I missed A Fine Frenzy, who started things off, but I was told that Alison Sudol -- the mastermind of the acoustic-y pop band--played a more upbeat set than usual, filled with lots of new material.
A set at the ASCAP music cafe is a prime opportunity for musicians to show off their best material to woo industry bigwigs, which is exactly what the soul-singin', score-composin', first-time-film-directin' Terence Etc. did. Terence Nance was backed by The Etcetera, who included two of his brothers. Nance's An Oversimplification of Her Beauty premieres at the festival this week. Aside from giving a brief plug for that, Nance focused his energy on impressing the crowd with a batch of funky and soulful numbers -- material that he will put on his first full-length album, to be released later this year. He also did a quirky take on several covers. With a 'fro and mellow croon, his act was reminiscent of Ben Harper, but with a more artsy vibe and a slight tinge of early Al Green. The Dallas, Texas,-based musician owned the stage -- this is an artist to watch.
The band took the stage by walking and singing a capella. This morphed into what Nance joked was one of two versions of the Cosby theme that he wrote for Bill. The second followed, which was punchy, upbeat and called for crowd interaction -- enough to warm up the chilled festival-goers. The highlight of the set, as far as originals went, was a song with the chorus, "Dreams are what's in between." I wish I had more info on the tune, but I'm new to Nance; I can say it exemplifies Nance's craft for penning artsy, cinematic lyrics. He then did a version of "In the Pines," which then became a long, fluid medley that included "You Know You Make Me Wanna (Shout)," then a monologue about this being the Church of the Divine Feminine, followed by a prayer, and finally a sing-along repeating, "I want her to love me." The set ended with "Old Black Betty," and the band left the stage the same way they entered: singing some soulful a capella.
That was a hard act to follow, but the powerful strumming and mighty vocals of the Brooklyn, N.Y.,-based We Are Augustines came in strong for an evocative performance. Getting here in a whirlwind from Mexico, the three-piece wasted no time in playing some lively numbers. The set started off with "Rise Ye Sunken Ships" and chugged along into "Strange Leaves." Frontman Billy McCarthy said that song reminded him of Joe Strummer, and then promptly dedicated the tune to Etta James. "Book of James" came next.
"Juarez" followed, which is a song written about the Mexican border town, where the group just visited. McCarthy said he promised some of the people he met there that he would play this song tonight and tell the people of Park City that, despite the tumultuous environment that was somewhat like Sarajevo -- "no one even talks about it" -- Juarez was a great place. "Juarez" was one of the more touching numbers, and McCarthy joked that, "This band is not for kids" and that "these weren't a bunch of fluffy songs." Sometimes it is a difficult task for musicians to find the same emotions that came out when they wrote a particular song, but McCarthy just nailed it throughout the 30-minute set, pulling the audience in and not relenting. "Ballad of a Patient Man" closed things out.
Terence Etc. graced the first day of the Sundance ASCAP Music Cafe with his brand of vulnerable, insightful soul.---