By Andrew Glassett
The history of all ages venues in Salt Lake City is similar to some torrid love affair out of a cheap romance novel. Passionate club owners desire to provide music and entertainment to people of all ages. They obsess and pour over their clubs only to have their dreams dashed in one fell swoop by the gods of intolerance, disinterest and for the most part, economics. Maybe it's not quite that dramatic, but either way the all ages venue world is a tough way to make a living in Salt Lake. It was my quest to find out exactly why they struggle in an ever-increasing scene of musicians and music lovers. In my efforts to solve this quandary, I interviewed club owners both old and new to find out what it is really like to brave the storm of venues that are open to all walks of life.
First I decided to go to the patriarch of all-ages venues Phil Sherburne, the well-known owner and operator of Kilby Court. On July 22, Kilby celebrated its seventh anniversary of providing entertainment for the younger scenesters. Started on accident by an ever increasing number of musicians who were looking for a place to play, Kilby was doing three shows a week for the first few months of operation. By the time it was shut down in the latter part of 1998, national and local bands were playing there regularly. The reason for the closure was because the tenets of the American Disability Act (ADA) were not being followed, such as making things wheelchair accessible as well as having both men's and women's bathrooms. They were also required to switch buildings because the rear building of Kilby is not seismically sound. Since then, the "gallery" has been left relatively untouched by the police because Phil has made sure to keep the show's crowds under control. Sherburne feels that the community has been supportive even though after his bills have been paid for the club he makes under $18,000 a year. He commented that "We have come a long way in the past seven years; the Morracan did shows during the 90s punk scene; there weren't very many shows then, but when there were shows they were huge. I think there is way more of a scene now than there ever has been and it's growing exponentially."
Sherburne seems pretty positive about how things are going but recognizes the obvious problems, such as the "Hole in the 'above Kilby' level; there isn't really anything that stays open that is smaller than In the Venue, which has a capacity of 1500. I see that because of our small space we can be selective. We have a capacity of 200 and we don't have to take the riskier shows like the bigger venues have to take in order to turn a profit. It's all economics. The town is supportive. I'm surprised that we haven't had more legitimate competition." He works very well with local officials and keeps an attitude of humbleness towards them. "I did get fines and almost went to jail when I did things wrong. When I have done things right, they have been helpful. They want to see this happen but there are rules to protect people."
He mentioned how, as a father of three children, he sees his role in the community not being so much a revolutionary but an advocate for safe entertainment. "When a hundred or so people died at the Great White concert in Rhode Island, that shit scared me to death, nauseated me. That instance made me rethink the whole business end of doing shows. The first thing is doing it safely."