It’s not unusual for ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) to pack their rosters for their annual Sundance Film Festival Daytime Music Café programs with performing artists not all that familiar to the mainstream. But then again, escaping the mainstream is precisely why festival-goers trek downstairs to the "Star Bar" in the first place.
Not to say that "already famous" performers are forever on the outside looking in, but, for the most part, the included musicians are those from the edgier section of the curve hip but not yet hallowed. In most instances, it’s a chic and shrewd future that trots onstage with a seductive muse in tow and a folio-full of genre-bending abstractions for the faithful.
At least that’s how it’s played out the past eight-years, and, with the recently announced line-up for the 2007 edition, this go-around appears to be clad in similar fashion. Not that those familiar with the scene aren’t already plugged-in to many of the artists in question, but, for those of us riding fence along the periphery of this particular artistic landscape, the Music Café is where we, as a sidebar, get schooled.
As difficult as it might be to come to terms with, there is, and always has been, an alternative agenda at play. It’s not totally all about us film buff music fans. The Music Café is also sacred space for independent filmmakers and songwriters to rub elbows, investigate possible collaborations, and generally inspire each other.
Of course, there is a coattail effect for the rest of us. For some, it’s where we first experienced Joseph Arthur, Paul Brady, Los Pinguos, The Old 97’s, Kings of Leon, Darrell Scott, Mary Gauthier, John Doe, The Dresden Dolls, Sarah Lee Guthrie & Johnny Irion, Clem Snide, Suzanne Vega, and Rufus Wainwright.
It’s also where we caught up with old favorites such as Sweet Pea Anderson, Nickel Creek, Johnny Lang, John Hiatt, Tim O’Brien, Ben Harper, Edie Brickell, Rodney Crowell, and Guy Clark. And, of course, lording over the rest, there was that one most memorable afternoon when the guiding muses achieved consummation with the spirits of Emmylou Harris, Daniel Lanois, and Buddy Miller.
And, this year, there appears to be little let-up. Donovan, Julia Sweeney & Jill Sobule, Silversun Pickups, and The Bird and The Bee are only a few of the attractions slated for the Café stage at the Star Bar from January 19 27. Except for the opening party, which gets underway at 4:00 PM on Friday, January 19, the doors open daily at 2:30 PM. It’s not unheard of, however, for the line outside the Star Bar to begin forming around noon.
That’s right, Donovan, the "Hurdy-Gurdy Man" himself, is coming! . Whodda thunkit? The gentle troubadour who stitched "Catch The Wind" and "Colors" into the folk fabric of the mid-60’s before layin’ down "Mellow Yellow," "Sunshine Superman," and "Wear Your Love Like Heaven." That guy.
He seems to have been rather busy the past five-years what with an album ("Beat Café"), a new box set ("Try for the Sun: The Journey of Donovan"), and a book ("The Autobiography of Donovan: The Hurdy Gurdy Man") to show for his efforts. Not to mention his ongoing 40-year immersion in Transcendental Meditation and his involvement in bringing the stress-reducing discipline to at-risk youth.
The fabulously funny and insightful Jill Sobule has a couple of shows on tap at this year’s Café. One is with Julia Sweeney of "Saturday Night Live" fame Tuesday afternoon and the other is a solo gig the following day. It’s Sobule’s intuitive grasp of life and its vagaries and her profound ability to breathe humor and insight into song that most delights. It’s called art.
The LA-based "Silversun Pickups" are a band to keep your eye on this year according to "Rolling Stone." That bit of info coupled with a piece of publicity that accused them of "creating a nationwide frenzy with reverb-soaked guitars and shoegaze-filled pop" are more than enough to motivate my attendance. One of my New Year’s resolutions is to "get out of the house." Another is to gaze at my shoes more.
Wasn’t it just last year that we got to see Arlo Guthrie’s daughter onstage? Well, this time around, it’s Inara George, daughter of the "Little Feat" founder and frontman Lowell George. Referred to as "a modern day Audrey Hepburn with the voice of an angel," she teamed with Keyboardist/producer Greg Kurstin to form "The Bird and The Bee," a quite eclectic duo that is generating considerable buzz in the print music media.
No doubt, next year at this time, we’ll still be talking about other acts that performed at this year’s Music Café but gained no mention here due to unfamiliarity and space restraints. Remember, it’s always the ones you’ve never heard of that leave you most astounded. Enjoy the festival and especially the music.
The Music Café is located at The Star Bar, 268 Main Street. Daytime performances, produced by ASCAP, will be open to Festival credential holders from January 19 27, 2007. Performances will take place each day from 2:30 PM – 5:00 PM (4:00 PM – 6:45 PM on Friday, January 19).
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