Live Music in 2020: How Dreamhouse Chicago is Transforming a DIY Venue Into a Virtual Collective
COVID-19 has forced venues to close their doors to the public. But for womxn-owned Dreamhouse Chicago, the pandemic has been an opportunity to transition from a physical gathering space to a thriving online platform. I spoke with the Dreamhouse team— Laycie Dressler, Natalia Obrachta, and Rachel Vogrich, to learn how their live-streamed shows are keeping the magic and memories of Dreamhouse alive for the Chicago music community and beyond.
“The history behind Dreamhouse is a long one, with many people going in and out and many helping hands. The turnout of our first show amazed us… we decided on a name, redecorated the space, and began to move more towards becoming a venue,” said Laycie. “When the pandemic hit and we couldn’t have in-person shows anymore, we ended Dreamhouse thinking it was the end of an era and that it would no longer be possible to capture the same magic we originally fostered.”
But after receiving a “flood” of messages, the Dreamhouse team made the decision to reunite and put together a virtual show in July 2020 which live-streamed on Facebook and Instagram. Dreamhouse Chicago has hosted several virtual shows since, with a growing turnout and positive praise. The team is making improvements to their practice along the way— including bringing in new talent behind the scenes and experimenting with digital platforms like Twitch.
“[Instagram Live] could not sustain us long term for virtual shows... Our brilliant tech Dakota Bukya was able to set us up a Twitch account, a Youtube channel, and an archive," said Laycie. "Because all of us are so new to this apart from Dakota, he has been super helpful in showing the bands how to use Twitch, and how to help the rest of Dreamhouse use Twitch to also be able to help the performers."
Dreamhouse Chicago’s Twitch shows have sustained the spirit of what the venue once was by providing a virtual collective where the creative community can continue to share and experience art. The team represents a place where womxn take the lead and all people are accepted— though this hasn’t always been easy, even during a transition to virtual shows.“We have kicked artists off of the bill who have expressed that they’re transphobic— it’s really f*cking important to us,” said Natalia.
“The music industry as a whole is dominated by white cis males… I think our ultimate mission with Dreamhouse is to be completely inclusive of the minority groups— BIPOC, LGBTQ+, female-identifying, etc., that have been overlooked due to this consistent favor & praise of cis white male bands,” said Rachel. “Running a venue & being involved in the music industry as a womxn has been difficult in ways, but incredibly empowering.”
Dreamhouse has already become an integral part of Chicago’s DIY music community despite being a relatively new venue. Through an evolving virtual platform, the team hopes to bring the magic of Dreamhouse Chicago to music fans in the city and beyond, even if that means boogying from home in the meantime.
“The DIY environment is supposed to be chaotic, fun, not too serious, and maybe a lil’ bit sexy..” said Natalia. “This opportunity is incredibly empowering; especially alongside this groovy team we have become!”
Be sure to catch the next Dreamhouse Chicago show on December 4, 2020, at 8 pm CST, which will honor the passing of musician Simon Kingson and feature his music alongside other acts. Link provided via Instagram @dreamhousechicago before the event.