Urban Wild: Crook & The Bluff Meet Craft Lake City, Take Two

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Photo: Matthew Windsor

One hot-as-fuck, late-June afternoon, I found myself sharing a truck ride with two dusty gentlemen, Tad Wilford and Kirk Dath, whom I imagined to be quizzical villains straight out of an old spaghetti western. Although they were well washed, there was a sandy desert vibe exuding from the car as we wandered down 700 East with Metallica blasting out the windows. Shortly after, inside Juniors and a few whiskey shots in, we began discussing the goings on for Crook and the Bluff and their approaching musical appearance at the Craft Lake City DIY Festival on Aug. 8 at 7:30 p.m. on the Graywhale Entertainment Stage.

Wilford and Dath met eight years ago, when they moved in together, but they didn’t start playing music until just over a year ago. “[Dath] was playing music with a friend who moved to Portland. I took his place, but we made the music a whole lot louder,” says Wilford. Since then, they have been detonating music out of two guitars that is much more thunderous than you would imagine, aided by some extra hardware. Dath says, “We use a lot of effects pedals and weird noises.” This allows for a fuller sound by covering multiple registers. Every song is dealt with differently, but one thing remains the same: Direct meddling with the guitars themselves employs a distinctive approach for fuller resonance. “We tune our guitars two full steps down, so they have a really deep, low sound. We want to try and get a full spectrum and fill all the spaces,” Wilford says.

The intensity of their music closely resembles the energy they obtain from the wilderness, meshed with grinding blues. Progressive psychedelia is infused throughout, transforming jarringly from languid and hazy to wailing and droning with a heavy dose of feedback, akin to The Troubles. Both Dath and Wilford have constantly been inspired by the desolation and beauty of the deserts to the south. “Southern Utah is amazing. It looks like Mars. We took a friend down there a while ago, and she was overwhelmed by how stunning and unique it was,” Dath says. This connection has heavily influenced the sensation of their compositions, which lends their music a brooding folk twist. Even though they play their shows in an urban environment, they transport you to a place less touched by human hands. “We imagine a lot of our songs being played around a campire,” Wilford says.

Dath and Wilford recently finished up a fruitful Kickstarter campaign to raise money for their upcoming album. “We ended up raising enough money for our goal, and we have everything organized and pretty much ready to record,” said Wilford. Once again, their brilliant obsession with Southern Utah flowed into conversation. Dath says, “We just need to go to the desert again and do some psychedelics, and then we will be ready.” Recording was scheduled for late July, and the album should be available in October.

As Crook and the Bluff, they have come up with some fascinating ways to market themselves, including the way in which they reached out to potential supporters through Kickstarter. “I think that if you’re going to ask for something to trade, you might as well make it interesting. It helps set us apart as artists,” Dath says. They offered an eclectic list of things to trade from merch items to pranks, depending on the size of your donation. The best idea came from Wilford, which made me simultaneously intrigued and nervous. “I want to do a prank that would cause long-lasting emotional damage. We were thinking about making a pile of fur and ketchup and putting it behind someone’s car, then screaming and crying when they backed out of their driveway. Acting is key here. We would just let that settle for a couple of weeks,” says Wilford. All I could think after hearing that one is: “Thank God no one who donated to their Kickstarter has a personal vendetta against me.” They also picked wildflowers for several donors, and they’re offering T-shirts and a deck of cards as well.

Both gentlemen are extremely excited for what this year’s Craft Lake City DIY Fest will bring. “Last year, we blew bubbles filled with fog that could potentially be the size of a Volkswagen Bug. We thought that brought an interesting aspect to our show. This year, we have some new tricks to show off,” Dath says. The pair voiced an appreciation of CLC and the way it brings local artists together. He continues to say, “You get a real community vibe out of [the] Craft Lake [City DIY Fest]. Everyone who comes is a local, so you don’t get vendors from all over the place. We appreciate the fact that CLC supports Salt Lake City’s underground.”

After hearing about their antics and shenanigans, I am eagerly awaiting Crook and the Bluff’s performance at the DIY Fest this year. If their tricks are even better than overwhelming amps and giant smoke bubbles, I can’t imagine what an extraordinary show it’s going to be. Mosey down to the festival on Aug. 8 and check out their show. You can proactively find information about the band at facebook.com/crookandthebluff. Grab a brew and see a glorious cornucopia of local-artisan anything while you’re there. Just get ready to have your ears and your eyes blown out, all while sporting a maniacal grin.