Indie rock’s iconic Death Cab for Cutie hold a special place in the history of Kilby Court. Alongside Rilo Kiley, Macklemore, Diplo, Foster the People, Sylvan Esso, Mac Miller, and Grouplove, DCFC are among the famous alumni who got their start at the venue. On Saturday, May 11, the Seattle band returned to the stage to headline Kilby Court’s 20th Anniversary Block Party.

Photo by Charissa Che

Along the blocked-off street were families playing cornhole and life-sized checkers. A bus filled with classic arcade games drew curious passersby. In a side street, food trucks served tacos, falafels, and moon pies. Lining the side of the block were big DIY wood panels on which the names of acts who have performed at Kilby Court were listed, from its 1999 inception until today. Like a yearbook, people scrawled memories of their favorite shows, or just casual self-observations (i.e. “I’ve been here before but reading a list after 2 beers is honestly too much.”).

Death Cab for Cutie
Photo by Charissa Che

Death Cab for Cutie Frontman Ben Gibbard recalled Salt Lake City’s “scarier” days upon their first arrival, and notes how it has changed for the better since then. “And now we’re back, and it’s a much nicer place it seems like, [with] condos and everything; it’s crazy” he says. While he says changes are “not always necessarily the best, but they do represent the march of time.” With that, they go into “Gold Rush,” a country-twanged track off their new LP, Thank You for Today. In many ways, the album recalls the band’s earlier, less-circulated songs: still a pop arrangement, but without too much of a pop sound. Gibbard’s trademark lyrics about seasons changing and distance growing are more submerged in melancholy synths rather than convenient singalongs.

Photo by Charissa Che

Their performance of their newer songs framed a set mostly comprising beloved oldies like “Soul Meets Body,” “You are a Tourist,” “Crooked Teeth,” and the always-good-live “Cath.” Altogether, DCFC’s presence made for an impeccably cinematic backdrop for the block party, which had spanned almost the day and also featured a lineup of local bands. As dusk fell, the musky temperature offered a slight breeze. Shadows cast themselves over the used, vintage car shops and abandoned establishments that served as a backdrop for the event. Indeed, and perhaps appropriately, everything felt like a backdrop save for the showgoers, who in their neon-haired, flannelled, and PBR glory, represented the shifting yet continually communal atmosphere that Kilby Court has fostered for two decades.

Death Cab for Cutie
Photo by Charissa Che

“SLC, it gave us so much joy to help celebrate a venue that has meant so much to both you and Death Cab over the years,” DCFC tweeted on Tuesday. “@kilbycourt is a shining example of the type of venue that forms the cornerstone of any local music scene – close-knit, community-driven, all-ages, and inclusive. The world would do well to learn from its example. Here’s to 20 more!”

Photo by Charissa Che

A toast, to Salt Lake City’s longest running all ages venue.

For more pictures from the event, go here.

See all our music coverage here.