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Not your average kid: DJ Dill Pickle, 11, spent his summer touring Michigan music festivals

DJ Dill Pickle performs at Wayside Central.

With an Instagram following of more than 15,000 people, Dylan Hunter is certainly not your average 11-year-old. While many of his friends at Mount Pleasant's Sacred Heart Middle School spent the summer playing video games or watching YouTube videos, Hunter performed around the state as DJ Dill Pickle. 

His first of four festival performances of the season was on June 23 at Portland Summer Fest in Portland, Michigan. After playing at Common Ground Music Festival in Lansing in August, he played Breakaway Music Festival in Grand Rapids, taking over Tee Girzzley's set. The rapper was arrested that day, so Hunter was asked last-minute to play a 45-minute set for thousands of people. 

DJ Dill Pickle wrapped up his festival schedule on Sept. 14 at Prime Music Festival in Lansing.

Although he is still years away from becoming a teenager, Hunter has spent a lot of time with electronic music artists. He's worked with the likes of Slushii, Andre Drummond, MGK and Blackbear. This summer he performed alongside national acts like Halsey and Odesza. He’s performed with Waka Flocka several times, and performed throughout Michigan with DJ Pauly D. 

Meeting with Hunter for the first time leaves you with the impression of a shy, polite boy who speaks quietly during a one-on-one conversation. He hardly seems like the Instagram star who regularly posts photos of himself sporting brightly colored hats and T-shirts from his own clothing line, emblazoned with his DJ Dill Pickle logo.

That all changes, however, when he gets in front of a crowd.

When DJ Dill Pickle works the decks, he plays EDM and pop music so upbeat that he can't resist getting into the music. Yelling and jumping as he performs, he quickly raises the energy of the room. His intensity inspires the crowd. 

Despite the fact the young DJ is usually playing to an audience that is much older than him, audience members lose themselves in the sound and start dancing. As his shows progress, the energy level continues to grow, and DJ Dill Pickle steps out from behind the booth and dances for the cheering audience. Sometimes he'll break out a few hip-hop moves, get upside down on his head, or even leap off the stage to crowd surf. 

"I don't really get nervous," Hunter said. "I like it."

His father, John Hunter, is the owner of Mount Pleasant’s popular nightspot Wayside Central. Dad does double duty as DJ Dill Pickle's manager. Because of the family's business and their shared love of music, the middle schooler grew up immersed in music and DJ culture.  

Dylan has a strong admiration of upbeat music and eccentric performers and there's quite a few he would like to share the stage with.

"Oh, if I could (perform with anyone), it's definitely Michael Jackson, Marshmello and Migos," Dylan said.

According to his father, Dylan has always been a "wiggle worm" who loved music. When he was five years old, Hunter began taking hip-hop dance classes with Central Michigan University faculty member Ricky "Bird" Clarkson. The Hunter family spends a lot of time at Wayside, so Dylan was able to watch and interact with the DJs and other performers who were booked at the club. 

Sometimes he got up on stage with them during their shows. Then he tried  dancing in front of crowds of hundreds of people. He grew increasingly interested in the DJing equipment, and was eager to learn how to perform.  DJ Dill Pickle’s first “real” gig was a silent disco in front of 20,000 people at Breakaway Music Festival in August 2017.  

“He’s low-key and a little shy, but he turns it on at his shows” his father said. “I think a lot of people at his shows might be the same way. He brings out that energy in them.”Josh Orzoco, also known as Trilla, has worked closely with Hunter as he gets more comfortable performing. Trilla travels with him to shows to help him get set up and acclimated. 

His father said Trilla acts as their “backup plan” in case they ever need one. Other local DJs who have helped mold DJ Dill Pickle are Mitch Redder, known as 4SLM, Brady McClintic, known as DJ Klintic, Brandon Meiste, known as DJ Meiste and Samir Bahadur, known as DJ Swammy B. Dylan has also worked with Cooke Productions and Gio Bartlett productions to create videos of his performances, which can be found on his Youtube channel.

“Dylan and his team have put in tons of hours on this journey,” his father said. “It truly has taken a village to train DJ Dill Pickle how to perform at this level.” 

Hunter spends a lot of his free time practicing in his family’s living room, where he has all of his equipment set up. Recently, he began producing his own music.

On May 16, Dylan experienced a new kind of gig when he performed at a pep rally at Portland St. Patrick Catholic School. Although he was initially nervous to perform in front of an audience closer in age to him for the first time, he said he got a great response.  

When he first arrived at the school, Dylan was surprised to see kids scrambling to take pictures of him from the windows. Even more surprising was the crowd of uniformed students and their teachers all getting out of their seats to dance during his performance.

DJ Dill Pickle's future is full of performing and making more music. He and his father would like to explore doing more pep rallies at schools, maybe even using his music to spread awareness about topics such as bullying and mental health. 

What is his favorite part about performing in front of an enthusiastic crowd?

“All of it," Dylan said smiling. 

Videos of DJ Dill Pickle and his performances can be found on his Facebook page.