By Randy Harward
Number nine … number nine … number nine … Yup, folks, while it seems like SLUG Magazine’s local-rock Sabbathon fund-raiser fests should be now be numbered in three-place Roman numerals a la the Super Bowl, they’re only on "numero nueve."
I can’t pretend to remember the first, but my first Sabbathon was around 1993, maybe ’94. It was at the Bar & Grill (today known as Halo, kids) and it was mine and my best buddy Wade’s first exposure to matinee rock. The bands, if memory serves, included big-deal locals like Honest Engine, The Obvious and ASA, maybe Headshake, as well as Shadowplay, One Eye and some lesser bands never to be heard from again.
We drank in the parking lot of Downtown Music rental studios, thinking there would be no refreshment during daylight hours. With each Pabst, the buzz from inside the club increased in insistence and appeal. Our fires stoked, we staggered to the door with the cans of beets or kidney beans or Libby’s Pumpkin Pie mix that we pilfered from mom’s cupboard (just to get the discounted admission-back then, we were shamefully selfish and didn’t care about the Utah Food Bank). Inside, we raided the boxes of cassette singles (you’ve never seen so many copies of G. Love & Special Sauce or Dag Nasty tapes-we took five of each) and drank some more.
And we moshed. Like the drunken, newly-legal asses we were, we elbowed our way up front and started cracking heads (usually our own, from bouncing too hard off of each other) and acting indignant when someone would bump into us. During pit lulls, we appreciated the bands even though we barely knew what to appreciate (Dude, is that dude playing slide bass? Dude!).
We staggered next door to Taco Time and returned with soft tacos secreted in our cotton flannel vests, just in time to see the headlining bands. Honest Engine was the favorite-they, at the time, the coolest local band we’d seen (which, before this Sabbathon, was about four). We ate and moshed and yelled for them to play their signature tune, "Turn Out the Sun." When they obliged, we hooted, spraying the crowd with pieces of seasoned ground beef.
On the way out, we picked up several copies of SLUG, more Dag Nasty tapes and some fliers. Between the door and the car, one of us would puke while the rest cheered and/or jeered. The next day, we couldn’t really articulate why we had such a good time. All we knew was we’d seen loud music by bands who were from our own back yard. And ate delicious tacos.
Looking back, it’s easier to see why it was so great. It was seeing that rock & roll wasn’t exclusive to the Big Touring Acts who would blow through town and leave with our money. Anyone with enough money for a Japanese Stratocaster/Peavey practice amp package and a subscription to a guitar mag could get onstage and throw down. It wasn’t always the greatest music, but it was inspiring.
Today, where the Salt Lake City music scene has grown to several times the size it was back then, it’s likely many of these bands (perhaps even some of the bands scheduled to play Sabbathon 9 this Sunday, including but not limited to Her Candane, Starmy, Le Force, Smashy Smashy, Rope or Bullets, The Rubes and Pushing Up Daisies) exist because of what they saw at previous Sabbathons. And it’s fun to ponder what might spring up in these bands’ wake. But music isn’t the only reason for Sabbathon-you’re supposed to notice the charities, too.
This year, SLUG is hoping, by its sponsorship of voter-registration activists MusicForAmerica.org, that it will get some kids who might be selfish, gluttonous oafs like the younger versions of myself and Wade to include other people and society into their worldview and just get out and vote, already. Considering what’s on the line this election year, it could be the most important Sabbathon yet.
SLUG SABBATHON, In the Venue 579 W. 200 South Sunday, Aug. 22 2 p.m.-midnight