“I overheard she was 19 with a fake ID and a nose ring. Those kind of girls tend to know things better than I do.”
The lyrics to local hit song “Kilby Girl” by The Backseat Lovers paint a narrative for the lesser-known music-based subculture born within the conservative landscape of Utah, a state with many reputations.
What does it really mean to be a Kilby Girl?
The phrase, often used by Utah music enthusiasts, finds itself on Instagram posts featuring said fans walking the line of outward rebellion to some viewers, and simple youthful indie-energy to others. Utah Kilby Girls, Kilby Boys or any genderless title to the Utah version of ‘hipster,’ probably refers to a sublet of indie, punk and alternative fans that have dived deeper into local genres, rather than being satisfied with the world-wide hits of The 1975 and Phoebe Bridgers. They spend their energy actively supporting a surprisingly large number of local bands like Ritt Momney, Adult Prom and Cinders, all of whom are based out of Salt Lake City, Ogden, Logan, and yes, even Provo, Utah.
Other venues, like The Red Rock Amphitheater, which is undoubtedly the most iconic venue in Utah’s neighboring state of Colorado, feature fantastic sound technology, large seating areas and match markets that attract the biggest artists in the industry. Kilby Court however, is simply a sticker-tattered garage that is roughly maintained with plywood, and has a small yard area featuring large trees and a strange Styrofoam gargoyle statue. To outsiders, it is underwhelming and lack-luster of the usual glamour within the concert landscape that they are used to. To locals however, this venue is the safe-haven of expression, subculture and backgrounds that don’t always fit within Utah’s majority.
People go to Kilby Court to enjoy raw versions of concerts in an intimate stripped-back setting. The experience is preferred by Utah enthusiasts over the high-production alternative version of concerts that the world anticipates. As Salt Lake City’s longest-running all-ages venue, Kilby Court represents the roots of all Utah-based artists, like I Don’t Know How But They Found Me and The Aces. Fans have also enjoyed the likes of Death Cab for Cutie, Macklemore, St. Vincent, Walk the Moon, and many others who sought Kilby as their “springboard stage for beginning local & touring artists alike.”
Utah music culture does not stop at Kilby Court. It has inspired similar venues across Utah, namely Whysound in Logan and The Velour in Provo, to fulfil the needs of Kilby Girls in college towns, where music is used as an escape from world issues, angst and life in general. These venues act as common grounds for art and creativity, being the primary locations of Utah subculture formation.
The subculture of Utah matches the grungy, stripped-of-glamour style of these classic venues. Fans of local music in Utah don’t need much more than good music and genuine performers. In an interview for local student-run radio station 92.3 FM Aggie Radio, Dallon Weekes, front-man of one of Utah’s more popular local band I Don’t Know How But They Found Me spoke about the Utah music-scene.
“I think why it’s such a good scene here [in Utah] is because the people who make music here do it because they love to do it and they have to do it. There are no ulterior motives like becoming famous and a millionaire and drugs and, you know, perpetuating some lifestyle like partying and groupies and stuff. That’s less common here. People make music and they make art because they want to.”
Weekes, who initially gained his fame as the bass player of the classic pop-punk band Panic! At the Disco, still claims that Kilby Court and The Velour are his favorite venues to play at, even after performing around the world. Another insight into the Utah music scene comes from Scott Knutson, drummer for Drusky, who is a new player amidst dozens of other Provo-based indie bands.
“…Something that’s cool going on in the scene right now is there’s this garage-rock, almost emo, punk-fueled stuff, which is what I love. One of my favorite things is people getting out there and just saying ‘Screw you, I’m gonna play loud and do my thing and go crazy, Knutson goes on to say, “I feel like people are into that now and I love that, but there’s still some people stuck in the old ways… But we’re tearing it down. Sometimes, I see people out there who have overstayed their welcome, and it’s, like, clearly isn’t what’s happening right now. They’re just holding on to it. It’s like, get out! Make way for the usurpers! We will ‘usurp’ you!”
These “usurpers” who say “screw you” characterize the Utah music scene and mark the attitude of its Kilby fans. Despite living in a state with many reputations, some true and some exaggerated, local music fans don’t wish to be defined by one stereotype, one mindset, one political-view, or one religion. Music for Kilby Girls is a form of pure expression, stripped of expectations, just like its iconic venue.
Contributed by Brandon Ellis a writer from The Clive Davis Institute x Billboard MUSIC INDUSTRY ESSENTIALS program.
About the author: Brandon Ellis is originally from Colorado, but came to Utah four years ago to attend Utah State University (Listen to Utah State University Radio). After being pleasantly surprised by the large music community that Utah’s subculture harbored, Ellis became ambitious to get involved. He volunteered for the local radio station KBLU-LP 92.3 FM Aggie Radio where he first helped build concerts such as Logan City Limits, Utah’s largest music festival north of Ogden. He loved interacting with the bands and discovering their inspirations. He helped organize Logan City Limits and other local concerts for 3 years. Around that same time Brandon worked for local venues, Whysound and The Cache, where he learned more about the scene. Soon his life was completely consumed by Utah music, it was a fabulous time for him. Finally Ellis served as Station Manager for Aggie Radio and led the station into an internationally award-winning year, one of which being the ‘Spirit of College Radio Award’ awarded to only 6 stations of 500 participating college radio stations around the world. Now that he’s graduated, Brandon still seeks ways to give back to the music community and is looking for marketing, promotions, or event positions in the industry.