Dirt Fest is one of the only DIY fests of its caliber and it just keeps getting bigger and better every summer. I'm not really sure why Dirt Fest is always so much fun, but I think it has a lot to do with the people behind the event. One of those people is local musician, sound guru, and D.I.Y. event planner, Matt Dalton. From the first interaction I had with Dalton, I knew he was someone special. He’s not just a dreamer, when he dreams things, he makes them happen. He is currently taking submissions from bands to get on this year's Dirt Fest lineup and has just announced he will take over The Rockapalooza festival and move it here to Detroit. He is someone making a positive imprint on Detroit and the local music scene.
We had a chance to talk to him about Dirt Fest and Rockapalooza. Check out what he had to say and don't forget to apply to play if you're in a band. I have no doubt that this year will be better than ever and I look forward to seeing what he does with Rockapalooza.
HID- You have been the man behind Dirt Fest since 1998. What is your favorite part about booking this festival? What is your least favorite part?
Matt Dalton- "My favorite part is the feeling of creating something from nothing, and then seeing that "something" become thousands of people's destination. It all builds up to an exciting one of a kind day, and myself and our whole organization really look forward to feeling that excitement first-hand. My family has helped with Dirt Fest since the beginning, but now my siblings and family are spread out across the US. It's really hard for us to all get together for any one holiday, so Dirt Fest has become the official Dalton Family Get-Together each year, and for that I am VERY grateful.
My least favorite part is walking around the festival grounds the day after it's over because everything is just kind of... done. Empty cups, lost shoes, and ripped T-shirts litter the ground where the crowd once stood in front of the Main Stage and I just think 'Damn, 364 more days til we can do it again...'"
HID-When are you going to release the lineup for this year's show?
Matt Dalton- "We are shooting for Mid-April, and we will announce first via our Email Subscription list on www.dirtfest.com ."
HID- I know that bands are able to apply online to be part of the fest, what are you looking for when you book a band?
Matt Dalton- "I look at a many many factors, some of which are: Is this band trying to be themselves, or are they trying to copy one of their favorite bands? Will this band play nice with others in a fast paced festival setting? Has this band been working hard to promote themselves before submitting to Dirt Fest, and is their overall presence at least somewhat professional? I also try to put myself in the band's shoes. Do they try to come off like they are the best thing since sliced bread, or are they somewhat humble and just looking to expand on their opportunities? That's just the tip of the iceberg of my evaluations…"
HID- How did you get started in event booking and promotion in the first place? What draws you to it? What keeps you coming back every year?
Matt Dalton- "I'm from Mid Michigan (Frankenmuth specifically) so the opportunities for music in the late 90s were few and far between. Joel Rash, Chris Everson & co really had something special in Flint with the Local 432, and I decided to start throwing $5 hall shows at Jamestowne Hall in Saginaw to give my band at the time a place to play. We would play in Flint every now and then, but my focus became creating my own opportunities instead of trying to find shows that previously existed. So Dirt Fest was just born from the necessity to have something special to play each year... but no one was throwing anything like it yet. I took the hall show format and just put it outdoors. What keeps me coming back is the fact that I haven't come CLOSE to achieving what I want to achieve with this, and other events."
HID- In the last few years you have expanded your scope and added in some new projects, we heard you may be bringing Rockapalooza to Detroit from Jackson. Is this true? Where, when, and why?
Matt Dalton- "The rumors about Rockapalooza are true. My great friend Ryan Darnell at 3THIRTEEN Entertainment and I have partnered up to do Rockapalooza in a new setting and make it grow into something a bit more Detroit-oriented. We are only in the beginning stages of taking the event over from Kings Of Rock Entertainment, so we have some time before we have any real details. But Ryan and I have a strong vision for what Rockapalooza can be and we are excited to relocate to southeast Michigan."
HID- What do you think is the key element to booking a good festival?
Matt Dalton- "Understanding and striving to exceed the specific expectations of the people who attend. Period."
HID- Why do you think Dirt Fest is so successful and has continued growing while other fests have a one to two year fun and disappear?
Matt Dalton- "Because I've never been afraid to lose. Dirt Fest isn't always profitable, and when it is, the profit margin isn't exactly something to retire from. We are not money oriented, and you'll see that reflected in the ticket price and some of the corners we cut here and there to keep costs down while still keeping the experience high. As I stated before, this is just a hall show on crack. It's extremely DIY, and it requires long hours, long weeks, long months of preparation. I think a lot of people see the idea of a festival and just think "if I build it, they will come" which is just certainly not the case."
HID- One of the key purposes of hipindetroit.com is to get people interested in music and interested in spending their hard earned money to come out and watch a show. How do you continue to get people interested? How do you get the kids involved?
Matt Dalton- "That's a question I have to ask myself every year and the answer is never the same. Everything changes so rapidly nowadays and people lose interest in things very quickly. I love that Dirt Fest reflects some of my personal visions as well as caters to what I think people may want to experience. There's always risks involved, and I don't think we are ever 100% on target. But each year I see a crowd full of young kids all the way up to 40 and 50 somethings really having a good time together, so somehow we are doing something right!"
HID- You record music for a living at 37 Studios, play music on the weekends with Room 13, and book festivals in your spare time including Dirt Fest, Rockapalooza, and more. For Matt Dalton, music really is life. So, what is next for you?
Matt Dalton- "BASEBALL SEASON!"
To apply to play Dirt Fest click here. To buy advance tickets to this year's show click here. Tickets are only $25 a person if you buy them before March 1st!