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Words by Grace Fleisher and John Flynn
“I did everything humanly possible,” Barclay Crenshaw, known by most as Claude VonStroke, says in an older Billboard interview — circa 2015 — on the focus that led to the genesis of the Dirtybird record label. After having moved out west to San Francisco from Detroit, VonStroke makes mention of the immense amount of focus that was required to build tech house’s finest and funkiest incubator.
He’d made a DJ documentary at a film house recently after he set out across the Mason Dixon, during which he learned how to avoid many of the pitfalls in music by working directly with distributors and other services. “I even shipped bundles to something like 100 DJs with handwritten notes,” he told Billboard. Vonstroke’s personalized signatures are just one of the innumerable outward testaments to Dirtybird’s embedded authenticity: the very nest in which its zany ethos was built.
At the inaugural Dirtybird Campout East at the start of February, Crenshaw and co. did everything humanly possible once again in order to save the the brand from a potentially tarnished reputation in the live events sphere. They’d unintentionally made a crucial mistake in violating their sound permit on the night before their permit officially began, and the city pulled it right from under them. Even the most stringent event organizers face similar obstacles from time to time; but in the Fyre Festival era, the label simply couldn’t handle such a PR blow. So, they fought back.
“At the 11th hour,” says an official press release regarding the incident. “Dirtybird Campout East reached out to Leslie Jose Zigel [Pitbull’s attorney] who together with his partner Joe Geller of Greenspoon Marder persuaded County officials to agree to a compromise in reducing the hours and decibel level of the music to allow the festival to go on.” The festival reached out to virtually everyone they could, including Zigel and, oddly enough, Marco Rubio, among other key Florida figures.
News that the festival was back on didn’t break through social media, though. Rather, in true Dirtybird fashion, Crenshaw took it upon himself to parade through the festival and camping grounds in a golf cart announcing the label’s feat of victory via megaphone.
His omnipresence served to be a common theme throughout the weekend, too, as he would often pop up casually in the crowd during other DJs sets, and could reasonably be caught participating in camp games such as dodgeball, beatboxing or stand up comedy. Crenshaw’s brand of familial belonging is a stark divergence from the traditional, often contentious, DJ culture of major festival players.
The feat was a turning point for both Dirtybird and their DoLaB collaborators, whose reputation as event producers could have been sorely damaged in the process. More than that, though, the fiasco elucidated Dirtybird’s resilience.
As a label whose innate structure lies on its carefree idiosyncrasy, both in their live programming and label releases, the success of Dirtybird Campout East is the grandest testament to the funk, passion, and hard work that has driven the beloved collective deep into the hearts of its devoted fanbase.
In a landscape of simultaneous festival vapidity and superfluousness, resisting trends and adhering to one’s own mindset is the ultimate risk, though it’s proving to be absolutely necessary. Undoubtedly, Dirtybird has built itself from the ground up in a calculated remedy of risk and love for bringing others joy. Had the campout not been a success, the fans would still remain (literally and figuratively), and for good reason.
Though Dirtybird may be small, its resiliency is mighty — and if the campout has taught the music industry anything, it’s that a flock joint together by a shared love of getting down on the dance floor will do anything humanly possible for their kin.
Photo Credit: Brittany Hallberg