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Birch Run rocked by Dirt Fest

Dirt Fest at Birch Run Expo Center 8-9-14


Last Saturday, rock and metal fans packed the grounds of The Birch Run Expo Center for Dirt Fest. The festival showcased more than sixty bands on six stages including a number of local acts as well as national headliners Powerman 5000 and Killswitch Engage.

Dirt Fest at Birch Run Expo Center 8-9-14
Dirt Fest at Birch Run Expo Center 8-9-14
Tracy Heck
Dirt Fest at Birch Run Expo Center 8-9-14
Tracy Heck

The weather was beautiful and there was one fantastic act after another throughout the day guaranteed to appeal to the massive crowd, which was packed with people of all ages, many of whom came across the country to check out the festival.

Michigan Concerts' Cheryl Frishman and I spent the day in the media tent doing interviews with a number of the bands, who were all excited to be hitting the stage.

Murder FM's Norman Matthew was particularly excited, "We can't wait! Besides the sweat, we're gonna tear it up. We're gonna change it to Dirty Fest!"

Battlecross' Hiran Deraniyagala described Dirt Fest as "Crazy. There's just so much going on. It's like you have this list of bands and it's like I want to go see that and I want to go see that and you can't even keep up! It's cool and there's everything here for everybody I think. You've got some of the locals. You've got some of the nationals. It's a nice mix up of bands. I think that's awesome. It's cool that more festivals do this like Orion Festival did last year. I think more festivals should do that and not some kind of one-dimensional festival. It's cool and I'm glad to be a part of it."

Early performances included It Lies Within, Sunflower Dead, Psychostick, Bulletproof Snow, Cadre and Tantric.

Early in the day the sun was pretty bright and everyone was definitely feeling the heat including Framing Hanley's Ryan Belcher, who said that he wouldn't mind swapping places with Killswitch Engage for the day, "That wouldn't be too bad. I would get to play when it wasn't so hot!"

Hed Pe's Trauma didn't let the heat keep his energy level down as he made his way around the grounds, "I already saw my boys Psychostick. My other boys Sunflower Dead already went on. Smile Empty Soul is out here so I'm excited to go and hang with all my friends."

Like A Storm was definitely the band farthest from home. Hailing from New Zealand, Chris and Matt Brooks were also looking to get out and enjoy the other bands, "I'm looking forward to seeing Gemini Syndrome and Framing Hanley," shared Chris. "Framing Hanley we toured with a couple of years back. They're an awesome band. Gemini Syndrome we haven't seen play but we are always kind of crossing paths with them and they are on Octane a lot."

The National Rock Review Stage was the closest to the festival entrance and in the middle of the day drew some of the largest early crowds when Eyes Set To Kill and Critical Bill played back to back.

Eyes Set To Kill are out touring behind their new album Masks and Critical Bill are getting ready to release their new album The New Eternal.

Smile Empty Soul's bass player, Ryan Martin, has stepped away from the band for a bit to enjoy the birth of his first child, but the band's friend, Taproot's Phil Lipscomb, has stepped in for him to help the band finish up their summer tour and he made the trip to Dirt Fest, "Taproot is taking the whole year off. We went at it hard so we just needed a long break so we'll probably get out sometime next year at some point."

As for Smile Empty Soul, Jake Kilmer shared, "We've been on tour every waking moment since the last record came out and even before that. We haven't taken a break since 2012 so we haven't worked on too much new stuff just yet because we've been on the road. That's the easy part!"

The festival's two largest stages, The Stage and the Ourtunez Stage were side by side and featured some of the festival's biggest performances including a solid performance from Chimaira, a fiery performance from Detroit's own Battlecross and a turning heads performance from Nothing More, whose name kept coming up throughout the day as the band that all the others wanted to see most.

The Ourtunez Stage also played host to a deejay set from Slipknot's Sid Wilson and a frenetic performance from Hed Pe.

Killswitch Engage had to wait the longest to play and drummer Justin Foley said that the band was passing the time by creating their own game in the dressing room, "Yeah it can be a long day. Right now there's an empty box on the wall and a nerf ball so we have a fake basketball game going. That's what it's come to!"

Powerman 5000's Spider One was just happy to be back in Michigan, "This is a part of the country that we do great in. Detroit and Flint with the legendary Machine Shop, where every band wants to play. We love it here."

Once Powerman 5000 hit the stage, it was obvious that the crowd was glad they had made it back to town too as they moved through one big hit after another and pulled out some new material from their latest album Builders of The Future.

By the time Killswitch Engage finally hit the stage to close the festival out, it had been around ten hours for most of those in the crowd but they weren't ready to go home yet and packed the stage, singing, headbanging and moshing along.

Taking the stage to Kool and the Gang's "Celebration", the band then went into "Fixation on the Darkness" and just kept the momentum going from there with songs like "The Arms of Sorrow", "Life to Lifeless" and "My Last Serenade". They closed things out with "My Curse" and "The End of Heartache".

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