I am constantly amazed how remarkably easy it is to discover new tunes thanks to social media. I was invited to check out a gig via an event on Facebook. Taking a second to casually look over the event page, my eyes locked on the description of headlining act, Ex-Cult. They were described as combing elements of 1960s psychedelic noise, with 1970s post punk and 1980s hardcore. Curiosity aroused, I confirmed to show up. Besides, it’s a Saturday night, and this gig got a solid line up. So there really isn’t an excuse for me to not go.
Arriving early, I have some time to kick about while the various bands show up. As there isn’t much of a turn out by 7:30 p.m., the show starts later than planned (surprise, surprise). However, there is a slight sense of urgency to get started, since Kilby Court needs to shut down at 11:00 p.m. The Nods start off the night by playing to a slightly smaller crowd due to the need to kick off sooner rather than later. They launch into their punky feeling, rock n’ roll styled barrage, much to the enjoyment of those present. However, early on they appear to have some technical difficulties. It becomes comically apparent that the audience needs to chip in on occasion to keep one of the drums standing up. But the Nods overcome this loose end by simply playing through. Technically speaking, these guys are good, but their showmanship makes their act. They provide a very engaging presence on stage, rather than being all introspective and appearing mentally where they are. These guys provide a much needed jolt to kick off the evening. It’s a pity more people were not there to check these guys out.
Taking a quick breather in between sets, I search for a bench outside in hopes of a place to cool off. However, this being August in Zion’s version of paradise, such allusions of escaping the oppressive heat, even with the sun setting, is all but dashed. All too aware that the Swamp Ravens are about to kick off, I head back in. Tonight, instead of the usual quartet there is a trio on stage. With no bass, their appearance and sound come across Cramps-like—real swampy garage infused rock n’ roll with a definitive western swagger. The most prominent part of this act are the heavy riffs courtesy of the duel guitars combined with Mikey Blackhurst’s haunting, fuzzed out vocals. The use of double guitars creates a sort of droning sensation that seems to allow for a smooth transition between songs, especially into their last number, during which Blackhurst and Jared T. Soper go off on a metal-influenced duel guitar instrumental that lasts for what seems like more than a bit. However, the assembled audience eats it right up.
Continuing on a highly energetic note, Zig Zags explode into a furious assault on your senses—stoner metal with a punk infusion barrage. A once empty room quickly fills up with wide-eyed and head-banging spectators. This group blasts out tunes like “Soul Sound” and “Scavenger” with a fury of shredding guitar and rapid fire drum beats. They play with such force that they end up breaking their drum peddle half way through the set. It is during brief pauses brought on by the need for a technical adjustment or a breather that guitarist Jed Maheu, in good humor, offers bits of wisdom to his audience. He jests “Don’t rock too hard Salt Lake City, or your drum peddle breaks,” or, as a warning to those present, “If you want your asses blown off stay in the room.”
Zig Zags conclusion, with “Braindead Warrior,” leaves my ears with a noticeable ringing. However, there is not enough time to adequately come down off of the buzzing sensation that seems to have enveloped my skull. Ex-Cult gets in position, with vocalist Chris Shaw centering himself on stage. Shaw looks out into the audience with a sort of mild distaste. This look is reminiscent of those old Sex Pistol clips of Johnny Rotten intensely staring into your soul with a sort of bored displeasure.
Ex-Cult launches into their proto-punk styled beat-you-over-the-head Wire-meets-The Gun Club all-out blitz. The band plays as a cohesive unit, providing an impressive rhythm section with prominent fuzzed out guitar. But it’s Shaw that commands the stage, swaying and jumping about while holding the mic stand as if to support his weight, all the while delivering his snarling vocals. After the first number is concluded, he comes off stage, and approaches an audience member who has a joint in hand. Taking the little doobie, he glares at the spectator while taking a hit. Returning to the stage, Shaw shares his prize with the band. Very cool and charismatic with no fucks given, Ex-Cult jumps right back into where they left off.
The conclusion of each number blasted out leaves the listener ready for more. By the time Ex-Cult starts on their last song, my legs are sore from jumping up and down. Egged on by popular demand, Ex-Cult plays out an encore to an overly ecstatic crowd. As the band departs the stage, I make my way to their merch table. Getting my hands on a single and an LP, I leave content. Though this was Ex-Cult’s first time in Salt Lake, I’m surprised at the low turnout. It was one hell of a show, and if they come again they are not to be missed.