This is the Place for Kilby Block Party 2023 reviews: Read on for almost two dozen reviews and about 100 photos of the bands that played SLC live!
Initially, I hoped to complete this each night but that was irrational ambition. In all, I saw some or all of 21 bands play. Twenty of the shows were good to truly outstanding… only one bad performance all weekend. Our friends at Kilby and S&S Presents killed it.
(Author’s note: I’m finishing my last reviews. Working my way now through Sunday!)
Kilby Block Party 2023 reviews: Friday shows
I managed to see everyone on my Friday priority list, and peaked in on a couple of extra bands I hadn’t planned to see. These performances are listed in chronological order, meaning Karen O and The Yeah Yeah Yeahs come at the end.
Kilby Block Party 2023: Friday headlines
- Jean Dawson, Deerhoof and The Yeah Yeah Yeahs made for a remarkable opening day!
- The premier Kilby Stage faces the sunset, which was tough for Michelle Zauner
- Sun glare aside, the weather was perfect. No jacket needed for the nighttime YYY show
I arrived Friday just in time to hear Homephone finish their 12:55 set. Homephone have been writing and releasing songs for about two years. On closer “Dandelion Fields,” Joseph Sandholtz pulled out a trumpet which immediately brought the crowd to life.
Homephone released “Night Walk” about one month ago. Have a listen and download from Bandcamp!
World weary experimental/shoegaze band Julie might as well have been playing in a friend’s basement.
I was hoping for a lot more from Julie but between A/V problems and disinterest in their audience, I wasn’t as impressed as I hoped. It’s too bad because when Alex Brady’s voice finally floated over the top of a muddy audio mix, it turned some Yo La Tengo acolyte’s into a real band.
Wow, Jean Dawson owned the place.
There is some Beastie Boys energy from Dawson but also at times a more guitar-driven Living Color thing. Dawson played the crowd, goading the larger GA audience to shout and sing as loudly as the smaller VIP side.
He introduced another song, “Say my name!” and “Salt Lake mother f*kn’ city!” This was nearly as much fun as I had all day, and I’m buying Dawson’s latest Chaos Now.
More photos of Dawson below.
Grabbed a couple of songs by Lucius and sent a photo to my cousin who is a big fan. They displayed the many harmonies and matching outfits. Hand motions were happening in the crowd, maybe from a music video? The demographics matched a Red Butte Garden Outdoor Concert Series show.
I can’t imagine there are scores of deep, deep Deerhoof fans out there, completion-ists who have all 16 or 18 albums. I suspect there are a lot of people like me, who *appreciate* Deerhoof, in the way I appreciate Jazz. But I don’t come home on Friday night and put on a jazz album.
Kilby Block Party 2023: Deerhoof live act
Holy crap, though, I could have sat and watched the band play for hours Friday. Their spikey guitar solos are so technically precise. John Dieterich and Ed Rodriguez play syncopated guitar lines in dissonant minor keys that sound like fighting tomcats. And when you think it’s a brief, eccentric bridge – NO – these guys are dueling for eight minutes. It can be a complex listen and at the same time absolutely hypnotic.
The guitars are so prominent it is easy to miss Greg Saunier’s manic percussion. He would crush the drum kit to match the difficult time signatures, then grab the high hat and silence everything for Satomi Matsuzaki’s high vocals. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a band so perfectly keyed into each other.
The whole experience is so Deerhoof-y, with Matsuzaki’s obscure hand gestures, Rodriguez throwing his beautiful hair behind his face and Saunier’s incredibly affable stage banter. I loved every moment.
Unexpectedly, Deerhoof was probably my favorite Kilby show all weekend.
Keep scrolling for more photos of the band.
I fell in love with Cuco last year and I was excited to finally hear him play.
Fun open, two of the band mates for the Mexican-American Cuco entered the stage with Mexican flags. Omar Banos himself was game for the crowd, and noted the amazing views, like many other performers that weekend. From the east-facing Lake stage, those artists were looking right at the snow-capped Wasatch Mountains. Do you remember how that felt the first time you saw them? Now imagine that from stage.
Banos sang most of the time but also played organ as he performed “Foolish,” “Aura” and the sublime lullaby “Time Machine” from 2022’s Fantasy Gateway. He also previewed an unreleased, largely instrumental number. Maybe no surprise, his intimate bedroom pop didn’t translate perfectly to an outdoor stage, at times the booming base overwhelming the delicate arrangement.
Still rooting for big things in Cuco’s future.
More Cuco images in the photo section.
Some of my photos are not great but the above image of Japanese Breakfast actually displays the shadows from the sunset falling behind the stage lights. Japanese Breakfast was staring straight into that. It didn’t keep Michelle Zauner from having all the fun in the world, dancing and clanging her trademark gong anytime she didn’t have a guitar slung over her shoulder.
Kilby Block Party 2023: Japanese Breakfast set list
- “Paprika” (Jubilee)
- “Be Sweet” (Jubilee)
- “Kokomo, IN” (Jubilee)
- “Savage Good Boy” (Jubilee)
- “The Body is a Blade” (Soft Sounds From Another Planet)
- “Slide Tackle” (Jubilee)
- “Diving Woman” (Softs Sounds From Another Planet)
I managed to get my daughter to add Japanese Breakfast to her Spotify playlist after she heard “Tactics.” The band had a violinist so I hoped we would hear it, but alack and alas, no. Still, an outstanding show.
Zauner brought all the joy.
I caught Greta Kline singing a couple of songs from Frankie Cosmos’ 2022’s Inner World Peace on Kilby’s Desert side stage. I only stayed for a few minutes before skipping off to try and get a good spot for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
She started with the catchy “Aftershook.”
Frankie Cosmos also hit “One Year Stand,” “Empty Head,” and “Abigail,” which Kline introduced by telling the audience it was about a dog she found on Petfinder. She explains in this thoughtful interview that the dog lead to introspection about what she was going to prioritize in life.
Look for more Frankie Cosmos photos further down.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Karen O is a national treasure.
Orzolek belongs, almost equally, to multiple eras…some kind of mashup of 70’s Debbie Harry, 80’s Grace Jones and 90’s Cher. She vamps like a Las Vegas residency, spoofs herself with all the early aughts stagecraft like spitting water in the air and treats the microphone like a sex toy.
And still. Several times during Friday night’s show Karen seemed nearly brought to tears.
The Kilby Block Party 2023 was about one week into YYY’s tour supporting the acclaimed Cool it Down, the first YYY release in almost decade. In the interim Orzolek had a child and — perhaps — wondered if her touring days were over. She was clearly, fully moved performing in front of the masses again, gushing, “You guys are making me very happy!”
And the bodysuit — Karen credited the designer during the show but I missed her name. She used the neon colors, sequined KO midriff, tassels, gloves and cape to full dramatic effect throughout the show.
Kilby Block Party 2023: Yeah Yeah Yeahs set list
- “Spitting off the Edge of the World” (Cool It Down)
- “Shame and Fortune” (It’s Blitz!)
- “Burning” (Cool It Down)
- “Zero” (It’s Blitz!)
- “Soft Shock” (“It’s Blitz!)
- “Lovebomb” (Cool It Down)
- “Blacktop” (Cool It Down)
- “Sacrilege” (Mosquito)
- “Gold Lion” (Show Your Bones)
- “Maps” (Fever to Tell)
- “Heads Will Roll” (It’s Blitz!)
- “Y Control” (Fever to Tell)
My notes are a little unclear on the last song; it may have been “Different Today.” I use a quite imprecise way of tracking songs when I don’t have access to the set list.
Added to the showmanship were giant bouncing eyeballs and Orzolek singing from underneath some kind of small sheet like a sequined burka.
She also made show of repeatedly pretending to blow the microphone and ultimately shoved the mic down her bodysuit to stick out of her pants like some turned on teenage boy. It was completely juvenile, which only made it funnier.
And there were generous outbursts of affection like this before 2003’s “Maps.”
Dedicate this song to someone you loved and lost!Karen O
Dedicate this song to someone you loved more than life itself!
I dedicate this song to Japanese Breakfast
And I dedicate this song to this beautiful crowd!
Tons of YYY photos at end of this post!
Kilby Block Party 2023 reviews: Saturday shows
Saturday was a day for the beautiful people at the Kilby Block Party 2023.
From Tamino’s perfectly placed Mediterranean curls, Hannah Van Loon who could have jumped out of an LL Bean catalogue, Alex G’s tormented street urchin appeal and Natalie Mering’s dazzling cream dress and storybook smile that could be descended from European royalty. And most of them also smart as a whip.
Kilby Block Party 2023: Saturday headlines
- Weyes Blood multi-media triumph from the Mountain side stage
- Run the Jewels commands the weekend’s top performance in the rain
- The insufferable behavior of Julian Casablancas ruins The Strokes
Overall, Saturday was a bit of a mixed bag compared to Friday. Weather brought the first of two days of rain and lightning in the evening. And multiple exhilarating performances during the day were counterbalanced by Casablancas’ inexcusable performance at the end of the night.
Tamino crossed my dashboard barely a week ago when I sampled his music for the first time.
As I said then and as has been observed in many reviews, his ethereal vocals are like a reincarnation of Jeff Buckley. You can’t listen to Tamino and not think of Buckley. But not in a way that is replicative. He is singing, his voice lilting and rising in a foreign tongue. The entire effect is of the Old World.
Now that I’ve established his bona fides, let’s just get it out of the way that Tamino is also ridiculously handsome. Like a square-jawed Disney prince who, in one scene, saves the maiden, then later pulls out a guitar and sings around the campfire in an operatic baritone. Note: His video marketing team is aware!
Speaking of pulling out a guitar, Tamino used a different instrument for each song. He may have repeated one of these guitars but it was fun seeing the select guitar for each performance.
Maybe I’m the last person to hear of Tamino, since he cuts the perfect figure and genre for a Tiny Desk Concert. But if you haven’t heard this voice, treat yourself for the next five minutes.
More Tamino photos below.
Another artist I learned about only recently is Grace Ives – and I was interested to learn more. I only hung out for about ten minutes, however, because Ives was DJ’ing this set.
For the record let me state that Ives gave this DJ’d performance 110%! She was all over the stage, playing with the audience, clearly having a terrific time. Ives mentioned it was her first show in six months, so I’m sure the adrenalin was rushing.
I was super impressed with the live range of Tanukichan, fronted by Hannah Van Loon. Some of the songs were gazey, some showed off shimmering guitars, a couple were grungier numbers.
I’m not sure that Loon’s vocals were supposed to be so low in the mix but I felt this was a nagging theme on the Mountain side stage all weekend. I need to go back and listen to GIZMO, which the Oakland band released just two months ago. I’d like to hear how the studio versions compare.
Tanukichan started off with “Escape” and “Don’t Give Up,” the first two cuts from GIZMO…as well as “Take Care” from the current album. They also played from their 2018 release Sundays. Speaking of song sequence, check out this delightful set list.
This show was an unexpected treat!
I took a bunch of snaps of Van Loon below.
After listening to Alex G’s God Save the Animals last year, I set it aside. I churn through quite a lot music and it just didn’t grab me. I picked it up again in January and listened another couple of times. Maybe I’m slow, but I just didn’t get there. I also believe critical darlings like Alex Giannascoli are singers I am SUPPOSED to like, and maybe I resist that.
So when Kilby announced Alex G was performing – well, I decided I was going to see the phenom in person, he who is so frequently compared to folk loners Elliot Smith and Nick Drake. I’m so glad I was able to see him in person. His catalogue came to life in ways it hasn’t for me listening to just his records. Alex G’s songs are also crunchier in person, which I appreciate.
Alex plays a good bit of the show turned toward his band, which is to say away from the audience. This isn’t the same thing as saying he is unfriendly; he is imminently likeable. But Alex G sings through a noticeable grimace and when he sits at the keyboard, he sways up and down to the band pretty intensely.
It all gives the impression of songs that are deeply felt.
I made no notes of Alex talking to the audience. I know he said a few things but they were probably minimal. However, a guitarist for Giannascoli ended the show quite sweetly thanking the road crew and sound team. You never hear bands doing that.
Kilby Block Party 2023: Alex G set list
- “Runner” (God Save the Animals)
- “No Bitterness” (God Save the Animals)
- “Mission” (God Save the Animals)
- “Blessing” (God Save the Animals)
- “Cross the Sea” (God Save the Animals)
- “Gretel” (House of Sugar)
- “Miracles” (God Save the Animals)
- “Forgive” (God Save the Animals)
Lots of pics of the photogenic Alex G in the Saturday photos.
Weyes Blood has hot takes.
If you’ve followed her tour this year, you know Natalie Mering loves herself a good prank. She looks so elegant in her cream dress and cape, and sings so softly, who would suspect she is setting a trap? Oh, but she is. Repeatedly. Hint to future audiences: When Weyes Blood asks if you’re into something, THE ANSWER IS NO. Do not applaud.
Kilby Block Party 2023: Weyes Blood stage banter
- Mering: “Is everyone here excited about artificial intelligence?”
Reflexive applause from audience
- Mering: “Oh really? So when someone makes an album that sounds exactly like Weyes Blood, will you just buy that record? Are you going to choose me?”
- Mering: “So who here is into astrology?”
Unsuspecting victims cheer loudly
- Mering: “You think the stars control our actions? We’re all helpless, carried along by the universe? Well I don’t. I think we’re creating a new reality, our very own ‘wide, open galaxy.'”
Kilby Block Party 2023: Weyes Blood performance
Weyes Blood’s show is mesmerizing.
Mering is widely quoted about the influence of hymns on her songwriting, and her earnest tone and signature dress and cape seem to reinforce that. Even more, her intellect and calm demeanor reflect some character from classic literature like John Milton’s Mirth.
Mering’s dancing and movements, too, at times transport you to another time. She has all of the twirls.
Yes, if you must ask, I did take more photos of Mering than anyone else at the Kilby Block Party 2023.
So many of Weyes Blood’s mannerisms add to this sense of drama. Her arm lifted to the heavens on the climactic notes of “Hearts Aglow.” Throwing the cape over her head and turning her back as she begins “Something to Believe.” Tossing flowers into the audience.
Simultaneous with all of this classic stagecraft is the dissonant multimedia. During the tremulous “God Turn Me Into a Flower,” disturbing video images play behind Mering of violent protests and catatonic psychiatric patients. Many of her live songs have the lush party in the front, violent video subtext in the back. It’s a lot to take in.
Weyes Blood finishes her hour-long set with “Movies,” from Titanic Rising. Per tradition as she leaves the stage, DVD’s from the audience fly up on stage. It is so On Brand that she collects hard media! Mering grabbed a half dozen of the DVD’s — and then she was gone.
A friend of mine in New York wrote that fans at Brooklyn Steel were brought to tears at the end of Mering’s show–that’s a pretty intense response for NYC. I wasn’t teary. Dissonance aside, though, I was left with memories of Weyes Blood’s voice, the dancing and shrewd social observations and my mind drifted back to Milton.
And ever against eating cares,John Milton, L’Allegro (1645)
Lap me in soft Lydian airs,
Married to immortal verse,
Such as the meeting soul may pierce
Run the Jewels
The honest to God’s truth is that I took very few notes watching Run the Jewels. I was so completely smitten by their stage presence, energy and beats that I just drank in the moment.
Killer Mike was unleashed, prancing around the stage like your favorite uncle. He told the audience at the start he was going to “John Stockton this motherf*kr!” I don’t actually know what that means, but it was pretty damn funny.
There was also a tender moment in which Mike referenced the locket he carried with the image of his mother, who recently passed. “She’s with Jesus now and he’s going to figure this sh*t out.” As I researched RTJ, I came across this thoughtful piece about the scriptural quality of the duo’s lyrics.
Mike Render basically owns the stage but El-P is his near equal, and just as funny. El Producto: “We’re about 100,000 feet above sea level and I smoked a lot of weed!” A time-honored tradition I’m sure, El-P does a goofy jig on set and Killer Mike says, “That’s El-P’s River Dance. We came here to kick a**, River Dance b*tches!”
Among a few of the bangers that I DID record RTJ performing are “Close Your Eyes,” “Ju$t” and “Ooh LA LA.” I pretty well can’t stand the trite “Ooh LA LA,” but knew it was coming. They also played a song that I thought Mike introduced as “Gold,” (?) from his upcoming solo album Michael.
Steady rain notwithstanding, RTJ was one of a few Kilby moments I’ll never forget. Lots of pics below.
Julian Casablancas is unwatchable.
Part of me feels sorry for the 30-somethings trying to relive their teen years through Casablancas’ insufferable, self-absorbed behavior. No matter how well The Strokes play — and I thought they were fantastic — you cannot escape Casablancas’ boorish, inane commentary on stage.
We can’t say we didn’t know he would act like such a knuckle-dragging troglodyte. His reputation preceded him.
Casablancas was worse than I could have imagined. During the set, he spent easily ten minutes blathering on about nothing in particular — a fortune cookie, a guitar pic — time that should have been spent playing another two or three Strokes classics. I can’t even talk about his stupid gloves.
To top it off, Casablancas pledged his devotion to bassist Nokali Fraiture by offering to perform a sex act on him. Live, on stage, using his out loud voice he said this, when he could have been singing instead.
What a jerkface. Just play the hits dude.
Kilby Block Party 2023: The Strokes set list
- “Last Nite” (Is This It)
- “Not the Same Anymore” (The New Abnormal)
- “Bad Decisions” (The New Abnormal)
- “Ask Me Anything” (First Impressions of Earth)
- “Meet Me in the Bathroom” (Room on Fire)
- “Under Control” (Room on Fire)
- “Red Light” (First Impressions of Earth)
- “You Only Live Once” (First Impressions of Earth)
- “Is This It” (Is This It)
Keep scrolling for a few more photos of The Stokes.
Kilby Block Party 2023 reviews: Sunday shows
Should the Sunday shows of a 3-day festival be the climax of the weekend? Or are you trying to finish strong after Saturday night’s ultimate lineup? I suspect festival organizers plan for the latter: A strong finish with a working assumption that Saturday is your giant draw.
Either way, the Kilby Block Party 2023 crossed the finish line with some terrific shows. It doesn’t get much bigger than The Walkmen, The Pixies and Pavement.
Kilby Block Party 2023: Sunday headlines
- Sunday was the biggest day for local bands, with Tolchock Trio and The Backseat Lovers getting strong billing. The Backseat Lovers, especially, had great profile.
- It was impossible to watch The Pixies and not feel like Black Francis was basically cashing a paycheck. It was a paint-by-numbers performance, at best.
- Day 3 brought a new round of thunderstorms and a long interruption in music. It stopped The Pixies after 40 minutes and affected the final audience for Pavement.
I mostly missed the heyday of Tolchock Trio, who played and recorded in Salt Lake from 2000 until 2009 or so. It was fun to hear them play from their discography and hope they might record again in the future. In fact, either Oliver Lewis or Ryan Fedor remarked, “We haven’t played in a long time. Who knows when we’ll do it again.”
Tolchock ran the gamut, opening with “Wolf Eyes” from the 2004 Ghosts Don’t Have Bones album leading into “Twenty Twenties.” That song was the lead for the “unfinished” Mono Culture EP, released in 2017 as Mono Culture Demos.
The second half of the Tolchock Trio set all came from from 2008’s highly-regarded Abalone Skeletone,. The band played (in order) “Two Rivers,” “Goldbugs,” “Factory,” “(I Wanna Ride on a) Super Panga,” “Sheepshead,” and “Divorce Papers.”
I had to scoot before they ended. I was starving and assumed there would be little time to eat after The Walkmen. Little did I know thunderstorms were rolling in…
I’ve waited a long time to see Hamilton Leithauser and The Walkmen.
Fully 13 years ago — practically another lifetime — I ranked The Walkmen’s album Lisbon in my Top 10 records in 2010. I was already pretty late to The Walkmen party, and then didn’t dig into 2012’s Heaven. But I picked back up on my Leithauser mancrush in 2020 when he released the wonderful Loves of Your Life.
Leithauser released three singles from Loves of Your Life, which did not include the exquisite “Cross-Sound Ferry (Walk-On Ticket)”
I presumed the reunited Walkmen would only play Walkmen classics and not Hamilton Leithauser solo songs, but we were about to find out!
The Walkmen were just three weeks into their reunion tour, the first time the band had played together live in a decade. Adrenalin seemed to be high. Nerves were had, notes were hit and notes were valiantly attempted. I loved every bit of it.
Kilby Block Party 2023: The Walkmen performance
Sometimes I wonder why bands don’t transpose their hits from the original keys to slightly lower keys to help the frontman hit the banging solo notes. Maybe they do.
Leithauser threw every bit of his voice into Walkmen classics like “Angela Surf City.” He mostly killed but the climactic lyrics on “Angela” were just slightly a vocal bridge too far. This might also be the result of renewed touring, including five shows in five days at Brooklyn’s Webster Hall two weeks before.
He also seemed to repeat several times nervously or reflexively the band’s origins on the 132nd block of Broadway in New York. Like the YYY, The Walkmen seemed to drink in the experience as much as the audience, feeding off his fans’ energy. Leithauser said at one point, “When we decided to get back together we had no idea if anyone would remember who in the f*ck we were!”
Ooooh the crowd remembered. And, a man of the people, Leithauser finished the show by jumping off the stage and into the crowd. He whisked through a ton of handshakes and a ran through the audience to show off ten years of gratitude.
Kilby Block Party 2023: The Walkmen set list
- “In the New Year” (You & Me)
- “The Rat” (Bows + Arrows)
- “Juveniles” (Lisbon)
- “Dónde está la playa” (You & Me)
- “Angela Surf City” (Lisbon)
- “Another One Goes By” (A Hundred Miles Off)
- “Little House of Savages” (Bows + Arrows)
- “All Hands and the Cook” (A Hundred Miles Off)
- “Heaven” (Heaven)
- “We’ve Been Had” (Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me is Gone)
Still to come from the Kilby Block Party 2023 (Sunday: The Pixies and Pavement!)