It's a cold Wednesday night in upstate Maryland and the smell of smoke wafts into the air as our fire burns strong and gives light to our campsite. With doors opening tomorrow morning, the venue seems to be quieter than previously thought possible. For most of the year, Darlington is a hard working town of reserved and traditional citizens who enjoy the simpler things in life. However, on this weekend every year, the town's spotlight is turned to Camp Ramblewood, where dance music fans from the North East flock for a weekend of wild and rowdy weirdness hosted by none other than Badass Raves. With our tents set up, the speakers ready, and the staff eagerly waiting for morning to come, the stage is set for another magical year of Dreamscape Festival.
The next morning begins as I am awoken by the bustling of attendees lugging their cars through the mud to find their patch of grass they will call home for the weekend. My eyes open easily as clouds cover the potential sunlight that would normally make the inside of a tent a furnace of brightness. Anyone who has experienced a camping festival knowns the terror of waking up in a ball of sweat bright and early when the sun begins to shine. While it was disheartening that the sunlight was not coming out that day, it was nice to wake up to a cool and calm atmosphere and be comfortable in my sleepwear from the night before.
I had the pleasure of camping with the Rave Turtles this year, and from the start I could feel a sense of community at our campsite unlike I ever had at any other event. The Rave Turtles is a community effort founded by Malik Herron that attempts to spread love and positivity in the dance music scene by hosting campsites at various festivals all over the nation. A garden of positivity is planted next to the entrance of the campsite where flowers made of paper and popsicle sticks are empty waiting for positive messages. If you have felt the positivity and love that the Rave Turtles have spread to you, you may take a marker and write a positive quote, word, or sentence on your own individual flowers. This movement is one that is nothing but genuine, and the Rave Turtles brought together our campsite along with many other attendees throughout the weekend. The reminder of how important community is was a positive touch on the weekend that could not have been done any better.
Music on Thursday began at 1pm, but the day didn't get started for me until Thursday night, as I took the day to hangout around the fire and bond with my new found Rave Turtle family. The night boasted big names like Psymbionic, Space Jesus, Buku, and ill.Gates vs KJ Sawka but the best set of the night was one that wasn't accounted for on the schedule. As music closed down on the mainstage around 11pm, the smallest of all three stages could be heard from a distance. A surprise set had popped up to a crowd of no more than fifty people, but as word got around, that number grew quickly. Dons of weirdness Space Jesus, Buku, and Psymbionic took the stage and threw down a set together that I will never forget. Merging their styles into one, they played a range of music of the likes I've never heard before. The smallest stage of the night popped off with the biggest performance, and left attendees satisfied as night one came to a close.
Friday morning arrived and with it came the rain. Throughout the entire day there was not a dry minute, but that did not stop us Dreamscapians from having the time of their lives. While the music was bumping all day, there was a four hour block at the City of Dreams main stage that took the spotlight. Beginning with Au5 at 8pm, and Midnight Tyrannosaurus, Barely Alive, and Trollphace followed, creating a sea of bass that enveloped anyone close to the speakers. The best set of the night however was handled by Au5, who took us on an absolute journey through the sights and sounds of an epic dubstep filled trip. The power and defiance that was gleaming off of him during the performance could be felt by everyone in the crowd going back to the glovers on the back wall. The city of dreams was filled with a tsunami of bass that gave Friday night a particularly heavy vibe. We heard of a secret set by Midnight T happening after the main music ended, but we were too tired to continue. Dryness, warmth, and sleep were the saviors we needed to carry us into our final day of music at the festival.
Saturday was a day that was dry, but was not short of challenges. The overflow of mud around the venue helped deem this year's edition of Dreamscape as “Mudscape 2k16”. With our shoes heavy from a mud coating we began the day of dancing with Clozee at the pool stage that had been deflated from the rain the day before. She threw down one of the best sets of the weekend, starting Saturday off with a vibey soulful performance of electro-funk beats. She led right into OWSLA producer G-Buck who completely changed the feel of the stage and sent the crowd into an absolute frenzy. He perfectly warmed up the stage for what was our favorite performance from the pool stage all weekend. AFK tore that stage apart with a signature dub based bass set, including the biggest and baddest brand new hits in dubstep. Playing out solid trap bangers to fill the set, he diversified his song selection and never brought the energy down for a second. The pool stage was the place to be Saturday afternoon, and the early craziness led into another night spent at the main stage.
Bleep Bloop walked on stage at 9pm, and served up a hot steaming plate of alien driven trippiness that left me wondering if I was still on planet earth. The sounds premiered in this set were unlike anything else we had heard all weekend, and were definitely something that was overwhelming to the crowd. In a sense, the level of irregularity was something that people heard instantly from a mile away, and grabbed hold of. Next up was Never Say Die label member Must Die who played a classic set. We were happy, but also discouraged by his set, and it didn't sit well for many fans who had heard Must Die play before. The unoriginal structure of one third dubstep, into one third twerk/bass house, back into a final third of dubstep is a recipe that is getting old for Must Die. The song selection and mixing wasn't bad, but the hope of something different from Must Die was quickly realized to be dead. We moved onto our next set with high hopes to bring us back to heavy amounts of jamming out. The next set did just that, as Chill Harris (formerly Kill Paris) gave us a blast of funky fresh groove-tastic beats mixed together with classic easy to dance to tracks like Hot in Here by Nelly, and Play That Funky Music by Wild Cherry. Finally, Badass Raves owner Chad Bozzarelli took the stage under his stage name DJ 2rip and blessed us with the perfect end to our last night at the festival. His set was diverse, and filled with energy leaving us exhausted but smiling as we ended the night with a walk back to the Turtle grounds.
Coming back to our campsite, the eeriness of the last night together with my Rave Turtles family began to set in, and I was determined to enjoy the rest of the night and early morning to the fullest. We sat around the fire talking, laughing, and just enjoying the company of what had come to be my best friends for these few days. We traveled down to the Zendo Lounge, and enjoyed the relaxed vibe and comfy cuddle puddle that had formed in the center of the room until the sun began to rise. The sense of community and togetherness that Dreamscape had emulated all weekend was strongest in these last few hours, and it made leaving on Sunday sadder than I could have imagined. As I sit here typing this, the post-festival depression is all too real. It's especially bad for Dreamscape because in all reality, there isn't any other festival like it. It was the perfect balance of chaos and organization, and gave attendees including myself the chance to feel free. We made that place home, but it was home before we even got there and realized it. I can't wait for the rest of festival season, but the hype for next year's festivities at Camp Ramblewood has already begun to sprout.