The event, which felt more like two days of concerts that shared a theme, was organized by current CWMA Band of the Year Max Pain & the Groovies and former titleholders Spell Talk. Both nights had a decent turnout, probably owing to the loyal gang of followers who belong to both of the promoting bands, as well as the lineup that featured acts of comparable taste. The show was loud, energetic, and drunken, which is probably everything the curators had hoped for.
The Sunset Sisters completed their soundchecks as the beginning crowds began to filter in for the first night of the festival. Their wild, boozy “check, check, 1,2,3” into the mics would prove an apt precursor of what was to come from the recently formed trio during the show. From the moment the set began until it ended, The Sunset Sisters exuded the hijinks of an exceeding youthful and marvelously inebriated band of throwback surf punkers. The group’s unchecked fervor served as an unmistakable burst into the garage-rock scene in Salt Lake City. Raw, exciting and charmingly obnoxious, The Sisters volatile surf punk will be some exciting local music to keep your eye on.
As the anticipation for the first studio release from Night Sweats grows, so does the band’s ability to captivate a live audience. They have been working in the studio, rehearsing and playing shows tirelessly since their debut last year, and their set Friday night clearly evidenced their dedication. Night Sweats’ sound is bleak and trippy, usually employing a barrage of layered percussion and enrapturing synth textures. The crowd responded fervently, even thought the six-piece stood out as a contrast to the other psych-rock artists on the bill. Throughout the rest of the night, the buzz about their arresting performance was humming.
To the frenzied pleasure of their loyal core following, Spell Talk took the stage to close out the festivities for the first night of Crunch Fest. Amid a period of lineup changes (having recently replaced their former rhythm guitarist), the gig sounded vaguely sluggish in the early moments of the set. Thankfully, the established band wouldn’t allow the initial difficulties to plague the whole show. By the end of the night, which was filled primarily with songs from their most recent full-length release, Touch It, it was clear that the new lineup with Diego Mijares on rhythm guitar holds a great deal of potential in continuing to progress Spell Talk’s sound.
The nonstop rock of the second installment of Crucial Fest commenced with another impressive showing from a bourgeoning local band. Rainbow Black only burst into visibility with their debut show in April, but they shined through their unknown status to make colorful impression on the crowd. At times, they trivialized the difficulty that many newcomers have in captivating the audience’s attention. Their strident rock sound is drenched in blues, with fuzzy guitar solos and rousing organ voicings. The vocals are howled into a vintage microphone with a classic smokey tone. While they occasionally became carried away with their solos, and their blues-rock paradigm could use creativity at times, these initial follies hardly dim Rainbow Black’s bright future.
Dirty Blonde followed and succeeded in ramping up the intensity on the dance floor to a frenzied pitch. The band’s strengths lie in capturing classic rock bravado with fiery drumming, soaring guitar lines and high-pitched, swagger-laden lyrics. They wielded their aggressive brand of anthems without pause throughout the set. Unquestionably, Dirty Blonde’s powerful sound is magnetic, but the collection of songs they played at Crunch Fest could have benefitted from a change in tempo. While the audience may have appreciated some chances to let their ears stop ringing, applause and enthusiastic fist pumping always have the final word.
Crunch Fest concluded with the festival’s co-organizers Max Pain & the Groovies, who were determined to close out the night on a memorable pitch. Constant screaming between songs and head bangs falling in every groove served as a reaffirmation of their status as current CWMA Band of the Year. Their roadhouse stoner-rock allure hasn’t changed, but on Saturday the five-piece moved through their set with an air of professionalism that added to their credibility. Without sacrificing spontaneity or outrageousness, the band showed off their road- and studio-honed craft. As City Weekly voters’ top pick of local music in 2012, the band members showed off their maturing chops in return for increasing reputability.
The trial run of Crunch Fest was a success at gathering acts with like-minded listeners together for two nights of unhinged rock tunes and candy throwing (some bands stocked up on Crunch Bars and Captain Crunch cereal as party favors). The audience showed their appreciation for all of the bands without withholding allegiance for “the headliners.” That acceptance of rookie and veteran, familiar and foreign, is what made the two shows at The Urban Lounge on Friday and Saturday cohere into a festival.