Dirt Fest is an annual outdoor music festival held in the heart of Mid-Michigan at the Birch Run Expo Center that is now in its 15th year. Taking place on Saturday, August 11th the festival has evolved into a unique event celebrating the collaboration of many divergent styles of music ranging from Metal, Punk, Alternative, Emo, Hip-Hop, Hardcore, Grind, Indie and Pop, which this year will be presented on five outdoor stages, with two of the stages dedicated to national acts that feature such groups as Clutch, My Darkest Days, and the recently reunited Chiodos with Greg Owens.
The three remaining stages will focus on local, regional, and emerging artists, although according to Festival Promoter and Dirt Fest originator Matt Dalton, “Our focus is definitely guitar oriented music with plenty of rock, metal & hardcore in great supply. But many bands are tending to dodge classification ad we strive to keep a wide variety in the mix.”
Now 32 years of age, Dalton has successfully been running Dirt Fest since he was all of 18-years old, after cutting his teeth producing shows at Olde Jamestown Hall when he was back in high school.
Other featured performers at this year's event include In This Moment, Hurt, Otherwise, Smile, Empty Soul, Dead Sara, The Dreaming (ex Stabbing Westward), Royal Bliss and Michigan natives Wilson, Critical Bill, Rotation and over 40 more bands.
Dalton's dedication to having local Michigan bands perform on multiple stages, including the main stage alongside national headliners, sets Dirt Fest apart from many other similar festivals of its kind.
“I feel its necessary to continue feeding the pot,” he explains, “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.”
“2012 really is ALL about the music,” enthuses Dalton. “Our main extra feature this year is the Metro 37 Recording Studios Acoustic Lounge. We have many of our national headliners such as Smile Empty Soul and The Dreaming performing exclusive acoustic sets in addition to their main stage appearances.”
“We will also have autograph signings and meet and greets and really keep the focus on the wealth of talent we have lined up this year. Our past added attractions have always been great, and we will continue to blend in some non-music related experiences in the years to come, but this year we put the sole focus on the bands and what unique experiences they can bring to the fans.”
Given that the festival is now in its 15th year, Matt says that he's received thousands of submissions from groups to appear at Dirt Fest; and at this point the event has a strong national footprint. “Bands from across the country put in their bids and we've narrowed it down to roughly 55 performing acts. Some are veterans to Dirt Fest and some are newcomers, but each one of them we are excited about!”
As to which groups have piqued Matt's own ear and interest, Dalton sites two in particular. “We have a great band called Dead Sara on the bill how is up-and-coming and one of the loudest and most intense rock bands I've heard in ages. I am personally looking forward to their set. Plus we have my good friends Wilson, who are on the verge of making a big dent nationally. But it's great to see the success of so many excellent bands emerge from Michigan and know that they were a part of Dirt Fest from the beginning of their careers.”
With this being the 15th year of Dirt Fest, obviously Matt is onto something successful, which is both rare & difficult to achieve in our age of instant artistic gratification, when anybody can obtain all variety of media at the touch of their fingertips. What are Matt's thoughts as to why Dirt Fest has continued to grow and flourish over the years?
“Dirt Fest 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,” he reflects.
“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.”
“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, 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 Dirt Fest is first and foremost an experience tailor-made for the people of Mid-Michigan.”
Finally, I'm curious as to whether any experiences over the years stand out in Matt's mind as 'defining moments' that epitomize what he feels Dirt Fest is all about.
“Dirt Fest has ALWAYS been about cultivating something from nothing, and having a good time at all costs,” he reflects. “In 2007, our main stage lighting rig failed as the sun went down during our headliner, and some very resourceful friends from a local band ran to their cars to find some industrial work lights to shine on the band so they could continue their performance for the thousands of people waiting to SEE them play!” “That to me defines Dirt Fest. We are just a bunch of music lovers pulling together to put on a show for other music lovers and it's such a great community of people who all go out of their way to make it a success.”
Tickets are only $25.00 in advance for a one-day pass and can be purchased directly through DirtFest.com or at any Electric Chair Tattoo location.
For a full list of ticket locations, visit DirtFestcom. Plus you can follow them on Twitter@DirtFest.