Jay Meehan: Jumpin’ at the Woodside
Actually, if referring to that jewel of the Sundance Film Festival known as the “Sundance ASCAP Music Café,” most of the jumpin’ is once again going to take place a couple of blocks east of Woodside on lower Main. I just couldn’t resist brazenly riffin’ on the old Count Basie big band blues.
As has become the norm over recent years at the Café, when all is said and sung, I’ll be walking out a much more erudite musical wag than when I first entered. With the many branches of Americana best fitting the room ambiance and festival vibe, I’m very much looking forward to continuing my cultural education.
Being one whose finger has slipped off the pulse of current trends in music over recent years, it’s a blessing to truly get “schooled” on an annual basis by ASCAP Assistant Vice President and Music Café producer Loretta Muñoz and her crew.
As I sit here typing, however, with my head boppin’ to new headphones and local favorite Michael Franti’s rappin’ reggae, life is very good.
Franti’s was the first name to jump out from the schedule when it arrived at my humble digs last week. And as soon as his rhythms had their way massaging my audio muscles, I moved onto less-familiar but similarly stimulating fare.
Franti, who performs near the end of the Festival on Thursday and Friday Jan. 25 and 26 always seems to pack the room or hillside whenever he shows up in Park City and I can just see the line forming now outside the Rich Haines Gallery at 751 Main St.
As with most musical gatherings that partake of a regular schedule, at the front of the line it’s all about community. There they are: the usual suspects. Whether Red Butte Garden, the Stateroom, Eccles Center, Deer Valley, the Canyons, or the Sundance/ASCAP Music Café, birds of a feather flocking together.
Some only cross paths once a year, especially those of the film festival persuasion. But once “how-ya-beens” have been voiced, it’s as if it were yesterday. It takes a certain breed to stand in line outdoors in Park City for an extended period of time in January.
And it very well should be noted that most of those shivering and smiling souls, at the Café anyway, haven’t a clue as to a particular day’s lineup. I mean they might have heard the music and had a rough familiarity with a few of the artists in question, but mostly, and I’m certainly speaking for myself here, they are clueless in that regard.
What they do know is that, for many, many years they have put their cultural fortunes in the hands of the aforementioned Loretta Muñoz and her tried-and-true ASCAP crew. And let the word go forth that the time has yet to arrive when disappointment of any stripe has cut the line.
So here I remain, still typing and bobbing my head to the output of hot-off-the–press noise-canceling off-scale audio response thingamajigs on my head that show little sign of losing their show-room-floor twang.
“Who are these people?” I ask prior to taking the logical step of reading the artist’s-blurb that accompanies each act and each audio link.
What is it that infuses live music with that indefinable je ne sais quoi that for whatever reason has difficulty translating to “streaming” or other audio technologies of the time? (You’ll always find me opting for a clever italicized foreign phrase in support of my inherent awkwardness at improvisational composition.)
Anyway, back to a brief look at a few of the performing artists whom I’m now hearing for the first time in preparation for this year’s Music Café.
First up, Madison Cunningham, a 20-year old from Orange County, California of all places. What initially jumped at me was a quite sophisticated sense of melody and arrangement that belie her years. I would love to take a gander at her folk’s record collection.
Singer-songwriter Brett Dennen is a ski-town, beach-town, wine-geek kind of guy inhabiting a complex aura that includes beat poetics and a quite wry sensibility. Shawn James, as you would expect from a card-carrying born-and-raised south side Chicago multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter worthy of the geographic connection, infuses even his soul and folk with the blues.
So, anyway, slap on some headphones, go online before you get in line and try it yourself at ascap.com/sundance or through the SFF online program guide. See you on lower Main.
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social and political scenes for more than 40 years.
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