The K-UTE writing staff ventures to this year’s 7th annual Crucial Fest in a quest to discover new artists and experience a festival like no other in downtown SLC.
There’s a certain pride one feels whilst taking part in a local made event such as Crucialfest. This Utah created and sustained event does nothing short of give back to everyone involved. With a killer line-up of local and touring bands, Crucialfest 7 has arrived once again to give Salt Lake’s people a loud and lively week of musical chaos and energized performances to look forward to.
That being said, the week is an exciting one with several after dark shows kicking off the crucial-week at participating venues Metro Music Hall and Urban Lounge (which happen to be just a couple of favorite local venues in the SLC music scene) and the main two-day event taking place at the Gateway. The second day into the main event I was able to catch a couple of shows earlier in the day, including, The Flatliners, a punk band straight from the Ontario Canada ska/punk scene with catchy melodies carrying classic punk sound construction and gritty yells alternating simple chord progression.
But, ultimately my Crucial quest led me back to the outdoor setup later in the evening, and as I approached the Slug stage, Pinback was beginning to set up their equipment. Perfect, since they were on the agenda to see for the evening.
I’ve met quite a few ‘Pinnies’ as I like to call them- Long-time fans of Pinback. People who get it, people who pick-up the musical messages the band is putting down. Because of these encounters, I was pleased to check out the group first hand myself. Not being a prior fan, the first thing I noticed was how there was two guitarist taking main stage, and how they appeared to be playing the same chords in the same pattern at the same time. However, I then heard the combined vocals of lead and co-lead singers, Rob Crow and Zach Smith, in which I began to see the effective use of two leads. The gentle voice of Rob Crow breathed somewhat meaningful lyrics over-energized instrumentals, while the vibrating tones of duel vocals danced on the jangly combination of drums and strings creating a hypnotic harmony which contributed to the continuous flow of melody, and I can see why so many ‘Pinnies’ give praise to this feel-good band.
Next up was Built to Spill a group from our neighbors in Boise. They hardly need an introduction considering they’ve been playing since the early 90’s with a fan base that has been listening just as long. Now, that’s not to say that they aren’t capturing the attention of new fans. As the instrument-driven band began to play it was apparent they were pulling the biggest crowd i’d seen in hours. Guitar riffs soared through the air piercing our ears with vibrant sound waves that quivered over steady basslines and drums, and the understated vocals echoed along giving a vintage feel reminiscent of the good vibes at Woodstock.
The last performance of the night was by headliner group the Growlers, and the Cali grown 7-piece group did not disappoint. The entire performance oozed a groovy aesthetic with the lead singer wearing a painfully cool printed collar shirt strutting around purring catchy lyrics tied to the string of wailing sounds being emitted by the whole lot of garage-rock dudes.
The vocals alone lived up to the band’s name as pithy one-liners like “drinking the juice” and “If your heart thinks I’m a crock of shit, then I’ll follow it” were growled towards the audience. The unrefined vocals and sounds of multiple instruments produced a fun raw sound akin to other popular garage rock groups such as the Hives and Hot Hot Heat for an exhilarating performance that acted as a bid goodbye to the super fun fest. Till next year!
Not to be cheesy or anything, but this fest is crucial for our salty city. This was the seventh Crucial Fest and first one to be so large. SLC is too often overlooked as a music hub but in recent years there has been more attention directed here and it’s events like this that makes that happen.
Rolling up to The Gateway later in the day felt so comfortable and nostalgic, sending me back a few years to when I would take Trax down with a friend just to window shop and hang out in the city. It’s really cool to see how the mall has changed over the years although it is bittersweet to see the shops that have gone. However, the unique use of space for music and community events is a novel idea that I hope continues in the future.
After a spontaneous trip to Wyoming, I, unfortunately, missed a few of the opening bands but after being at the venue all day on Saturday, I couldn’t really feel too bad. The first item of business: finding a spot to set up camp so the K-UTE crew and company would have a place to hang out in between sets. We found two chairs on the turf between the Rye and Graywhale tents and never had less than three people sitting together enjoying the late summer day and stellar music.
The Flatliners were the first band on when I got there and although I’d never listened to them before, but their old school style punk rock sound made my inner riot grrrl way too happy.
POS was the next artist up and I wasn’t particularly interested in this performance until I saw the huge crowd that had gathered but were facing away from the stage. It took me a second to realize Stefon Alexander was standing on the stairs next to the SLUG Stage. I wandered over to see what was up just in time for him to be in the center of the crowd absolutely commandeering the energy. Everyone watching was so intently INTO the show that even people who probably wouldn’t have normally come over were expanding the crowd even further.
The indie rock vibes that seemed to dominate the lineup continued when Minus The Bear took the stage. For me, this performance wasn’t as much about seeing the band as it was hearing the music exist as background sound while walking through all different groups of people, checking out the art gallery, and relaxing under the trees. I was quite pleased with the mix of songs they chose to play what with their newest album, VOIDS, having come out in March.
As far as the second day goes, Built To Spill is who I was looking forward to most. Carry The Zero had come up on my Spotify discover playlist a few weeks prior and quickly found its way onto frequent rotation within my own playlists. I’ll admit that I don’t have any sort of vast knowledge on the rest of their songs but that didn’t make seeing them live any less special. Contrary to the popular belief that you have to know every word and riff to every song by a band before the band even knows they’re a band — you don’t. It is possible to like a band even if you only know one song; who would’ve guessed?! After all, there is simply too much music in the world to go that in depth with every artist.
Finally, headliners, The Growlers took the main stage and immediately began belting out their signature sound of beach goth vibes. Having grown in popularity at an immense pace over the last decade, The Growlers showed their finesse. The band shifted between songs from their discography with personal favorites “Chinese Fountain” and “Someday” receiving the love treatment. The crowd was going wild for it. Most Growler songs keep it poppy within the requisite three to four-minute song length, but on stage, the band took each song into the stratosphere, stretching out the catch guitar riffs and general fun for much longer. Fantastic renditions permeated the end of the night. Because now Crucial Fest was completed. A fabulous four days of music and energy. Seeing the festival growing was a spectacle in of itself and I can’t wait to see what happens next year!