Aug. 07--With hard rock, metal and all of its subgenres at the forefront of the 15th edition of Dirt Fest, more than 45 bands (more than half of them local) are set to perform Saturday at the Birch Run Expo Center.
"It kind of magnetizes itself to hard rock and metal," says festival producer Matt Dalton. Dalton (also a musician and studio engineer/producer) and his brother Andy coproduce the festival. "We do make a conscious effort to add diversity to the lineup. We have a hip-hop group playing this year; we've done electronic artists in the past. There's almost nothing off-limits. But predominately it's recognized as a heavy metal concert."
Four outdoor stages will feature music from Michigan-based bands, including Crackjaw, Rotation, Maybe Whitney, Saint Ridley, Deveraux, Beast in the Field, Pop Evil, Wilson, Critical Bill, Cadre, Givensix and others. National acts like Sevendust, Asking Alexandria, Escape the Fate, Red, Art of Dying, Trapt, Parabelle and more round out the lineup.
"I tried to create an opportunity for myself to do something that no one else was doing in that area," Dalton says of the festival's inception. "The summer festivals like Warped Tour hadn't hit their stride yet. It was uncharted territory for me to set up in a park and see what happens."
In 2006, the festival saw its first batch of national acts, helping put it on the map as an annual summer destination for Michigan hard rock and metal fans.
"Matt has done a great job of turning what started off as a festival of local bands into something that rivals any other festival out there," says Crackjaw vocalist Ian Thomas. He gets bands that are relevant, and he's getting good national bands to accompany the locals. Dirt Fest gives us a chance to be on the stage with the big guys."
Crackjaw has played the festival off and on for the past 10 years and is one of the event's most frequent performers.
Thomas recalls one of his favorite moments: "At Dirt Fest in 2005, our new record had come out at the time; we had a really great buzz going about the band. Just the energy of the crowd was ridiculous. That was the biggest we ever felt. It was a great feeling to really feel the crowd. It really hit us."
Crackjaw is currently at Metro 37 Studios, with Dalton at the helm, finishing its new record, "Sympathy for the Destitute." The album follows the "Headhunters" EP released in March.
On tap again this year at Dirt Fest is the Metro 37 Studios acoustic lounge, where main stage acts will perform three to four songs in an intimate setting with limited seating. Vendors on hand will be Electric Chair Tattoo, Ink Addict and others. The Crofoot Ballroom will offer ticket giveaways, and the popular Beard Contest will make its return.
All the fist-pumping action gets under way at noon Saturday. Birch Run Expo Center, 11600 N. Beyer Road, Birch Run. $25 in advance and $35 at the gate. $75 VIP tickets allow early entry at 11:30 a.m. plus a private bar, private bathrooms and preferred seating.
For more: www.dirtfest.com.
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