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Gulf Coast’s musicians are now rising

by Jay Hamburger
U2 guitarist The Edge poses with a Music Rising guitar. The rock star helped organize the Music Rising initiative, which is raising money to replace instruments lost in last year's Gulf Coast hurricanes. Courtesy of Frank Balthazar
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When Parkites rallied last year to aid Hurricane Katrina victims from New Orleans, they held fundraisers, gave blood and treated evacuees to a day on the Alpine Slide and ZipRider at Park City Mountain Resort.

It is unlikely that they were thinking about guitars and Irish rock stars.

But The Edge, the guitarist from U2, helped organize the Music Rising initiative, a program to replace instruments lost in last year’s Gulf Coast hurricanes.

People walking by the Miners Club on Main Street during the Sundance Film Festival are hearing power chords and drum beats escaping from the doorway. Inside, the Music Rising supporters have set up a small concert stage and some of the talk, when drummer Tommy Lee is not around, is about New Orleans, widely regarded as America’s best music city.

Gibson Guitar, the famed Nashville, Tenn.-based guitar maker, has leased space in the Miners Club for the festival and temporarily renamed it the Gibson Lounge. Though the spot is only open to invited guests, the company is generating buzz about Music Rising.

"New Orleans and the Mississippi Delta and the area that got devastated is the home of the blues," said Ron Maldonado, a Gibson representative staffing the space, calling Louis Armstrong his favorite musician from the region and reminding people that Muddy Waters hailed from the Mississippi Delta.

"This is by musicians, for musicians," he said.

Caroline Galloway, a Gibson vice president, said the guitar company is in Park City for its second Sundance. Gibson produced 300 hand-painted guitars exclusively for the Music Rising initiative and donated the instruments.

The guitars each sell for $3,334 and all the money from the sales goes toward Music Rising. If they all sell, the program will raise $1 million.

"The area’s rich and spirited culture must be restored and can be by assisting those musicians affected by the disaster, which in turn will bring back the essence of the regions," The Edge said after a November visit to New Orleans, according to a release, adding that Music Rising "will also ensure that one of the Gulf Coast’s greatest assets, its music, will rise again."

Galloway on Monday was unsure how many of the guitars had been sold but said that several hundred thousand dollars had already been put toward Music Rising.

Galloway, like Maldonado, talked about the region’s musical heritage.

"It’s such a unique part of musical history," she said, adding that lots of America’s musical legacy descends from New Orleans.

Galloway said The Edge visited Park City briefly during Sundance and was invited to the lounge.

She said if the $1 million is raised, Music Rising plans to continue its work.

During Sundance, celebrities who visit the Gibson Lounge are autographing a guitar that will later be auctioned on eBay, with the proceeds going toward Music Rising.

For more information about Music Rising, visit its Web site, http://www.musicrising.org .


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