Crucial Fest 2014 Day One @ Metro Bar 06.04
With Pest Rulz, Moon of Delirium, Turbo Chugg, Cicadas, Temples, Baby Gurl, Iceburn

So I guess this Crucial Fest thing might be catching on a bit. Then again, my attendance to the kickoff show for the fourth fest was my first time ever hitting up the CF action—so my position to judge past to present is obviously disabled. For the evening of the always-wonderful humpday a large amount of folks joined in on the action. Crucial Fest has an unofficial tag of being a “hipster” thing, but the folks in attendance seemed like a diverse enough rag tag group of music fans. With good times at every glance I have no place to judge what “clique” people might fit into—in the end that doesn’t really mean a thing.

With seven bands playing, the sights and sounds were a lot to take in. Also the kickoff show offered one of the more diverse line-ups of the fest. With seven different bands taking in variations of rock, progressive, metal, punk, jazz and hardcore add all the elements just inside each band and it’s a lot to take in. Other nights of the four day concert festival offer line-ups that have bands that run in the same realms of musical styles. Like the June 5 show offering a huge amount of metal, or June 6th’s dosage of doom and sludge.

On to spinning the deeds of seven bands offering plenty of ear debauchery. Rock duo Pest Rulz took on the hefty task of kicking off the evening to the folks filtering into Club Metro. Being an opening band for any sort of bill is no easy task but being the opening band on a bill with six other bands and trying to make your mark is even harder. Unfortunately, and I feel really bad about it, Pest Rulz didn’t leave much of a mark on me. Really there was nothing wrong or terrible about the band brand of faster, peppy rock n’ roll. They only had the time to deliver about four songs and what the duo did just didn’t hit that connection note in my brain of anything distinctive or remarkable. They reminded me mostly of “bar rock,” something that plays out more in the background than something that reels your focus in. I know that sounds kind of harsh but it’s meant in the most polite way. The guys looked like they were having a blast as they joked and smiled ear to ear on stage. I would imagine in setting where the guys had more time to rock out and deliver more songs the show would be more engaging – like I said it’s always hard to open up a show. But with this barrage of bands being first has it’s burden.

Next on the go was the eclectic doom/death metal band Moon of Delirium who took over for death metal band The Obliterate Plague, who couldn’t play. Moon of Delirium, however, does contain the vocalist/guitarist of The Obliterate Plague, Alexander Jorgenson – also of note: Moon of Delirium contains the drummer as well as bassist for Crucial Fest day 2 band Gravecode Nebula. Having seen the band before and knowing the folks in the band, Moon of Delirium was the band I was most familiar with for the evening. I’m fairly certain Moon of Delirium caught the crowd off guard a bit because of the completely dismal tones they dose up with. The trio played a whole two songs, but those two songs were really long songs. The growing crowd seemed, after some happiness disablement, to enjoy the dosage of dread and despair the band pumps out in droves. Moon of Delirium develop their songs that lie mostly in the dirge and slow speeds and dump some melancholy melody on top of those dirges only to add speed akin to some black/death metal styles into the mix. The first song the shorter of the two was the more ferocious track maybe surprising some of the crowd to have the death growled vocals and more distorted guitar bloodied by a heavy bass sound. When getting ready for the next song, Jorgenson’s guitar broke a string and went awfully out of tune. There was some time spent trying to rectify the problem, which always detracts from the momentum the band already brought. Thankfully he had a backup guitar and the band started up a roughly thirteen minute song heavy on the dread and a bit less raging than the previous song. The tune displayed the chops of what Moon of Delirium do best, creating some uncomfortable and thick atmospheres with variation on variation of guitar styles from crunchiness to dynamic and engaging solos with a bit of shredding. If you like your metal with a lot of touches of unease, than Moon of Delirium are a band to go see.

Turbo Chugg come as advertised in their band name. Plenty of chug and at turbo speed. Initially the bands sounded a bit jam/groove rock oriented reminding me a bit of Clutch. The jam style quickly moved in to more punchy tones and the riff chugs, similar to a modern hardcore type chug but a lot less monotonous and overly testosterone fueled. Unlike some hardcore bands that are dominated by the male bravado and machismo, the Turbo Chugg guys offered a hearty set of tunes that played more on more fun tones than being tough guys and it was the first signs of life of getting the crowd to move and groove. A good riff is a good riff and with a mighty rhythm section a vocalist set to engage the crowd and get the turbo a’ chugging—they achieved what they wanted to do. So I guess one could say for a good time, call Turbo Chugg.

With the peppy type momentum built from the Turbo Chugg, Cicadas, an instrumental drum and highly distorted violin duo, came next. Of note, that person playing the violin, she’s Merz Pack from Subrosa, who are also playing the fest. From what I do recall, Cicadas are working on some much-desired recordings. Although doing a quick search of the interwebs there happens to be a few bands in existence that share the name Cicadas, but no matter. The name fits the band in the sense that a Cicada’s serenade comes from the grasshopper like insect rubbing its wings together, much like a violin’s sound is created by a bow rubbing against strings. At this point in time the crowd seemed to be at one of its largest points, most of the inside of the Club was filled up by patrons and the Cicada serenade, or in the case of this Cicada, the pummeling, seemed to enrapture the crowd. The heavy ended bass tones made just about every inch of the club vibrate. The fast to slower speeds from Cicadas played well, offering melodic breaks from the intensity of what Cicadas can powerfully pull off. Pack plays her violin hard and has multiple tools to change up her distortions. At one point she ditched the bow and picked the violin like a guitar, which created some hugely unique sounds. The band doesn’t play live often – with the obvious reason being Subrosa is Pack’s main focus. I highly suggest if you have the opportunity to see the duo live get out there and do it.

At this point in time during the evening the way the bands were playing out was a bit of mixing a happy energetic type band to a more dismal type band. After the heavy handed set from Cicada’s, Provo’s Temples set felt like lying on a soft fluffy cloud. The six piece instrumental band offered some interesting sounds, kind of a progressive (they must listen to a lot of Rush) to psychedelic (and to a lot of Phish) vibe going on. The stage presence of the two guitarists and bassist all lined up front and center offered an interesting visual for the most part the guys were somewhat in unison with each other while they each played very different things on their instruments. Being an instrumental act that is heavily weighted on the technicality of the music and engaging an audience is a hard thing. Couple that with having a live sound, the band would, like one might fathom it, would be even harder. For the most part Temples pulled it off. The keyboard, almost piano-like sound, with the layered guitars offered the most pretty of the sounds for the evening. It was almost like a fresh lavender scented breeze wafted into Club Metro. It didn’t feel as though the audience was quite as engaged, almost like a few folks meandered outside or even left since the evening began to get late and most folks had to work the next day. Despite a small disconnect, the guys pulled off what they sound like recorded in a good way.

With a name like Baby Gurl I had absolutely no idea what to expect from the bass/vocals, drums/vocals approach. Surprisingly it played out quite well. The duo injected a lot of humor into their set from the goofy vocals reminiscent of Mike Patton to the guys embracing their chubby selves, and the bouncy/goofy/silly/spazz fast bass playing and intense drumming felt beyond wild. Like I mentioned, the guys reminded me a lot of some of the different projects Patton has done, but mostly Mr. Bungle and Tomahawk, though one could also cite a bit of Primus attitude in the bands sound. The set pumped in some new energy after the more subdued sound of Temples. I think a small mosh pit even broke out. The tunes kept bouncing and the still pretty large remaining crowd ate it up. At one point the bassist got felt up (his tummy and chest) by a kind lady. The combo of silliness and speedy tempos plays well with others of any genre bias, it’s always hard to not enjoy something that has such an intense fun and engaging rhythm to it.

To put a cap on a musically weighted and diverse night came Iceburn after a bunch of bad jokes delivered by SLUG columnist Mike Brown, the MC for the Crucial kickoff. I almost feel that as long as I’ve been going to shows and been involved in the local music community that never seeing Iceburn play before is almost in a sense a crime against the SLC music scene. So I got my Iceburn cherry popped – they’re a band I’ve heard so many positive things about but never really new what they actually sound like. My tired feet and small headache and just sheer length of the evening wore in so I found an empty chair in the back, sat on my ass and watched the completely unique musical approach of Iceburn and understood why their name garners so much respect locally. Once they started rolling there wasn’t really any let-up, no pauses between songs, just so much to soak in and try and observe. And from all the things that the band do musically it was a hard task to take that focus in and digest it after what felt like a musical binge/overload. I found myself hanging on the grooves that Iceburn packed. The vocals were poignant and just as involved musically with the rest of the band. My attention kept going to Gentry Densely and his clear (literally) guitar, oh and the fact that at one point he did manage to play it with his teeth. From what I do know Densely has been the constant in the existence of Iceburn. The grooves and tempos felt like a sensory attack upon attack. It’s a shame the band never really got more national success because what they do is unlike what so many other band do. The free form jam nature combined with structured and catchy songs portions changes up your viewing and listening mood. One point you’re hanging on hooks and riffs the next things are just going crazy. So with my Iceburn cherry popped I’d gladly go see them play again. I know I could appreciate what the band delivers much more with lesser-burdened mind that had just taken in six other completely different bands. Densley’s band Eagle Twin also plays Crucial Fest.