The red trees were thick as thieves
and rose powerfully above the lush, green underbrush of the forest. Behind me was five hours of dreams and thoughts as I traveled from one side of California to the other one April morning. Ahead of me lay a winding track of road that knotted and twisted up through the steep, coastal mountains outside of Santa Cruz. At the end of that road was Camp Krem and the promise of something unique, Do-It-Ourselves Fest.
As I cut up the mountains on switchback after switchback, I wondered what kinds of experiences were in store for me at Do-It-Ourselves. Who would I meet? What would I see? What would I hear? What would I feel? They were tiny mysteries that would be solved over the corresponding four days.
Just as I thought I might be lost in the mountains
I found the bus shuttle for Camp Krem and shot up a hairpin road that rose quicker and higher than anything I had driven so far. At the top I found a light bustling of people carrying signs, putting up tents and moving audio equipment, all the while laughing and sipping on beer. A building sat on the edge of the ridge we were all perched on top of and looked out at an expansive view of the surrounding summits and valleys I had just traveled up, down and around.
I smiled at everything it had taken to get me to this point—- financially, physically, emotionally— and appreciated how this moment was a product of just getting out into the world and doing something for yourself. I would have moments similar to this one over and over again across the weekend, cementing my love and appreciation for one of the best experiences around, Do-It-Ourselves Fest.
Created to serve the worthy causes of its site host
Camp Krem, a special-needs summer camp in Boulder Creek, CA, the spirit of giving back and doing for others is central to DIO’s mission. It’s part of the reason why the festival seems to have no ego, no desire to puff itself up on vapid pomp and circumstance. At its essence, the festival is just a backyard party from a kick-ass backyard. Everyone is down-to-earth, inviting and there to enjoy the music, art and community around them, with most lending their time and talents in some way to make DIO something for everyone.
This samaritan spirit not only comes from the producers, patrons and artists of the festival but from the musicians. Bands come to share their art with genuine intent and are able to create real honest, intimate moments. Thinking about my time at DIO, I can string those shining, little memories together like stars in a constellation twinkling in the night sky.
Watching Futurebirds pour its heart into an enraptured crowd
during a full moon set. Surging with energy as Sugar Candy Mountain cruised on ragged, psychedelic lightning, the rising coastal mountains providing a glorious backdrop. Drifting on the breezy melodies of Arthur Watership in the tiny nook that is the amphitheater. Riding the Tejano rhythms of Texas Funk and then taking in the night sky with the members of the band during the set break, all of whom expressed their love and admiration for the festival.
I met new friends with big hearts and a love for enjoying a slice of life.
I saw people burning the midnight oil around a campfire and a sound guy send it on skateboard. I heard music that melted minds and music that soothed souls. I felt enriched and engaged with life, happy to being experience the tiny moments that make up a lifetime in my most natural habitat.
From the artists to attendees to vendors to staffers and the many people who joined Do-It-Ourselves Fest, we all had created a wonderful, fantastical reality: we had built a music festival on a mountaintop. It was a temporary experience that would be permanently imprinted on all of us, hopefully with many more on the horizon, year after year. All of our sacrifices and everything we had put into the festival—- financially, physically, emotionally— had paid off.
We had gone out into the world and made something out of nothing. We had done it ourselves.
Story by Garrett Bethmann