Dally in the Alley calls itself the "free annual celebration of art, music, and life in the Cass Corridor." It's unique among street festivals for a number of reasons. For one thing, it's 100 percent volunteer organized, and has never had any corporate sponsors. Impressively in its 38th year, Dally is a self-sustaining festival run by the nonprofit organization North Cass Community Union. It is funded by sales of beer and festival merchandise, and any profit generated by the festival goes toward community projects.
From noon to midnight Saturday, Sept. 12, festival attendees can expect four stages of live music, with many vendors selling art and more, and delicious local food from a variety of vendors. There's also a kid's fair for the little ones.
At last year's festival, there was a fire caused by a transformer, and it forced the festival to end early. The musical headliners didn't get to perform, so they have been invited to headline again this year. Those headliners include Hamtramck rockers Prude Boys (9:15 p.m. on the Garden Stage), progressive hip-hop crew Cold Men Young (11 p.m. on the Alley Stage), the indescribably high-energy rock band Pink Lightning (10:15 p.m. on the Garden Stage), and the legendary producer and DJ K Hand on the electronic stage, who has been called "the first lady of Detroit techno" in this very publication. We're especially excited to see headliner Brinae Ali: Destination Forever (10:30 p.m. on the Forest Stage). Flint-based Ali is a renowned songwriter, vocalist, tap dancer, choreographer, and activist.
Anyone can submit to Dally in the Alley, and the music committee chooses the bands from those submissions. "We try to have a diverse blend of voices and opinions from the community on the committee, so it's not just a bunch of white dudes picking music," says Robbie Dwight, chair of the music committee. "It's people with different backgrounds who are interested in a lot of different things.
"This year we were blessed with the diversity of submissions. We're very open about the fact that we're biased geographically. The closer a band is, the better your chances [of performing] are, because it's a community festival that's representative of what's happening in the [Cass Corridor] community or at least close to it. One thing in recent years we've really been trying to strive for is getting more women involved and more people of color. And this year we were blessed that we got a lot of talented submissions that were fronted by women or had women in the band, and also submissions from people of color in lots of genres. I really can't wait to see what we can actually represent. It's not just a bunch of white people bands."
Dwight stresses the historical significance of the Dally. "It's the largest neighborhood street festival ever. There's something for everybody. It's completely unique," he says. "It's not an exclusive scene. It's a neighborhood community festival that celebrates specifically artistic endeavors, because the art that was made in that community, and still is being made today, is what really made that neighborhood cool before the whole 'Midtown' influx happened. Bands lived down there, artists lived down there. That's where all the cooler stuff was happening. The festival really highlights the artistic history that the neighborhood has — because that's what made it cool to begin with."
Former Dally co-chair Jen David Thomas says the people are what makes the event thrive.
"The most beautiful thing about Dally is that it's truly community organized. It's literally people who donate their time and their commitment to putting on a festival that's really interesting, unique, and fun for the community. It's something that funds itself every year," she says.
David Thomas will be performing this year with her group Jenny Junior and Jackie Rainsticks. "The best thing about performing at Dally is that it's not your fans— it's people who are there for the festival," he says. "It's a total mix of interested people who have never heard your band. You will have a packed audience watching and hearing you perform."
"It's the greatest festival in Detroit because it's a truly community-organized street festival that has badass music, amazing vendors, and good food," David Thomas says. "Everyone lets their freak flag fly when they come to Dally. You never think you're gonna be the biggest weirdo at Dally because you never will be. There's always amazing people. It's like a holiday. Actually, Ken Cockrel said he's gonna make Dally a holiday— I gotta look back into that!"
The Dally in the Alley is Saturday, Sept. 12; Starts at noon; it's located between Forest and Hancock, Second Ave. and Anthony Wayne (aka Third Avenue), Detroit; dallyinthealley.com; Free.