4 Music and Art Experiences to Take You Beyond Film at Sundance 2016

Article by: Amanda McHugh

Fri January 15, 2016 | 00:00 AM

Sundance Film Festival may be the world’s most iconic film festival. When we think of Park City, Utah during Sundance, we tend to think of celebrities walking red carpets, big-budget indies and snowy mountains as a backdrop. However for those thousands of attendees who return year after year, they know that’s a common misconception.

Upon arriving at Sundance, you’ll find movie action not only in Arclight-level theaters, but in places such as the local high school, the library, small independent theaters that saw their hey-days years ago, intermixed with popular bars, clubs and people's homes. There is no designated festival access; this adorable little mountain town gets completely mixed up in the festival madness. 

Something that makes Sundance really stand out – that many don’t hear about, well, ever – is actually the fest's music and art programming. If you’ve ever thought about going to a film festival but don’t necessarily consider yourself a serious film buff, consider Park City between January 21 and 31 this year – you will leave with a variety of art experiences that you won’t find at any other festival. This list is for those craving a different kind of Sundance experience.

1. The New Frontier 

The New Frontier isn’t one theater, it’s many. Within this dark and mysterious space are many rooms and lounge-like seating areas, each built to fit the artists' needs for the experimental film experiences they hope audiences can get lost in. Being that this is its ten-year anniversary, you’ll find more than just its usual programming this year. In addition to presenting three feature-length films, The New Frontier will present a live performance, 11 exhibitions and 30 virtual-reality experiences. Yes, virtual reality. While Oculus Rift may have made its debut in gaming, it has since expanded into story telling to find ways to engage audiences to make change through instilling very life-like, immersive experiences, so that the person wearing the goggles can learn on an empathic level. The sensory-sensitive artists behind the forty-one VR experiences offered at the New Frontier all have something to thrill, tickle, or change you. 

Overall, we're hyped for such events as Stonemilker (a VR collaboration between Bjork and Andrew Thomas Huang), an autobiographic video installation by rapper Kendrick Lamar and video director Kahlil Joseph called Double ConscienceNari, multi-generational mash-up combines animation, family archives and a live performance involving Ravi Shankar and George Harrison,  Notes on Blindness—Into Darkness, a documentary VR experience that brings you into the world of the blind through artist John Hull's real-life loss of sight, and  Fabulous Wonder.land which gets attendees to fall down the rabbit hole at the UK's whimsical wonder.land musical, inspired by Lewis Carroll's classic tale and co-created by Blur's Damon Albarn. 

2. ASCAP Music Café

Sundance’s sponsors tend to go all out when they put on special programming for the festival. The ASCAP Music Café has eighteen years of producing a café-style venue with an impressive lineup of world-class singer-songwriters for eight days of the festival. Here are a couple of the artists we’re excited to see at the ASCAP Music Café: Nina Gordon & Louise Post of Veruca Saltwho reunited in 2012 after a sixteen-year hiatus, who will perform their originals that helped to define a generation of female-lead rock and roll in the mid-nineties; 
Air Traffic Controller , a collaboration between Dave Munro, a former air-traffic controller for the U.S. Navy, and Casey Sullivan, who use the singer-songwriter style to push forward a vocal-driven, hand-clapping rhythmic electronic vibe that has landed them on the same must-listen lists as The Weekend and Justin Bieber; Charles Kelley of Lady Antebellum, whose solo sound has the same melodic sensibility that Lady Antebellum has, but with a rougher edge to it. 

3. Live Lounge at Sundance House, Presented by HP 

This is an entire building with all of the technological luxuries one would expect an HP-sponsored venue to have, and more. On the ground floor is the HP tech space, but above, people can wander into the Live Lounge, which is a beautiful, all-glass performance space where you can get a free hot cocoa, hear a seminar and check out the live musical performances at night. While the music lineup hasn’t been released yet, past years acts have included The Weekenders, Kosha Dillz, and Christina Perri.

4. Special Event: American Epic

This four-part series event combines both live music and film in the Eccles Theatre towards the end of the festival. It chronicles the birth of modern music through bewildering archival footage, rare historic recordings and contributions from today’s greatest artists. This accompanied with live performances by The Avett Brothers amongst other live performances and a talk back with producers Jack White, Robert Redford and T. Bone Burnett make this a night not to be missed.

In addition to all of the fabulous programming that Sundance offers to any ticket holder, there is also a plethora of music to check out at a number of the venues and bars, unofficial pop-ups, and sponsored venues at Sundance. Keep these venues' programming on your to-do list: Indie Lounge, Park City Live , O.P. Rockwell, Downstairs, and Cisero's.