On Dec. 12, 2014, over 70 individuals—from different spectrums of the SLC/Utah music scene—signed up to be randomly selected to play in bands for Diabolical Record’s BANDEMONIUM. These new groups would be given two weeks to practice and strut their stuff for 10–15 minute sets of improvisation, music or whatever. Before setting foot down the dark, black-iced Edison Street, I got the word from record shop owner Adam Tye several hours prior to the gig on what to expect from what is sure to be one of the most impressive examples of Salt Lake’s musical talent in practice. Tye says, “It was an idea Alana [Boscan] and I had a few months ago. Our show for the 26th fell through, so we decided to give it a try. We thought it would be a fun way to get people from different music circles to get together and create something unique.”
Speaking further in regard to the event’s impressive turnout, Tye says, “I’m super excited about it. We ended up with over 70 participants. After a few people dropped out and a few people joined in, we’ll have over 40 people playing in 14 bands tonight. Not bad for the first attempt at something like this.” In the excited spirit of the BANDEMONUIM event Tye and Boscan found themselves in a group of their own. Tye goes on to say, “We found ourselves with four amazing musicians: Andy Cvar, Madison Donnelly, Douglas Wood and Casey Hansen. Alana can legitimately play the flute and keep rhythm, so she plays the flute, keyboard and drum in it. I, on the other hand, cannot do anything musically, so I sing one song and ‘play’ the guitar on the other two.” He further hints that the band would bounce through different genres, but would be pretty heavy.
Apart from these few words, I do not really know what to expect from the entirety of tonight’s festivities. However, I have been keenly aware of a certain buzz of excitement that manifests itself though the chatter from the extended digital grapevine. Also, over the last couple weeks, I have walked past Diabolical Records in the late hours of the evening and have overheard some thrashing noise from the shut-down shop. When the night of BANDEMONIUM finally comes, the feeling of anticipation is all one can bear. In my eagerness to check out the gig, I almost get pegged by a pair of snowballs, courtesy of two drunk punks on a rooftop overseeing the alley. Luckily, their aim is poor. After offering some suggestions on how to improve however, I later hear of others venturing down the alley who are not so fortunate to avoid ice-cold projectiles.
Kicking off the mayhem is Steely Dad, whose members include Michael Fuchs, Lori Jenkins-McClure, Skyler Hitchcox and a late to the game Rocky Maldonado (The Nods, Beat Hotel). Their style emphasizes an intense combination of a bass-heavy sound that is pronounced by the prominent use of a synthesizer that helps define the raw yet muffled vocals of McClure’s simple, repetitive lyrics. It’s a performance that sets the tone for a wild evening. Even the tardy addition of Maldonado’s triangle and manjira adds to the overall excitement.
The second act, Fred Dust, is bit more on the experiential side of things, giving off a somewhat mind-numbing experience. However, the third act, Puzzle Quest, produces something that sounds vaguely familiar. This is probably due to Luigi Ghersi’s signature guitar playing that reminds me of his ’90s-indie-pop-inspired band, Chalk. Other groups branch out with unique styles of creativity. This is especially prevalent with James Miska’s (Wing and Claw) one-man act, James Miska’s Hip Dysplasia.
Another group plays a cover of the gypsy-folk tune “Bella Ciao” much to the excitement of the audience. Though it is during KR∆++∆RZZ —featuring Adam Tye and Allana Boscan—that things really begin to go nuts. As suggested when I talked to Tye earlier, their set is defined by a heavy, raw sound. Lyrically they are easy to get behind, and their set is short and sweet. By the conclusion, there are calls for one more song.
The sets are quick—still it is easy to tell where artists draw their strengths. Most of the bands playing tonight have seemingly blended the skill of their individual members into something new yet familiar. It is clear that there is an abundance of talent in the shop tonight as someone jokingly chastises an act, saying that it’s “not supposed to be that good!” Most if not all who participate tonight are from other groups. The idea of the event is much like a show-and-tell of the best that Salt Lake City has to offer.
Some artists even make things more interesting by switching it up by using unfamiliar instruments. In Jeremy Divine’s (Chalk) case, he played a bass instead of his usual knocking about with a drum kit during his brief tenure with Nobody. These switch-it-up displays further shine a light on the impressiveness and creativity of Salt Lake’s diverse music scene. The result of this wild experiment is a consistently packed house as well as a block party outside the shop. Diabolical Records is so crowded throughout the night that I constantly worry about knocking someone unconscious with my long arms as I try to move about.
The last group of the evening, Gif Set, comprises Korey Daniel Martin (Foster Body), Travis Michael (The Nods), Cathy Foy, Michael Wright and Jared T. Soper (Swamp Ravens). They waste little time in dishing out a barrage of energy that invokes 1970s– to early 1980s–styled punk. This performance comes complete with mosh pit and an attempted display of a simulated hanging of Martin that is reminiscent of D.I. Their end has the audience demanding more—and not to disappoint, they deliver an on-the-spot, bass-heavy tune.
After witnessing these hastily put-together groups blast out a consistently impressive performance, it is time for a pint and to seek out further adventure. A night inspired by pure high-energy rock n’ roll demands nothing less. So come on and feel the noise.