“We were just a group of 14 little renegade campers going to Lightning In a Bottle, and that’s basically how this whole thing got started,” says Brian Crain, a co-founder of Boogaloo Music and Arts Festival. “We had a four-year-old staying in our camp and he kept repeating the words ‘dirty beetle.’ We all kind of laughed and thought it was a weird and funny name, but it stuck. It was because of that little kid, Liam, that we decided to name our camp the Dirty Beetles—and that was seven years ago at Lightning In a Bottle.”
Between then and now, the Dirty Beetles have wiggled their way to becoming a respected tribe in the festival culture. Making the hop from an illegal renegade party in mountains of Lake Elsinore to a city-permitted event, the grassroots vibe remains the heartbeat of Boogaloo. The festival is essentially a large-scale party with art installations and live music. But it’s the fact that it doesn’t feel like a packed, overly curated festival that sets it apart from the rest. And after last year’s success at Oak Canyon Park, the Dirty Beetles are returning to the beloved hills of Silverado Canyon this weekend to do it all over again.
“We started throwing these renegade parties as fundraisers for our art car—anyone who has one knows those things are money pits,” says Crain, whose art car is named the Boogaloo— the official art car of the Dirty Beetles. But the festival also serves as a “spring training” for Burning Man. “We want to bring the art car culture to a broader community. All the Burning Man people know what art cars are, but do normal people know what they are? Do people know that a two-story, flame-shooting unicorn that’s built on something called Candy Mountain exists? Probably not,” Crain says. “The idea of our festival is to let people bring their art cars and make a show out of it.”
But with a line up hosting Dirty Bird’s Christian Martin and J. Phlip, Huntington Beach native Charles Feelgood and Morning Becomes Eclectic’s Jason Bentley, the zany art cars aren’t the only spectacle of Boogaloo. “The only thing that’s really changed from year to year is that the music’s gotten progressively better,” Crain says. But earlier this year saw an unwanted change of plans for the line up. Scheduled to close out the festival on Sunday night was Pumpkin, the adored festival DJ that passed away in a car accident last month. “He was one of my best friends,” Crain says. “He closed out Boogaloo last year and he was scheduled to play the last set again this year as well. He made the perfect closer because he alleviated the need for people to go back to their tents and play tunes till 3 o’clock on Monday morning. His music was the perfect closure to our event— everybody had such a good time.”
The relationship between Pumpkin and the Dirty Beetles go back to the renegade days. “This would have been Pumpkin’s fourth Boogaloo. Three years ago, when we were a 250-person party, he was our biggest guy on the flyer and all we could pay him was $500, which is like a fifth of what he [normally made as a DJ at that time],” Crain laughs. “I told him that he’d have to work security part time to make more money, and that’s what he did. He was literally our headlining performer and festival security for the first two Boogaloos.”
Crain continues to laugh as he reminisces about Pumpkins involvement in the early days of Boogaloo, yet hints of sadness peer through his voice through out our conversation. “He was the stitching of the fabric at our festival,” says Crain. Pumpkin was so immersed that up until his passing, he stayed at the Dirty Beetles’ warehouse to help them get prepare for the festival. “[Pumpkin] was like, ‘I’ve got shows every weekend but I want to help you guys on my days off,’ and he helped us a lot. He was so great to have around. The festival scene really lost one of its greatest DJs— he was such a lovable guy.”
The loss of Pumpkin has been heavy at best. But since his passing, Crain notes that the Dj’s intoxicating, playful energy has been felt in the days leading up to the festival. “Our crew feels him watching over us. Like all of a sudden tickets will start selling-out out of no where at random times of the night. We also got a whole bunch of new festival art that came in out of no where. All this random and really great, wild stuff keeps happening and we know it’s him.”
With Pumpkin tributes planned through out the weekend, there’s no doubt that his presence will be felt at Oak Canyon Park this weekend. “A yoga teacher who’s going to be leading a class on Sunday, hit me up and said she’s been working on a yoga flow to Pumpkin’s 2012 LIB set and wants to kick off the day and offer that to everyone. He was friends with everyone and everyone loved him— we have no choice but to do him the ultimate justice,” Crain says.
It’s likely that there’s no better place to celebrate the life of someone great than at an intimate gathering, like Boogaloo. As festival season’s officially in swing, Oak Canyon Park is about to host it’s most heartfelt and community oriented party of the summer. “What we have is a very roots-y, small thing and through all the changes, we’ve managed to hold our values,” Crain says. “The Dirty Beetles were born at Oak Canyon Park, so now that we’re hosting our own event there is so incredible— it was all meant to be. This is going to be a really great year for us.”
Boogaloo at Oak Canyon Ranch happens April 29-May 1. For tickets, full lineup and info, click here.