Music | Sound Tracks: A starring role for music at Sundance. | Music | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

Music | Sound Tracks: A starring role for music at Sundance. 

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Musical performers have been a part of the Sundance Film Festival for years, adding to the “festive” atmosphere in Park City. But musical guests aren’t just a soundtrack to the parties, award ceremonies and celeb stalking that accompanies the festival; music is an art form that cross-pollinates with film to make artistic statements of its own, and augments the statements made by films. As music festivals like SXSW are looking at the relationship between the two by hosting a film fest concurrently, Sundance is making the role of music at the festival more substantial. n

Two of the potentially biggest films in this year’s festival are about music: the first-ever documentary about The Doors, When You’re Strange, and Spike Lee’s film version of Stew’s Tony Award-winning musical Passing Strange. The role of music in film gets examined, as music publishing organization BMI is sponsoring a roundtable discussion Jan. 21 on “Music and Film: the Creative Process” with names like George Clinton and Duncan Sheik scheduled to partake.

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And the ASCAP Music Café, traditionally one of the best places for emerging and established music at the festival, is relocating from the Star Bar to a slightly more accessible location on lower Main Street between 7th and 9th Streets. Wynonna, Rachael Yamagata and John Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls are highlights.

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A lot of musical happenings come about synergistically as local clubs are able to draw top-tier acts they wouldn’t be able to book at other times of the year, and Park City businesses are quick to capitalize on the laser-like concentration of media and money in town.

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Without the ASCAP show, the Star Bar is still hosting some huge names, and perhaps as a comment on the Music Café move, is hosting the rival Slamdance festival opening Jan. 15. Some of the biggest acts outside the auspices of the Sundance fest, at least in the hip-hop universe, are at Harry O’s, considered by many to be the hip place to hang on Main Street, with top acts like Nelly and T.I. appearing.

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“Based on the roster of films and composer/performers who have scored those films, we try to come up with an exciting and varied program,” explains Peter Golub, the festival’s director of music. “We specifically select composer/performers who are related to the year’s films.” The most notable this year would be a live performance Jan. 18 by Stew and the cast of Passing Strange with electric hillbilly rockers The Boxmasters.

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One of the most innovative events will be BMI‘s Sundance Snowball celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Sundance Composer Lab with an interactive musical experience featuring DJ Thomas Golubic and Rolfe Kent’s “Magnificent Howling Audience Score-Shop,” which sounds like it could be a raucous good time. Also intriguing is the Composers Lab Experiments at New Frontier on Jan. 21 features a collaboration between musician Gingger Shankar and filmmakers A.J. Lara and Arthur Hyde, “sculpting visual architecture” by playing with light and sound.

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The festival is also starting to be an integral part of new marketing strategies in the music industry, as evidenced by Dublin pop/folk duo The Guggenheim Grotto releasing their sophomore album Happy the Man including a performance Jan. 23 at the ASCAP café, released originally digital-only on iTunes, reaching number one on the iTunes Folk Chart.

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One local performer who has already capitalized on the live music environment of Sundance is indie-pop band Kid Theodore. They’ve been invited to play the prestigious Gibson Lounge, put on by the guitar company as a celebrity hangout. Last year, the band played the after-party for the movie The Assassination of a High School President—hobnobbing with Bruce Willis and Mischa Barton—and are talking to a film producer about doing a soundtrack.

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Kid Theodore can also be seen at an all-local event at The Sidecar, produced by Salt Lake firm Aperture Marketing, with fashion shows and photography from (a)perture gallery. Aperture’s Heidi Gress says “this event is designed to attract local residents who want an authentic and independent entertainment event,” and admission for locals is free, and even includes swag bags. The festival spotlights local music with Live Music at the Timbers in the Park City Marriott, with Dr. Bob, Gigi Love and Chicago Mike Beck among others.

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Good works are done with local benefit concert organizer Bass Camp’s inaugural event on behalf of Spy Hop Productions, a local nonprofit youth media arts and education center. The Jan. 21 concert features John Popper of Blues Traveler, in addition to special guest artists and performances from Spy Hop students.

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Perhaps the most ambitious musical project is local singer/songwriter Eliza Wren’s premiere of her album Return to Oz, a new soundtrack to the ’80s film, including live performance synched to the movie, hosted by the film’s star, Fairuza Balk (See “We’re Off to See the Witch,” Dec. 18, 2008, City Weekly).

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With all the music goings on, musical programming seems not to be as much of an afterthought to the festival’s organizers as it once was: “I think that with people watching films all day it’s a welcome break to experience a live performance, and music has a way of taking you somewhere,” Golub says.

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Films by their nature are crafted to take you somewhere as well, but usually a more reflective place than pure recreation. The fascinating thing to track at the festival is the way the two art forms repeatedly diverge and intersect again.

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