By Bianca Velasquez
Experiencing Kilby Court for the first time is like finding a priceless treasure at a Yard Sale. You don’t expect to find a place like this all age’s music venue. But when you are there wrapped up by the ancient red wooden fence held up by the neighboring trees, you are no longer in SLC. You are in a priceless treasure.
The owners are a couple of former Kilby Court teen volunteers who made their after school activity their career. William Sartain and Lance Saunders are the reason I believe that you can build something out of very little. This is not a biased statement just because I have worked with them, and they taught me the art of being an entrepreneur. This is a common belief held by musicians, artists, students, angsty teens, overwhelmed adults, and every single person that ever stepped into the red gate of Kilby Court. These two men are behind it all.
My first interactions with William Sartain and Lance Saunders were comically different.
I met Lance as a 17 year old freshman in college, weighed down by the pressure of living on your own and the hair extensions pulling at the roots of my hair. Starfucker was the first show I ever went to at Kilby Court. I was on a date with someone that I didn’t really like, but I had a great time regardless. I was so awakened by the DIY style of this all ages venue embedded in what seemed to be an automobile graveyard. I saw Lance running back and forth in between the ticket booth and sound engineer (which wasn’t very far). My first thought, “This guy must be the boss around here”.
A couple years later, I met Will at a coffee shop by Carlucci’s in downtown Salt Lake. I don’t remember the name of the place. Though I do remember the windows were large, I almost couldn’t see the desserts in the display case on account of all the light from outside reflecting on it. We had arranged to meet there for lunch to talk about this event I wanted to host at Kilby Court. Sartain was impressed that as a 19 year old I had already started my own little event business that celebrates artwork in SLC. By the end of that meeting, I was hired as his intern. That day I learned something about Will that remains true and has gotten him where he is today; if he sees something he wants, he takes it. And not in the malicious evil sorcerer in a Disney movie kind of way. In the “I have a vision and I’m brave and passionate enough to not let it die” kind of way.
Will Sartain started working full time at Kilby Court while attending college in 2003. Sartain started at Kilby doing sound and running the box office. Soon after, he worked his way up to booking shows and mastered the art of which band to pair with which touring band for the right demographic. “After 6 months I was booking all of the shows completely.” Sartain says, highlighting the momentum of his influence on Kilby Court. Two and a half years of booking shows went by, and Will used his experience to start his own business with business partner Lance Saunders. Consequently, S&S promotions was born.
S&S (Sartain and Saunders) immediately became a mini empire in the music world takin homage in Salt Lake City. “It grew from 40 shows a year in 2006 to 600 in 2016” explains Sartain. This combination of energy and success that was radiating from these two early-twenty year olds was the perfect elixir for a new step to be taken. This step was to purchase Kilby Court and make it their own. Sartain knew the job, and he knew how to do it well. With Saunders on his side, who brought in the local bands, Kilby couldn’t have fallen into better hands.
In 2008 Sartain and Saunders purchased Kilby Court from Sartain’s former boss, Phil Sherburne. “It’s very difficult to keep an all-ages venue running solely on ticketing income. Kilby is a labor of love…and a staple in the Salt Lake City music scene.” explains Saunders. It now has been 8 years since Sartain and Saunders have owned Kilby Court.
A year after purchasing Kilby Court, S&S took ownership of Urban Lounge. With a sigh in his chest Saunders says “Urban Lounge is more time intensive in regards to planning, scheduling, delegating due to the size of bands come through and the fact that we sell booze there.” Saunders had been working at Urban Lounge since he was 21, so like Sartain regarding Kilby; he knew the ropes. Then just this last year, Sartain and Saunders opened a diner on the side of Urban Lounge called Rye.
We closed the interview, and reflected on Kilby Court, where it all started. The love that is held between those men and that garage surrounded by a red fence is something we all can understand. Saunders finishes with “Kilby is simple…it’s more about getting people through the door to experience something new…something that could change your perspective on life. Might sound cheesy, but it happens there.”