Kilby Court 20th Anniversary Block Party May 11, 2019

Photo By: Kevin Rolfe

It’s hard to believe, but Salt Lake City’s most iconic all-ages concert venue turns twenty.  To celebrate, local concert presenters Sartain and Saunders closed off 700 South, (the street that Kilby Court is connected to) and threw a block party.  S & S threw a wide net and brought in artists who have graced the Kilby Court stage over the past two decades. Bands like Ritt Momney and The Backseat Lovers who are up and comers in Utah and are on their way to larger success.  Then there’s a band like Picture This, who played Kilby Court for the first time at this event. They’re a band from Ireland who have sold out stadiums and arenas in their native country. But it seems it like it’s necessary for any band that wants to get noticed in Utah, they must play Kilby Court.   An artist like singer-songwriter Joshua James who has made his mark in Utah and been able to branch out to surrounding states with great success. Then there’s the band The National Parks. These guys have just exploded here in Utah and their success just keeps growing and growing. That brings us to the headliners of this festival, Death Cab for Cutie.  A band that played Kilby Court way back in 1999. And it goes without saying that they’ve had remarkable success for the past twenty years.

The festival was vibrant.  People were in good spirits.  There were food and craft tents for people to enjoy, and there were boards set up with every show that had ever been played at Kilby Court.  Below the boards were markers left for festival-goers to use so that they could mark the shows that they had been to. I thought that was such a good idea.  From what I understand the boards will remain up for a while so that anyone going to Kilby Court can still mark the shows they remember attending.

The weather was perfect, the crowd was enjoyable.  You never really know what you’ll get from a crowd like this.  Are people just there to be there? Are they there for the show?  Are they there for a particular band? These factors can contribute to an inconsiderate crowd, but I felt like this audience was really pleasant.

The weather was perfect for the Block Party.  The sun was out, but it wasn’t too hot. The stage faced the west so the sun was in the faces of the bands.  But because the weather was so mild it didn’t seem to affect them negatively. I’ve seen some shows out at USANA Amphitheater where the opening band looked like they were going to get heat stroke! Fortunately, that wasn’t the case on Saturday and as a result, Kilby Court was treated to an awesome birthday party.

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Joshua James

Joshua James’ music was perfect for this festival.  His American folk, singer-songwriter style easily blended with the casual nature of the crowd.  His band was tight and they all seemed to be having a great time on stage together. The highlight for me was the final song of their set, or “Closing Song” if you will.  They sand a really well-arranged version of the hymn, “God Be With You ‘Til We Meet Again”. A song that is often sung in congregations of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  James stated from the stage that it seemed like an appropriate way to finish. I was close enough at that point to see him look to his guitarist asking if they should do it. I could hear the guitarist say “If you want to”.  I think they felt the risk in this “mixed-faith crowd”. But I thought it was a cool move. It was fun to look throughout the audience and see what I perceived as active members of the LDS faith, former members of the LDS faith, and never members of the LDS faith react differently to this song.  Some were into it, some didn’t’ know it, and some knew it yet hadn’t heard it for a long time. It was an interesting way to close out a set, but I thought it totally worked.

Photo By: Kevin Rolfe

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The National Parks

The National Parks are a band that I’ve wanted to see live for a while now.  These guys are red hot at the moment. They’re touring all over and playing to sold-out crowds wherever they go.  Their music is so alive and they perform with so much energy that it becomes infectious. The perk of being up front for the first few songs taking photos is I get to see how the band interacts up close.  They seemed to have so much fun up on that stage. They were jumping and running and yet they still sounded awesome vocally and tight instrumentally. There were most definitely people in the crowd who were there to see them.  And those who might not have come specifically for The National Parks were won over by the sheer energy that this band generated from their performance. As much as I enjoyed this performance, I can’t wait to see them in their own show.  I can’t imagine a performance being much better than the one I saw, but there’s something to be said for headlining your own show.

Photo By: Kevin Rolfe
Photo By: Kevin Rolfe
Photo By: Kevin Rolfe

It was clear by the sheer volume of people that Death Cab for Cutie was the right choice to headline this Block Party.  The crowd went back as far as I could see. And the decibel level of the crowd increased substantially as well. It’s understandable.  Most of the other bands in the festival have been around less than half of the time that Death Cab has been. Death Cab for Cutie played Kilby Court several times in the late nineties and early two thousands on their way to huge success.  The Seatle based band played a full set mixing some newer songs along with crowd favorites like “Soul Meets Body”, “I’ll Follow You You into the Dark” and “Transantlanticism”. Death Cab frontman, Ben Gibbard remembered playing Kilby Court mentioning that the neighborhood was much different than it is now.  He hinted that the band was perhaps a little sketchier than it is now. He also mentioned how lucky we are to have such a great all-ages venue here in Salt Lake City. He spoke of being a “Young punk” in Seatle, that there wasn’t an all ages for him to go to. He said they wanted to play this show in part “to reward and be a part of all ages music”.  

I wish I had been to some of those early Kilby Court shows with Death Cab.  I was thinking about those in the audience who were there back then. It must have been so cool to see them rise from this small venue to playing the major stops around the world. The band sounded fantastic and they like everyone else seemed to enjoy playing this show.

Photo By: Kevin Rolfe
Photo By: Kevin Rolfe
Photo By: Kevin Rolfe

I think it would be a great idea for S & S to do a block party every year. This year was a huge success, but they have had enough amazing bands start out at Kilby Court to have headliners each year that graced that stage.  Congratulations and happy 20th to Kilby Court. They’re still giving music lovers of all ages access to some great up and coming bands.