The Music of Sundance 2017

by Elisabeth Sereda January 23, 2017
Musical acts at Sundance 2017

Clockwise from left: Rooney; series star Aldis Hodge and DJ Dolph at the Undeground party; Andra Day performs at A Celebration of Music in Film.



getty images/sundance

In recent years mini concerts and intimate performances have increased during the festival -  even Sting went onstage at a tiny venue on Main Street last year. Music has always played a huge part in the festival - in the past few years some of the festival’s most talked-about films have been by or about musicians. 20 Feet From Stardom (2013), the documentary about unsung backup vocalists that won an Academy Award after premiering at Sundance is only one example.  In 2014, long before La La Land, director Damien Chazelle debuted his Oscar-winning feature Whiplash in Park City. And in 2015 it was What Happened, Miss Simone, the biographical doc about Nina Simone that opened the festival.

But nothing compares to the influx of musicians descending on Sundance in the past few days. The panel A Celebration of Music and Film, hosted by the Sundance Institute Film Music Program returned with a special edition centered around the theme “There is a Crack In Everything / That's How the Light Gets In,” based on lyrics by Leonard Cohen. Common performed with Andra Day while Jim James, Jenny Slate, Nick Offerman, Hunter Hayes, Ava DuVernay and Gael Garcia Bernal discussed a wide range of topics on Saturday. Common’s most famous fans couldn’t get enough, though, and so he decided to throw an after hours party that same night, attended by the entire cast and producers of the TV-series Underground, including John Legend. Mary J.Blige - whose film Mudbound is THE talk of the festival and well on its way to become this year’s breakout hit - also went to Common’s party.

Also on Saturday, O’Shea Jackson Jr. celebrated with an impromptu dance on the red carpet before the party for his film Ingrid Goes West, while Jon Hamm danced with his friends to the sounds of  DJ Michelle Pesce who played old-school music from Madonna, Whitney Houston and Prince.

That same night AT&T at The Lift had another three events going on in their space. after a privately hosted celebrity dinners at Nobu, Major Lazer stopped by before performing to a sold-out crowd in Park City and first-time Sundance Film Festival attendee, Matt Bomer and The Affair’s Josh Jackson toasted with sake.Later Dree Hemingway, Margarita Levieva and Michelle Morgan enjoyed a live midnight performance by the band Rooney.

Sunday night Amazon Studios celebrated Long Strange Trip, the groundbreaking documentary about the Grateful Dead from director Amir Bar-Lev, with a performance by Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, and Bob Weir, and surprise guest performances by Woody Harrelson and John Popper. Woody brought along his co-star Laura Dern after their premiere and reception fort he dark comedy Wilson. They were joined by Kevin Bacon, Chloe Sevigny and Nat Faxon.

Another key venue for live music this year is the Sundance ASCAP Music Café, which featured Michael Franti, Rooney, Clare Bowen, Josh Kelley and Andy Shauf,  a live DJ set by Elijah Wood, Samora Pinderhughes, Lalah Hathaway, Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal as well as the first-ever local music showcase, featuring Talia Keys, Joshy Soul & The Cool and Bboy Federation Performers. And there’s more to come: the annual BMI Snowball Showcase will feature Angela McCluskey, Paul Cantelon , Sean McConnell, The National Parks, Rachel Crow, and The Hearings.