Barclay Crenshaw is one of those people who always seems to wear a smile on his face. His hearty laughs and big bear hugs are in vast supply at his popular Dirtybird BBQ and Campout events, where he performs under the DJ alias, Claude VonStroke.
But in 2020, the venues where he typically hones his craft are closed. And as his label’s scheduled events began to disappear from the calendar, so did some of Crewshaw’s joy.
“After a while I was asking myself, ‘What am I doing? Does anyone even care if I’m releasing tracks?” he says of his time in quarantine. “I wasn’t having that much fun during the pandemic, but as soon as I started working on this project with our team something changed. I finally see the opportunity to go wild online and now I’m dedicated to bring the most insane, fun, and immersive experience for our fans.”
Dirtybird Live launched just last week, but it has already had a positive impact on Crenshaw’s mental health. It’s proving to be an important outlet for the dance community too. Seven days a week, followers of the longstanding San Francisco-based house music label can tune into the new TV network via the streaming platform Twitch. Here they’ll find “TV shows” from DB legends and newcomers alike, such as Justin Jay, Marshall Wyatt, Nala, Gene Farris, Lubelski and others.
“I’m actually thinking of this from a way bigger perspective, like we’re starting a cable access TV network — it’s not just a bunch of DJ streams,” Crenshaw explains over the phone, reminiscing about the obscure, low-budget television programs of his youth. There’s a twinkle in his tone as he recalls the B-horror movies he watched on Saturday afternoons, bookended by talk backs with over-the-top hosts.
“They were so badly produced, but they were so good,” he emphasizes, with a chuckle bubbling. With Dirtybird Live, Crenshaw aims to capture that same “level of strange” by combining the best parts of rave culture with performances, talk shows, comedy segments, trippy visuals, and more.
Crenshaw and a small team (which includes his wife Aundy, who acts as COO, CMO and CFO for the Dirtybird Records label) now pour hours into the network that they may have otherwise spent planning tours and in-person appearances. He says he was inspired by the streams that San Diego’s techno collective, Desert Hearts, launched back in March. “They kind of provided the proof of concept, in my opinion,” he says.
Now, Crenshaw is furthering the notion with his own unique outlook. As Claude VonStroke, he hosts three shows per week. “Claude’s Club Q&A” follows an ask-me-anything style format and tackles one designated question with viewers each Monday (the kickoff topic was “What do you want to see on the new Dirtybird Live network?”) On Tuesday he presents the “Stroke Stream” from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., which offers diverse DJ sets direct from the label boss. On Thursdays, from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., he digs into his own personal crates for “Fresh or Fowl” — giving viewers the power to rate which cuts are “Fresh” and worth holding onto. He lets the “Fowl” ones fly away.
Other DB favorites are bringing fierce beats to the boob tube, too. Directly after “Claude’s Club,” American producer Wyatt Marshall hosts “Marshall Arts.”
“For my show specifically, I’m hoping to explore a different style of house music than what is typically associated with Dirtybird and hopefully help fans find something new that they otherwise wouldn’t listen to,” Marshall explains.
Los Angeles-based artist Lubelski brings his fresh flavor to “Patchwork Sessions.” The Percomanic unleashes his talents in a knob-filled room during this experimental two-hour time slot.
“Dirtybird has always been a label about fun,” Lubelski says. “I hope people have that, if not only a place to find community, even if it is online.”
Dirtybird Live is keeping that trend alive. The virtual landscape has made it possible to connect their fanbase with new experiences and artists from across the globe. Streaming sensation Subset, who lives in Seattle, helms an extended late night show called “Off the Clock,” which broadcasts starting at 10 p.m. on Friday nights. International names like Kevin Knapp will unveil his “PLUMP” concept from his studio in Berlin in late September. Cour T., who is among the flock’s youngest, will begin broadcasting his own creation from his home country of Brazil in the coming months.
The program schedule is ever-evolving, and the “off hours” are flexible. Those open periods will likely remind longtime fans of the spontaneous performances that have become a hallmark of the tent-covered campgrounds at Dirtybird’s flagship West Coast music festival, Dirtybird Campout. “Renegade” performances pop up when DJs opt to play sets on the fly. During the “Dirtybird Sunday Showcase,” other beloved faces swing by the “studio” to spin their finest. Those sessions are sure to evoke memories of cherished family sets that traditionally serve as the closing party at the annual Campout.
“My secret goal is to see if we can get the stream [to run for] 24 hours,” Crenshaw says. “I think we can. I started Dirtybird with nothing, and look what happened.”
Crenshaw is hopeful investors will come on board so he can pay the DJs who are helping him build upon this interactive label initiative.
“At first I thought, ‘Oh we’re just going to do this until [the pandemic] is over, but I’m starting to think differently,” Crenshaw says. “The way we connect has changed. Now people are talking to each other and the DJs in real time. I think sometimes people are coming to the channel just to chat and hang out.”
The fans have always been loyal and creative in their ways of showing it, which is one reason why Crenshaw has asked them to pitch original shows. “I’m looking for people to send me [completed] videos,” he explains. “Even if I just get a few three to five minute videos, I’ll string them all together. We’ll just put them on late at night if they’re too extra,” he says, letting out another signature laugh.
Though Crenshaw may have been “dead set against” streaming back in the spring, he’s quickly recognized its ability to preserve the sense of comradery that his imprint has long fostered, both between artists and with the listeners who love them.
“People make the best friendships in the Dirtybird community, and it’s important to me that this continues,” he says tenderly. “This is a way to keep that going.
To view DIRTYBIRD LIVE’s full schedule and to submit original shows, visit dirtybirdlive.tv