PARK CITY — Our Monday started off on a weird note, even for the “anything-can-happen-at-Sundance” vibe.
There is a new movie coming called “Manson Girls.” Directed by Susanna Lo, the drama is about several of the women who followed murderer Charles Manson. Included in the cast is Monica Keena, who plays Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, Laura Harring (Alice Rainer), Heather Matarazzo (Sadie Atkins), Jennifer Landon (Mary Brunner), Tania Ramonde (Leslie Van Houten) and Taryn Manning (we don’t whom she plays).
It turns out that two members of the Doobie Bros., John McFee and Guy Allison, wrote the theme to the movie, so someone thought it was a good idea to bring them all together in Park City and webcast the gals and the two Bros. playing some classic rock together. The media event kicked off with McFee and Allison playing some cues they’ve written for the movie, which were appropriately dark and ominous. Then things got weird. Matarazzo came out to join them for the Beatles’ “Sexy Sadie.” It sounds like a smart move given Matarazzo is playing Sadie. However, Matarazzo looked panic-stricken. She greeted us with “Hi fuckers, you ready?,” then grabbed the mic stand with both hands and held on with a death grip, staring upward the whole time and sang as if she would rather be having root canal without novocaine. In her defense, the room was the size of a postage stamp and the closeness to the audiences would have daunted the most experienced of singers. She sounded decent, but she sang so softly that the band totally overpowered her. We all breathed a collective sigh of relief when it was over, not because she can’t sing, but because she seemed so damn uncomfortable.
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Next, the rest of the women trotted out for Doobies’ classic “Long Train Running.” Landon took the lead, while three others sang back-up. As awkward as Matarazzo was, Landon was confident and sexy. The Emmy-winning soap star has released songs on iTunes and she’s a natural. We expected more of the same from Manning, who came out, ostensibly, to sing lead on “California Dreamin,” with backing vocals by all five other women. As you know, Manning has fronted her own rock band, BoomKAT, but after the first verse, she relegated herself to back-up singer as well, leaving the lead vocals to McFee and Dayton Knoll, who will play Dennis Wilson in the movie. Three songs and we were done. The whole thing felt extremely forced and if the goal was to build awareness for the movie, we’re not sure that it is going to generate the kind of buzz the organizers were hoping for. (Having said that, someone should sign Landon to a deal).
Happily we moved on from there to where no manufacturing was required: the ASCAP Cafe. Opening Monday’s slate was British singer/songwriter Bobby Long, whose debut album, “A Winter’s Tale,” comes out Feb. 1 on ATO. The still-developing Long plumbs the same slightly haunted depths of such singers as Mark Geary or Colin Devlin. After overcoming a little bit of a shaky start, he rebounded nicely with a strong tune, “Dead & Done,” and bluesy romp, “A Passing Tale.” If his name sounds familiar, he had a song, “Let Me Sign,” on the “Twilight” soundtrack, which he wrote with good buddy Robert Pattinson.
If you’re not familiar with their 2008 album “Oh My God, Charlie Darwin” (which was later picked up by Nonesuch), The Low Anthem is a co-ed quintet out of Providence, Rhode Island with gorgeous harmonies and folk-based melodies led by Ben Knox Miller.
For their much-too-short six-song set at the Cafe, they effortlessly switched off on instruments and lead vocals. For example, Mat Davidson started off on upright bass for “To the Ghosts Who Write History Books,” and then jumped to drums for “Hey All You Hippies.” Jeff Prystowsky moved from pump organ to musical saw as clarinetist/vocalist Jocie Adams swung to the pump organ on other tunes.There a magical alchemy that shifts every time the foursome plays musical chairs, which is to say, basically each song. Their tunes, especially “Ticket Taker,” are hauntingly beautiful, even when they tend toward the shambolic, such as on “Home I’ll Never Be.” In addition to “Hippies,” they also played the wistful, gorgeous “Ghost Woman Blues,” the first single from their Feb. 22 album, “Smart Flesh.”
The day also included a smart set from Tim Myers. His name may not sound familiar, but his music is: his songs have been licensed for everything from “Life As We Know It,” “Catfish,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Gossip Girl” to commercials for Target, Verizon and Macy’s. And for good reason. As he showed during his short program, he’s a master at crafting pop songs that sound instantly recognizable. The former member of OneRepublic, who co-wrote mega-hit, “Stop & Stare,” displayed a fine sense of melody and nimble musicianship on such tunes as the McCartney-esque “The Fall” and “More, More, More.”