Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sundance Music Cafe Left Me Thirsty For Another Drink

For those outside Utah and for those in Utah who are living in a media vacuum ... the Sundance Film Festival started Thursday.  As Utah natives know, Sundance brings film celebrities and wannabes primarily to Park City but also to Salt Lake City (at least to the airport).  For years, my daughter and I had a tradition of going up to Park City's Main Street just to enjoy the scene.  Neither of us are the type to look for the stars ... better to look like one and get invited to a free screening or a party.  And yes, it's happened.  More than once.

So naturally, when my friend asked if I'd like to attend the Sundance ASCAP Music Cafe as her guest, I didn't hesitate to say "yes!"  Off we went up Parley's Canyon toward Park City yesterday around noon.  Parking was ... well, I still don't know why the place is called Park City given the lack of parking at times like this.  But we found a spot convenient to the Main Street shuttle.  Once on Main Street, we scurried right to the Sundance Music Cafe, open only to festival-goers with credentials.  Most days, the facility is known as the Stansfield Art Gallery, located on lower Main.

Walking in the door was a complete energy rush.  Organized by ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers), the Sundance Music Cafe promotes emerging and established musicians, such as The Civil Wars.  What a lineup this week is!  If you missed The Civil Wars at the State Room, they'll be playing at Sundance Music Cafe later this week.  A must see, if you have credentials to get in the door.

People with press credentials and huge cameras pushed their way through the throng. Women in high boots and parkas chatted while agent-looking types talked on cell phones. And then there was us.  We chatted up people from New York City and asked about their impressions of Sundance (the film festival).

The assignment to each group playing the Sundance Music Cafe was daunting: set up the stage in 5 or so minutes and play a 30 minute set of your best work.  And oh, by the way, media coverage will be extensive so be ready to have dozens in big cameras right in your face.
Screams erupted when K'NAAN, a Somalian rapper, emerged.  K'NAAN wowed the lift-your-feet-and-you're-probably-still-standing room only crowd with his anthem about his home country intertwined with spoken poetry. That edge-of-your-seat feeling happened for me, despite not having one.  The inspirational messages in his music showed a poignancy rare in rap music.  

Indie rocker  Danko Jones emerged from backstage and peppered his introduction with a litany of "f-bombs."  And then he asked if that vocab was allowed in Utah.  It reminded me of a Nickelback concert a couple years back.  I think it's funny when Utah visitors naively assume Utahns are naive.  Danko's set gave off that loud and boisterous night-club-that-opens-at-11:30 pm rhythm to it, even in the middle of the afternoon.  His music was perfect for dancing, but oddly enough, there wasn't any happening.

Manchester Orchestra has a style like no other Indie rock band I've heard previously.  I liked the creativity and darkness I heard in their songs.  Hailing from Atlanta, the group formed in 2005 shortly after the lead singer, Andy Hull, wrote the group's first album during his senior year of high school. 

British singer/songwriter Julia Fordham and actor/comedian Paul Reiser shared "songs about loves that have died, loves that are dying, loves that you wish would do you a favor and die."  Reiser (a music composition major in college) on the piano and the ever-charming Fordham hushed the crowd with "UnSung Hero." The tribute acknowledges the US troops overseas as well as their families left behind to carry on.

Josh Ritter wove tales of potato bribery from his hometown of Moscow, Idaho. Known widely in music circles for his lyrics, he flowed from folk to country to rock with a simple, storytelling style.  As he led the crowd through his packed set, the guitar built to crescendos then seemed to slow for ponderous tales, without missing a beat.

We emerged from the Sundance Music Cafe to ... alas ... a gentle snowfall.  The wait for the bus in the cold night air was an endurance test for all of us.  The recent "warm" 40 degree weather in Salt Lake City led to our forgetting how cold the mountains can be.  Brrrr.  That said, the Sundance Music Cafe was a completely cool way to spend a Saturday afternoon that left me thirsting to hear more from these musicians ... and lusting for a much better camera.


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