Photos By: Ava Pendl
By: Corey McComb
I gaze forward and begin to feel the grass growing under my feet as bass drums shake hundred year old oaks; grabbing their roots and making them dance. The stage is a Mayan pyramid, erected from a technicolor dream coat worth of blocks and ribbons, towering over a thousand raised hands. The Milky Way turns away in envy as a light show blasts red, yellow, and blues straight into me. The beat is moving and the decibels increase. It’s picking up, faster and faster. I feel a lump of poisonous joy rising up in my throat until it grows so large that the hair on my neck stands up. I’m standing on sacred ground. This is what Oak Canyon Park was made for. This is the lightning that the bottle could no longer contain. This is Woogie Weekend.
The original Woogie Stage began back in 2006 at Do Lab’s signature Lightning in a Bottle. Born out of a renegade pop-up tent, it has since spawned and spread into its very own three carnival of house music and funky dance parties. The one thing Woogie Weekend and I have in common is that it’s our very first time.
So, what is it that brings four thousand would-be woogiers here? What is the cathartic nature of non-stop music and dance in a place where euphoria meets mania? I’m here to learn. I want to understand what it means to be a Woogie Warrior.
The festival is made up of two stages: The Best Nest and The Hive. They are separated by a small pond complete with a wooden bridge, strings of light, and Huckleberry Fin row boats. The first day becomes the first night and the crowd divides and converges equally as Adam Freeland and Alexi Delano compete from across the pond to summon the moon.
By 2am the after parties have started and the campsite lights up like a medieval village. Winnebagos and dusty BMWs park side by side while hundreds of neon flags and easy up tents mark every inch of the boundary line. And when the sun calls us out of our tents in the morning, the grounds provide summer-camp showers, water filling stations, and an endless cast of characters roaming the walkways.
Away from camp and back on the grass, giant trees provide shade for the designated “Woogie Watering Hole” where impromptu picnics take place. A line of organic eateries offer everything from “Dough LaB Pizza” to fresh squeezed juices. There are even morning yoga classes offered to help detox and mentally realign. “Your mind is a tool,” announces instructor Kishna Shah, “sharpen it!”
By noon on Saturday the musical gates of Eden have reopened and the rain drops begin to fall. The gathering welcomes the weather and Pumpkin starts the melodic mudslide that will go down as the most memorable performance of the weekend. Clouds continue to pile and drizzle becomes downpour. Tents are moved, costumes are changed, but the spirit goes on un-dampened as DJ Gigamesh takes over.
Scantily clad mud wrestlers move in bohemian rhythm as floral scarves and soaked parasails spin towards the sky, begging for more rain. As I start to drown in a sea of serotonin sweat and bare skin, a girl wearing nothing but fairy wings is blowing bubbles and dancing towards me. I ask what brought her to the festival and she whispers, “The fear of missing out”.
While this may all sound like a big melting pot of hedonism, I’m realizing that the ‘fear of missing out’ is more than just a pleasure chase. The community here is one that cherishes artistic and collaborative expression above all else. Ask anyone to describe Woogie Weekend and you’ll hear words like, “safe, intimate, and supportive“.
Just as the sun dips down, the clouds clear and the stars come out. The spookiness that The Woogie Stage built its reputation on reveals itself as Nick Warren commands attention towards the Beat Nest. Danny Daze brings The Hive what one on-looker describes as, “the best dark techno shit around”.
The cirque du soleil continues as lights and sound bounce off multi-colored tee-pees that stand a mile high, serving as smoking sanctuaries and entheogenic havens. Both DJs are spinning from their pulpits as the flock of followers raise proverbs written on totems that read,
“When in doubt, Woogie out.”
When I get to the grass on Sunday morning all that’s left is a spiral of muddy footprints and misplaced Woogie Weekend lettering. Sure, more music was played; San Diego local Mikey Lion brought his jams and a feathery top hat that brought campers back to life. But, after two full days of peace, love, and electronica it’s obvious that the real story isn’t the latest or greatest DJ. The musical line up may provide the fuel, but the crowd is the true headliner here.
In Do LaB they trust. The Flemming brothers (founders) haven’t just designed a brand; they’ve created a spiritual spring board of self realization that welcomes anyone looking to express themselves in an unprejudiced environment. And while ‘living in the moment’ may be predominately preached, I see in every set of nocturnal eyes I’ve met that the true Woogie Warriors are taking home a feeling that will last much longer than the spin of a record.
So do you have it in you? Are you brave enough to answer the Woogie War call? Beware: In the land of the lotus eaters time takes on new meaning. The things waiting for you back home may not seem as important as when you left. But, if you’re willing to let yourself go for a few days and let the Do LaB take over, you may return home with something you didn’t know you were searching for all along.