The Scene: Music in the Mountains @ Kilby Block Party 2023
By / May 23, 2023

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Kilby Block Party, a newer festival in Salt Lake City, is going all out for its fourth edition with a new venue and an expanded lineup. Founded in 2019 as a simple neighborhood celebration, KBP4 looks to put the Rocky Mountain city on the festival map with this indie rock experience.  

I’m back in the Rockies, my former stomping grounds for twenty-plus years. With all my favorite bands like Pixies, Pavement, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Run the Jewels, and The Walkmen topping the bill, I was instantly intrigued by the Kilby Block Party lineup. I used to live just outside SLC in the hills, so any excuse to return to one of the most scenic spots I’ve ever been made the decision that much easier.

Click here to see Part #1 of our Kilby Block Party photos
Click here to see Part #2 of our Kilby Block Party photos
Click here to see Part #3 of our Kilby Block Party photos

Table Of Contents

1. Running the Numbers
2. The Scene
3. Music Highlights

4. Stray Observations
5. Travel Tips
6. Final Thoughts

Running the Numbers

Dates: May 12-14, 2023
Editions: 4
Attendance: 25,000 per day est.
Artists: 59
MFW Beer Index: €8.36 ($9 USD)
Highest/Lowest Temperature: 24C/10C (75F/50F)
Reusable Cups? No
Free Water Stations? Yes

The Scene

The Venue
The Utah Fairpark, home to the Utah State Fair, was spacious and featured plenty of spots to chill on the grass along with views of the surrounding mountains. A nice touch that isn’t typical at festivals was permanent buildings that KBP used for merch sales and a silent disco. Even more important – real bathrooms could be found all over!

The Music
Utah already has an electronic and hip-hop festival, so KBP wisely focuses on indie rock and pop. For reference, a good chunk of the artists are alumni of Primavera Sound, Europe’s premier indie rock festival. I did find some overlap in shows I wanted to see but was able to navigate the weekend without too many clashes.

The Crowd
It seemed like everyone in Salt Lake City that likes music turned out for the festival so you had boho style-influencers mixing with SLC punks, older indie-heads, and an LGTBQI+ crowd that Utah’s insanely religious conservative government has been persecuting for decades finding a place to freely express themselves. I also met a bunch of folk that had traveled to Kilby Block Party sight unseen specifically for the lineup from Texas, NYC, and the Bay Area.

What We Didn’t Love
Rolling thunderstorms. The weather moves fast in the Rockies so Saturday and Sunday saw events put on hold while waiting out the lightning. Saturday saw only a minor delay with some acts pushed back, but Sunday’s storm meant an early cutoff for Pixies and me missing Pavement.

Sound bleed. The four-stage set-up was positioned either incorrectly or too loud or both, especially when paired with a quieter act and a more rambunctious one.  For instance, trying to enjoy the mellow sounds of Alice Phoebe Lou from the back of the Desert stage was difficult due to Cuco rocking as loud as possible from the nearby Lake Stage.

Show me your ID. I lived in Utah for a winter so I should be used to their wacky liquor laws. I’m not.

Music Highlights

Acts I Caught and the Unofficial Order in Which I Enjoyed Them

Click here to see Part #1 of our Kilby Block Party photos
Click here to see Part #2 of our Kilby Block Party photos
Click here to see Part #3 of our Kilby Block Party photos

  • Yeah Yeah Yeahs
  • Pixies
  • Run The Jewels
  • The Walkmen
  • Japanese Breakfast
  • Osees
  • Deerhoof
  • Surf Curse
  • Faye Webster
  • Mannequin Pussy
  • Wednesday
  • The Backseat Lovers
  • The Strokes
  • Caroline Polachek
  • Hippo Campus
  • Goth Babe
  • Alice Phoebe Lou
  • Kate Bollinger
  • Cuco
  • Frankie Cosmos
  • Alex G

Festival MVP: Yeah Yeah Yeahs
“We’ve been gone for about a decade,” frontwoman Karen O said to the crowd on Friday’s headlining set. “But we’re back now.” During the next 90 minutes, we were treated to a whirlwind of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs best hits along with Karen O trying to deepthroat a microphone, shoving it down her pants, and eventually just swinging it around the stage until it broke at which point she broke it apart with her teeth and tossed it into the crowd. Epic.

Ready to Party: Run The Jewels
The best part of this show might have been EL-P stalling to catch his breath as Utah is “100,000 feet above sea level and that’s a fact.” Second place goes to him cheering on a tiny fan perched on his father’s shoulders which prompted EL-P to say: “Your dad left you a dying planet, but hey, this was fun.”

Reunited: The Walkmen
“It’s been a minute!” Hamilton Leithauser yelled out. Like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the once indie-darlings from NYC have been absent from the festival scene for years. This was one of those bands that I thought I would never see live, so a real treat for Sunday.

Festival Fixture: Japanese Breakfast
Japanese Breakfast has been everywhere on fest lineups for the past two years and it’s easy to see why. Plus, how many live shows have gongs in them?

Keep Your Eye On: Surf Curse
Loud, messy, and a whole lot of fun, Surf Curse burst into Sunday evening with a raucous set. Also, a drummer/singer is always fun to watch.

US Festival Debut: Alice Phoebe Lou
A fixture on the European festival circuit, singer-songwriter Alice Phoebe Lou popped over to Utah to visit for the first time and seemed delighted to see people in the crowd singing along to her songs.

 

Stray Observations

Happy Mother’s Day
Lots of love for moms on Sunday.

Signs You Are In The Rockies
A water bottle covered in stickers attached to your belt with a carabiner? I feel like I’m home.

T-Shirts of the Weekend

Spider-Cowboy
When lightning strikes a mild-mannered Spider-Man and a rule-breaking rockabilly cowboy, they become Spider-Cowboy, a superhero dedicated to fighting Utah’s oppressive liquor laws. 

Rachel Goes For A Ride
During the Goth Babe set, they brought out a giant watermelon floatie and asked anyone if they would like to take a spin around the crowd. You can’t see it, but I’m waving my hand around.

 

Practical Info

What’s the weather like? Other than the rolling thunderstorms (see above), the weather was just incredible. Last week in California, I posited that May might be the best month for music festival weather and I’m still feeling bullish on that theory. For any festival in the Rockies, you will want to be prepared with sunscreen, cool-weather clothes, and a raincoat.

What are the prime hours for music? Gates opened at noon each day with music pretty much starting up on both stages. Salt Lake is a pretty quiet city so headliners were done before 10:30 pm every night.

Where did you sleep? No camping at this festival so I stayed nearby at the airport at a terrible Best Western. Next time, I’ll stay downtown and rent a bike.

How do you get there? Public transportation was free for the entire weekend with a wristband – other cities take note. I was able to take the light rail straight from the festival to the airport and caught a free airport shuttle from there to my hotel.

Final Thoughts

Outstanding lineup. Cool city. Beautiful crowd. As soon as they release dates, I’m booking a room for Kilby Block Party 5. No more notes.

Born during a backstage Bonnaroo downpour, Vito's mission in life is to dance, write, and travel to all the great festivals that this wide world has to offer.