I was recently given the opportunity to interview Crucialfest founder Jarom Bischoff about this year’s edition of the festival. You can check out that chat below. The event will take place at the Utah State Fairpark in Salt Lake City, UT on September 28-29, and it will include Neurosis, Chelsea Wolfe, Pig Destroyer, Russian Circles, and more.
METAL ANARCHY: You are currently getting ready for the eighth edition of Crucialfest. How have your preparations been so far?
BISCHOFF: Preparations for this year have been relentless. We’ve been working at this non-stop since last fall, but with the event being so close we are in double overtime. Over all things have gone very well, problems arise and are dealt with relatively quickly. We’ve overcome some large hurdles and will continue to do so until Crucialfest happens. It’s a lot of working hard and crossing your fingers that things will pan out. In preparing for this year we’ve made a ton of changes to the format of Crucialfest and we feel like we are finally starting to learn from mistakes we’ve made in the past. I keep saying we, and what I mean is myself and my team, Tiffany Bischoff, Mike Reis, and Timery Reis. We also get a lot of help from our community and friends.
METAL ANARCHY: What are some of the challenges associated with organizing a festival?
BISCHOFF: There are so many. Staying organized and prioritizing is a big personal challenge. I end up with pages of to dos and notes all over the place to the point where when I sit down to work sometimes I have no idea where to start. Booking is challenging. Trying to estimate what bands are worth, making the appropriate offer, and negotiating takes a lot of guess work and voodoo. We’ve made major mistakes before on gauging what kind of an audience bands have in this area, and who of their fans will come out to Crucialfest. Bringing me to the next challenge, getting the word out! I feel like we’ve got a pretty damn good bill this year, it certainly represents what Crucialfest is and has always been about, but that really doesn’t matter if people don’t find out about it. Advertising is messy, it’s a lot of trial and error and unfortunately I think we are a few years away from an airtight plan. We have had a lot of help from the community in putting up posters and passing out flyers, and I honestly thing that is a much bigger deal than advertising. We get fair support on social media as well. I recently hired a publicist, Mikaela Shafer, who I am happy to report is totally killing it for us. Publicity tends to be something we don’t typically get to because it’s just not as urgent as everything else, so we are very happy to have someone working on that. The last major hurdle is just figuring out the logistics puzzle. This is a major challenge but it is one of my favorite challenges. Producing the event, the stages, the lighting, the sound, the set times, load in, load out, set up, take down, arranging voluteers, hiring fencing, potties, security, EMT’s, health permits, alcohol permits, local consent forms, police and fire inspections, insurance, VIP room logistics, green room and hospitality, flights, hotels, special features and attractions, on and on and on. Taking all of this huge jumbled mess of things and organizing it all into an event with a flow where people come away feeling like the whole thing was natural, for me is where I get the most satisfaction. Lastly, just making sure you can pay for the whole damn thing is an insane challenge… and I’ll leave it at that.
METAL ANARCHY: This year’s event has a solid lineup with artists like Neurosis, Pig Destroyer, Chelsea Wolfe, etc. How do you go about choosing which artists perform?
BISCHOFF: For better or worse, a lot of it is based on my personal tastes. Combined with community input, availability, and consideration of submissions. We have always done our best to communicate with our audience and respond to their requests. We typically ask several times throughout the year, “Who do you want to see next Crucialfest?” We get hundreds of ideas from those posts and I personally check out all of them. I have found a lot of great bands that way. At this point, there are several agents who send in great submissions every year, and we end up confirming a ton of great bands that way as well. The last piece of this is just working with agents, confirming what bands that make sense to us for a budget that also makes sense, working with everyone’s schedules, etc. -the more formal side of booking.
METAL ANARCHY: Who are you most excited to see?
BISCHOFF: Earthless, Dälek, Black Tusk, Amigo the Devil, Street Sects, Chuck Ragan, and Dan Terminus.
METAL ANARCHY: What has been your most memorable moment over the years?
BISCHOFF: It’s such a blur I’m not sure I could tell you. My favorite set of any Crucialfest was when Ether played Crucialfest 6 in 2016. They were a local band to Salt Lake City that has an interesting history and perhaps the most unique sound of any band, ever. They have 3 stand up drummers that have sort of a hypnotic, odd-timing marching band sound, but with more interesting tones as well. Then three musicians up front with 2 guitars and 1 bass. They are mostly instrumental with some sparse vocals, extremely rhythmic. Their set really took me to another place and it was also a huge accomplishment because I took part in making that happen. The band hadn’t played in 10 years (?) and will likely never play again. Similarly we have hosted final performances of other great Salt Lake City bands, Form of Rocket, The New Transit Direction, Loom, Novelists, and several others. As much as I don’t want Crucialfest to be the place where great Salt Lake bands go to die, I am proud to be able to get some of them on the stage one last time and it always feels special.
METAL ANARCHY: It seems like most touring festivals like Vans Warped Tour, Mayhem Festival, etc, have all disappeared, while destination festivals like yours, Aftershock, Rock On The Range, Louder Than Life, etc. have continued to flourish. Why do you believe that is and what is your opinion on the current state of music festivals?
BISCHOFF: I’d use the word survive rather than flourish. Certainly some festivals are flourishing, and I’d attribute that to people working their asses off that really have a passion for this business. There’s no other way it happens. But the pressure that has ended some of these traveling festivals is the same relentless pressure that is on every event. The pressure is simply making an event that you need people to come to in order for it to work, and having no guarantee that they will. There is more pressure than that, coming from all angles really, but that’s the main thing. People are into a lot of different things these days, niche markets pop up and disappear overnight. Creating a solid base of cause supporters is the only real way I know to deal with that. As for my opinion on the current state of music festivals I’m just not the one to ask, I have severe tunnel vision. I went to SXSW once like ten years ago, past that I have admittedly been to no music festivals other than Crucialfest… I know, some research and development (me having a good time) is far overdue!
METAL ANARCHY: Is there anything else you would like to add about Crucialfest?
BISCHOFF: Just to get down on my knees and beg anyone reading this to come and check out Crucialfest. Even if you’ve never heard of a single band on the lineup. I swear to you that this is high quality music. You’re not into metal? Me neither. This is not a metal festival. We feature a lot of metal-influenced, heavy music (my preferred term), but we also host a bit of everything: electronic, experimental, Americana, folk, punk, psyche rock, hip hop, etc. etc. The culture at Crucialfest is friendly and welcoming. We all want to build something special in Salt Lake City My. This will be a very special year, with an atmosphere that I really thing most people, even Crucialfest veterans will be surprised by. Thank you so much for the interview!