I went up to Utah last week during the Sundance Film Festival with a number of friends and artists who all helped me with 800 CDs. We screened the film at the Park City Film Music Festival and then played four shows, four nights in a row, on Main St. It was an absolute blast. Thirteen of us shared a four-person condo without one murder. We were all very excited about the nightly shows and thoroughly enjoyed the week and each other’s company.
I arrived Tuesday. Our condo was located right off Main St, directly in the center of all the action. It was perfect. Having been to Sundance three times before, promoting and screening Sensitive Johnson (also at the Park City Film Music Festival – TWICE!), I was well aware that people who attend Sundance love receiving swag. So, this time I decided to create gift bags of my own. I went green and bought 500 paper bags with handles. Then found a bunch of businesses to sponsor the trip – they sent flyers and product samples. We had magazines, gym memberships, restaurant coupons, herbal lozengers, t-shirt and CD manufacturers, flyers from artists, DJs, and internet sites, as well as ten or so compact discs. Five hundred of each of these things. The boxes took up two rooms. What did I get myself into?
Wednesday, Jan 23, we screened 800 CDs. The festival and the audience seemed to like the movie. We won a Silver medal for excellence as Audience Favorite.
That evening we attended a BMI party where the Aggrolites from LA performed. Plenty of wine & beer was readily available at the open bar; I almost felt like a legitimate rock star. We couldn’t imbibe excessively (and ‘Pass Out’) because we picked up an impromptu show across the street at a new restaurant called IRIE.
It was a good warm up for us. Rob Anthony, Matthew Cook, Jon Zucker, Amy Rassch, Mark Latham, and I all did a couple songs. A sweet group of ladies from New York cheered us on. Vince Lauria from Vegas, whom we met earlier at the Park City Film Music Festival, jumped up for a few tunes when we finished. Great day.
Thursday morning a bunch of us hit the slopes in the single digit temps. Braving the mountain were myself, Mark, his wife Maria, Jon, Amy, and my friend Gary Loya. On a day that much of the west coast experienced terrible rain and snowfall, making driving conditions horrible, the blizzard on the Park City slopes made for wonderful ski conditions. Sure it was tough to see, especially without proper goggles, but luckily I happened to find a working pair in the Lost and Found. Hey, on a budget you gotta be resourceful.
That night we played Cisero’s. The place was packed. We were sandwiched between two bands that were sponsored by ASCAP. The first was a progressive Scottish bagpipe duo named DRAM. Club dancing to marching drums and pipes. It was interesting. We went next. All the players from the night before performed, but we also picked up two more condo members who made it to town earlier in the day – Phil Johnson and Micheal Finnerty. The two-song sets went great. We passed out programs before we played, so the audience was reading about us as we came on. Each artist did a great job of engaging the crowd. We really had fun. Without a doubt, we owned that room. Afterwards, a band led by Melissa Gilbert’s son jammed on stage. I liked them, but I didn’t catch their name. They didn’t do programs.
Friday was a big day. We had our own Music Cafe at SideCar for six hours, from 3 to 9. This was not as much of a jam-packed standing room only crowd because people were roaming in and out all the time. We had anywhere from 15-20 at low points and maybe as many as 80-90 at the busier time. Nonetheless it was great. A couple other 800 CDs artists joined in for a few tunes – Bobby Syvarth and Saul Kaye.
We also started jamming together a little bit. Phil joined me on stage for a Battle of the Romantically Dysfunctional Songwriters set. Matt and Rob performed their respective contributions to the 800 CDs soundtrack together, “Another Piece of Me” and “Is There a Page” – two favorites of mine.
The gift bag idea worked wonders in ways I didn’t expect. I figured that people who came to our events would be happy to receive them, but I didn’t realized that we would be virtually mobbed on the street as we were carrying boxes full of these bags to the venues. Most of the bags never made it to the screenings or the shows. But handing them out on the sidewalk to eager treasure hunters allowed us to promote the shows to everyone who wanted a bag. This really helped pack the clubs we played.
It also got us some media attention. Crowds attract crowds, so when the reporters on the street saw the ruckus, they immediately came over to see what was happening. Apparently a documentary about independent musicians coupled with many of those musicians performing shows at the festival is big news. Phil and Matthew did a live radio interview. I had two tunes played on KPCW. Phil and Megan did an interview for the Sundance Channel. I did Muse TV interview. I don’t think any of us saw or heard any of them, but people did come down after hearing Phil on the radio. He’s good on the radio – got the face for it.
Jon Zucker was our first casualty of the Sundance Flu. He didn’t make the SideCar show. He was done for the trip in fact, missing the Saturday night JB Mulligan’s show as well. Amy came down with it next. She sounded great at SideCar on Friday – She even played one of my personal Raasch favorites, “Wynona Rider” (I clapped the percussion from the crowd) – but Amy could hardly talk on Saturday. She was completely Zuckered (as we’ve since named the disease) and had to skip the JB Mulligan’s show. In fact, basically all of our support troops – Gary, T, Eric, Kai, and Marta - were infected with Zucker’s disease and, one by one, hit the condo early Saturday night.
But the show raged on. JB Mulligan’s was packed to the brim and our remaining performers saved no ounce of party energy. Latham joined me on stage for a revival of the ‘Emotional Wreckage’ he ignites when he sits in with my band. He shredded a bunch of his own tunes as well and fired-up the packed house.
Rob Anthony is also a seasoned party-starter. He not only rocked out to many of his own tunes but really got the crowd going with some cover tunes that had the ladies dancing in front of, and on, the stage.
Finnerty got up and improvised some Irish blues – his beer enhanced brogue was so thick, none of us understood a word.
Soon any of our artists would just grab a guitar, join the jam on stage, and tear up a song. The momentum was infectious. Phil did some Georgia Satellites. Mark did some Stones. Bobby tore up some Paul Simon. And Rob laid into some Depeche Mode, Outcast, and Johnny Cash. It truly was a great party. We ended the night with a group Booty Call, of course.
What a tremendous trip. Five nights. Four shows. A screening and an award. Eleven cases of Zuckeritis. And 500 gift bags given to the masses. I can’t wait to go again.