Written By Megan Caruso
Photos By Don Idio
From the BBQs to parking lot parties to campouts, Dirtybird has a way of turning a hyper-organized music event into a backyard hangout with a gang of other music lovers—even in Chicago, a place of concrete and skyscrapers, where the first ever Birdhouse Festival took over the West Loop last Saturday.
The Chicago Journeymen Plumbers Union 130 UA seemed like an odd venue at first, until you happened upon the place and realized the party was hosted in the parking lot. A fence lined the outside of a small lot wedged between two buildings and hidden so well that it took me by surprise when I rounded the corner. Claude VonStroke had done it again – created an underground, deep house show that felt like the city’s best-kept secret, and all in broad daylight.
Like wandering into another local neighborhood street fest, the festival birds trickled in slowly over the 8-hour day and breezed past security with a ‘welcome’ and on to the merch booth. Dirtybird designed specials shirts, hoodies and hats plastered with the Chicago skyline and their label logos unique to the Birdhouse fest. About a week before, the online store began taking pre-orders, and if you were smart, you paid in advance and picked your shirt up at the customer service table when you got there. If you were not smart (me), the entire collection of merch was sold out before you got to it, only a few hours after opening.
A dunk tank, skee-ball, food trucks and classic carnival games circled the lot around one stage planted in the far-left corner. Despite the lack of warm sun and the aggressively cool breeze, Mr. VonStroke still climbed onto a precarious perch in the dunk tank early-on in the day when the crowds were still small. Some lucky guy threw a spot-on pitch in front of a handful of witnesses and landed Claude with a splash in his very own birdbath.
The music perpetuated from the single stage all day as artists kicked out sets at least an hour long, with Claude having a little extra time to headline. The mix of classic techno and funky, experimental house entranced the small crowd as they bounced around, inching closer to the stage with every set. After an erupting sunset that broke through the dismal grey clouds, Claude VonStroke brought out a surprise special guest to throw down on a b2b set: Chicago’s own local house legend and a major treat for any house lover, Derrick Carter.
Claude VonStroke is hardly a stranger to the Midwest, but he tailored this festival impressively to Chicago’s liking, from the surprise b2b set to the Harold’s Chicken food truck glowing on the other side of the lot. Before hopping off the stage, he praised the city, sent out his love and promised a return of the Birdhouse Festival next year. For those too impatient to wait that long, flock with the birds and migrate to Dirtybird Campout West this October 5-7 in California, complete with the nostalgic summer camp games you’d expect and five times the Dirtybird artists over three days.