoon and ends on Sunday night. Come have fun in the park for the weekend, listen to some amazing music, then go home. Easy.
After last year’s inaugural Woogie Weekend was struck with torrential downpour, Woogie Weekend has naturally embraced a water theme. Like everything else about the vibe at Woogie Weekend, the water theme was pretty low-key. There was a slip-n-slide and a water balloon fight, but that’s about it. Like I said, Woogie Weekend is small, and it will undoubtedly remain small for a few years. It’s not trying to be epic, it’s just a fun little party, and I love that about it. But this is Do LaB we’re talking about, and like all festivals, if this one continues to exist, then it will continue to grow, develop, and change. I, for one, would love to see this festival evolve into a full-fledged water wonderland, maybe 5 years down the road, maybe longer. Epic water-based art installations, interactive water-themed playgrounds and environments, water elements built into the stages, water slides, etc. Hell, just build one huge epic water park for a weekend each year! If anyone can do it right, it’s Do LaB.
The West Coast festival scene is one that encourages participation. It is just one of the several characteristics where you can see how this culture is a direct product of Burning Man. Many festivals’ participants strive to build awe-inspiring works of art and structures, they strive to inspire through craft, and they strive to blow people’s minds. California’s house & techno culture, however, keeps participation simple. Participation in this culture doesn’t demand much effort or creativity, quite frankly, though it is obviously encouraged, and often brimming with it. But it doesn’t require it. It is a scene that demands being friendly and having a good time though. It is a scene that demands partying, smiling, and dancing. It is a scene that demands a sense of humor. It is a scene that demands using your personality to inspire awe and to blow minds. It is a scene that turns a trip to the dance floor into a meaningful life experience. It is a scene that brings people together through the magic of bitchin’ house & techno music. And it is a scene that feels right at home at Woogie Weekend. Woogie Weekend knows its audience. It’s not the festival crowd. It’s not the LIB crowd. It’s the California house & techno crowd, and in Year 2, Woogie Weekend created the perfect little gathering for them.