The first time I saw Boogaloo it was in shambles.
It was 2013. More specifically, it was the opening night of Burning Man, a festival of such indescribable magnitude that can only be summarized by two words: Just go. But this story isn’t about Burning Man, it’s of a giant beetle named Boogaloo.
Back to the story. Sunday night, I had just set up my camp and set out to find an old friend who told me that she was camping with the Dirty Beetles. That was all I knew. I found the address and went looking for her, naively thinking that she would be there and we would catch up instantly and be merry for the rest of the week. Shortly thereafter I learned how difficult it can be to find someone at The Burn, whether or not you knew their coordinates.
Instead I found an old short school bus with some scaffolding strewn about in every direction around it with a guy looking quite overwhelmed. He was putting something together but what he was putting together didn’t really spark my curiosity. There was so much going on all around me that some scattered scaffolding wasn’t the shiniest or loudest distraction. I didn’t think much of it and then became engrossed in the head explosion that undoubtedly happens to every Burning Man virgin as you wander around the city for the first time.
Fast forward later in the week on the open playa and I see its’ completed form: A giant creature combing the desert with outstretched teeth. The school bus was still there, but barely. It had metamorphosed into Boogaloo – the dirtiest, largest beetle I had seen. Delicious beats emanated from within; begging me to hop onboard and cruise along as well as search for my friend.
While I didn’t see my friend, I did meet some awesome people welcoming me with hugs and good conversation as we wandered around the deep playa, reveling in the magic of Black Rock City.
Several other instances occurred that week when I would cross paths with Boogaloo, culminating on Friday at Funkytown when one of the DJ’s finished her set then proceeded to jump behind the wheel of the bus. I had caught up with my friend that day, and we jumped aboard and proceeded to cruise around the city with fun tunes playing throughout. DJ’ing our adventure was the late Jon Horvath, one of my favorite DJ’s of all… nay, one of my favorite humans of all time. It was a highlight of a week that has become one of the top highlights of my life.
Two and a half years later the same friend who I reconnected with posted on Facebook about a little festival in Orange County that held a lineup that seemed oddly familiar. Being from Canada I recognized many of the names as homegrown talent, having seen many of them before in my backyard and with the good fortune of calling most of them friends. I found two worlds colliding: my friend whom I had known since being a teenager in LA was part of a crew welcoming some of the biggest names in West Coast electronic music to their homestead. I had to go.
And so that long-winded backstory marks what brought me to the Boogaloo Mountain Jam; a weekend festival at Oak Canyon park celebrating everything that brings people together: music, dancing, art, and a whole lot of shenanigans.
Living in BC I have had the great privilege of participating in some of the best festival experiences in North America, namely Bass Coast and Shambhala. The amount of energy and love put into these festivals is really something to recognize. So it can be hard when going somewhere new with a bar set this high, and I tried to not hold any expectations given my frame of reference. But with the lineup that was present at Boogaloo, I felt right at home with performers like Mat the Alien, The Librarian (co-founder of Bass Coast), Stylust Beats, Emotionz, The Funk Hunters, The Gaff, Neighbour, and many more. It was a bit of a trip, really, to see so many friends on a bill just outside the entertainment capital of the world. But good music is good music, and the Dirty Beetles know good music.
The festival reminded me of Bass Coast in the early days – before they had everything dialed but with a family atmosphere at the forefront of it all. Some ticketing issues were present, as well as a lack of garbage/recycling… small details that will get more settled over time. What they did have on lock was the venue – Oak Canyon Park is home to many different festivals, including the original site of Lightning in a Bottle. I’m a believer that spaces hold memory, and you could feel years of good vibes that extended way beyond the second year of Boogaloo.
The music was perfect. The best part to me was the sheer number of stages beyond the three “official” stages. When the music ended there, new stages would pop out of nowhere and continue on to the morning. It allowed you to roam freely and explore more than if everything was consolidated to just the main stages. At some festivals renegade stages and camps might be discouraged, but not here – it was warmly welcomed and even part of the official program.
But all that takes a sideshow to the people who ultimately make any festival. Having never been to an underground festival in Southern California I was not sure what to expect. I hoped for the best but was also prepared for a crowd that I wasn’t accustomed to. But good people know good music and good times, and this festival had nothing but the best of vibes. I made some good friendships that ended up bringing me on an unplanned trip to San Diego to hang out with some of the Dangle Zone crew, one of the renegade stages that brought the heat through the late and early hours.
Doin it for Pumpkin
Nick Alvarado was one of the key influencers in LA’s underground music scene. Affectionately known as Pumpkin to most, he had a keen ability to make old pop classics new with deep beats he created himself. His career was skyrocketing on an upward trajectory when he tragically passed this year in a car accident. Pumpkin was a close friend of the Dirty Beetles, and his presence was felt throughout in the musical sets, artwork, and friendly vibes that would make him proud. The feeling was somber yet happy as people shed tears of laughter for a fallen comrade. I never met Nick but did hear his music before his passing, and after this weekend I felt that I gained a good understanding of the type of guy he was. That’s the power of music and art in general – the ability to relay an emotion of one’s soul without actually being present to that soul. It’s an amazing feeling and is really the reason why I love the magic of art so much.
And THAT is what festivaling is all about – making new connections based around a common bond of dancing to good music and bringing out your creativity. I’m excited for the next time, and definitely left the festival feeling uplifted and happy I came.