Lately, music festivals are starting to seem like a big joke: ridiculous, hodge-podge lineups, ticket prices approaching $500 (seriously), not to mention the cost of taking a week off of your minimum-wage job and flying/carpooling/hitchhiking to California or Texas or Tennessee. But I don’t give a shit about those festivals, and neither should you—we’ve got Crucial Fest, duh!
Crucial Fest is Salt Lake City’s own badass rock festival thrown by Exigent Records, the label best known for backing notorious acts such as Gaza, Accidente and Ether. Making its debut last summer, Crucial Fest presented an exposition of amazing local and regional talent in a five-day, multi-venue musical orgy revolving around a mid-festival blowout at Liberty Park. For people who didn’t make it to last year’s festival, Exigent owner and head Crucial Fest organizer Jarom Bischoff says, “They missed a freakin’ really good time, for sure … and they missed awesome bands getting back together that hadn’t played in a long time—Novelists got back together for the show, Hi-Fi Massacre had a show for the first time in eight or nine years.” Bird Eater, Reviver, Loom, Mindstate, Giraffula, Endless Struggle, Sleeping in Gethsemane and Badass Magic are just a handful more of the 60-plus acts that participated. “It was the underground music scene coming together. Every show was solid, night after night,” says co-organizer Jesse Cassar, Crucial Fest’s man in the trenches. “A lot of the attendees made it a point to tell us immediately when the festival ended, ‘You’re doing this again next year,’” Luckily for us, their decision to throw Crucial Fest again was a no-brainer.
Though there are a few other music festivals around these parts, Bischoff wanted to provide Salt Lakers with a fest without filler, one right here in the valley. “There are other festivals that go on around here, but none of them really speak to me or to the group of people I associate with and the kind of music we like,” he says. Though Crucial Fest primarily showcases bands that play hard, aggressive, heavy music, Bischoff and Cassar agree that being “loud” is what ties all the acts together. “There’s Muscle Hawk, there’s Michael Gross and the Statuettes, Night Sweats, Red Bennies … There are a lot that I wouldn’t consider ‘heavy,’” says Bischoff. Thomas Kessinger, the man rocking press and publicity for the festival, sees Crucial Fest as a response to what is seen as mainstream music. “The cool part about the festival is that it really is taking a genre of music that is underrepresented nowadays, at least in my eyes. It’s saying, ‘This is what’s going on in rock music right now,’ and it puts it all in front of your face,” says Kessinger.