Day Hymns singer Jon Parkin did not refrain at The Shred Shed. Photo: Russel Albert Daniels
It's Year Three, Day Four of SLC's amazing musical orgasm CrucialFest, and I step off the Trax stop at Courthouse to get myself some delicious pizza and beer from The Pie Hole before the festivities start. Heat's in the triple digits, and I pity the poor fools even more who chose Warped Tour over CF. Saturday afternoon's action took place in two venues just a quick walk from each other: the magical all-ages Shred Shed and bar Wasted Space on State Street. A quick heads up to you, dear readers, that while I tried to cover every band I could by heading back and forth between sets, the Shred Shed started their round of bands later than the listed 2 p.m. time, which put them more directly at odds with the bands at Wasted Space, so I absolutely missed a few acts––my sincerest condolences, but next year get your ass off the couch and get out here and see them for yourself. I also want you to know how difficult it is for me to not use the Justice League voiceover every time I jump between venues.
The day's opening act had a lot of hurdles to jump over. They were the first act, before the crowd had really begun to trickle into the Shred Shed; they were missing at least three band members (second guitarist, bassist, and harmonica); they had some minor technical difficulties; and most of all, their music was unlike any other act on the bill, creating an obvious air of insecurity as they were surrounded by tattooed dirtbags like myself. Despite all this, band Hope and Tim weathered it all with grace and professionalism and delivered a really gorgeous performance that I was not expecting. Their band (today) was only a drummer, singer Hope Glenn, and acoustic guitarist/singer/husband Tim, and together, they played a kind of folksy, soulful set of blues-inspired music that was both soothing and sort of hypnotizing. They have a sound reminiscent of bands like The Lumineers and Civil Wars, with really stripped-down vox and guitars music you can imagine listening to on a big porch during a warm summer twilight. Hope's voice was absolutely enchanting with its smoky soul sound, and Tim's a wonderful and talented complement as he stomped around the stage with the beat and provided harmonies, and at times, took the vocal lead. I was kind of surprised to hear Tim talk about the missing band members––their music certainly lends itself to the three-piece I saw in front of me, but also made me want to hear them with their full set up. The tiny crowd probably didn't produce their best show ever, but they got at least one new fan.
MEANWHILE, AT WASTED SPACE (Damnit. Well, I tried.)
I headed on over to Wasted Space to find out if they, too, were beginning their sets an hour late, only to find I had arrived barely in time to see the last song of the set of Harmon's Heart, the acoustic solo project of Exigent Records label owner and CrucialFest guru Jarom Bischoff. This dude has a ton of on-stage charisma, and had one extremely blotto old lady dancing in the aisles and interrupting his set to speak to him as if he wasn't, you know, performing for 35-plus people on stage, but he handled it with awesome humor and poise. From the one song I heard, this solo project reminds me a bit of the old days of indie-emo like Dashboard Confessional, but with a lot less whining and a lot more upbeatness, for lack of a better word, I wish I hadn't missed the rest of his set––I really liked what I heard.
I grabbed myself a beer and waited for the next band to take the stage, none other than the mighty Huldra. This was my first live date with these post-metal giants, so I was very excited. Six dudes climbed up on that tiny little stage and proceeded to rock the fuck out of it. They even have a goddamn keytar player because fuck you, that's why. Fellow SLUG-er Ricky Vigil and I watched in laughing delight as the string of red lights around the stage dimmed every time the bass drum punched, and the overwhelming vibrations causing plastic jars to keep falling off the top of the bar next to the stage. Huldra literally moved the place (ha!). Their sound is a thick, atmospheric rumbling of complex melody and ambiance that fans of ISIS seriously cannot pass up. It was interesting to see how the band members got into their music performing; the guitarist and bassist onstage left did this hypnotizing body-rocking (or like, slow body-banging? Sounds dirty), not in synch with each other or even necessarily the same beat in the music; it was like watching waves on the water and was really spectacular. Thanks to their ambitious format, they only got to play two and a half songs, but it was probably the highlight of my day.
A small aside: it was during Huldra's set that I noticed the first of what would total three small dogs being carried and walked into both venues during CrucialFest. That is bullshit. If you bring a pet to an overheated and incredibly loud music venue, you're a piece of shit who shouldn't own a pet.
Resigned to the fact that no matter what I did, I was going to miss bands, I decided to hang at Wasted Space for the next set to begin: the awesome Filth Lords, headed by none other than SLUG Editorial Assistant and man-about-town Alexander Ortega. If you haven't heard Filth Lords, they're a guitar/bass/drums setup that play a great, fast-paced mix of punk and a tiny bit of hardcore that seriously makes you want to dance. Even though the joint was air conditioned, that was a matter of relativity, and it was definitely hot enough to justify the three-piece punk act to play their entire set shirtless. Banter was light but energy was high. There were a few flubs, but as I told Ortega after the show, messing up is as punk as it gets. I headed back over to the Shred Shed in time to catch most of the set of Collin Creek. These dudes played some sweet fucking rock n' roll, headed by a screaming vocalist that looked like the son of some badass, red-headed Irish warrior. They had a fun and upbeat sound that was occasionally punctuated by moments where the whole band would stop playing and just yell the lyrics along with the singer at the top of their lungs, which translated surprisingly well live and gave off this whole anthem groupchant vibe I enjoyed a lot. Their music has a slight Southern twinge, not overwhelming or in the same arena as a band like Down, but noticeable and charming anyway. The vocalist even gave out hugs to members of the crowd, who I can only assume are the group's diehard fans, as they were screaming along with his lyrics most of the set. Finding them on Facebook after, I am aghast that they have less than a hundred fans, and this needs to be remedied stat.
Baby Gurl are a two-piece punk outfit, just a bass and drums, but goddamn these guys rock the shit out of their instruments. Seeing them live, they looked like they could be brothers, although, according to their Facebook, I'm wrong about that. I actually listened to their most recent album to potentially review it for SLUG, but I ended up passing it on to another writer simply because these guys were so out of left field compared to what my normal musical fare is––no fault of their talent at all, I just didn't feel qualified to give the review justice. I will say, I enjoyed the fuck out of their live show. The dudes were hilarious and had buckets of charm onstage, and I was in awe watching their bassist rip out the tunes right in front of me. You can't ignore the serious talent and unique sound of this group. Some of their biggest fans, showing off their Baby Gurl T-shirts, even bought them shots between songs, which I thought was a classy thing to do. They had a huge crowd and are clearly loved by this culture.
Badass Magic came to CF all the way from the streets of LA with a crazy, unique sound and vibe. Two of the four members were most certainly twins, with the vocalist sporting a sexy porn stache, the best way to tell twins apart. Musically, they had a rock styling that was tinged with an experimental lacing, reminding me very much of At The Drive In and even Zach de la Rocha at times (plus a lot more groove, minus the politics). The vocalist had a super-passionate and understandable scream that greatly complemented the music. I'm kind of sad these dudes are from out of town, since that means it'll be a while before I see them live again. They were great to watch with lots of energy and miles of attitude.
Settle Down is one of my favorite local acts. I fucking love their rock/post-hardcore sound, and they put on such a good show. I arrived back to the Shred Shed as they were already underway to find their drummer had set up his kit on the venue floor, facing his bandmates (unfortunately, I missed the reason why, but I believe it was to make room for the vocalists' own giant tom drum as well as some lady guest singers). It was a pretty sweet setup that gave the audience an almost never-seen view of what a drummer actually delivers. The vocalist's mic stand was strung up with bones and antlers, such a badass and subtle touch. They ran through a bunch of their songs, including my favorite, "Hitchhiker," with its jerking riffs and desperate vocals. I wish I hadn't missed as much of their set as I did, but I would have set the place on fire if I'd missed the whole thing. Lucky everyone! As soon as they were done, they began ushering people out the door, commanding them to get to Wasted Space so they wouldn't miss the next act: Black Acid Devil.
Not gonna lie, I was super stoked for Black Acid Devil. I've heard a lot of buzz around this Colorado-based stoner rock outfit, and I'm a big fan of the genre in general. Holy crap, these dudes did not disappoint. Their sound is a tribute to the traditional psych/stoner metal acts that came before them, thick and dark and dirty with vocals that are more yelling than screaming; if you're a fan of bands like High on Fire, Sabbath, and to a lesser degree, maybe Red Fang, then you don't want to miss Black Acid Devil. Their set at Wasted Space rumbled the place as hard as Huldra did, filling the air with dense bass and intense, unrepentant groove. The sound traveled the gamut of tempos, moving from a sludgy doom vibe to driving rhythm all within the same song, expertly timed. They're another out-of-state act I can't wait to see again that I'm glad I didn't miss.
I stuck around to see the final band performing at Wasted Space, local doom group Oxcross. Compared to Black Acid Devil, the doom sound of this group was a little more modern, a little more ... I don't know, post-doom, somehow. Is that a thing? Whatever. They had a smattering of almost upbeat melodies sewn into the dissonance that you don't really hear from traditional doom acts, and it was a lovely surprise––they were fucking fantastic. Their sound was thick and completely overwhelming, shaking you to your bones. The vocals were just like the music in that they were mostly traditional yells, but with just that little bit of different tone, different notes, that set them apart from other bands in the genre. I definitely left impressed. It was time for Day Hymns, definitely the most anticipated band for me that day, simply out of curiosity. Members of the scene are all too aware of the sudden and shitty demise of local legends Gaza, as well as reformation of all the members besides vocalist Jon Parkin in new band Cult Leader, though they have yet to release any music. But I found out early in the afternoon that Parkin hadn't just faded into the lame world of non-music, but was the frontman for Day Hymns, a side project he could now give full attention to. It was a fucking awesome surprise. I would describe their sound as a thick, complex post-hardcore with a lot of energy and atmosphere. Parkin hasn't lost an inch on his pterodactyl-from-hell scream or his stage presence, pacing around the front of the floor as if he had too much energy, like a shark that will explode and die if he stops moving. He thanked everyone for "not going to Warped Tour" and supporting the scene, and later made some interesting remarks about how he was tired of speaking "only about negative things," and that he wanted "to die with a smile on my face," changing what he could in the world and loving the people close to him and making small differences. To me and probably other fans, this was obviously a complete 180 from his philosophy during the years as Gaza's frontman, and while he didn't mention his former band, it seemed to me this was a signal his departure affected him on far more than a surface level (or vice versa––perhaps this philosophical flip made it hard to swim in the dark music Gazais well known for). In any case, what he's doing now in Day Hymns is really fantastic stuff, and hopefully they get some music out and an online presence soon.
Closing off the night was Burning Love, a well-known and far-reaching Canadian band that, from the sounds of all the chatter, I was going to be glad I was here to see. (Spoiler: It totally was!) They have a hardcore punk sound mixed with a gritty traditional rock and roll that was super pumped and upbeat, almost impossible not to dance or headbang to. The crowd was happy to see them, as well: They started the first pits I'd seen all day. At one point, the singer introduced a new track to the crowd and began talking about how surreal it's been for him watching "the other shoe drop" in regards to the current scandals going on in DC right now, you know, the whole deal about the NSA fucking spying on its own citizens and what have you. The song, he said, was written in response to that revelation and the hope for some kind of revolution to overturn the shitty decisions being made, a speech that got the crowd applauding and set the stage for a great performance. It was a really solid close to the fest.
It was a long, torturously hot day in Salt Lake, but I'd call CrucialFest 3 a complete success and one that I was felt fortunate to be a part of. Personal extreme thanks to Jarom Bischoff and company for the inception of this fantastic showcase of local talent. We have the best fucking scene in the country, and if you don't agree, I will fight you.
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