SUNDANCE PART THREE: The Sundance ASCAP Music Café Wraps Up with Performances by Emerging Nashville Hitmakers, NewSong Music Winner Crys Matthews and Roots Rock Great Michael Franti

By Erik Philbrook, Editor in Chief  •  January 22, 2018

On Thursday, January 26, the 2018 Sundance Music Café capped an incredible week of music with a CMA Songwriters Series set featuring emerging Nashville hitmakers Jordan Davis, Jillian Jacqueline, Steven Lee Olsen and Tenille Townes, as well as an ebullient performance by roots music great Michael Franti. In addition, Crys Matthews, the winner of the 2018 NewSong Music Competition performed her stirring songs of love and social justice. It was an incredible end to ASCAP’s Music Café program, a partnership with the Sundance Film Festival, which is marking its 20th Anniversary this year.


On Wednesday, January 25, the Café also featured performances by Nashville’s Americana music group Elliot Root as well as acclaimed singer-songwriter Ruelle. Folk/pop journeyman Brett Dennen performed a set of his beloved songs drawn from over a decade-long career. And Mr Hudson, singer-songwriter-producer who has worked with everyone from JAY-Z to Duran Duran, performed an eclectic set of pop songs.

The 2018 Sundance Film Festival features 110 feature-length films, representing 29 countries and 47 first-time filmmakers. The films were selected from 13,468 submissions, 1,799 from the U.S. and 2,102 were international. The festival remains one of the world’s premiere programs for discovery of new and exciting voices in film. The Sundance ASCAP Music Café celebrates the important role music plays in the art of filmmaking and provides an incredible and unique opportunity for the world’s filmmaking community to discover music and meet music creators face to face.

SUNDANCE PART TWO: Darren Criss, Brett Dennen and Ben Dickey & Charlie Sexton, Stars of Ethan Hawke’s Blaze, Shine at Sundance ASCAP Music Café


Singer-actor-performer Darren Criss, who has had a multi-faceted career spanning television, film, music and stage, and who is currently starring the FX series The Assassination of Gianni Versace, appeared at the Sundance ASCAP Music Café on Monday, January 22. Criss performed songs from his recent EP, Homework (which debuted at #1 on the Billboard Heatseekers album chart) and shared the story of his songwriting career.

Criss’s performance was just one highlight of day four of the Sundance ASCAP Music Café, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary as a key program of the Sundance Film Festival and which continues to present exciting live performances to filmmakers and festival goers. Other sets included encore performances by Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Siedah Garrett (“Man in the Mirror”) and the atmospheric rock band Dark Rooms, led by Sundance film composer Daniel Hart and the Music Café debut performance by Shawn James, who delivered a passionate set of folk-blues songs.

On Tuesday, January 23, writer, actor and film director Ethan Hawke introduced a special performance by Ben Dickey and Charlie Sexton, the stars of his 2018 Sundance film Blaze. The film tells the story of the legendary singer-songwriter Blaze Foley, played by Dickey, and his friendship with Townes Van Zandt, played by Sexton.

Also making their 2018 debut performance on the Music Café stage was Nashville’s Elliot Root, who performed an electrifying set of passionate Americana songs and Brett Dennen, whose soulful and contemplative songs brim with optimism and perseverance. Dennen is currently on a unique tour called “The Lift Series,” where is performing at ski areas and mountain towns while spreading raising awareness about environmental protection.

Also on Tuesday night, ASCAP hosted its annual Sundance Composers and Filmmakers reception and provided an excellent networking opportunity for this year’s Sundance creators.

SUNDANCE PART ONE: The 20th Annual Sundance ASCAP Music Café Kicks Off with Aloe Blacc, Striking Matches, Siedah Garrett, The Score and More


The Sundance ASCAP Music Café, which this year celebrates 20 years of presenting exciting live performances at the heart of the Sundance Film Festival, kicked off on Friday, January 19, with a dynamic and diverse range of singer-songwriters and bands from across the country.

As a snow storm blanketed Park City, Utah, creating a dramatic winter scene, the opening weekend of the Music Café featured exciting sets from an array of emerging and established artists: Samora Pinderhughes, a composer, pianist, vocalist and advocate who has created a lot of music for film and theatre (Whose Streets?, Burning Sands); acclaimed Americana group by way of Wyoming Benyaro; guitar-shredding Nashville duo Striking Matches; Republic Records recording artists The Score, who write and perform powerful rock anthems; Verve Records recording artist Madison Cunningham, an LA-based singer-songwriter and guitarist with a mesmerizing voice and introspective songs; Ethan Gruska, a singer-songwriter who combines jazz, folk, ambient and alternative music into honest, luminous songs; Dark Rooms, an atmospheric rock band led by film composer Daniel Hart (Pete’s Dragon, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints); and Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter and performer Siedah Garrett, best known for writing “Man in the Mirror” for Michael Jackson.

Some artists who performed at the Music Café’s opening weekend are at the festival supporting films. Rapper Lakeith Stanfield, who has built a career of star turns in such films as Get Out, War Machine, Crown Heights, Snowden and in TV’s Death Note and Atlanta, is starring in this year’s Sundance film Sorry to Bother You. Anthony Ramos, the Grammy Award-winning musician and actor, best known for starring in Hamilton on Broadway, who appears in this year’s Sundance film Monsters and Men, performed at the Café on the day he released his new album, Freedom, featuring music inspired by the reaction to the 2016 presidential election. Aloe Blacc kicked off day three of the Café, performing some of his hit songs, including “Wake Me Up” and “The Man” as well as a new song he wrote for the upcoming IMAX film, America’s Musical Journey, in which he is featured and which screened at this year’s festival.

ASCAP @ the 2018 Sundance Film Festival

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