Thursday, January 24, 2008

Sundance: BMI Snowball Showcase

[Fest Music] Last night I ventured up the canyon, an hour later than planned, to attend the BMI Snowball Showcase. The evening's scheduled performers included Cheb i Sabbah with Salar Nader, Mitch Hyare and special guest Gingger Shankar, Steve Smith from Dirty Vegas, Devotchka's Nick Urata and headliners The Aggrolites. To be honest, I was only familiar with Devotchka, but decided to brave another evening on Main Street since BMI was kind enough to invite me and three friends out to the event, held at the spacious Kimball Art Center--emphasis on spacious. For some reason, tiny clubs are the new hard-to-find clubs. Last Saturday I went to a party in a shoe store! A shoe store.

We left after 15 minutes of bumping into one too many puffy coats.

We hoped to arrive at the BMI show promptly at 6, have a drink or two, then grab some dinner elsewhere. Instead, we arrived at the Park City's Albertson's parking lot at 7, only to find out someone is charging a $100 flat fee for the chance to park there. Ridiculous. So we drove around like out-of-town newbies until a snow-crusted mound looked good enough to precariously mount the Subaru. What next? Oh, dancing across unpaved sidewalks trying to find a shuttle stop. We finally accessed one that was headed in the opposite direction from our destination, but figured it would circle back eventually. Heck, it was warm and I'd chosen form over function for the evening's attire.
When we finally arrived at the Kimball Art Center, we discovered a long line clustered around the entrance. Oh man. Not again! We stood there for about 10 minutes before I swallowed my pride and approached the BMI rep at the door. "Um, don't you know who I am?" I thought I said. I probably said something more like, "Um, hi. It's Jamie, do you remember me. The humble servant of the press?" Much to my surprise, she let us in right away. Woohoo! We missed the first two acts, but had a chance to grab some wine before Nick Urata took the stage. Before he came on, the emcee requested that the audience keep it down or go into another room to chat. It was refreshing to hear someone treat musicians with respect at a festival that so often turns bands into sideshows.

Urata was humble and amazing. He apologized in advance for failing to compare to the usual spectacle his eight-piece band puts on, then launched into a series of romantic ballads that were free of cliches and somewhat haunting in an old-soul type of way. He switched up his guitars, manipulated them using effects pedals, and just nearly shut up the crowd (who just couldn't stop themselves from murmuring at least a little, as you can tell from the brief footage here).

The Aggrolites came on right about the time the bar ran out (!) of wine. Either organizers were unprepared, or there were a whole lot of lushes boozing it up. I got up close for what I thought would be a sweaty, punk-fueled affair, but quickly realized the tight band was set on a more mellow performance. A few diehards in the crowd shook their fists in the air and modestly skanked to the restrained reggae/ska. Good stuff, but nothing all too memorable. Perhaps The Aggrolites were holding back for the industry event?

All in all, a good Sundance experience. We left the party to grab some grub off Main with our friend Patrick, who is working with local filmmakers Steven Greenstreet and Bryan Young on a documentary about (in a nutshell) obesity. Keep an eye out for the film which is in its final stages of development. Young says the soundtrack will feature material from several Salt Lake City bands, so you know you'll be hearing more about it from me. (Jamie Gadette)

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