DAY ONE IN PARK CITY: Friday Jan. 21, 2005

Posted January 22, 2005 in
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[MC Welk at 8 a.m.]What a nightmare getting up here! At least Angela drives a stick. Talk about gridlock: I've never seen so many jaywalking, fur-wearing pedestrians in my life, and I'm not even talking about the canines who are here for Cesar's Dog Food Party (more details tomorrow). We had to use guerilla tactics to get our press passes on time before the Sundance and Slamdance offices closed at 6:00 p.m. on Friday.

The Austin Film Society held a party at the residence of Tom and Deborah Green in Deer Valley, where we had a chance to interview the director (Jeff Feuerzeig) and producer (Henry Rosenthal) of The Devil & Daniel Johnston. They were thrilled with our cover story on Daniel, and said it was the best interview they had seen in years. They even said that SLUG was cool. I guess there really is a sucker born every minute.

Feuerzeig first heard Daniel doing a radio show in the early 90s in which he interviewed himself and played a bunch of crazy shit, the importance of which was "equivalent to the War of the Worlds" broadcast. He also recorded a version of "Speeding Motorcycle" with Yo La Tengo (before whom he is playing at the Sundance Music Cafe on Wednesday night), which was to become one of the classic love songs of all time. All right, I'll ditch the hyperbole. Daniel is still a bit of a nut job.

The crew spent four years with Daniel and his family, going through garbage bags filled with his sketches, journals and cassettes. The family was also obsessed with self-documentation in the form of home movies and photographs, which one would assume will be included in the film. For a long time Daniel's family had a hard time accepting his hypercreativity borne in part by his manic depression, but now he is properly medicated, as prolific as ever and finding a wider audience.

Producer Henry Rosenthal also collaborated with Feuerzeig on his documentary of Daniel's kindred spirit Jad Fair, who also appears in the movie. Rosenthal says that he wants this film to be the "straw that breaks the camel's back" and brings Daniel his much deserved worldwide fame. If you can't get into one of the screenings this week, the filmmakers are certain that it will see a theatrical release so his unfiltered tales of love and mania can be shared by all.

Later on we went to the SLAMDANCE opening party on Main Street and featuring free tequila and a performance by NYC avant-guitarist Elliott Sharp. I was familiar with Sharp's work with Carbon and he has also released several solo records over the past few years. He played of couple of selections that he wrote for the SLAMDANCE documentary film Commune that features a photo of a topless hippie chick in the press guide. As an aside, I lived on a commune with my mom in the Redwoods in the mid-70s until my dad came and got me.

[MC Welk & Elliott Sharp]

Anyway, Sharp's performance was amazing. He plays the guitar like a percussion instrument emulating the stylings of Jimi Hendrix and Zoot Horn Rollo. Plus there is a poststructuralist component he gets by processing it through his laptop, which also provides percussion. The only sad part is that most of the crowd of people seemed like they would rather listen to a lame DJ. I guess you can lead a horse to water unless there is free tequila in the other room.

Oh well, Sharp will be famous after he's dead. Log on tomorrow as we'll be trying the novel approach of seeing and reviewing films, including the story of the Mormon New York Doll.

My optic nerve hurts. MC Welk out.
[Slamdance Staff]