Talking the Con Game with Adolfo Dorta

Talking the Con Game with Adolfo Dorta

By Adam Holtzapfel

photo credit: Carrie Gedeon

This week we sit down with one of the founders of Days of the Dead and FDTC Radio DJ Adolfo Dorta. Unfortunately being in different states we didn’t get to do this while eating some killer food, but none the less we still got a great chat in. We talked everything from horror conventions to music to the best place to grab a burger in Chicago. If you get a chance, check out Days of the Dead: Culture Shock in Indianapolis (2/27-3/1), plenty of tickets are still available.

MBQ-So how did you get hooked up with Rick and Bill and get involved in doing Days of the Dead?

Adolfo-I’ve known Rick for just about the entire time I’ve lived up in the Midwest since moving from Florida back in the fall of 2008. We met through a mutual friend originally from the area and clicked right away. We started FROM DUSK TILL CON together in 2009 which was a portal website dedicated to news and reviews of various conventions across the country.

FROM DUSK TILL CON (which has since evolved into FDTC Radio), came to get a lot of attention in the con scene quite quickly, and in 2010, Bill Philputt – who was one of the guys who created the HorrorHound convention – contacted me to see if I was interested in coming on board to help put together a new convention in the Midwest. As a life long convention fan and horror junkie it was impossible to say no. I brought Rick in with me and thus was born the three headed hydra that is DAYS OF THE DEAD.

MBQ-How did the success of DAYS OF THE DEAD transpire into going into the pop culture circuit with CULTURE SHOCK?

Adolfo-Even though we came out initially advertising Culture Shock as a “pop culture” show, in hindsight I don’t know if that’s all that accurate, which is why we now refer to it as DAYS OF THE DEAD: Culture Shock. Think of it as a spin-off show or side project from one of your favorite bands where it carries a lot of the same elements as what spawned it, but veers slightly into new territory or explores new themes which may not necessarily work in the original. We all love horror, but we also love a lot of other stuff – however, try and book anything outside of the horror genre for a horror convention, and you always have a small niche of fans ready to crucify you.

MBQ-Doing five shows a year (Indianapolis, Chicago, Los Angeles, & Atlanta) do you have a favorite city or does each one offer a little something different?

Adolfo- I like each city for its own reasons. Chicago is great because it’s so easy to promote and we have a really strong following here – it’s home base for most of us and I’m usually in Chicago every other weekend anyway (for a show or hitting up some of their awesome foodie spots) so it’s just a matter of me taking flyers and visiting all the comic and record shops I would normally be at anyway. All of our friends and family come out to Chicago so it’s like one big party to end the year.

Indianapolis is where it all began and where we first met most of the volunteer staff that now takes on some of the biggest responsibilities of the show. Most of them are from there or nearby so it gives Indianapolis just as big of a “family reunion” feel as Chicago has. Not to mention the Wyndham is such a great hotel which we’ve developed a strong relationship over the past 5 years. It’s always great working with them.

Atlanta is a market we’re still trying to cultivate and despite being relatively green in terms of having a dedicated horror show, their crowd always comes to party hard. The support in Atlanta has been awesome and since there really aren’t very many other horror conventions in the area, it really does feel like DAYS OF THE DEAD is Atlanta’s show.

Los Angeles is our newest market (we’ve only done two shows there), and I wont lie, it’s kind of been a little tougher to crack than our other cities. Folks there have seen it all so you really have to do really big things to impress them. That said, the fans there have been beyond awesome and they really love having something like DAYS OF THE DEAD there. It’s also cool to see a lot of the celebrities that come out to the show as patrons.

MBQ-Being big supporters of independent films by having the Jabb Pictures 48 hour film fest, do you see horror as a whole diving back into the indie scene? With films like Time to Kill, I Am No One, Pieces of Talent etc being the high points of 2014 and making the rounds on the convention circuit, do you see trends heading towards those or staying kind of mainstream?

Adolfo-I’d hope so, but I’m not sure I’m ready to give the scene as a whole that much credit. I think, for the most part, indie film carries a stigma of being poorly done so fans are hesitant to give it a fair chance – granted, some of it is, but you can say that about any art form. You also have fans out there that, despite what they may say, would rather play lazy and safe and just stick to the same old mainstream stuff while complaining it’s all lame.

I don’t see there being anything wrong with digging the mainstream stuff. If that’s your cup of tea than cool, But I don’t see where anyone can say there isn’t anything good out in horror film when the last few years have brought some incredible films such as Found, Pieces of Talent, Time to Kill, I Am No One, Circus of the Dead, Starry Eyes, etc. Any one of those movies could hang with anything you’d find on Netflix, Redbox, and On Demand, whatever. The underground has been absolutely on fire as of late.

MBQ-All of those flicks were great, I know I caught a few on the FDTC Friday Night viewings, are there any plans to bring that back in 2015?

Yeah, we had a blast doing those and would be stoked to do them again, though we’ll likely do them as a weekend long event every couple of months like we did the Halloween film festival and show the cream of the crop. Making it a weekly thing was probably a little too ambitious with our schedules, not to mention that it doesn’t give you a whole lot of time to promote when you have a week’s time.

MBQ-Do you see the price trend continuing in the convention scene or do you see the Walking Dead hype eventually dying out and the prices leveling back to what they were a few years ago?

Adolfo-While the Walking Dead phenomenon has a lot to do with it, ultimately it comes down to the fans willing to pay the prices. Ten years ago, you’d get laughed out of a convention trying to charge what some celebrities do for autographs and photos, but it’s hard to argue when you have thousands of folks lining up to pay for it. Prices would go down in a year’s time if enough people held on to their wallets and said, “No way! $80 for an autograph and $80 for a photo is too fuckin much!” But that doesn’t happen. Fans grumble and bitch, but at the end of the day still drop the equivalent of a month’s mortgage on a few autographs at a show a couple times a year.

If McDonald’s raised the price of their cheeseburgers from $1.99 to $9.99, and you still had folks lining up around the drive thru to order them by the sackful, why would McDonald’s have any inclination to charge any less?

MBQ-Seeing as the convention scene is a lot like the underground music scene, how has being a punk promoter in the Florida punk/hardcore scene helped out with your transition to doing horror conventions?

Adolfo-I played in bands and put together shows and small tours in Florida all throughout my 20s. Promotion typically consisted of going down to the local Kinko’s, printing out a shit ton of flyers, and going to every local show I could and putting paper into hands while engaging face to face and getting others excited about what it was I had going on. It was a lot of dropping off flyers at record stores, and news stands, and local hot spots, and creating relationships with the people in the local scene who would then tell others, who would then tell even more people, and so on. To be honest, my approach to promoting hasn’t really changed much since those days, only now our flyers are a little snazzier thanks to the prowess of our graphic designer, Rick Lara.

We definitely use Facebook quite a bit (in fact, we’re one of the shows with the biggest social media presence in the convention scene), but it still comes down to making a connection with people. I make it a point to personally answer just about every comment or questions on our Facebook pages unless it’s a general enough thing where a fan maybe gets to jump in first. I’m a regular on many horror related groups and pages and have developed relationships with many of the people in the horror scene. At the end of the day, I’m just as big a fan as the people who patronize our show, and I’m not at all into the idea of having the DAYS OF THE DEAD brand seem like it’s run by a mysterious man behind the curtain.
MBQ-What are you currently listening to, any bands people should know about, but don’t?

Adolfo-2014 was such a great year for music (as was 2013) and I’m still digging on what I thought were some of the best albums of that year, particularly Trap Them’s, Blissfucker, and Iron Reagan’s, Tyranny of Will. I’m also very excited about the new Mexican Werewolf EP, Luck, which we recently got a chance to feature on FDTC Radio in the form of a special listening party prior to its release. For anyone not hip to Mexican Werewolf, definitely check them out at

MBQ-Any favorite restaurants you can recommend for people coming into Chicago for Days of the Dead from out of state?

Adolfo-It may seem a little obvious, but it’s impossible for me to not mention Kuma’s Corner when talking about places to check out when visiting Chicago. I hardly ever feel like anything that hyped lives up to expectations but Kuma’s is the rare exception. I’ve eaten there well over a dozen times and I’ve never come away feeling like I just didn’t have the best burger I’ve ever tasted. And that burger experience is made that much better with some good heavy metal blasting through the air and a horror movie playing on the TV set. It’s truly second to none in a city that is a foodie’s dream.

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