It's been six years since the first Crucialfest. At the time of that original event, set in Liberty Park with multiple stages of local rock and metal bands, many of us in media and local music thought it would only be a one-time deal. Little did we know it would bloom into one of the most talked about concert events in the region, and now a destination point for many bands during their summer tours. Crucialfest 6 officially kicks off on June 15 (after already running two warm-up shows this past weekend), taking over The Art Garden, Metro Bar and Urban Lounge over four days with nine different showcases. Today we chat with our old friend and festival founder Jarom Bischoff about this year and the impact Crucialfest has had so far. (All photos by Matt Brunk / Unlife Photography.
Gavin: Hey Jarom! How have you been since we last chatted?
I've been good, thanks. Life is a dream, you know. Lots of ups and downs, but generally making progress and feeling very optimistic about the future.
Aside the fest, what else have you been working on lately?
Time-wise, my family. Trying to find the time to give my wife and kids the attention they deserve. I tend to get lost in endless projects and mess that up. I've got a little food demo business that I've been doing for a few months. It makes me a little bit of consistent money, which is weird for me, but I'm into it. I bar tend Saturday through Monday nights at Duffy's Tavern. I've been working there for eight months now, and I have to say I've finally found a job I really enjoy. I look forward to going to work. I've met an endless amount of quality individuals there. I don't sit in a cubicle. I'm stoked.
How have things been going lately with Exigent Records?
Exigent Records has really taken a back seat to Crucialfest. I guess it's more of a production company now that goes by "Exigent Presents." Mainly, it's the business entity behind Crucialfest, but also for Back From The Dead close to Halloween and a handful of random shows throughout the year, mostly for people or agents I know well who need a hand landing a show. If the band is great, I have a hard time saying no, but I'm trying. I want to do more with the label, but at present, I don't really have the resources to do it well, so it's on pause until the right opportunity presents itself. For now, we'll probably do a digital release here and there, but not much else. I'd like to see that change and Exigent Records resume its primary role as a marketer and distributor of recordings that slay.
Last year you wrapped up your fifth annual Crucialfest. What are your thoughts on that show?
Well, I have a lot of thoughts about that string of nine shows. I had a great time, but it was also a big learning experience. One big takeaway was that I need to be more careful with who I book and how much I pay them. I need to book a good variety of heavy type bands. Last year I found the limit of how specific Crucialfest needs to be in the genres it includes (I've discovered the limits of how broad from previous years). All doom and no grind makes
Jarom a dull boy. When you have 20 bands of the same genre, they might all draw 40-50 fans, but they're the same fans. Last year I strayed slightly from the kind of music I am most passionate about: original-sounding music played with a high-level skill and performance. I know what Crucialfest is now. It's a celebration of things loud, heavy, experimental and original. It's not one genre, but it is
a genre tree. I'll always include whatever I want, but you can bank on experimental and fresh varieties of metal, rock, hardcore and punk being the main focus from here on out.
I believe 2015's fest was the biggest you had to date. What kind of challenges did that present for you?
I think Crucialfest 4 in 2014 was technically bigger. Last year, we only did three days. A lot of people I know and trust recommended keeping it short and sweet. It's probably right for other events, but not for Crucialfest. We do as many bands as we can, and it takes four days to do that. More shows are better. You don't have to go to all of them, but you're more likely to make it to at least one. I guess I answered a different question. I haven't been fortunate enough to be stressed out by too many people coming to Crucialfest just yet. I look forward to that kind of stress.
What are your thoughts on seeing the success it's had up to this point?
It's all in how you define success. I think it's served its purpose so far, stimulating the local heavy music community. It's important to the city, people tell me, and I see it. Music like this is dying off, especially locally. We sit around and watch venue after venue close. At first its like, "Oh, well maybe the scene needs fewer venues so we can regroup," but then they don't get replaced and you realize, "Oh, this shit is dwindling fast." Crucialfest is on a mission to preserve the history of rowdy music in Salt Lake City and see
its continuance. In that, I am very pleased with the success Crucialfest has been.
How does it feel to see the national recognition and have bigger groups come play?
I don't know. Not like anything, I guess. I'm often left with a feeling like, yeah that band is really cool, amazing even, but so was X, Y and Z local band. It is an honor to see some of my favorite regional bands come to Crucialfest and become part of the community. And it's a bummer when they just play the show and go along their merry way, not taking the time to get to know anyone. I don't invite those bands back, don't matter who. Nine out of ten people traveling to Crucialfest from out of town are originally from here, or spent time here, and I'm okay with that. Salt Lake City fucking rules, and it's not really my problem if people from out of state don't know it, though I do strive to educate them.
One of the big pieces of new for this year's fest is that Form Of Rocket reunited for a kickoff show. How did that come about?
I ask them every year and this time around the clouds parted and God said, "Form of Rocket shall have a reunion show... nay, two of them." With members all over the place geographically and responsibility-wise, I know it's a long shot every time I ask, but I truly believe in taking long shots, consistently. It pays off.
Are there going to be any surprise last-minute additions, or are you locked in?
Locked in, barring last minute local fill-ins for cancellations. Droopy Tights, a brand new band that slays buns, has been added in lieu of Russian Circles' cancellation, for instance.
How has it been working with the venues, especially Metro Bar, which is hosting the bulk of the shows?
It's always good working with Metro Bar. I have a tight relationship with them and I think people need to appreciate the spot more. It fills a void in Salt Lake that was [created] when Bar Deluxe, The Shred Shed and Burt's Tiki Lounge all closed within a year.
What are your thoughts going into the first show this week?
I'm at a loss. My brain has stopped working. But I can tell you I'm very excited and nervous. Come what may, I am going to party hard this Crucialfest.
What can we expect from you over the rest of 2016?
Don't expect anything. That way, whatever I do will be a fun surprise. Really, though, it will probably be similar to other years. I'll record, I'll put something out, I'll play shows, I'll throw a few, and I'll take a load off in the Crucialfest "off-season" should this shrinking oasis of time continue to exist.