This past Thursday was a hot one. With humidity pushing 40% and the temperature sitting at 95 degrees, the inhabitants of Kilby Court were earning it in all aspects of summer happenstance. The fire pit was a no-go and people were more prone to pouring water on themselves than drinking it. Kilby Court sat impervious to this predicament, and the staff was friendly and welcoming despite the foreboding atmosphere. The bands shifted around their equipment for the night and the audience dug into their cell phones for the time being. There was only one cure for the middle summer heat that evening.. the wonderful distraction of rock.

The opening act that evening was Bent Denim, who hail from Nashville and New Orleans respectively and collaborated on the music they’ve created via email. The group is composed of Ben Littlejohn and Dennis Sager and they visited Salt Lake City three nights from the end of their summer tour while promoting their brilliant new EP, Epistolary.

While the album displays the softer, more ambient side of Bent Denim, their concert presentation shows off a harder, catchy side that is nearly impossible to not get into. The heat would have kept most audiences at bay, but the infectious nature of the tunes drew people in closer to get a better grasp of these up and coming rockers. The sound was like an electronic Weezer with a dark passionate sweep that blew by you like so many memories of childhood longing. The lyrics could send your mind off to any given tangent of instance and yet the music stuck with you, so the songs became a soundtrack to wandering thought. My son Samuel was with me during this show and several times we looked at each other very surprised at the strength of this opening band. The only fault in the presentation was the production, and the vocals seemed to fall behind the keyboards at times. With growth and time, I see this minor issue getting ironed out and Bent Denim cranking out a solid full length album in the near future. I hope Bent Denim enjoyed their first visit to Salt Lake City and we hope to see them again soon.

Next up was the L.A. foursome Young & Sick, a musical group slash art project. Singer Nick Van Hofwegen would be limited in the simple description of lead singer. He made his mark in the art/music community long before with the composition of album covers (Foster the People, Maroon 5) and is a complete artist in every sense of the word. This comes across in his music and stage presence. He charms and croons the audience into a gooey mess the way only the most confident of performers can. Young & Sick play like vets of rock, not newbie’s striking out. The audience members that kept trickling into this show were definitely an older crowd (I’m 34), and the couple dancing by the stage reminded me of my parents on less inhibited nights. It was the first time I have ever seen the chairs used at Kilby Court and as the show went on, I became one of these patrons (at my son’s urging).

Van Hofwegen’s stage presence was a hoot—watching his various interactions with the crowd became some of the show’s best moments. The band behind him plays into this atmosphere and the whole performance is a delight to watch and enjoy. I don’t believe the Young & Sick will be playing these smaller venues for long, and it was a pleasure to see them up close and personal. Unfortunately, an arena would not show the personality of this band—personality and charisma are a large part of what the Young & Sick have to offer.

After the show, both bands hung around to mingle with fans. My friend Erik bought the Young & Sick’s vinyl Heartache Fetish, featuring the artwork of Van Hofwegen and Van Hofwegen actually took the time to add even more artwork to the cover before signing it. Van Hofwegen is very enthusiastic with his fans and seemed almost excited to get to know people. This tour goes night after night and it was impressive to see the various band members so relaxed and happy with what they do. This tour felt like a labor of love and not a chore, as so many other concerts have. It was a pleasure to sweat the night away with these bands and I wish them all the best with their future endeavors. Thanks to both bands for playing on a hot sweating evening in Salt Lake City. Next time, come out in the winter and we can talk about a different kind of weather.