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Where We Live: Kilby Court – Salt Lake City, UT

on November 19, 2010, 2:15pm

If there is one place you need to know in SLC (which should no longer carry a negative connotation), it’s Kilby Court. Kilby is the home to every small hype band rolling through town, the home to your band (yes, my band played there many years ago), and the epicenter of Salt Lake’s vast local scene. Basically, if you’re starting a band, you know you’re on the right track once you’re playing the Christmas-lit stage of Kilby Court.

Sure, there are plenty of venues all over town that put up big name acts five nights a week that I could tell you about. And sure, the stage and lighting at those venues is great. And sure, they might sell more tickets and make more revenue. But in terms of camaraderie, none of them hold a candle to Kilby Court.

If you would like to get specific, Kilby Court is technically more of an address than it is a name. Kilby Court is a cul-de-sac of sorts that is lined with small, broken down, semi-habited houses. But at the end of this cul-de-sac lies what has become SLC’s greatest music treasure: the small venue named after the street on which it is located, Kilby Court.

2010 0604 kilby court paul mayne photo Where We Live: Kilby Court   Salt Lake City, UT

With a capacity of 200, this is not a place for the big leaguers. Located in a converted garage, the building is designed for intimacy more than it is pyrotechnics. In fact, it takes intimacy to a whole new level. There is no security bar separating you from the stage, and the stage itself is only a mere foot off the ground, putting you face to face with the performers. Outside, there is a constantly burning fire pit where there are always several gathered to shoot the breeze or beat the cold, depending on the season. The walls of the stage are lined with Christmas lights, the tickets are taken in a shack near at the entrance, and the soundbooth is only big enough for one person. And while some have chalked this whole mess up to mere laziness, I think it’s really just a “smaller is better” aesthetic. The less bands have to worry about lights and staging the better, as they can focus more on their music. And the less Kilby has to spend on preparing for things of that nature the better, as not only does it cut costs for the producer and the consumer, but it helps to weed out the undesirables.

Rarely do you see a clean-shaven, well-groomed individual at Kilby, which may sound like a bad thing, but it’s a major plus in the end. No more dealing with narcs; this is a haven for the indie/punk/garage rock kids of SLC who need a place to call their own. No Tapout shirts and white Oakley Gascans for this crowd; leave that for the Bayside concert that’s going on across town. No, this is a place strictly for those devoted to the music, and not so much “the scene”.

l c648d234fac9c0cb20c79d864f7cb10f Where We Live: Kilby Court   Salt Lake City, UT

It’s a place where traveling bands can always find a home and where locals have a chance to share the stage with each other and with big name acts. This is where bands come to play before they get big. In a sense, it’s a proving ground for bands seeking to hit it big. A few of the alumni (before they were big, of course)– M. Ward, Rilo Kiley, Grizzly Bear, Beach House, The Dirty Projectors, Dan Deacon, St. Vincent, Diplo, Vampire Weekend, No Age, MGMT, Yeasayer, Rogue Wave, Cymbals Eat Guitars, Okkervil River, Ra Ra Riot, Avi Buffalo, Owen Pallett, Neon Indian, The Tallest Man On Earth, and Y.A.C.H.T. – have each hit it big to varying degrees.

But it’s not just a place for up and coming indie buzz bands. It’s a place where all music is celebrated. Rise Against and Fall Out Boy both played Kilby back in the day, for all those emo-punkers (of which there are too many). And it ain’t just rock and roll, either. Saul Williams, The RZA, and P.O.S. and his whole Doomtree collective have all played Kilby, among other hip hop acts. Kilby’s a place where variety is not only accepted but encouraged.

l c21182f861a54f479550c0a8e0df8feb Where We Live: Kilby Court   Salt Lake City, UT

As mentioned, it’s a hub for local music. There’s a show every night at Kilby, and the door’s always open. Bands from all over the Wasatch Front (that’s the cities in front of this mountain range), and even from adjoining counties come to play the infamous Kilby. Not an abundant amount of music has come out of Utah to date, but one recent one comes to mind – Neon Trees. And while I loathe them with every fiber of my being, I will admit that they worked hard to get where they are now. And it was because of their hard work and the people like those that run and operate Kilby Court that they were able to make it (yep, they played Kilby, too). Kilby pushes the local bill every single night, and even runs its own locals-only record label.

While few of the bands on the label have yet to hit the mainstream, you may have heard of a few of them or seen them opening for small acts in your city: Band of Annuals, The Devil Whale, The Future of the Ghost, and my personal favorite, Birthquake (not only is that probably the coolest name for a band since And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead, but their guitarist happens to be my banker). On top of presenting and producing local music, they throw together a two-day, locals-only festival every year aptly called Kilby Fest, with dozens of local bands getting involved.

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But what’s best of all about our beloved garage is that it’s not exclusive. You’ll find that one limb of their website is devoted to promoting shows. But it’s not just Kilby shows. They list other shows at other clubs that are sometimes even on the same night as their own shows, which, from an entrepreneurial standpoint, is highly counterproductive. But it’s not about profit to these guys so much as it is music. If there’s a good band playing in the area, they’re not going to let you not know about it. They’re promoting not only good music at Kilby, but good music all over the city.

In summation, Kilby is what every music enthusiast dreams to have in his city – a club to call their own. One night you’ll be up on that stage, the next night you’ll be seeing who [the bastards from] Pitchfork just named the coolest new band playing the very same stage you did. It’s intimate, it knows its music, and it’s local. Who could ask for anything more?

kilbycourt Where We Live: Kilby Court   Salt Lake City, UTKilby Court
741 S Kilby Ct
Salt Lake City, UT 84101

To get a complete listing of the upcoming shows, click here.

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