All aboard: Captain Claude VonStroke curates an off-kilter WMC Dirtybird experience
Bowling may seem an odd choice for an extra-curricular WMC outing given Miami’s reputation for glamour and hedonism, but not so for the lovable mess of misfits at San Francisco’s tech funk label Dirtybird. A sacrosanct safe haven for eclectic personalities and sounds, the label is known for being just as forward-thinking as it is, well, fun. On WMC Wednesday, a local Lucky Strike became ground zero for the label artists and lucky attendees aboard the MOX Bus, which featured such daily “takeovers” by various labels throughout the week.
As soon as Claude VonStroke bounded aboard the bus, the party ensued in earnest. The gentle giant Dirtybird co-owner cheerily made the rounds, shaking hands and chatting with the passengers before commandeering the onboard DJ booth.
“Hey, where are you from?” he asked me casually.
“Dancing Astronaut,” I said, motioning to the neon pink logo on my shirt.
“Naw man, where are you really from?” he chuckled.
Before I could begin extolling the many virtues of upstate New York, the bus hummed to life. Models teetering about in ill-advised heels delivered drinks while Claude dropped a pulsing brand of feel-good funk that seemed perfectly tailored for the moment. We made a pit stop to pick up British producer Eats Everything, who was in swell spirits and wasted no time in cracking a beer to join in the revelry. A blown generator that temporarily knocked out the onboard power did nothing to dampen the mood; in fact, all it really did was force the ever-charismatic Claude out from behind the decks to continue working the crowd as the bus sped towards the bowling alley.
Our jolly horde descended upon the Lucky Strike and quickly overwhelmed the establishment. A service desk had already been converted into a DJ booth in anticipation of our arrival, and Catz ‘n Dogz went to work. Corona buckets and spreads of fried appetizers seemingly materialized on the tables nearby as we divided our motley assortment into lanes. As Claude and the rest of the Dirtybird crew announced, a lifetime membership to the label’s drip.fm promo site would be awarded to the two highest scorers, as well as the lowest scorer. Fellow Dancing Astronaut editor Cara and I were teamed with Justin Jay, an up-and-coming Los Angeles producer whose 20th birthday loomed later in the week. On the opposing side stood Belgian producer Kill Frenzy, whose hit single “Make That Booty Clap” was emblazoned across his white t-shirt beneath a half-shaved shock of copper curls.
It soon became apparent that Justin Jay was far better at producing than bowling. The affable Angeleno guttered on his first four frames, but he gets a free pass from me thanks to “Altitude,” his excellent inclusion on the first Dirtybird Players compilation.
“Has your age ever gotten in the way of playing out?” I asked him at one point. He grinned and rolled his eyes, a sure sign of a good story.
As it turned out, Jay won a 2010 DJ Mag contest and was invited to open for the likes of Afrojack, Laidback Luke and Fedde Le Grand in London. The then-17-year-old frantically prepared for the biggest gig of his life, only to be turned away from the club when it was discovered he was underage. Jay now cites the outcome as a “blessing in disguise,” as he would have “trainwrecked” the gig due to his lack of experience. The superb funk house set he threw down later that day clearly showed this was no longer the case. Perhaps by 2016, he’ll have made similar strides in bowling.
Kill Frenzy fared far better than his label-mate on the lanes, edging me out for the highest score on either of our teams. But I left with the last laugh as the Dirtybird artist was disqualified from his own label’s contest, effectively awarding me a technical victory and a lifetime supply of avant house goodness. By now Mark Starr was going deep on the decks, dropping droves of funk-infused house tunes while the MOX video cameras rolled. After downing the rest of the Coronas and bowling another distracted half-round to Kill Frenzy’s bumping soundtrack, the Dirtybird posse was ready to motivate over to the DJ Mag Pool Party to support comrade-in-arms Eats Everything, who had ducked out after more beers than bowls to prepare for his impending set.
We filed back aboard the MOX Bus and disembarked near the host Delano Hotel, making quite the scene in the process. Rolling no less than 40 deep, our vagabond posse filled the South Beach streets and confused many a passing pedestrian with Claude at the helm. Two enthusiastic attendees had made enormous cardboard cutouts of the heads of VonStroke and fellow co-owner Justin Martin and were happily hoisting them in the air as though marking some sort of offbeat ceremonial procession. Who wouldn’t want to immediately usher us all into a party thrown at one of Miami’s most exclusive hotels?
That hotel apparently. Despite some good-natured bouncer teasing and Twitter goading by Claude, the Delano’s security held firm and turned away the headliner of last year’s DJ Mag party, largely on account of his intended +39. With a boisterous bevy of house-loving loons on his hand, Claude made a quick audible to the only alternative activity that possibly made sense. Off to the ping-pong tables!
Not to be deterred from having the good plain fun for which the label is synonymous, the ragtag Dirtybird band marched on an unsuspecting billiards lounge called Chalk. As luck (or just everywhere in Miami) would have it, the main room featured a DJ booth in which Claude quickly made himself at home. While JJ and Kill Frenzy renewed their lopsided bowling rivalry with a far more competitive game of ping-pong, Sir VonStroke treated his faithful followers to a rollicking and eclectic set that swiftly had everyone in the lounge grooving along. As I meandered around Dirtybird’s newfound perch, I marveled at the spontaneity of the situation. Surrounded by clinking collisions and errant bounces amid a blaring backdrop of friendly laughter and funk bass, I couldn’t help but grin. I suspect that was Claude’s aim all along.