Backstage at the Utah Arts Festival 2023: The ‘Great’ Demonio, Kian The One to bring their unique shows to The Round

THE ‘GREAT’ DEMONIO (June 23, 3:15 p.m.,The Round)

At first glance, The ‘Great’ Demonio’s mask likely will creep out more adults than kids. When Javier Montelongo took up a friend’s suggestion to incorporate a mask into his magician’s identity, he designed with the trinity of his favorite things in mind: horror, music and magic. At first glance, the mask looks much like what a Mexican luchador would wear. Starting with a twisted riff on the classic magician’s cliche about rabbits, Montelongo added elements echoing his love for horror classics such as the Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Army of Darkness in the Evil Dead franchise, along with his love of music from Slipknot.

But, as Montelongo, a Utahn and former president of the International Brotherhood of Magicians, explains in an interview with The Utah Review, his comedy magic balances the sensations of horror with those of Mister Rogers, Pee-Wee Herman and Mr. Bean. Utah Arts Festival’s visitors will get their first taste of The Great Demonio’s nationally recognized magic repertoire when he performs at The Round on June 23 at 3:15 p.m.

Initially, audience members are unsettled but as Montelongo proceeds with his displays of magic, they relax in appreciation of the goofiness he works into his act.  Among the glowing testimonials he cites on his website, he included the words of a woman who walked out of his show: “Why do you have so much demonic content?”

The ‘Great’ Demonio.

Some two decades ago, Montelongo, whose role models included the likes of Criss Angel and The Amazing Johnathan, started performed at coffee shops and birthday parties. When he started wearing a mask, he would enter with it on but then take it off. Eventually, The ‘Great’ Demonio, who performs in silence but with a scripted soundtrack that includes primarily his own mixes of Slipknot songs. would leave it on for the entire show.

In earlier shows, he would use fake blood but decided to ditch it because it was impractical. In a 2022 interview for the Performer Stories podcast, he explains that he decided to stop using fake blood because of its impracticability and the fact that the dye ruined props every time. 

Montelongo has cultivated a nationally known reputation with award-winning performances. But, he admits that he almost quit his entertainment career a few weeks before last month’s SLC BuskerFest. “I almost quit after a gig I did a couple of weeks before that took everything out of me,” he explains. “I had to do a Spanish-speaking show and I wasn’t happy with it. It took everything mentally and physically out of me.” But, he decided to go ahead with his downtown performance at BuskerFest, which he said helped him relax and reinvigorated his dedication to continue performing.

When he is not performing, he works part time as a gym manager for the Salt Lake County government. “I figure I need a little suffering in my life and to know what it is like to be a civilian,” he says, with an obvious tone of humor.

The ‘Great’ Demonio

Montelongo sees The ‘Great Demonio’ for its niche potential as a performing option. He said he would love to perform regularly at horror conventions and horror film festivals. Later this year, he will perform at Hersheypark in Pennsylvania, that state’s largest amusement park. 

KIAN THE ONE (June 23, 2 p.m., The Round)

Kian The One says that his mother told him how she always music by Pink Floyd when she was pregnant with him. “So, Pink Floyd became the biggest influence of mine, not necessarily because of their sound but more for their subject matter, their  psychedelic journey and the sense of timelessness they conveyed,” he says in an interview with The Utah Review.

Born in Iran, Kian was nine years old when his family emigrated to the U.S. He started with violin lessons but eventually switched to guitar lessons. But, music did not become the centerpiece of his life until his junior and senior years in high school, when he started studying and playing around with electronic music and DJ skills. He absorbed the catalogs and techniques of electronic music giants such as Deadmau5 and Woflgang Gardner. He adds that during the time he had stepped back from music, his parents told him that he someday would regret not continuing with music.

Kian The One.

Diving deeper into the world of electronic and dance music, he purchased analog and modular synthesizers and then later expanded his collection to instruments from other cultures. “I was in my early twenties, working and living with my parents, so I had no bills. I was stacking money up to invest in world instruments,” he says. One of those was the Persian santoor, an ancient instrument from his homeland, which is similar to a hammered dulcimer.

At the time, he had no idea about playing it and Kian started messing around with it. The first time he used it in public in Las Vegas was at a talent show at the community college he was attending. He decided to work in the sound of santoor near the end of his set as a hip-hop drop. “The crowd responded well to the performance even though I did not win,” he recalls. “Apparently they loved the mystical and hypnotic way it sounded.”

When he was a University of Nevada-Las Vegas student, he took it a step further with the santoor, while performing at a variety show for homecoming in front of 600. The crowd responded so enthusiastically that he decided to delve into mastering the instrument. 

Kian started lessons with Keyavash Nouraei (or Nourai), an Iranian-born musician and composer based in Los Angeles. A classically trained violinist, Nouraei became.  a master of Persian instruments including kamanche, setar, santoor, tombak and quarter tone piano.

The trapezoid-shaped santoor has 72 strings played with two thin sticks called mezrab, which sound lighter and softer than the heavier mallets for a Western hammered dulcimer. Mastering the instrument requires intense mind concentration and tremendous hand and finger agility. For a simple comparison, the santoor is central to the development of Iranian music to the piano of the Western world. The tuning of the santoor, thus, is fixed because of the large number of strings and the difficulties of re-tuning every string. Thus, other instrumental sounds are tuned to that of the santoor. “This is what produces more delicate, peaceful, meditative and mystical sounds,” Kian adds.  

Listeners might not notice immediately that Kian The One’s show is entirely based on tuning of 432Hz (which has been variously called the ‘Earth frequency’ or as ‘Verdi’s A), unlike the widely used standard of 440Hz for tuning for middle A. But, as they become immersed in his set, the subtle differences become apparent for their rare sonic flavors and textures. Some research studies have associated the hearing of 432Hz with beneficial effects in heartbeat rhythms and blood pressure.

Kian The One.

Fascinated with the intricate mathematics of music, he wants to enhance the beneficial vibrations for his audience. About the show, Kian The One says festival listeners can expect to hear an electronic sound bath with acoustic sounds of the santoor layered atop it. “It’s finding a place that reaches far back in the last but also looks forward to a healing future,” he adds.

He will perform music featured on his latest album, E11even, which he describes as “experiential album celebrating the joy and depth and of Truth.” His set will include a guest appearance by another festival artist who also is from Las Vegas — Tree Hill. whose music is known appropriately as Galactic Gospel.

For more information and tickets, download the Utah Arts Festival app for free, available to Android and iOS users. There also are links to the UAF’s standard website. 

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