Dry Diggings 2023: Day One

Dry Diggings has carved out a reputation as one of California’s most infamous music festivals. Every year, hordes of music enthusiasts congregate for a weekend of sheer delight, braving the sweltering heat. In this edition, attendees were invited to a new locale, the Gold County Fairgrounds and Event Center in Auburn.

Each day was filled with camping, delectable food, electrifying music, and a strong sense of community.

Festival-goers had the option to arrive and set up camp as early as Thursday, August 24th, a day prior to the festivities. Alternatively, some chose to make their arrival on the morning of the event’s commencement at 2:00 PM. Upon arrival, the festival staff greeted everyone with warm smiles and provided the necessary credentials. When inquiring about campsite arrangements, we were informed, “It’s a free-for-all.” Some might be hesitant about the first-come-first-serve policy, fearing they’d lose the chance to camp near their familiar friends. What they may not realize is that at Dry Diggings, everyone is a friend. You’ll encounter individuals who share the same core values, the same passion for music, the same untethered spirit, and much more.

In addition to the lasting friendships that are bound to bloom, this year marked the debut of a self-funded group that is rapidly gaining ground alongside its movement. Love You ❤️🫵 is an impassioned project born from the scene and dedicated to the scene. Its founder, Andy Pappas, supported by a group of dedicated individuals, strategically positioned tents throughout the festival grounds to serve as safe havens for anyone in need, regardless of the reason. Their mission revolves around “creating a sanctuary at festivals within our community. We cherish music and the harmonious atmosphere fostered among kindred spirits. One Love! Actions speak louder than words. We must ensure the safety of our community, guaranteeing it remains a secure haven for generations to come.” The Love You ❤️🫵 movement is more than just talk; they’re putting their beliefs into action. Throughout the weekend, their crew was called into action multiple times by festival-goers seeking solace for a variety of reasons. Keep an eye out for their banners at upcoming festivals; they have a home for you.

Numerous local artisan and food vendors adorned the surroundings. Everywhere you looked, there were glistening jewelry, disc golf chains, and an abundance of tie-dye that captured your attention. The only thing diverting your gaze was the tantalizing aroma of festival cuisine drifting towards you as you ventured further into the fairgrounds. In a special addition this year, parents had the pleasure of a kids’ section, overseen by Lake Anthony, a 6-year-old music prodigy from Northern California.

As the clock inched closer to 2 PM, available campsites dwindled, and people began streaming through the gates to kick off the event with a set by island-reggae band Pacific Vibration. There was no better way to set the weekend’s intended vibe than with a warm welcome from these talented musicians. For the Friday extravaganza, only one stage was set up, eliminating the need for festival-goers to rush from one stage to another and eliminating any potential scheduling conflicts (although this was never really an issue throughout the whole weekend). Pacific Vibration handed the musical torch to Jamaican-born reggae artist Mighty Mystic.

Dry Diggings understood that the weekend needed a healthy dose of roots reggae music to kick things off.

Following suit was producer E.N. Young, formerly of Tribal Seeds, whose floor-length dreadlocks swayed in harmony with his carefully curated beats. Next up was Groundation, a Northern California band that, for the past 25 years, has been paying tribute to roots reggae while elegantly infusing elements of jazz and funk, showcasing their unique approach of exclusively using analog instruments—no synthesizers for these musical maestros.

As the heat of the summer day began to wane, the cooler, crisp nighttime air took its place. The crowd grew denser as the workday came to an end. Reggae legends Don Carlos, Jesse Royal, and Protoje took the stage one by one to do what they do best.

The night wasn’t ready to come to a close, and Dry Diggings had one more extraordinary performance in store for us. Ky-Mani Marley, the son of the lionized reggae artist Bob Marley, took the stage to wrap up the first day as the beloved headliner. Enormous smiles illuminated the faces of the audience as the stage lights swept over the crowd while Marley’s music lifted the spirits of everyone within earshot.

As he concluded the night, music enthusiasts strolled back to the campgrounds with the soothing melodies of roots reggae music still echoing in their minds. Their glittered faces met their pillows, and the night was serenaded to a close.

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