Kilby Court, still rockin’ at 15
Kilby Court doesn’t look like much, but looks can be deceiving.
On the outside, the Salt Lake City live-music venue is marked by a weathered sign outside a rundown patio gate at the end of an industrial cul-de-sac. Inside, the concrete patio leads to an old garage that’s dark except for the small stage in the corner.
"The stage isn’t that much higher than ground level," said Alex Gilvarry, bassist/keyboardist for the Salt Lake City band L’Anarchiste. "You’re not towering over people when you’re playing."
Kilby Court, at 741 S. Kilby Court (330 West) in Salt Lake City’s central district, marks its 15th anniversary this weekend — and for a music venue, especially one that caters to concertgoers of all ages, 15 years is an eternity.
Kilby Court turns 15
When » Friday, July 18, starting at 7 p.m.
Tickets » $7, at 24Tix or at the gate
Kilby Court started rather modestly in 1999. Phil Sherburne had a small woodshed, and he rented a garage nearby, intending that an artists group to which he belonged could use it. His fellow artists didn’t want to use the garage — for one thing, it had only one electrical outlet — so he started letting bands play there.
"It was kind of a way of being involved [in the music scene], and to kind of pay for the place," Sherburne said. It also happened that another club, The Moroccan, had recently closed, and bands who had been booked there needed someplace to play.
At first, Kilby Court was used for what Sherburne called "private parties," though "the shows were becoming so regular, it was hard to justify it as a private party anymore," he said.
One night, Salt Lake City police agreed and shut down a full show — and cited Sherburne for running a business without a license. It took a few months, and some work on the venue (like making the bathrooms compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act), before he got a business license and made Kilby Court fully legit.
Kilby Court never made money, Sherburne said, in part because the venue couldn’t serve alcohol. (The reasons are many, including the fact that the property abuts a Buddhist temple.) On his best year, he said, he made $9,000 on the joint.
Sherburne gained in another way: He met his future wife, artist Leia Bell, at Kilby Court.
When they got together, Bell started making the posters for Kilby Court’s concerts. Those posters sold widely and brought her national attention. They also kept the venue afloat for several years. "Her posters made way more than the shows did," Sherburne said.
By 2007, Sherburne was feeling burned out.
"It started as a labor of love, and I no longer loved it," he said.
He was particular about finding the right people to buy Kilby Court. He went to local musician Will Sartain, who had performed at Kilby Court. Sartain and his partner Lance Saunders had started S&S Presents, which represented bands and booked concerts.
"We didn’t look at it as a moneymaking scheme," Saunders said. "We did not want it to die."