DJ delights: Bass Camp’s ‘Biggest Little Block Party in the World’ brings electronic music to the heart of downtown Reno

Since 2013, Bass Camp Festival founder Paul Reder has helped revitalize Reno’s DJ scene through festivals and concerts that bring in huge names—who often share stages with local talents.  

While this year’s Bass Camp isn’t happening until July, a smaller-scale event run by Bass Camp will take place on Saturday, May 18, in the heart of Reno. The Biggest Little Block Party in the World will take place at the Reno Arch and Locomotion Plaza. Headliners like Sidepiece and Anabel Englund are teaming up with local and regional DJs for an all-ages event celebrating electronic music.  

During a recent phone interview, Reder explained how Bass Camp got started. 

“I created the first Bass Camp festival in 2013, out of a love for electronic music,” Reder said. “Prior to Bass Camp, I was the vice president of entertainment for Caesars corporate; I was their primary talent buyer for 13 years, and brought the first electronic DJ to Caesars back in 1995 with Paul Oakenfold. … This is before all the residencies in Vegas, and we completely sold it out. I followed that up with Tiësto playing at Caesars, and it was the first time another major DJ had played a casino before, way before Vegas even was interested in this stuff. We did it to attract the ski crowd up in Tahoe, and the bosses at the time let me have my way, because I loved electronic music—and it sold out again.” 

The success pushed Reder to make things bigger—and more community-oriented. 

“After realizing that there was an audience for it in the area, I asked the powers that be if I could create—this is years later—an all-day music festival and call it Bass Camp,” Reder said. “… It sold out. We started doing the festival every year, and we started bringing in more major artists like Porter Robinson, and did some more events with Tiësto and some of the other larger DJs throughout the year. 

“Last year, we moved the big festival down to Reno to Wingfield Park; 80% of our shows are in Reno proper anyway, so the majority of our audience is down there. It was a natural progression to want to bring the festival down there and create something larger than what had been happening up in Tahoe for years.” 

Reder said he’s always been encouraged to see how locals have reacted to Bass Camp. 

“These artists normally play much bigger markets,” said Reder. “We had one fan reach out not too long ago, and she said that she was moving to Reno for work, but she was a little concerned about moving to Reno because she wasn’t sure of the music scene, and then she discovered Bass Camp events. … That puts a smile on my face for sure.” 

One Bass Camp superfan is Johnathan Johnson. During a recent phone interview, Johnson talked about how Bass Camp is unlike other parts of the music scene. 

“Bass Camp Festival last year was so good, and I love that the events are keeping up the same stamina, and (Reder) is doing bigger events,” Johnson said. “That’s awesome, because it’s really easy to get tired and played out on the same artists coming to Reno once a year. … You’ve got to keep it fresh; you’ve got to invite different DJs; and you’ve got to put on different types of shows that are geared toward attracting different audiences. I really appreciate what that’s done for the scene around here, and I buy tickets to everything.” 

Bass Camp superfan Johnathan Johnson of Reno appreciates how the event has brought more and better DJs to the area. Photo/David Robert

Since Bass Camp has brought in higher-caliber DJs, so, too, have other venues. 

“I worked in the nightclub scene for quite some time,” Johnson said. “… I saw SNBRN at Cargo a few years ago, and it just blew my mind that we weren’t having acts like that on the regular, especially with the sizes of venues that we have. All the really, really good shows are always down in Vegas, and sometimes we get skipped. Since (Reder) has been doing a lot more events in the area, the caliber of DJs who have been coming to town have been a lot higher. Over the winter, I went to the Palisades, and seeing DJ Diesel (Shaquille O’Neal) up there was amazing.” 

The Biggest Little Block Party in the World is designed to bring music, community and festival energy to the heart of downtown Reno. 

“We have had smaller block-party events, but nothing to this size,” Reder said. “This particular event is taking the place of the event that we’d done every year called Bass Camp in the Park with the Dancetronauts, which is an art car (mobile DJ). Because we moved the (big) festival to Wingfield Park, it was redundant to do a similar event (at the same place) on a smaller scale. My business partner and I decided to ask the city if it would be cool if we blocked off Virginia Street and did something under the Reno Arch. … We’re taking over Locomotion Plaza as well for a second stage, and we’ll do a silent disco there with an art car called The Giving Tree. It’s another Burning Man art car, so we’ll have two Burning Man art cars there—one at the main stage with the Dancetronauts where Sidepiece, Anabel Englund and Corey Baker will perform, and then we’ll have a host of regional and local DJs play The Giving Tree.” 

Reder talked about the attention Bass Camp has garnered outside of the Reno area. 

“I’d say a strong 30% to 40% of our sales from these larger events are coming from out of market,” Reder said. “There’s a huge contingency from Sacramento and all up and down the Interstate 80 corridor like Roseville, Nevada City, Grass Valley—and, believe it or not, a huge San Jose contingency. … It’s cool to see people traveling to Reno and putting heads in beds, which is the goal. We work with the (Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority), and they’re one of our sponsors as well. It’s fun to share this data with them as they see the results of events of this size and what they can do to the local economy.” 

Reder said he makes sure every show includes local talent. 

“We have a huge local consortium of artists and DJs and producers we work with constantly, not only on the festival side and events side, but also we have a music label called Bass Camp Music, and we release music on our label with the artists who are on our shows. If you take a look at our schedule for this year, you’ll notice that on the bottom tier, there are probably 30 DJs on there who are all local and regional.” 

Johnson said he loves the fact that local DJs can have a huge moment without having to travel. 

“I have personal friends who have been absolutely blessed with opening for a ginormous talent,” Johnson said. “When something like that happens, that’s 100% the promoter giving back to the community by picking locals to be openers for huge DJs. That gets their name on a poster, and that gets them out there, and that’s the best kind of publicity to ever give to any DJ.” 

Reder couldn’t agree more. “Being able to say that you opened for Zeds Dead or Big Gigantic or Diplo or Tiësto, that’s a big credit for these guys, so we’re happy to do it. We all have humble beginnings, so we try to give back and support and uplift the local artists as much as we can.” 

Bass Camp supports the local arts scene in other ways as well. 

“We’re soon announcing a collaboration with a local artist 501(c)(3), and we try to incorporate some sort of relationship with local charities for every event that we do,” Reder said. “Last year was the Tahoe Fund, and this year, we’re in the process of aligning ourselves with a couple of really cool Reno based local charities that will give back to the arts. Also, the festival this year is a part of Artown, so a portion of the ticket price will go back to Artown and support the arts in that way as well.” 

As for The Biggest Little Block Party in the World, Reder hopes that it being an all-ages event will bring in a new generation of music fans. 

“There are a lot of moms and dads out there who are big electronic fans, and they want to come out, and they need to have a baby sitter, but bringing their kids is an option here,” Reder said. “We have a lot of families that come out and share their experiences. I love to see even infants with their little headphones on to protect their hearing. We had a lot of that last year at the festival, and it just put a smile on my face to see families coming out and dancing with their kids.” 

The Biggest Little Block Party in the World will take place at 2 p.m., Saturday, May 18, at both the Reno Arch, 345 N. Virginia St., and Locomotion Plaza, 301 N. Virginia St., in Reno. Tickets start at $45. For more information, visit