Crucial Fest 2014 Day Three @ Railyard Community Art Garden
with Cult Leader, Parallax, Name, Teeph, Reproacher, Borasca, Rail Spike, Oldtimer

CROOSH. Day Three. I arrived at the Railyard Community Art Garden after a short walk from the TRAX stop, excited to see this new-to-me venue. I remembered being in this exact spot a few years ago when Urban Arts Festival was held here, before it upgraded to the Gateway, but the lot sure as hell didn’t look as cool as it looks now, with a gorgeous wood-accented stage and 360 degrees of beautiful art on every wall. It really is a perfect spot for an outdoor show and I’m stoked Crucial Fest 4 decided to use it. I got there about ten to two, to discover that the promised 2 p.m. start time wasn’t going to happen; the first band wound up taking the stage closer to 3:30. Crews were still setting up equipment and the place was deserted, pretty much the only hiccup in CF this year that I personally witnessed. But I planted down and read like the introverted nerd I am until the place was ready to go.

This was also the only CF show that had art vendors as well as sponsor booths, which set up in tents in a ring on the outer limits of the grounds. Every artist was new to me and so I delighted in seeing and purchasing some of their prints. The Musician’s Friend sponsor both ended up giving away guitars raffle-style that night, including one to a teenage kid who will hopefully be ushering in the new generation of Salt Lake local music with it when we’re all on dialysis or whatever. Food was provided by the incredible Chow Food Truck, another new experience for me, and one that I want to repeat at least once a week for about the rest of my life.

I covered the entire Friday of CF, my dear darkhearts, so we have a shit-ton of information to get through. I wish I could write entire essays on every band’s performance. I’m also going to use the word “sludge” a lot, because frankly, it was that kind of day as far as the music goes. The great thing about this set was that it brought out of the woodwork a ton of dormant acts from Provo’s infamously powerful hardcore scene. I would say the majority of the crowd was Utah County folk, up to relive the glory days and support the dudes who came to resurrect their sound for CF, and it was a seriously magical thing to watch. I can’t imagine how much more awesome it was for the bands. It just reinforced to me the belief that Utah has a unique and superior community of creative that I am fortunate to be a part of and fortunate to witness every goddamn day.

Salt Lake’s own Oldtimer opened the show up with their heady mix of sludge and classic rock, setting the tone for what would be a primly aggressive and heavy day of music. I’m not too ashamed to say I approached their guitarist Matt Miller after the set and told him he reminded me of Tormund Giantsbane from Game of Thrones; I think Tormund would appreciate Oldtimer’s sound, if he ever got electricity and an internet connection. Their set was pretty short by my perspective, maybe because of the day’s late start, but they were fun to watch.

Next up was Railspike, one of the aforementioned Utah County acts that had not played together in quite a while. They had a very punk-inspired sound that was stunted in its aggressiveness, punctuated with short songs that came quick and angry like the fire of a hunting rifle. The lead singer talked to the crowd quite a bit about the things that inspired the songs, including being kicked out of his religious home at a young age and struggling with addiction. It’s interesting to hear stories like these, and he was surprisingly forthcoming about some pretty painful subjects. He also introduced his niece and nephew, for whom this was their first hardcore show, which is super fucking awesome.

Borasca came on the stage swinging, with their giant of a lead singer telling the audience to place their bets on how many songs it would take before he lost his voice (though he never quite did, as far as I could hear). They instantly made me a fan with their brutal post-hardcore sound, and their incredibly passionate live show. The singer’s bellow was so fucking pitiless, he brought a dominance and a presence that kind of shook you to your bones. The last song they played closed out to a vocal chant, with all the band singing along and even getting the crowd to join in, despite that I’m sure not many of them knew it was coming. It was such a fantastic moment, one of those reminders of why our scene is so goddamn great, and why bands like Borasca, who aren’t afraid to push boundaries, are so important. I thought I heard some banter suggesting these guys don’t play very often, but I hope that’s not the case, because I cannot wait to see them again.

The lineup did a quick shift as crowd favorite Teeph, from Chico, California, took the stage ahead of Reproacher. This three-piece was hilarious and light-hearted, bringing a different kind of atmosphere and jovialness. Not that their sound was light-hearted—far from it. They brought a fast-paced mix of sludgy noise rock that kind of defies explanation; a bit on the progressive side, but not in the way one would think of progressive metal bands. It’s a bold mix-up that I personally find very successful, a sound that is all their own and matches the uniqueness of their stage presence. It’s chaos but with its own underlying rules, like they somehow mapped out the mind of the Joker but have no intention to share it with anyone else. It’s pretty fucking awesome.

Wyoming’s Reproacher took the stage next, changing the atmosphere to one of straight-up ruthlessness. Banter was basically non-existent and the band carried with them a very heavy, serious presence that fans will realize fits quite perfectly with their sound. It was a sincerely “not fucking around” vibe that was carried on through the entire set as the vocalist stomped around on stage, climbed up on the monitors, and got in the crowd’s face as they started little mini-pits on the gravel. The back-and-forth of the show’s set up, moving from more crazy experimental stuff and back to ferocious aggressiveness was really effective. I’d say, along with Cult Leader, Reproacher had the darkest set of the day, vicious in their delivery.

San Francisco’s Name was a big surprise for me, I had no background with this trio and I was frankly super impressed with the craziness of their experimental sound and their stage presence. There is just no describing what you hear at their show, there’s no name or infinite combination of subgenres to pull out of a hat to do justice to what they’re bringing to the table. It’s noisy and thunderous, it’s violent, it’s complex, and yet it doesn’t take itself too seriously (further attested by the incredible Pee-wee Herman bass drum head that made my day). Vocals run the gamut from bellowing screams to oddly harmonic cleans, and the band uses a variety of pedals and extraneous instruments to change the tone of their sound at will. The frontman even head-butted his own guitar at one point, which I have no explanation for but still very much want to see again, because I didn’t realize how lacking the scene was without musical combat. There is no repetition in their sound, no structure to follow or expect. Their set kept me on my toes every second, and it was phenomenal.

Next came the big moment that the crowd had been eagerly anticipating all afternoon: the return of Provo’s post-hardcore saviors, Parallax. A few years ago I met guitarist Elliot Secrist when I interviewed a different project of his, Maraloka, for SLUG’s Localized, and he had spoken fondly of those days in Parallax then. I couldn’t believe that the band had decided to regroup for this show, which once again shows the infinite awesomeness of Jarom Bischoff and everyone involved in CrucialFest, making miracles happen every fucking year. After a very touching introduction from Michael Cundick, wherein he referred to their sound as some of the “most powerful music to ever come out of Provo,” Parallax took the stage and the crowd went batshit crazy, full of their fans who had driven up from Utah County to celebrate the heavy hitters. Fans jumped up to mob the vocalist and he gave them tons of love, sharing the mic freely and letting everyone scream the words along with him and revel in the moment. We got our first crowd-surfers of the day during their first song, and it didn’t relent at all during their set. Definitely check out photos, because you have never seen a happier group of people. The band expressed their thanks that “so many people still cared” about their music, and they are not wrong. Even not being from Utah County and missing the original reign of Parallax, it was emotional to see this display and see how happy and excited these dudes still make people. A lesson to all artists, truly: you never know whose life you’ve permanently affected with your work, so keep fucking working.

Salt Lake’s own Cult Leader closed out the night at the Railyard, fresh off a US tour with Yautja and still riding high from their crazy successful release of the Nothing For Us Here EP. No secret that these dudes are in my top 5 favorite locals, and their live show is one of the big reasons for that. Every member has his own energy and brings it full throttle to the stage, along with a theatrical professionalism and tight performance that only amplifies the forcefulness of their music. Anthony Lucero’s predator-stalk on stage is just hypnotizing. They played through the entire EP, and I realized when they got to “Mongrel,” my favorite track, that it was everyone else’s favorite track too. The crowd converged like hungry zombies on Lucero as he leaned over off the stage, everyone screaming the jarring lyrics along with him, jumping all over each other in a mess of semi-moshing. SLUG writer Alex Cragun even snapped his glasses in half during the fray, as if you needed more evidence of the awesomeness that is a Cult Leader show. If you haven’t had a chance to see these dudes, what the fuck is wrong with you? Get off the couch and come break some bones.

CrucialFest 4 Day 3 @ Bar Deluxe
with Eagle Twin, Kowloon Walled City, Helms Alee, Making Fuck, Oxcross

I headed over to Bar Deluxe to finish up the day, and I have to get this out: I fucking hate Bar Deluxe’s stage lighting. I hate it. I hate it with the fury of a thousand burning stage lights that Bar Deluxe should have, but doesn’t. Buy some goddamn lights. For the love of all that is holy.

I arrived just in time to catch the very last of Oxcross’s set, which was disappointing. I had hoped to catch it all, but the late start at the Railyard kind of threw the whole schedule off, it seemed. Several bands at the Railyard had stunted sets as it was. Regardless, I got to enjoy about a song and a half of these sludgy doom bastards, including the Fred Armisen of the Salt Lake music scene, Andy Patterson. Does that dude ever sleep? I guess it’s typical of this incestuous scene we inhabit, but seriously, I thought I had a full plate. This was also the second show of the day for Dave Jones, who opened the fest off with Oldtimer. Musicians in this town amaze me.

Making Fuck was up next, and I was super stoked, as I had met cellist Jessica Bundy earlier at the Railyard at her art booth where I could not resist taking home one of her morbid photos of animal bones for my obviously awesome house. She and her cohorts Kory Quist on guitar and vocals, and Jeff Wells on drums, provided us with a super awesome brand of almost southern-style sludge, built on foundationally strong but simple riffs and pounding, uncomplicated drums, allowing the textures to move outward from there through vocals and pacing. We have a lot of sweet bands in the valley that utilize stringed instruments, but I would say Making Fuck differs in that it seems to provide traditional bass first and cello acoustics second, only sometimes even recognizable as a cello when you’re listening, like a secret surprise of liquor in the middle of your chocolate candy.

Another schedule switch brought San Francisco’s Kowloon Walled City to the stage. Their brand of dissonant, thundering sludge brought an atypical darkness to the set that I really enjoyed, and had a good contrast with the vocals, which were more like a faraway yell than a scream or bellow. The band was super passionate on stage, throwing their instruments and themselves around. Their music rattled the whole bar in a way that hadn’t happened all night. Very cool, very hypnotic, I hope these dudes find their way back to SLC soon.

I was way stoked for Seattle’s Helms Alee after I received their newest album for review and fell in love with their indescribably emotional sound, and now I can firmly call myself a great fan after seeing their live show. I must also confess I have a giant girl crush on drummer Hozoji Matheson-Margullis; her passionate playing was totally hypnotizing. Their particular brand of post-rock is tight and purposeful, like a short story with no wasted words, and runs a gradient from sludgy to soaring and sweeping. All three members took turns on vocals, another fun fact I didn’t realize about them and another reason to be impressed with their musicianship, and they were for sure a crowd favorite.

Heavyweights and local favorites Eagle Twin closed out day three with their droning, spiritual doom. I’ve seen the word “cerebral” thrown around a lot to describe this hometown duo, and I think it’s a perfect descriptor of what it is that makes their music so different from the legion of doom metal that exists to be consumed. Bands who have a love for mythology can, if they have the want and talent, tap into a very primal thread of humanity in my opinion, and Eagle Twin is a key example of the success of such an endeavor. It’s a patient and deliberate sound and it’s powerful live. I particularly enjoyed Tyler Smith’s animated drumming style, and the way Gentry Densley practically makes out with his guitar occasionally to achieve the sound he wants out of it. (So we’ve got guitar making-out and guitar head-butting that CF4 has demonstrated the scene needs more of. Pay attention musicians!) It was a great close out to a long, tiring and emotionally satisfying day of music.

This festival gets better every year, and every single band took the time to express their gratitude for being a part of it. SLC is growing, guys. People are taking notice of what we’ve all known all along. If you missed it this year, do not miss Croosh again. Come be a part of the revolution.