Crucialfest Day One @ The Woodshed 06.26

Posted July 2, 2013 in ,

Heartless Breakers frontman Chase Griffis crooned away at the first night of Crucialfest 3. Photo: Matt Brunk

On a warm and muggy Wednesday night, I had the opportunity to cover the first night of Crucialfest 3 at the Wood Shed. While technically starting at Kilby Court earlier that day, I was stoked to get in and get some of that sweet Crucialfest vibe. If you've never heard of Crucialfest, now is a good time to catch up before next year. A huge, local festival, getting bigger and bigger every year, Crucialfest is literally a crucial part of the Utah music scene in a big way. Taking place over several days and several different venues, with mostly local acts peppered with a few touring bands, it's a great way to dive in and get a grab bag of new tunes.

First up was Heartless Breakers, still a new band, but one that is quickly picking up speed in a huge way. I got to catch their debut show at the Shred Shed last month and was completely stoked for more. Similar to their last show, Heartless Breakers are solid and irresistible, and I'm looking forward to the release of their debut EP in July. It's taken me awhile to figure it out, but I've finally settled on a description that I'm happy with—think The Graduate mixed with the aforementioned Future-era Jimmy Eat World and you'll be on the right track. According to guitarist Bryan Lee, this is the first time he's played guitars for a band instead of drumming, but you'd never be able to tell—and as soon as I get that EP, you better believe I'll be letting singer Chase Griffis croon me to sleep every night. As far as Crucialfest goes, I can't imagine a better opener to jazz up the bar crowd, quickly initiating everyone in earshot as a cheering fan.
A brief interlude and much bar-mingling later, Top Dead Celebrity took the stage with a snarl. Featuring a set of all-new songs, these guys are good old, head-banging fun. Sort of a southern rock sound, perfect for stomping feet and chugging whiskey, it's definitely some high-proof shit. Pure rock n’ roll, the new music is a good sign for the upcoming album. Nobody knows the lyrics yet, but as soon the release shows up, I guarantee there's going to be a lot of crowd participation. It's music that’s supposed to be rowdy, and being fronted by a growling beard only helps.
Grabbing a Red Bull and a beer between sets, I went outside to prepare for the next band. One particularly fine feature of the bar, aside from the Blues Brothers statues and an arcade corner with foozball table, is a back door that opens into an outdoor patio. Complete with its own stage, the patio is little slice of outdoor magic. Grab a beer inside, go hang out at one of the tables scattered around the yard and catch a show in the fresh air. Perfect.
Anointing the outdoor stage for the night, John-Ross Boyce & His Troubles drove up from Provo to spread their folksy, bluesy, hillbilly style all over Crucialfest. I don't normally like country, but I can handle country when it's spiked with a nasty punk rock attitude. Tricky, red mood lighting even worse than the indoor stage made photos a little sparse for a photographer who refuses to blind the bands, but I managed to catch a few moody shots of these mad cats. A full patio of dancing fiends enjoyed the hell out of their set—always a good sign. Also a multi-talented band, with keyboardist Angela Moore trading places with John-Ross Boyce a few times, and Moore also pulling out the fiddle for a song or two. Extra props to go out to Moore's fancy hat, and Boyce's deep, growly voice. It's not going to be for everybody, but it was definitely the right vibe for that night.
Next up was the touring band, some fellows from Massachusetts going by the name of Slow Mover. Bringing a cocktail of thick, sludgy guitars and aggressively growled vocals to the indoor stage, they may not play fast, but they play hard. The crowd wasn't as thick inside as it was on the patio, which is ridiculous because holy hell it was hot outside, and this bar actually has pretty decent air-conditioning. Check them out on Bandcamp and buy their stuff. Give back a little and thank these guys for stopping by on their tour!
One minor downside to Crucialfest is the amount of bands packed into not-a-lot of time. Aided by switching up the stages for each band, it's still a pretty hefty bill with six bands, and even more if you caught the Kilby show earlier in the day. That's a lot to ask for a week night. Then again, that's why it's a festival—this isn't your average show, grab your drinks and get ready to stay for awhile, because this thing only comes around once a year, and you don't want to miss it.
The last outdoor show for the night, although not the last band, Pleasure Thieves crawled out of the darkness and into the mood lighting for another grungy, southern-spiced set. Despite losing a guitar strap halfway through and having to fiddle a bit, they played their set with barely a hitch. It still sounded good to me! I didn't get many photos worth mentioning on this one, mostly due to a bad combination of a slow lens (soon to be remedied!) and the patio mood lighting. It looks great in person, but it's a pain in the ass to shoot with sub-par gear. Sorry, guys, let's meet up at someplace brighter so I can get your not-blurry side. Thanks to the dude with the portable floodlight for shoving it in the band's face long enough for me to get one redeemable shot.
Closing out the first night of Crucialfest was a responsibility handed down to God's Revolver, another salty southern group with more swagger and vinegar than the rest of the night combined. That's an impressive achievement, but capable hands were chosen to finish the night off. Unholy, whiskey-breathed spitfires as they claim to be, God's Revolver is a band with fans to match. Along with the crunchy guitars, their vocalist's hoarse, occasionally Danzig-esque voice and wild rock n’ roll stage presence, the crowd of rowdy fans pushing and shoving their way onto that same, tiny stage to the point that a bouncer needed to step in to shove people off the gear—the energy building up all night didn't waste any time exploding into a fiery, riff-laden supernova. Screaming back into the fans, sharing the mic, going shirtless and sweaty underneath the stage lights, it's a fairly impressive and energetic performance that left the room panting at the end of it. A successful closer to the most southern-inspired night I've ever spent outside of Georgia.
Great night, lots of fun and lots of good tunes. Also check out Wild Wasatch Media's video recap for some extra Crucialfest love, and stay tuned for more SLUG coverage of the rest of the festival!
Heartless Breakers frontman Chase Griffis crooned away at the first night of Crucialfest 3. Photo: Matt Brunk