Driving up to Oak Canyon Park near Irvine, California, I arrived in surprise. Although I knew Woogie Weekend was taking place in a park, I hadn’t realized it would be so much park, especially in Irvine, of all places. Cooped up in Los Angeles with neighbors every five feet from my doorstep, I nearly forgot that it only takes an hour drive to escape from the square box of my city life. To many other people’s surprise, I arrived alone. I came as a solo female traveler with a backpack too big for my body stuffed with dehydrated food, a tent, sleeping bag, a small propane stove, and everything I owned that had glitter or sequins on it. (As my older sisters all so kindly liked to point out, I was never the most practical person in the family.) But as with all the Do Lab festivals, this is where the artisans come to express themselves vividly, through costumes inspired by mermaids, butterflies, or belly dancers, to name a few. This was our place to live out the fantasies that had been locked away in our closets in the real world, and I was not going to deny myself that opportunity. I plopped my stuff down near the back of the property, and took a look around. It was Friday and the sun was still in the sky. Technically it was Day Zero, as festival goers call it, but the campgrounds were already filled with small tents, large tents, tents in the shapes of domes, colorful tapestries blowing in the wind and music bumping into the large blue vastness from all directions.
I meandered into the festival grounds and took a lap to see what was in store for the weekend. Witnessing the crowds, it was almost as if they were moving in a trance, because how else could you dance for six hours straight if you weren’t spellbound?! The Kaleidoscope stage was a maze of highlighter hued pipes where Blond:ish, Claptone, Beacon, and Sebastian Mullaert would have the crowds grooving for days. Across the pond, over the bridge, past the artisans painting on large canvases, and parallel to the tents serving mostly vegetarian food, was the The Hive stage. The Hive stage is a colorful replica of Woogie’s beginnings at the Lightning in a Bottle Festival, in the shape of, you guessed it, a bee’s hive. This is where we would have yoga in the AM with renowned yogis Gigi Snyder, Kishan Shah, Michelle Bouvier, and Shayn Almeida. Here we would unwind our twisted and wiry tent bodies and reclaim space in our mind so often dedicated to the stress and anxiety of the “real world”. For those who made the meandering walk at 8am, none experienced regret. In fact, I know more than a few who expressed how they wanted to take this habit home with us. And not just this habit, but many others. Because people don’t only venture out here for the music. (Although the music is a wonderful reason to come alone). They come for the people, the friendliness, the open-mindedness, the non-judgment.
Coming alone, I was concerned that I would have trouble making friends, but within hours, the twenty some odd people around me would introduce themselves, offer their food, water, and a friendly conversation. Everyone shared everything they had. Someone brought the tortillas, I contributed the avocados, another the beans, someone the whiskey and before you knew it, we had a meal. We shared clothing, food, conversation, and most importantly, ideas. We took solace that we had a haven away from all distractions, provided by the ferocity of the mountains holding us in a fierce collective (and a lack of cell phone service). At one point, I found it easy to envision what a post-apocalyptic society would look like. With all the violence and political turmoil taking place in the outside world, Woogie Weekend provided a place where we could rest in ease, and create a new sense of hope for a better world.
The days that would follow would be filled with bodies finding their own rhythms in dance, hammocks, slip-n-slides and naps on grassy hillsides. At one point, I found myself dancing on a very fluffy flamingo, the weekend’s solo art car, and I was only slightly worried that twenty bumping bodies wouldn’t bring this hot pink truck to its death. (It didn’t.) We danced, and danced, and danced. I “took a nap” Saturday night for three hours and awoke to join some new friends to dance with the yawning sun. We all decided to climb a mountain and look down at the campsites and the festival from above, and post-apocalyptic rang through my head once more as we witnessed the fog float through the trees, and triangle shaped domes below. I recognized then that these are the people who push the envelope on peace. It takes a community of all kinds, and it certainly takes this kind to create a better world for all of us. These are the sensitive people, the artisans, the warriors of light and love, who are intended to be our leaders in wisdom, in grace, and in justice. I came alone, but I left with a family. This is something everyone talks about when leaving a Do Lab festival, that they don’t want to lose what they have found here. It feels something like a groundedness, a calmness, and an acceptance of self. It feels something like hope, and something like empowerment. Whatever it is, I recommend it to everyone.
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Written by Co-Founder Kelli Radwanski
Photography by Aaron Glassman, Juliana Bernstein, and Watchara
ABOUT DO LAB
Based in Los Angeles, Do LaB’s mission is to craft experience as art and bring communities together. In addition to Woogie Weekend, Do LaB is well known for creating unique art installations/stages and curating cutting-edge acts at Coachella in addition to producing the West Coast’s premiere camping, art, yoga, and music festival, Lightning in a Bottle and the 2012 Winter Solstice event The Great Convergence, which took place at the pyramids of Giza in Egypt. Do LaB’s work has also been showcased at Virgin Music Festival, Global Gathering, Dirtybird Campout, Portugal’s Boom Festival and many other international events.