In September, Dirtybird Records returned home to Chicago for the inaugural Birdhouse Festival, an outdoor fest that was part warehouse party and part street fair. After an action-packed summer of festivals, I was thrilled to hit this cooler-weather event and enjoy the outdoors, as well as the excellent sets from Dirtybird superstars Will Clarke, Ardalan, Christian Martin, ZDS, KE, Fancy Fux, Teknicoz, a b2b from J.Phlip and Gene Farris, and Dirtybird dad himself, Claude VonStroke. The event was held in the West Loop, a convenient spot to get to and a great place to hang out for afters.
As I entered the festival, carnival games, beer, a taco truck, and a surprisingly great sound setup greeted me. I say surprising because this year, I found that the sound was very disappointing at most of Chicago’s smaller-scale festivals. Fans decked out in all kinds of Dirtybird gear were grooving in front of the one mainstage, which was shared by everyone on the lineup. I appreciated this logistical move, as I feel it helped concentrate everyone’s attention on the music and kept the flow of the event relatively open and accessible. I hit the sangria station and made my way through an amiable crowd of festival goers in an attempt to get a little closer to those thumping beats coming out of the speakers.
Time passed quickly as I danced, with a beautiful sunset providing the backdrop to J.Phlip and Gene Farris’s b2b. Claude VonStroke delivered a monster set to close out the festival, arguably one of his best this year. The crowd seemed to skew a little older at The Birdhouse Festival, and I was impressed by how respectfully and responsibly everyone behaved. Although I was there alone, my space was honored and I never felt uncomfortable or overcrowded.
The carnival games were a clever, unexpectedly popular aspect of the festival—lately, I’ve found that yes, people want to party, but it’s more fun to party when you have an activity to do as well. Games were a great way to get people talking, dancing, and generally more connected to the experience of the festival.
Even though it only happened a few weeks ago, I’m already looking forward to next year’s Birdhouse Festival. I hope it becomes a staple in the Chicago festival circuit, and highly recommend checking it out if you didn’t get a chance to this year!
Photos by Aaron Engler and Don Idio