Access Film Music Festival celebrates 16 years of helping independent musicians get to the next level
What: Access Film Music Showcase
When Jan. 28 to Feb. 3
Where: The Spur Bar and Grill, 352 Main St.
Also: Jan. 23 at the Poplar Street Pub, 242 S. 200 West in Salt Lake City
Musicians from Park City and all around the world will have the opportunity to share their talents during the Access Film Music Showcase during the Sundance and Slamdance film festivals.
The concert series for indie performers will start with a preview on Jan. 23 at the Poplar Street Pub in Salt Lake City, before starting its Park City run on Jan. 28 at the Spur Bar and Grill.
Michael “Chicago Mike” Beck, founder, said the showcase’s mission – introducing musicians to filmmakers and TV producers – hasn’t changed since he scheduled its first gigs as the Radical Rat Film Music Showcase at Appaloosa, a now-defunct Main Street bar, in 2004.
“This will make 2019 our 16th anniversary,” Beck said. “I’m 53 now, so I was 37 years old when we started the music festival. That’s one-third of my life.”
In 2005, Beck renamed the event and started his current partnership with the Spur.
“Courtney Johanson (the bar’s managing partner) and all the owners of the Spur have been so supportive,” Beck said. “And as we have evolved, so has the Spur.”
Access’ evolution has included establishing other film music showcases around the world.
“For the past 12 years, we take the showcase to the ECU (European Independent) Film Festival in Paris each spring, and we also host a showcase at the Folk Alliance International Conference in Montreal (Quebec) in February,” Beck said. “We also present showcases in North Carolina, California, Michigan, Iowa and Washington (state).”
Access also offers other services to musicians such as music publishing and royalty security, according to Beck.
As far as the Spur’s evolution goes, the bar has not only its space by building a stage and upgrading its sound system, but by broadening its musical offerings with live shows almost every night.
“Philosophically, they have always been dedicated to presenting live music, and they saw something in us,” Beck said. “They have given us hundreds of hours of stage and performance time each year for these artists.”
The artists that have played Access have created a sort of global family for Beck.
“We have friends in Australia, Europe, South America and North America,” he said. “It’s certainly been a great blessing in my life to be able to help these singers and musicians in some small way to move forward in their careers.”
One Access veteran is Christopher Hawley, the founder of the Christopher Hawley Rollers. (See accompanying story).
“Chris has been with us since 2005, and we have seen how his songwriting and playing has grown over the years,” Beck said. “It’s been great seeing him find his voice as a performer.”
In addition to honing his own craft, Hawley has also become one of Beck’s best friends.
“He’s toured in Europe and Japan with my band, and every time I go to California, we hang out,” Beck said. “None of that would have happened if it wasn’t for Access Film Music Showcase.”
Local artists who have performed with Access include Park88, a duo founded by husband and wife Rich Wyman and Lisa Needham.
The duo wrapped up a tour with Grammy-winning band Gypsy Kings last fall, Beck said, and they will also have a role behind the scenes curating the festival’s lineup on Jan. 29.
“Rich called me up months ago and told me about some artists that he and Lisa were particularly fond of, and wanted to do a night that focuses on them,” Beck said.
One of those artists is country singer Alice Wallace, who is based in Southern California.
“Alice has performed in some of our other Access showcases, but she will make her first appearance in Park City this year,” Beck said. “It’s funny because I was going to invite Alice to Park City, but Rich beat me to the punch.”
The Jan. 29 showcase will also serve as a benefit for the Speedy Foundation, a national anti-suicide nonprofit.
“We’ve been setting aside a night for the foundation these past few years, because it seems like so many people have been personally affected by the suicide epidemic throughout the United States,” said Beck, who lost his stepson five years ago. Some of Beck’s musical family have also taken their own lives, he said.
“One of my first musical projects I did in Utah was a two-CD collection featuring Park City artists,” Beck said.
The CD was called “Altitude Adjustment” and featured songs by Wyman, Mary Beth Maziarz and other local artists.
In the subsequent years, several of the artists who contributed to the project, including Tom James, who designed the cover, had died by suicide, Beck said.
One was graphic designer, Tom James, who designed the CD cover.
“Access Film Music has given us a platform to reach many creative people through film and music,” Beck said. “So it’s a privilege to help extend Speedy Foundation’s reach.”
Beck is also looking forward to the future of Access Film Music Festival.
“It’s been an education for me, and, I know there are things out there that are waiting to happen,” he said.
“The Persian Version,” A feature film based on Maryam Keshavarz’s Iranian-American family, and “Kokomo City, a film that presents the stories following four Black transgender sex workers, were the darlings of the 2023 Sundance Film Festival awards ceremony Friday morning.
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