Weglinski: Supporting Local Bands through the Pandemic


Tom Denton

Art in downtown Salt Lake City. (Photo by Tom Denton | Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Sonia Weglinski, Opinion Writer


My first concert ever was at Kilby Court. I was new to the local music scene, but that single experience fueled my already huge love for music. Kilby Court is a small, garage style venue located in Salt Lake City; many local artists play their first shows there. Bands like Neon Trees, The Backseat Lovers and Ritt Momney started at this venue. And there are similar venues across Utah, like Velour Live Music Gallery and WhySound.

My first experience at Kilby got me hooked, and for the next few years I spent my free time at small concerts supporting my musician friends and exploring new music. I enjoyed the intimacy of local concerts compared to large mainstream venues — and small local shows are much cheaper ($5-$15) than the typical $50+ it costs to see bigger artists. But when the pandemic hit, it changed the live music scene drastically — especially for these local bands and venues.

Nationwide, independent music venues were forced to close as performances halted and revenue streams dried up. Jon Hency, the owner of a North Carolina venue that shut down last summer, said to Rolling Stone, “It quickly became a year of just [nothing] … We had so much money already invested in advertising and promotion for those shows that got canceled out. We would never see that money back.” Thankfully, Congress passed The Save Our Stages Act, a $15 billion relief package to alleviate the pandemic’s financial blow to indie music venues, last December. But there are other ways we can show up to support the artists we know and love.

Live gigs are a significant source of local artists’ income as streaming services have slashed music sales. With venues closed or only accepting limited capacity, many artists have struggled to make ends meet. “[The hardest thing] is that you can’t do any networking … So many people have started bands during the pandemic, but none of us have been able to hear anyone,” said Meg Mulvey of The Whatnots, a local alternative band.

On top of that, many concert goers and music buffs have been deprived for months. I had planned to attend a long list of concerts in 2020, and receiving refunds for my tickets was crushing. Luckily, as more Utahns are being vaccinated and we’re transitioning back to normalcy, opportunities to appreciate and support live music are finally arising again. Kilby Court announced its re-opening — in accordance with CDC guidelines — last fall after six months of being shut down.

If you’re unfamiliar with local bands or unsure where to start, Kilby has a calendar of local artists playing on their website. The Whatnots spoke on the importance of the community supporting live local music. “Every time you go to a show you walk away with new acquaintances and friends … it really opens your world up to all these people who live around you,” said band member Drew Mulvey. He also highlighted that most big-time artists started locally, using Imagine Dragons, who started in Provo, as an example. “You get to see them improve their careers and watch them grow … It’s about being a part of something [bigger].” However, if you’re unable to go to in-person concerts, consider watching online shows or supporting local artists by buying their merchandise, spreading their content, directly donating and (obviously) listening to their music.

COVID-19 has been tough on local music. Music lover or not, supporting local musicians means supporting your community — something that is more important now than ever. Even donating $5 or listening to one song goes a long way. Let’s support our local artists.


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