BMI knows how to throw a Sundance party. Invite several up-and-coming acts that will win over a crowd and one powerful, soulful pedal steel player to blow the roof off of the Kimball Art Center, and how could you go wrong?---
Fans braved the cold, standing in line for up to several hours, to make the 250 person attendance cut to the 8th annual BMI Sundance Snowball. Those credentialed pass-holders that made it in were anything but disappointed. The art center, called the Sundance House during the film festival, proved to be an intimate, aesthetic spot with surprisingly impeccable acoustics.
Singer-songwriter and composer, David Poe began the bill. Throughout, he invited collaborators to play violin, piano and sing. His partner Amy Rosh did the latter on “Big Bloody Heart,” which was filled with claps and barking hisses.
Allen Stone stole the show. A white, reincarnate of Otis Redding, this new “King of Soul,” played three songs that hushed and awed the crowd. Playing acoustic guitar, he sang “Figure it Out” followed by “Unaware,” which will be on his new album slated for release later this year. Stone ended with “Last to Speak” to a standing ovation—the lone one for the opening acts.
Cutesy 19-year-old pop songwriter and pianist Lucy Schwartz was joined by two other sprite girls and her father on bass for a warm, quick set.
The disappointment of the evening came with Brett Dennen. The scraggly, acoustic surf-rocker either records better than he plays live or he was wickedly hungover (sure, that’s common at Sundance ... but it was 10 p.m. by then). At this point in the show, the audience was either as equally bored as me or drunk, because they talked loudly over the set. Dennen played “Moving to San Francisco,” new track “Sydney I Come Running” and several others to round out the passionately loose and lackluster set.
When Robert Randolph & The Family Band play, people dance. How can someone not? His driven gospel jams glide to life under his pedal steel guitar, pounding drums and bass and lovely belting from his sister, the backup singer. Grinning ear to ear, Randolph picked out “Black Water” amidst shiny new gems. As the evening came to a close, he introduced the members of his band as they left the stage one by one; Randolph, left to his own devises, rocked out to a little Hendrix.