Dirt Fest 2015 • The Best & the Brightest

Voted the Best Live Event for Three Consecutive Years & Expanding to a Two-Day Festival, The Light Shines Brighter Upon this Annual Musical Gathering

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, Local Music,   From Issue 813   By: Robert E Martin

23rd July, 2015     0

Dirt Fest creator and principle organizer Matt Dalton has much to be excited about as the annual musical gathering that he created 17 years ago prepares for its most ambitious line-up ever, with 2015 marking the first year that the festival has expanded from one to two days of stellar entertainment on Friday & Saturday, August 7-8th.

With a Friday night line-up that features headliners Hellyeah, Coal Chamber, Fear Factory and Mushroomhead and a Saturday line-up packed with major groups such as Down, Pop Evil, taproot and Kottonmouth Kings, Dalton is excited not only about this year’s line-up of entertainment, but about the overall evolution of the festival in general.

“Having Down, Hellyeah & Coal Chamber on the bill this year is a huge milestone for me personally,” he reflects.  “I started Dirt Fest with my friends when we were kids, but I don’t think I ever could have dreamt that one day Dirt Fest would come full circle by having some of my personal musical idols perform. Dirt Fest has always been about cultivating something from nothing. We do our best to stay true not only to what fans of our festival love, but to also crate an event that speaks to our musical community, without following trends or the lead of what any other event might do.”

The biggest evolution of Dirt Fest that distinguishes it from previous years is that this year a second day has been added to the festival. “Both nights have strong line-ups and we are excited to be able to bring so many great bands to the area,” notes Matt.  “What defines Dirt Fest is that we basically are a bunch of music lovers pulling together to put on a show for other music lovers. It’s a great community of people who all go out of their way to make it a success; and this recipe must be working, because each year the festival continues to grow.”

As the festival indeed does keep growing with each consecutive year, how does Matt balance the mix between national, regional, and more localized musical artists? “Dirt Fest has a solid core audience,” he explains. “Attendance numbers stay about the same each year and we are happy with that. We have always been kind of an underdog event. Our audience is very supportive of local acts, and we always have more locals than nationals play to help expose as many developing bands to the masses as possible. We have a very eclectic mix this year, it’s not just rock or metal, and those seeking out new music will be pleasantly surprised with some of the acts we have chosen to perform the event.”

“We also have some awesome new attractions this year, including a mini haunted house experience from Exit 13 Haunted House,” he adds. “We know how much people love Halloween, so we have worked with Exit 13 to bring some of that atmosphere to Dirt Fest.

“Our friends at Mid Michigan Music in Midland are also giving away a brand new ESP Guitar. Steve and the crew at Mid Michigan Music are awesome, and this give away is really going to make one lucky musician VERY happy!

“We also want to thank the Review Readers for voting us “Best Live Event” for 3 years running,” concludes Matt.  “We strive to make Dirt Fest unique and memorable, and it means the world to us that Review readers enjoy the event so much year after year!”


Keeping It Live & Shining a Spotlight on the Local

By Jamie Griffin

Everyone notices the big names that play at Dirt Fest, but what a lot of people may not realize is the numerous local acts performing that in many ways provide the bedrock of the festival.  Continuing upon the ‘Live & Local’ theme of our coverage for this year’s festival, we are pleased to profile a few of the more seasoned acts gracing this year’s stages.  Amongst them are Flint metal stalwarts Deadringer, Saginaw & Bay City’s Black Flower Blossom, and perennial festival lords of doom and volume Beast in the Field.


Black Flower Blossom 

This will be Black Flower Blossom’s second year playing the festival.  Last year was a bit of a coming out party for the band, featuring vocalist Melissa May, guitarist Carl Abila, drummer Mario Salcedo, and Bassist Jay Burk. The group draws its influences from bands like Tool, Nine Inch Nails, Janis Joplin, and Fleetwood Mac, which is evident in their unique sound. May’s vocals vary from bluesy, gypsy, feminine sounds to those reminiscent of Lizzy Hale, with even subtler similarities to Pat Benatar. 

The underlying music is very straightforward dirty rock.  Heavy bass lines and solid drumming along with sometimes haunting guitar licks make up the core of their sound.  While Black Flower Blossom has gone through a couple line-up changes since their formation, their core sound and approach has remained the same.  

Their main goal is to be able to maintain their identity as a mostly originals band in a sea of cover bands. They definitely possess a unique sound that is not duplicated locally and they have performed not only local shows, but also throughout Michigan and Indiana.  

I had a chance to talk to Melissa May about Dirt Fest and what fans can expect from their show.

Review: If someone has never been to a BFB show, what can they expect to see at Dirt Fest?

Melissa:  I have been told that we exemplify “Porn Rock” because if I’m’ feeling the music I dance.  Our songs are about sex and drugs so I guess it’s a good description.  There are not a lot of strong female fronted rock bands out there.  Most front-women just stand there with their hands in their pockets.  You can’t just stand around on stage when there is live music going on around you.  It’s all about the energy.  

Review: Where do you draw your energy?

Melissa:  I draw it from the band first and then it goes from there outward towards the crowd and the surroundings.

Review: What are you most looking forward to from this year’s Dirt Fest?

Melissa: Meeting people, other bands, fans, and the energy of playing a festival.  I like playing shows because of the different people I get to meet.  Lots of people you would never meet otherwise.  Also getting to hear different bands and new music.  

Review: What does the future of BFB hold after Dirt Fest?  

Melissa:  Playing shows every weekend, playing our music and promoting ourselves.  Hopefully getting into the studio in the fall and recording new material.  We are also hoping to get some videos done.  Mainly the focus for now is just getting our name out there and booking more shows.  



Much like BFB, Flint’s Deadringer are excited to be playing this local festival for their 3rd time. The band rose out of the ashes of many known Flint metal bands. Former members of I Decay, Eyes of Dominance and Skin Casket comprise the current line- up. They are singer Gabe Allen, guitarists Thomas Jon and Brad Van Norman, bassist Marshall Barnett and drummer Jason Arnold. They will be performing on the main stage this year as one of the opening acts for Down. Look for them to also perform lots of new material, as they are about to release their third full-length album. 

We caught up with Deadringer guitarist Thomas Jon and had a brief chat about what they are most looking forward to about this year’s festival and what fans can expect from their show.  

Review: What are you guys most excited about for this year’s Dirt Fest?

TJ: Playing the main stage alongside one of our biggest influences (Down) and being fans of Down, also playing new album material in front of one of the biggest festivals in Michigan.

Review: For someone unfamiliar with the band, how would you describe your sound?

TJ: We are melting pot of all of our influences and we basically took Philip H Anselmos (Pantera, Down, Superjoint Ritual) advice with regard to taking 20 bands that we love and coming up with our sound.  Some people compare us to Down on steroids, while others say we're like Lamb of God, Pantera and Testament.  Our songs don't have a particular set of structure and we just play how we feel and do our writing around that. We are definitely groove metal based, but bring a lot of other elements into that mix as well.

Review: What is your favorite part of Dirt Fest?  

TJ: Hanging out with our good friends, meeting new people performing and enjoying opportunities we have to engage new fans.

Review: What is Deadringer up to after Dirt Fest?

TJ: Right now the future is focused on releasing our third album and seeing where that takes us. We spent a lot of energy and effort into this album and as a band we feel it is the next level of what Deadringer has to offer.  

Review: Is there anything else you would like to tell our readers?

Tom: We hope that playing the main stage at Dirt Fest will get more people to notice and come by our merch tent and get a two-song sampler and then hopefully buy the new album that we are putting out. 

If you are a metal fan, definitely check out Deadringer’s set and make sure to grab a sampler from them.  Your only disappointment will be that there are only 2 songs to listen to.   


Beast in the Field

Anyone who has attended Dirt Fest in the past 10 or so years should be familiar with the wall of sound that is Beast in the Field.  Comprised of Jordan Pries and Jamie Jahr these guys will definitely blow you away, Conjuring their sound from the underbelly of the earth, they have a sound reminiscent of a stoner/doom band mixed with the volume of Motorhead or ManOwar. To say these guys rock is an understatement.  Theirs is a show not to be missed! 

I caught up with Jamie Jahr, the Minister of Loud and asked him what we can expect from Beast in the Field’s performance.  

Review: What are you most looking forward to about this year’s Dirt Fest?

Jahr: That it’s Dirt Fest, We love Dirt Fest. The fact that Down is there is also pretty cool.

Review: How do you describe your sound? 

Jahr: Our sound is to us…. Heavy. Grouping us into one genre is tough. We have so many influences that they show up everywhere. We get put into the doom, sludge, and stoner category. To us, we are just heavy.

Review: What is your favorite part of Dirt Fest?

Jar: We love outdoor fests, hanging out all day, getting to see cool bands and making new friends.

Review: What can we look forward to after Dirt Fest with Beast in the Field? 

Jahr: We will be playing shows, doing some touring. We also have a split record with Hellmouth (from Detroit), it’s a cool experimental type thing we did.  We are also finishing writing and recording our 6th album.  

As you can see, there is a lot going on in the local scene.   Many area acts are getting ready to release new music and Dirt Fest is the perfect place for them to show it off! These are just a few of the many talented local acts gracing the stages of the 2-day festival.  

Do yourself a favor and get there early each day and catch some of the best of what the Michigan music scene has to offer….and pick up a cd or 3 while you’re at it!

Dirt Fest is happening August 7-8th at the Birch Run Expo Center. Tickets are on sale now at Dirtfest.com or you can get fee-free tickets at these following locations: Mid Michigan Music (Midland); The Red Eye (Saginaw); Pop’s Skate Shop (Saginaw); and Electric Chair Tattoo (Bay City, Clio, Flint).



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