Since its inception fifteen years ago, the annual outdoor music extravaganza known as Dirt Fest has made significant strides as powerful as the iconic and varied musical line-up that populates its four stages in a melting pot of creativity that covers many divergent styles of music ranging from Metal, Punk, Alternative, Emo, Hip-Hop, Hardcore, Grind, Indie & Pop and carries patrons and fans to un-chartered points of achievement every summer.
Taking place on Saturday, August 10th at the Birch Run Expo Center, this year DirtFest 2013 will feature headlining national artists such Sevendust, Adam Gontier (formerly of Three Days Grace), Asking Alexandria, Trapt, Pop Evil, Red, and The Art of Dying, to a sharp focus on regional, local, and emerging artists such as American Head Charge, Escape the Fate, Devour the Day, and Wilson, to name but a few.
The brainchild of festival promoter Matt Dalton, who conceived of DirtFest back when he was all of 18-years old after cutting his teeth producing shows at Olde Jamestown Hall back when he was in high school, Dalton's dedication to the festival, coupled with his vision of having local Michigan bands performing on multiple stages alongside national headliners, is one of many distinguishing factors that sets DirtFest apart from the litany of festivals that occur across the country and region in the summer months.
And Dalton's efforts have decidedly paid off with increasing annual success and recognition, as this year the festival was selected by over 7000 voters as the Best Live Musical Event of the Year at the 2013 Review Music Awards Ceremony last April.
When asked what he feels are key factors contributing to the ongoing success of DirtFest, Dalton points to the strengths of his uncompromising vision. “The key to DirtFest's longevity and growth is that our focus is never how much money is made or lost, or how we can compete with other events. Each and every year we put together an event that is unique and supports local artists and business. We have grown by bringing in huge national artists, but the heart of the festival has always been centered upon supporting Michigan artists and giving music fans in Mid-Michigan and beyond a great experience in the sun - and the dirt!”
“I feel its necessary to continue feeding the pot,” he continues, “and Michigan has some of the best talent anywhere in the world. We strive to showcase independent artists to a growing fan base that come to see the hand-picked national acts each year. DirtFest has continued to thrive because Mid-Michigan loves live music and we have cultivated a community of extremely dedicated fans who like the same things we do.”
When asked about his initial reaction to learning that DirtFest was given the thumbs-up by Review readers as the Best Live Musical Event of the Region at the 2013 Review Music Awards, Dalton says that his response was one of shock mixed with ecstasy. “DirtFest to us has always been this family affair, and has maintained somewhat of an underground appeal. It's an amazing feeling to know that something my family and I have been doing for over a decade has made such a positive impact on the community. The sentiment behind the award is what means the most to us. It's a testament that an overwhelming number of people appreciate what DirtFest brings to Mid-Michigan!”
“We follow our gut instincts and each year we see an increase in attendance! We have had a GREAT run, and everyone involved feels very fortunate to be a part of something that had such modest beginnings and has now grown into something much bigger than we had imagined from the start.”
When asked his thoughts about the 2013 line-up, Matt is equally ecstatic. “Sevendust will headline this year, and they are just as big as ever! Michigan's own Pop Evil currently has the #1 rock single in the country, Trapt will be a great band to watch similar to how we had Alien Ant Farm in 2011. Adam Gontier from Three Days Grace will play his own music as well as 3DG material. We also have Asking Alexandria and Escape The Fate for the younger crowd, so it's an exciting lineup all around. Bands like Crackjaw, Maybe Whitney, It Lies Within, andSaint Ridley are from Michigan and I'll personally be making sure to watch all of their performances.”
“We do our best to stay true not only to what people already love, but what we feel they will love once they are exposed to it through our marketing and through who we put on stage each year. I believe in our scene as in any, but also feel it is important to create an event that speaks to that specific community without following the trends or the lead of what any other event may do. With festivals on the rise around the U.S., we strive to make sure that DirtFest is first and foremost an experience tailor-made for the people of Mid-Michigan.”
In the past Dalton has also featured non-musical attractions such as Michigan Wrestling Organization and Scooter Trash. Is he planning on featuring similar attractions at this year's festival?
“Over the past few years, I have watched other festivals try to add many "sideshows" to their events, and while I loved having Scooter Trash, Wrestling, Team young BMX and others at Dirt Fest in the past, our focus is to get back to basics this year and keep it all about the music. TheAcoustic Lounge will return this year, which was a MAJOR success last year. Many of the major artists performing DirtFest make special appearances in this intimate setting, which we provide sofa seating, tables and chairs, and a tent to get some shade during the day.”
Despite the fact that he receives requests from thousands of artists each year eager to perform at the festival, this year Matt says he has narrowed the schedule down to right around 40 acts for this year's event. And when asked what he feels the biggest challenges are involved with planning and staging an event of this magnitude each year, Dalton smiles and says, 'The challenge is to fall asleep the night before! We have a great group of people who work on DirtFest day in and day out starting as early as January, so our gears run rather smoothly. The only hard part at this juncture is waiting patiently for the big day to finally come!”
Apart from the headlining artists, are there any new musical acts that people might not be as readily familiar with that Matt is excited to see perform this year?
“I mentioned Crackjaw and Maybe Whitney earlier and both have great music and excellent live shows. They are not to be missed, but I strongly urge everyone to show up when gates open to see Beast In The Field open the main stage. They utilize so many guitar amplifiers that they almost don't fit on the stage. Their music is powerful, their live show is incredible and best of all, and it's only TWO guys making the loudest music you'll hear all year.”
“Another highlight is Blue Felix from Minnesota. These shock rockers have shared the stage with Marilyn Manson and have a similar vibe to Slipknot and Mushroomhead with their costumes and live antics. You'll find me at the main stage to watch them for sure.”
“DirtFest has made its home in Birch Run (Dirt Run) MI for over 10 years, and I want to express my gratitude to all the people in Birch Run who allow us to take over their town for the day and get loud and dirty! We have partnered with Banana 101.5 for the last few years and they have been a major help in exposing DirtFest to more and more people. We hope that everyone in Mid-Michigan makes the trip to the Expo Center on Saturday August 10th to have the most fun $25 can bring you for one day of over 40 bands on 4 stages.”
“I urge everybody to come spend a day in the dirt with us!”
Tickets for DirtFest 2013 are $25.00 for 1 day general admission or $75.00 for a 1 Day VIP package that allows early entry at 11:30 AM, private bar, private bathrooms, a Dirt Fest 2013 TShirt, and separate entry/exit. Purchase tickets online at dirtfest.com or at the Birch Run Expo Center Box Office, 11600 N. Beyer Rd., Birch Run. Phone 989-624-4665 for more information.