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Music films, events on rise for Sundance Film Festival
Graham Willoughby  |  Courtesy Sundance Institute
Singers Jo Lawry, Judith Hill and Lisa Fischer are among the back-up performers who get the spotlight in Morgan Neville's documentary "Twenty Feet From Stardom."
Members of The Eagles - from left: Timothy B. Schmid, Glenn Frey, Don Henley and Joe Walsh - in the documentary "History of the Eagles, Part One," which will screen at the Sundance London Film and Music Festival.
(Courtesy photo)  
A scene from "Muscle Shoals,"  part of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.
(Courtesy photo)   
A scene from "Muscle Shoals," (Jimmy Cliff) part of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.
(Courtesy photo)   
A scene from "Muscle Shoals" depicting Bono,  part of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.
(Courtesy photo)  
A scene from "Muscle Shoals" depicting Gregg Allman,  part of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.
Aretha Franklin sits for an interview in the documentary "Muscle Shoals," playing in the Documentary Premieres section of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. It will screen at the Sundance London Film and Music Festival. (Courtesy Sundance Institute)
(Courtesy photo)   
A scene from "Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer," part of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.
(Courtesy photo)   
A scene from "Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer," part of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.
A scene from the documentary "Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer," which will debut at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. The film is represented by John Sloss' Cinetic Media. Courtesy Sundance Institute
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Crowe also helmed 1989’s “Say Anything …,” which includes one of the finest contemporary musical moments in film: When Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack) holds up a boombox playing Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” outside Diane Court’s (Ione Skye) bedroom window.

Enter Dave Grohl, Lynryd Skynyrd, The Eagles • One of the most highly anticipated films to open at Sundance this year is the directorial debut of former Nirvana drummer and current Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl. His “Sound City” documentary chronicles the rise and fall of the famed Los Angeles music studio where classic albums such as Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” and Nirvana’s seminal “Nevermind” were recorded. The movie also serves as a philosophical treatise hailing the indie spirit of people making music together in a live setting, rather than in front of a computer.

The new documentary “is the most important thing I’ve ever done,” Grohl said in a phone interview. “All along, our goal was Sundance, from Day 1. It seemed like the perfect place to be.”

Along with the film’s premiere on Jan. 18, the Park City Live venue will host a sold-out performance of Dave Grohl’s Sound City Players. This first incarnation will feature musicians featured in the documentary, including Stevie Nicks, John Fogerty, Rick Springfield, Alain Johannes, Chris Goss and Corey Taylor, as well as Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick, Lee Ving of Fear and Brad Wilk of Rage Against The Machine.

Also taking the stage will be a cast of Grohl’s current and former bandmates including Taylor Hawkins, Nate Mendel, Chris Shiflett, Krist Novoselic and Pat Smear. Smear, Novoselic and Grohl are the surviving members of Nirvana, and their reunion, alone, would make for a historic evening.

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Another music-related film at this year’s festival is “Muscle Shoals,” a documentary from another first-time director, Greg “Freddy” Camalier, which explores the history of the small Alabama town and the area’s outsize impact on modern music. The film includes interviews from Bono, Mick Jagger, Gregg Allman, Aretha Franklin and Alicia Keys, focusing on the studios where songs such as “Brown Sugar,” “When a Man Loves a Woman” and “I’ll Take You There” were recorded. The locale and house band were also immortalized by a lyric in Lynyrd Skynyrd’s classic song “Sweet Home Alabama.”

“They don’t call it a universal language for nothing,” said Camalier, explaining the reason to make a film with music as its thematic thread.

Then there’s “History of The Eagles Part 1,” a music documentary with an impressive filmmaking pedigree. Directed by Alison Ellwood, the biopic is produced by Alex Gibney, who directed “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room,” nominated in 2005 for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, and “Taxi to the Dark Side,” which won the documentary-feature Oscar in 2007. His other films include “Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer” and “Casino Jack and the United States of Money.” This year’s festival also will screen Gibney’s “We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks,” another buzzed-about documentary.

The Eagles documentary has a resonance because the band’s music served as a soundtrack to the 1970s and beyond, Ellwood said. “When people listen to Eagles songs, people didn’t just listen to The Eagles, they did things to The Eagles,” she said. “People have memories of iconic musical things in their lives.”

For example, she remembered the first time she ever ate sushi. She was sitting in a sushi bar, listening to “Hotel California” playing on the radio while chefs were tapping their wooden mallets to Don Henley’s drumming.

Music and film are inextricably linked, Gibney said. “You want to feel music, not talk about it,” he said. “That’s what cinema does at its best.”

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At a glance

Celebrate the music of Sundance

Quite a few films at this year’s festival have powerful musical scores, said Peter Golub, director of the Sundance Institute Film Music program. He listed “The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete,” with music by Mark Isham; “jOBS,” John Debney; “Stoker,” Clint Mansell; “The Necessary Death of Charlie,” Christophe Beck; “Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes,” Nathan Larson; “American Promise,” Miriam Cutler; “Blackfish” and “When I Walk,” Jeff Beal; and “Dirty Wars,” David Harrington.

For more information about the 2013 festival, visit sundance.org/festival.

Welcome to the Sundance Music Festival

Park City Live, at 427 Main St., will be taken over by Wynn Las Vegas from Jan. 17-21. The venue will host DJs from around the world (including Dutch Afrojack, British Nero and French Cedric Gervais) spinning during the first weekend of the festival. It will feature “the flavor and flair of Las Vegas,” said Ronn Nicoli, director of strategic marketing for Wynn’s exclusive nightclubs XS and Tryst.

The Celebration of Music in Film event, at 8 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 20, at the Sundance House, 638 Park Ave., Park City, will feature backup singers who have worked with Bruce Springsteen, The Rolling Stones, Sting and Chris Botti. The concert celebrates a documentary about legendary backup singers, “Twenty Feet From Stardom.” (Event open to festival credential holders as space permits.)

The annual BMI Snowball music showcase at the Sundance House, at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 23, will celebrate “Muscle Shoals,” a documentary about the legendary Alabama music studios. (Event open to festival credential holders as space permits.)

Other music-related events

Sundance-sponsored panels and roundtables include “Music and Film, The Creative Process,” a discussion Wednesday, Jan. 23, at the Sundance House; and “Power and Story: Measure for Measure” at the Egyptian Theatre on Friday, Jan. 25, which will feature composers Terence Blanchard and Jan A. P. Kaczmarek talking about music’s effect on cinematic history.

At this year’s Sundance ASCAP Music Cafe, at 750 Main St., there will be a new nightly showcase (open to all credential holders) curated by Los Angeles radio station KCRW-FM.

“I get the sense that [Sundance] wants to bloster their music offerings,” said Jason Bentley, KRCW music director. Andrew Bird and Jenny Lewis are among performers slated for night performances during the first weekend. Bentley mused that Sundance officials might like to emulate the success of the Sundance London Film and Music Festival, where music has had more of an emphasis than in Park City.

As for the daytime series, one performer, in particular, will bring a smile to the face of anyone who enjoyed the intersection of music and film in the 1980s. On Friday, Jan. 18, at 4:15 p.m., the Blue Sky Riders trio will perform, including Kenny Loggins, the undisputed King of the Movie Soundtrack. His credits include “I’m Alright” from “Caddyshack,” the title song from “Footloose,” and “Danger Zone” and “Playing With the Boys” from “Top Gun.”

A new series, Concerts at Sundance, will feature local and international artists’ performances to benefit the Huntsman Cancer Institute. The series will take place at Park City clubs, as well as nightly performances at the Silver Star Café, 1825 Three Kings Drive. View the schedule at www.parkcityrestaurants.com/silver-star-cafe. (These concerts aren’t affiliated with the festival.)

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