Jay Meehan: Sundance ASCAP Music Cafe
Ryan Summerlin December 24, 2013
From shivering while passing around a flask in the Egyptian Theatre line for the Coen Brothers’ "Blood Simple" back in ’85 to slouching toward "Muscle Shoals" with a cup of Baileys-infused Mocha Java near the front of the relatively-short indoor queue last year at the Eccles Center, the Sundance Film Festival has long served to quench my cinematic thirst.
Others may whine about too much traffic and not enough bar stools during late January each year but, myself, I say "adapt, ye of little faith!" One of my very favorite times of year is once again on the cusp, peeking over the event horizon, in the wings as it were. The film fest is just one more reason why living in these parts is so enriching.
Although there’s really not a whole lot film buffs can do before the actual screening schedule is released, it’s never too early to get your celluloid juices flowing and your game face on. January 16 will be here before we know it. Any foreplay in a storm, as they say. In the meantime, however, with the release of the Sundance ASCAP
Music Café performance schedule, getting those ducks in line is a good place to start.
ASCAP Assistant Vice President and longtime Music Café producer and emcee Loretta Munoz will once again oversee the venue where filmmakers and songwriters, not to mention us fans lower on the creative food chain, gather to discuss the collaborative art of filmmaking while, at the same time, digging some top-shelf musical art.
What’s great about the Music Café, of course, is that it gives festival attendees of the singer-songwriter persuasion an opportunity to catch acts they quite possibly wouldn’t see otherwise. For "old-school" me, it’s always a chance to get updated, not that that ever takes a whole lot.
Located once again at the Rich Haines Gallery (751 Main Street) and open to all those over 21 with festival credentials as space allows, this year’s Music Café has posted another eclectic lineup, a few with whom I’m actually familiar. That’s OK. The best thing about the Music Café for me is its educational component.
Featuring longtime Wilco (and Uncle Tupelo) member John Stirratt and his multi-instrumentalist Wilco bandmate Pat Sansone, The Autumn Defense, according to the ASCAP press release, "chase the sun westward to the California coast, gathering inspiration from classic L.A. pop and well-crafted melody basking in the warmth of the ’60s and ’70s AM radio tradition."
Another inventive duo on this year’s docket is Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion. Memory doesn’t serve very well when it comes to pinpointing the timeframe of their earlier visit to Sundance but I do recall that I was quite interested in checking out Woody Guthrie’s granddaughter (Arlo’s daughter) and her then-boyfriend, now-husband musical sidekick. Suffice to say I was far from disappointed.
A CMA Songwriters Spotlight featuring Brandy Clark, two-time ASCAP Songwriter of the Year Brett James, Chris Stapleton and the legendary Lee Ann Womack certainly looks like it would be time well spent. These guys are good! In fact I dig them more than I do the superstars for whom they write their million-sellers songs.
I’ve caught KT Tunstall a couple of times but not in a few years and never in a venue such as this. It’ll be interesting to see what effect recording down in Tuscon had on the Scottish singer-songwriter’s art.
"The Devil Makes Three," a "raw and raucous" acoustic trio who’ve toured with Willie Nelson and Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell, not to mention cutting an album ("I’m a Stranger Here") produced by Buddy Miller, are definitely on my "must see" short list for this year’s Café.
This brings to mind one of my all-time favorite Music Café shows when Emmylou Harris, Buddy Miller, and Daniel Lanois rocked the Plan B before it became the Star Bar, the first year after it moved up Main Street from the Elk’s Lodge.
The Nashville-based alt-country duo Escondido, The Mowglis, and Venus and the Moon (Frally Hynes and Rain Phoenix) are other acts that caught my interest on this year’s Sundance Music Café schedule.
Of course, what I’ve always liked best about Loretta Munoz and the ASCAP programmers is that, almost always, when I look back at a particular year’s Café experience, more than likely it’s the acts that didn’t make my short list that most turned my crank. What great surprises await the open mind and ear whenever they cross that magical threshold.
Again, it’s all about the intimacy of the relatively small converted art-gallery venue and the high-end sound system, not to mention the hip aficionados milling about with assorted beverages in their thirsty mitts, that makes musical experiences such as this so gratifying. Check out this year’s complete Sundance ASCAP Music Café schedule and artist information at: www.ascap.com/eventsawards/events/sundance/2014/artist-composers-bios.aspx/
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social scenes for more than 40 years.