By Derek Ruhland
Having been to Irvine Lake in the past for Lightening In a Bottle, I knew that I was in for a pleasant, shaded festival, and was ready to kick off my boots and woogie around on the spongy, welcoming greenery of the manicured grass blanketing the park. My expectations for the weekend were mixed regarding the much smaller crowd expected for Woogie Weekend as compared to Lightning in a Bottle. On the one hand, the four to five thousand people attendance limit would guarantee delivery on Do Lab’s promise of a more “intimate” festival. On the other hand, there’s nothing quite like being in a crowd of 20,000 like-minded revelers bumping and grinding to the same beats, beating with the same heart, hearing all the same sounds, and sounding off in one voice with cheers of collective ecstasy.
It’s possible that the rain depressed the attendance even more, Silverado, CA received more that weekend than in an average year, but it’s sure that anyone who stayed home to avoid getting wet made a mistake in doing so. Maybe it’s me, but I’ve always found dancing in the rain to be one of those pleasures in life that takes me right back to childhood, a welcome regression that flows down over the head and shoulders like the droplets themselves, reawakening the uninhibited joy of the unjaded spirit. It’s perhaps appropriate that he last time I raved in the rain was at the Full Moon Party in Haad Rin, Thailand, a world-famous monthly celebration started by Woogie Weekend 2015’s guest of honor, Lee Burridge. The wet, writhing bodies must have taken him back to his “Hong Kong Period” of the early 90s when he was introducing East Asia to the world of EDM for the first time.
Upon arrival, the anticipation of that trip back in life, as well as the desire to save our gear from a soaking, had Julie and I frantically erecting her tent. The second the fly was on, we were on our way to the The Hive stage, and the scene we were greeted with was everything I could have hoped for, as approximately 300 happy hippies gyrated in all their costumed glory.
The rain left the area immediately in front of the sage a muddy mess, but just beyond that one could find plenty of terra firma, and switching back and fourth between squelching your toes and wiping your feet to the stylings of Luca Baccetti was a wonderful way to woogie.
Some joker cordoned off a small patch of mud and marked it with a sign reading, “All access wristbands only.” I took it as a stab by the Woogie production crew at recent exclusionary developments spanning the spectrum from Burning Man to Coachella, but it’s possible it was serious. Regardless, the only thing I saw the circle used for was humors “trespassing,” mostly photo ops with one toe across the line.
As Bacchetti transitioned into Henry Saiz, we availed ourselves of the craft been bar located within easy listening distance of the stage, and relaxed on a grassy hill to people watch. That’s when it occurred to me that the intimacy of this festival allowed for even freer self-expression than at the larger love-and-light gatherings I’ve been too. That feeling of being on stage, of the expectation of ecstatic oneness, it was gone. Everyone was totally relaxed, simply enjoying good tunes and being themselves. I couldn’t stop smiling.
The sun set, and the crowd grew, and eventually Way out West took the stage for a DJ set. As the dance area grew more crowded, the “I’m doing my thing” vibe transitioned seamlessly into one of, “We’re doing this thing.” I spun in place slowly as I worked my feet up and down against the soft ground, and every time I made eye contact with a fellow woogier I was greeted with a warm smile and open eyes. It reminded me of the energy at the end of Eva Clay’s intimacy workshop this year at Temple Days, a pre-LIB event hosted by the Do Lab in Los Angeles. Then, it took the conscious application of techniques developed by a cognitive behavioral therapist to bring down the barriers between strangers. That Saturday night at Woogie Weekend, we came together, partnered with the weather and the performers, and tore down those walls all by ourselves.