A cold winter night, a night not unlike many others: black sky, hazy moon vaguely wheat-colored, strong winds navigating through the valley. It was not enough to keep away an excited, young crowd from gathering at Kilby on Friday night, though. It wasn’t for me, either. I checked in at the door and headed straight inside, making my way through the porous crowd of early gatherers. I hid away in the corner taking notes on my phone and coughing incessantly, one of the many annoying side effects of my burgeoning smoking habit. Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, from Springfield, Missouri with an unusual and eye-catching name, plays the sort of indie guitar pop favored around the middle of the last decade, albeit with a more ’60s flair.
They brought along Army Navy, a similar pop group from California. They are a three-piece, led by a bookish, if slightly effeminate, front man. He looks a bit like James Mercer and their sound is even reminiscent of Chutes Too Narrow-era Shins. They play pure pop, the kind that sticks to your arteries, causing mindless arm waving and dancing, much to the delight of the band. From the get-go, the small cluster of people to my right, all huddled beside the large speaker hanging from the ceiling, are in their thrall. Two kids with jet black hair are laboring over a sharpie mural on the plywood wall, only stopping intermittently to do something that resembles a dance, but is more likely some ancient satanic ritual, their possessed bodies twisting along with those sweet bass lines.
To be honest, it isn’t anything special, just the kind of pop music that weaves itself under your skin and grabs ahold of your tongue so that you can’t do anything but whistle its tune. Their sound recalls bands like the aforementioned Shins, Pavement, and maybe a bit of the Yardbirds. Their set blazed by in just over 40 minutes, though it seemed much quicker. Once their set ended, the crowd spilled out.
SSLYBY’s latest LP Fly by Wire was a favorite of mine this year, the sugary sweet harmonies on songs like “Young Presidents” and “Harrison Ford” are particularly well done. Luckily for me and the rest of the crowd, the band played a seemingly random slew of hits both old and new, and their version of “Harrison Ford” (requested by a fan who had supposedly traveled seven hours to the show), was amazing.
Philip Dickey, the lead singer, has a refreshing earnestness about him. While most indie bands have a stoic, detached relationship with the crowd, Mr. Dickey was chatting it up with audience members and chanting like Springsteen, fist thrusting into the air. They’re at their best, though, when the harmonies on songs like “Modern Mystery” are used. Unfortunately, the rest of the band seemed content to let him sing by himself most of the time. After a few songs, Dickey switched places with the drummer and still handled lead vocals. The most vocal and energetic band member is now confined behind the kit and trying to keep up the energy. He occasionally stood up to beat the hell out of the drums in a tribal manner, even knocking over half the drum kit.
After they switched places again, they played a few more upbeat songs to close out the show. The crowd wasn’t having it, though, demanding more songs from the band. They relented and played one more song requested from the crowd. After that, the rest of the band got off the stage and left it up to Dickey and Will Knauer to finish us off. They ended with a song from their first album, Broom, called “Pangea,” with its slightly humorous and nerdy chorus, “Pangea we used to be together/ why’d we have to drift apart?” The crowd loves it, and so do I. The band says this was their sixth show in Utah and at least their third time at Kilby, so here’s to hoping they come back for a seventh time.