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PREVIEW: Dirtybird Brings Famed BBQ To Miami For Art Basel - Magnetic Magazine
We talk to J. Phlip about beats, meats, and art in the Magic City

Born Jessica Phillippe, J.Phlip has been carving her name into the dance music scene with fervor. She's most commonly known for her work with Dirtybird, as one of their standouts on a label full of extraordinary talent. 

The Dirtybird team have been gearing up for their famous BBQ series in Miami this Saturday, and we recently sat down with the talented DJ and producer to learn about the inception of the picnic, and what we can expect tomorrow! 

Claude loves BBQ!

Claude loves BBQ!

Q: You guys have been doing this BBQ for a long time now. How has it evolved over the years?

The birth of dirtybird was actually just these four DJ friends (Justin Martin, Christian Martin, Worthy, and Barclay Crenshaw later to be known as Claude VonStroke) who wanted to play some weird ass music that sounded totally different than what was popular in the bay area at that time. So, some 14-ish years ago, before dirtybird was a record label, or an anything really, except for a doodle Barclay drew of a bird on a napkin at a bar (not just any bar though - The Lion’s Pub - where both Martin Brothers were employed to responsibly serve alcohol to many people, yikes ha), they threw a free BBQ slash “silly-oddball-quirky-techno-with a splash of hip hop/hyphy” dance music party in Golden Gate park for a whopping 25 people. They unleashed the very first ever dirtybird sound-system purchased by Christian Martin, most likely totally on a credit card. They convinced these two regulars from the Lion’s pub - one of whom they didn’t even like because all he did was heckle them, and neither of them knew diddly squat about raves, DJ’s, or techno - to come and to help make it happen. Those two guys were Grillson and Fernando, who are still two of the most important people to help make dirtybird happen today.

That was the beginning of the BBQ as I can best recall from so many stories about it from the guys. If the facts are off I blame it on all the years of parties, and on Justin Martin, because he’s Justin and nobody can ever really be mad at him so he’s the best guy to blame for anything. I wasn’t around until a few years later. I had bought their first absurd release on vinyl. And then I met them all in 2005, possibly because I tracked them down at WMC in Miami like a weirdo. But personally, I instantly felt like “these guys should really be my friends” and so I followed them around until they were. It didn’t take too long really, back then they were just the same as they are now - never too cool to make a new homie.

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It’s a detailed evolution with this BBQ yo, so lets get back on track and I’ll try not to tell so many stories that I write the entire dirtybird novel. Naturally, as the label grew, and all the DJ’s on it started making names for themselves, the party in Golden Gate park also grew over many years and became a staple of San Francisco - the dream of their Sunday day party came true. The numbers of people kept growing into the hundreds and eventually going over a thousand. Mind you, the park continued granting dirtybird the exact same permit as the original very first BBQ - for an event with low amplified sound with up to 150 people and no alcohol or smoking. What the???? They let us completely break the rules for years because - we were such outstanding citizens? (Yup and we ourselves picked up every single cigarette butt after.)

We stopped promoting and only announced the night before in the hopes that it wouldn’t kill itself. Grillson kept cooking up his same ol’ original recipe Carne Asada taco’s all day long and serving them up to anyone and everyone for free. More people meant more sound, more port-a-potties, more meat, more salsa! So, Mr. and Mrs. Martin (yes the parents) started flying in to literally set up shop on the one single picnic table, right next to the DJ booth, and chop up fresh salsa for hours and keep the taco service moving. The parties would start really mellow, people would come early with kids, dogs, blankets, frisbee’s and over a few hours what looked like a pretty normal day in the park plus some guys DJing over there, would turn into all the best San Francisco freaks and friends absolutely losing their shit dancing as far as we could see. Maybe wasn’t all that far to see since the DJ booth was never once set up on any sort of raised platform - we just DJed standing in the same dirt (or mud) and grass as everyone else. Fu!@#$% that was great - I’d take that over a stage any day.

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I can’t remember when the last Golden Gate BBQ happened exactly, but we went out with a bang fosho. We had this sense it was going to be the last time we’d get away with it - so we just blew it up massive - no holding back. Except the lineup was the same - never changed - never any guest DJ’s - no headliner’s ever invited from out of town. Just the four OG dirtybirds, plus that chick J.Phlip they added in as the 5th dirtybird after she moved herself from Illinois to Haight and Fillmore and produced a song that they liked. Lucky duck.

Two thousand something people showed up to our little spot in the park (that used to look so huge and spacious). The scene was mental - people dancing on the speaker stacks, bird costumes, anything costumes, weird San Francisco hippies, ravers, all walks of life and ages. Barclay with his kids on his shoulders. A friend with her new baby in a homemade dirtybird onesie was chillin’ on the outskirts. At one point some dudes hopped up on the speakers holding what looked like some type of bazooka weapons, and started shooting t-shirts out to the crowd. We didn’t know them. That’s cool. When we received the word that we were dunzo, the official reason stated was “vandalism” of a picnic table with spray paint. Drrrr. Not even our peeps - we saw it was already there when we setup that morning.

And that was the dirtybird BBQ, first evolution. It was everything we wanted to create, without even knowing sometimes, because we can only control so much - “the party” fills in the rest the way it wants to. In ways, The Golden Gate Park BBQ, it’s vibe and its people (and I don’t know how many words you can use to capture what it was) taught us what we always wanted to be about as a group/crew/fam/label/djs/whatever. We knew we wanted to hold true to that exact feeling from those BBQ’s as much as we could moving forward, through the changes and growth.

The next evolution of BBQ’s had some pretty insane moments and some growing pains. Actually trying to throw one in San Francisco became so expensive and difficult we didn’t even have one there for several years, but to be able to bring them to other cities was definitely exciting. My favorite part of the post GG park BBQ’s has been having some of our favorite hip hop acts perform - like Phife Dawg! Man that’s history. DJ Premier puts on a dope one man show. Freakin’ De La Soul!???!??! Even Slick Rick and Too $hort! I love Barclay and the powers behind the scenes for fulfilling our love for hip hop and making those moment’s happen even though it was different and risky and difficult sometimes.

It’s been an absolute trip seeing people like Grillson having so many freaking fans and getting flown around, and he’s still like “what the hell??? how did this happen???…. I’m not even a DJ” and having such a blast livin’ the life of it. Carne Asada taco's had to switch to burger's and hot-dogs to feed the masses. Many aspects have had to be adjusted to fit the current state of the BBQ's. Sadly, it can't stay the same forever. But seeing this ungodly amount of people be into our music these days, and watching them all show up to the current evolution of BBQ's, armed with this enthusiasm that is way beyond our imagination, absolutely blows our minds every time. And it never wears off for us,

Q: What were some of the memorable highlights from the tour this year?

The locations this year were unreal. Governor's Island in NYC. Belle Isle in Detroit. Plus we had one of my favorite DJs/producers as a guest - Marshall Applewhite. His music blows my mind. For the San Francisco BBQ we were able to move to a much better spot on Treasure Island next to the water. It was just gorgeous out there in the middle of the bay surrounded by the bridges and sailboats going by and what is still the most beautiful city in the world to me. I wasn’t at Seattle but from the pics I saw the Space Needle practically towering over the party and I’m pretty sure it was in a park with grass. Plain ol’ grass - that’s a highlight - don’t take dem lil grasses for granted. A lot of folks don’t want you to party on their precious grass ;)

Q: BBQs evoke family get-togethers, which seems fitting considering the Dirtybird crew is so tight-knit. The music industry is often filled with revolving doors. How have you guys managed to stick together so long?

Majority of the db members are people who are able to keep their heads on straight, stay grounded, and are driven by love and music rather than greed, fame, and money. We support and push each other to be their best, rather than seeing it as some competition. Some of the dirtybird members are stronger at keeping this philosophy - that there is room for everyone to succeed as much as they strive to - and that others being successful is not keeping themselves or anyone else from doing the same. The db members that never lose sight of positivity even in the face of mistreatments at times - are like some sort of super humans. They are the inspiration and the glue that keep it sticking together the most.

People do get lost at times and falter. It’s not all perfect all the time. Occasionally someone needs to be put in check about something small, or maybe even something big. Others often step up and deal with those situations like a fam would do, and so we can carry on.

I know I’ve been called out when I’ve fucked up! I won’t lie. I have had to be reminded of certain expectations when I have lost sight and I was making poor decisions (even if I was a bit blind to the fact that my behavior was wrong). That's life and learning and growing up. It busts me up crazy hard to face having disappointed my label mates. They mean the world to me, and I have always looked up to them in life, and they are very much like big brothers to me - to put it in more simple terms.

I’m so thankful that they do it though, because they actually care enough to drop a bomb of tuff luv on my doorstep (aka inbox). I can hear exactly what the bomb sounds like too when they drop it. It sounds like that 8-bit crunched bomb dropping & exploding sound in Crack-El (Justin Martin Stoopit Crunk Remix) 

that's the sound track to “oh hi Jess - here’s your wakeup call tuff love bomb, you’re acting like a doofus, we love you, get it together, you can do it, chip chop, cheerio. no scooping. Be at the whole party you diva. and shame shame you for taking this for granted and no-showed the GG bbq??” Ouch. Even though those reality checks invoked instant feelings of failure, I know they came from their true love of having me as part of the fam. That's life.

There’s also this phenomenon that occurs over and over. Most of those who have released on dirtybird or have DJed for the dirtybird parties at any point throughout the years, usually just somehow end up being someone we get along with, make friends with, and actually care about too. Just like we truly love and are even inspired by many of our fans. If you’re a producer that wants to release on dirtybird, you’re a fan too, at least to a certain extent - maybe that’s why we tend to have an instant love for them - because they know what we are about and they want to work with people with a similar outlook on life and music.

People have come and gone over the years - never so fast as a revolving door! Good grief! Their story of why they aren’t around as much anymore might not always be a negative story. It might even be a chill as fuck story. It could be a complicated story. It might just be a geographical circumstance that's tuff to work out. It could just be that their musical tastes totally changed. No matter what their stories may be, the majority of us still love the shit out of them, always and forever, and miss them loads. They will always have myself and many of the db’s as fam forever whether they like it or not ;)

Q: You must be excited to be bringing the event to Miami for the first time. The venue is only blocks away from the historical epicenter of Miami Bass music. Clearly the Dirtybird sound is imbued with this spirit. Talk a little bit about the influence Miami has had on electronic music. Any particular Miami Bass favorites of yours?

Miami bass music has definitely made a name for itself and been around for a long time! Old Miami bass was my total jam in middle school. We had a great DJ for our dances who played all that sort of booty music! And on wax! I thought I was amazing at doing the butterfly. Oh god, how did I have friends???? hahah.

That's mad cool we’re right near the epicenter of Miami bass! Hope some of that scene will come over and bust a move, would be fab! I’m not a good historical researcher of Miami Bass music, you have to talk to Jess Jubilee or Danny Daze for the complete story on that! 2 Live Crew, 69 Boyz, and Quad City Dj’s hold strong in my memories. I’m sure there’s so many more, but I’d have to dig into my past for a bit and find all those old songs :)

I had a request to play the Tootsie Roll this weekend. I’m listening to it now. I think this needs to happen! YES!

Q: Dirtybird is associated with a darker sound, not the typical soundtrack for an outdoor BBQ. How do you guys approach programming your sets for these daytime events versus your usual club gigs?

Dirtybird is dark? I know it ain’t no fluffy deep house, but It’s fun and silly and can also be energetic and occasionally we’ve released some darker tunes. But what remains as tried and true for dirtybird is that super low end Bass that rumbles your gut and gives the dancefloor a rush and a physical feeling of low end frequencies making contact with their bodies.

It’s fine to veer into some darker music in the day. Just because a tune is dark doesn’t mean it can’t also be fun and humorous. Take Paranoid London’s - “Transmission 5” or “Eating Glue”, for instance. We are good DJ’s. We mix in the dark stuff that we’re feelin’ at the time if we feel like it, but we won’t keep the set headed down to the dark dungeons of techno for too long.

We’ve built our fan base over so many years now. They know us. They want and expect to hear some dark music mixed in They love it - and they love our variety. If we played all the same, with no risks, it would be boring.

Q: The BBQ is happening within the larger context of Art Basel, which is celebrating its 15th year in Miami. During this time, we’ve seen Street Art become a cultural touchstone in America. Is visual art an inspiration for you? Any particular contemporary artists you admire?

Yes. Tomas Saraceno. Lefty. James Turrell. Pfadfinderei. Terry Irfen Owens. Bonny Nihamas. Beaks-up. Tadanori Yokoo. Nanci Amaka. Ashes57. Claire Barrow. Arca & Jesse Kanda. Whoever designed the universe and the stars and waterfalls in Oregon.

My mind can’t come up with a full master list right now, so much art out there that blows me away. i've checked out many galleries all over and love to get lost in it, but I don’t memorize all the artist like I try to do with music hehe.

Q: We here at Magnetic are also the former publishers of BPM Magazine. Back in 2005, you won a DJ contest we promoted. What was that experience like for you?

THAT’S ABSOLUTELY NUTS I HAD NO IDEA! (BUT Too many questions I'm getting fried brains over here sorry)

Q: As we near the end of the year, America seems to be entering a dark period. How do you see this shaping music and art in the future?

I’m the worst at this analyzing the world and the music scenes and how anything affects each other. I just hope people won’t be afraid to use their platform as a musician or DJ to actually occasionally create content with more meaning. Music used message much more often. Hip hop had a so much to say that it was able to create movements. It was their outlet for having a voice!

I hope the electronic musician’s won’t be too much of a bunch of pussy’s to actually say something once in awhile - in between the lose your mind dance all your troubles away partying. (But wahhhhh what if it hurts my career??? selfish babies who use music to make ends meet and find fame…. well that’s just sad. Music, to me, serves many purposes, but it is always a tool that we can use for rebellion) I hope music can always be used to bring people together, without pretentiousness or discrimination, to show and spread the love that the world needs right now as and entire unit of humans on this planet.

Q: Tell us what we can expect at this BBQ stop. Any surprises in store for the inaugural Miami party?

I’ll probably steal something like a beer and get caught for it, scolded, and maybe kicked out. I fully intend to pretend like I’m grilling invisible food or anything really with my BBQ tongs. It should be general shenanigans from the crew and so many hours of excellent fresh sets with new music and old music. My body is already in pain from re-starting Yoga this week. This weekend’s gonna be a BELLRINGER! I can only hope my legs will still be able to walk by the end of it ;)

And maybe I’ll try to get everyone to do the Tootsie Roll??? Now slide baby slide just slide baby slide.... now dip baby dip baby just dip baby dip!!!!!

What do you think?????? :)))))

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