Iceburn, Clear, The Stench and The Corleones reform for a night; history ensues.
By Kelly Ashkettle
After observing a growing national trend of band reunions, the staff of SLUG magazine decided to apply it at a local level for its 18th anniversary party, held at Club Vegas on Feb. 16. Much like an episode of VH1’s Bands Reunited, some of the bands they approached refused to reform, but in the end, SLUG Editor Angela Brown and event coordinator Meghann Griggs managed to persuade four of their all-time faves from the Salt Lake Underground: Iceburn, Clear, The Stench and The Corleones.
Iceburn (1991-2001) were one of the first bands to blend jazz and hardcore music. Founder Gentry Densley believes they broke up because their cycle simply ended. The middle song of their middle album is called "Centre," and Densley thinks their albums balance around that point so that the theme from the beginning comes back in reverse order at the end. "When that was complete, we had closure," he says.
Clear (aka xClearx, 1995-2000) were Utah’s contribution to the national straight edge/hardcore scene. After touring and releasing an album, they broke up on the verge of mainstream success. They attribute the band’s demise to songwriter’s block, brought on by conflicting musical interests. "We were a perfect example of a band disintegrating from the inside out," says bassist Sean McClaugherty.
The Corleones (1998-2004) ended because singer Ryan Jensen "got tired of being in a violent rock & roll band," preferring the more art-collective vibe of his current project, Vile Blue Shades. He attributes some of The Corleones’ aggressive energy to the fact that they couldn’t get along. "If you’re pissed off at all your bandmates all the time, what are you going to write about?" he says.
The Stench (1985-1993) embodied the bouncy, fun side of punk rock. Singer/guitarist Terrance DH says they broke up simply to pursue other interests; he was the only one who stayed in music. A few days before the SLUG reunion show, he recalled The Stench’s early days. "Back then, there was one big scene and everybody would go to this one show," he says. "I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of good people [at the SLUG anniversary show], but I’m still waiting to be disappointed. Club Vegas is a pretty big place. I’ve still been playing all the time, and the shows are always little."
This show was different. Club Vegas sold out its 450 capacity by 10:30, and had to turn away what was estimated to be 200 more hopefuls.
True to form, The Corleones were confrontational: Jensen wore a T-shirt emblazoned with the words "Straight Edge" while smoking a cigarette and guzzling a pitcher of beer. Later, in the bathroom, a straight-edger accused him of "not showing respect" and told him that he "wasn’t walking out of the show in that shirt." However, they reached a grown-up solution-Jensen handed over the shirt, and the straight-edger bought him a Stench T-shirt to wear instead.
The Stench performed to an audience of many people who had been waiting over a decade to see them play. Several technical difficulties could not overshadow their well-preserved talent-or their joy. "You have no idea how fun this has been," bassist Geoff Williams told the audience.
Clear was like a primal force, a rumbling ocean that lifted people off their feet in a wave that threatened to engulf the stage. It took the club’s entire security force plus a few recruits to hold it back. For the band, returning to these songs together felt like being kids again, only (as drummer Tyler Smith says) as better musicians. Brown laughs, "It was cool to see them playing this incredibly brutal hardcore music with large grins on their faces."
Iceburn caused some body surfing as well, but most of the crowd was too busy having its collective mind blown by something so heavy yet so intricately precise. By the end of their performance, looks were being exchanged that said, "I get it now. I understand the legend."
Nights like this leave some people searching for a greater meaning in their experience. Griggs says, "I’m not ready to give up my youth. It’s part of who I am, but it’s not something I can live every day, so I think this is a fun night to bring that back."
Brown hopes that it will have an impact on the future. "That’s the biggest thing that I hope comes out of this event" she says, "is people that will be inspired by their own local heroes and … pull out a guitar or a paintbrush, or whatever the art form is, and start creating and making the city a more interesting place to live."
Since this show has gotten Iceburn, The Stench and Clear discussing the pos