Flying the Coop: The Dirtybird BBQ with Claude VonStroke

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Family barbecues can be an awkward experience. The random cousins who may as well be from Siberia, a couple creepy uncles grilling dogs, debating propane tanks or sport stats and using the phrase “back in the day” every five minutes — it’s not always pretty. Thankfully, you can adopt a new set of relatives with the Dirtybird crew and their big daddy Claude VonStroke’s vision for an upgraded family gathering.

The Dirtybird BBQ. A place where “all weirdos are welcome,” VonStroke tells DJ Mag. Making stops in Washington D.C., San Francisco and the fan vote-winning Las Vegas, this summer tradition of listening to the label’s many top artists is far more pleasurable than listening to your drunk aunties drone on.

“The BBQ started in 2003. We would just go and set up a free sound system in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco and it’s been going ever since,” VonStroke regales. “We used to just bring food and grill it for everyone, but there’s a few too many people for that now, so we get a real barbecue catering company now. It’s usually a course set of Dirtybird artists that DJ all day and it’s a day party that kind of goes into night, a single stage and there’s usually lots of fun things going on like carnival games. It’s kind of like a state fair.”

The Las Vegas stop in May at the Downtown Events Center saw the barren venue transformed into a backyard playground on steroids. Upon entering, an elevated VIP platform was to the right with the largest aboveground pool DJ Mag’s ever seen, running almost the entire length of the venue complete with a Lifebird On Duty custom sign. Real sand at its base formed a mini beach-like area that spilled over on to AstroTurf that covered the span of the venue up to the stage,
a welcome heat deterrent from the concrete underneath. In the back, the barbecue was red up along with an array of food trucks. Lining the sides of the massive dance floor were wooden tables complete with their own kiddie pools for cooling off. Misting water features also helped the crowd in the desert stay chill—and don’t forget the inflatable water slide. Plus, to really drive it home, all available surfaces were covered in the traditional red and white checkered tablecloth pattern to give it that all-American backyard barbecue feel. “When we go to these venues for the BBQ, we kind of outfit for our taste,” says VonStroke. “It’ll be more like our style.”

On the docket besides VonStroke were Justin Martin, Eats Everything, Shiba San, Ciszak and Dateless to round out the family vibes. “Everybody knows each other from the beginning and even the new artists become friendly with us and it’s very much a family vibe,” says VonStroke. “We really pride ourselves on just being friends with the fans and we go out and hang out with everyone and participate. It’s not really like a ‘Hey, we’re better than you’ situation, it’s like, ‘We’re just the same as you, we just play for you.’”

Dirtybird is no stranger to Las Vegas, but in a much different setting. They’ve done a series of sunset pool parties over at Daylight to wide reception. “I did a whole series of events under Claude VonStroke at the Birdhouse — which is the name of my radio show — last year,” he says. “We were getting a really good response and then a couple of other guys went out there and did some shows and those all got a good response. I think like Will Clarke and Shiba San were out there and they had a really great show. We started to notice that the market was good, but not necessarily people always wanted to see us in a casino pool party environment, so we decided to do the BBQ out there, a little bit of a different vibe, more like a home-style vibe.”

The Vegas BBQ filled up early and packed them in all the way to the back for a successful turnout. Dirtybird merchandise and custom outfits with the familiar cracked egg logo abounded. Thanks to a costume contest awarding the winner with tickets to the upcoming Dirtybird Campout, creativity was out in full force. From body paint to sequined captain hats, Quagmire and even Forrest Gump, people let their freak flags fly for a festival vibe with the best beats in town. In addition to the music, there were also games such as the water balloon toss.

So would Von Stroke consider bringing it back to Sin City thanks to the success? “No,” he says at first. “We change the cities every year on the BBQ. I mean, cities that go incredibly well though we’ll go back to, so you never know,” he adds. “Like, San Francisco we always do because that’s where it started and then all the other cities, both of the other cities this year are new cities, Washington D.C. and [Las Vegas]. We just want to bring it everywhere eventually. There was a lot of complaints we weren’t going back to Chicago or Detroit, but we’ve done Chicago and Detroit a few times so it’s just like every year we’re going to go somewhere else and try to do a fan vote. If it goes insane, we might go back again next year. Who knows?”

For those that missed out on the three stops this year, that doesn’t mean there’s not another chance to grub and get down. The aforementioned annual Dirtybird Campout is back for its third year at a new venue in Southern California. The weekend that’s become one of our favorite getaways has moved from Oak Canyon Park (blame falls on new zoning laws and restrictions) to the south shore of the San Antonio Campground in Bradley, California. Improvements include a shaded campground in a forested area, which is welcome for when the sun rises and starts roasting people in tents far sooner than they’re ready after raging all night. In addition to the music, the BBQ also makes an appearance throughout the day, as well as plenty of summer camp-esque games and activities, plus you’ll be assigned to teams for a variety of competitions throughout the weekend.

Before this happens, VonStroke is working on new music, some of which he snuck into his BBQ set, but is coy when plugged on titles from new stuff we hear in his set. “I have some new tracks,” is all VonStroke says, adding, “and there’s a ton of really sick Dirtybird music coming out. I have some really cool stuff from other labels that I’m playing and I’m really excited there’s a lot of great music out right now. I like to play tons of new stuff and maybe throw in a couple of classics, but I like to play 90-percent new stuff.” It doesn’t stop there, he’s also balancing his alter ego, which is actually his given name, Barclay Crenshaw, which he’s busted out for late-night sets at the Campout.

“Claude VonStroke is Dirtybird, that’s the label I started in 2005 and my new project is not part of Dirtybird, it’s my real name and it’s kind of hip-hop and downtempo stuff and it’s completely outside of Dirtybird. Obviously, I have some fans from Dirtybird that go to it, which is awesome. But it’s a different project,” he instills. “People were saying for the last 10 years that ‘Claude VonStroke’ is really funny, but your actual name is also really interesting as a DJ name.’ So, I was going to try and think of one of these dramatic DJ names, but the consensus was I should just go with my regular name, which is also kind of weird.”

Originally published in DJ Mag USA


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