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Sundance review: Guster, Low Anthem, Secret Sisters highlight concert

January 28th, 2011 Posted in Opinion

By Max Dahl

PARK CITY–The Sundance ASCAP Music Café’s musical line-up played a rousing show Jan. 25 with a variety of genres, culminating with a set by acoustic-pop artists Guster.

The Low Anthem opened with songs off their up-coming album Smart Flesh, due out Feb. 22. Recently featured on the Late Show with David Letterman, the self-described “textual bipolar” quartet played a serene but loud set before heading to the Depot in Salt Lake, where they played another show. All members alternated playing instruments and providing vocals. Harmony was excellent and haunting, with winding melodies complemented by an odd array of electric paraphernalia. The Low Anthem will strike out on tour before joining Iron and Wine in April.

Bobby Long, a British 20-something with soulful acoustic pizzazz, took to the stage and played a vocally impressive set. He mumbled and bumbled like Ozzy Ozborne, with Bush rocker Gavin Rossdale’s brogue; his dry self-deprecation won our ears. He will be touring the west and will return to Salt Lake Feb 8. His new album, A Winter Tale, produced by Liam Watson of White Stripes’ album Elephant fame, will be released Feb 1.

The entire mood shifted as Secret Sisters took the stage. Two siblings from Alabama, still doe-eyed and nervous on stage, captivated the crowd with their sweet southern style. It was like Alison Krause had been cloned, and was harmonizing perfectly with herself. In tone, texture, pitch and quality there was virtually no difference between the sisters. They covered Hank Williams, The Everly Brothers, and performed an original spiritual about the baptism of Jesus of Nazareth. Although it was their first show in Utah, after six months of performing the Secret Sisters have plenty of experience; their early resume includes opening for Willie Nelson. Their self-titled album is out now through Beladroit/Universal Republic.

We returned from 1950’s southern swooning as Matt Nathanson took the stage and personified the unassuming rocker that had amassed a loyal following. He joked with the crowd, relating every song back to Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan, and insisted that people loosen up and get into the music. “I understand that you are conserving your claps for Guster,” He said, “because we are in a recession.” He made it his prerogative to get particular audience members into the music, ultimately ending his show with AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell.” His performance was loose and effortlessly entertaining.

Guster took to stage a bit agitated. There were unexplained technical difficulties, and tempers were on edge before the music began. They overcame their obstacles and played a lighthearted, upbeat show. Singer Ryan Miller was quirky and humorous, engaging the crowd and telling jokes that soared over the heads of the younger crowd, but hit their parents in the gut. The band was technically sound, but drummer Brian Rosenworcel had lost his voice, and Miller was beginning to show the wear in his voice by the end of the set.

“We’ve been dying to come to Sundance since the beginning of the festival,” Adam Gardner said. “We flew in from Tucson at 5 a.m. this morning, and are running on three hours of sleep. It turned out to be more of a show that we had expected, more intimate than our show that we played last Saturday (at Salt Lake’s ‘In The Venue’).”

Guster continues their North American Tour promoting their album, Easy Wonderful.


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