Sundance Film Festival: Utah band stands above the rest of street performers

Published: Sunday, Jan. 31 2010 12:00 a.m. MST

Bramble, from left, Steve Schmit, James Miska and Ian Accord, has been performing daily on Park City's Main Street.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

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PARK CITY — It's not uncommon to see buskers lining the streets at Sundance. It is, however, rare to find a local band with as much talent as Bramble playing in the cold Park City air.

"Ever since Sundance started we've been up here every day for five or six hours," said accordion player Ian Accord. "Except for [Wednesday] when we were really exhausted."

From an accordion and a charango (a South American ukelele/mandolin) to hand claps and foot stomps, Bramble's organic sound lights up Main Street and garners attention from many a passerby. In front of them sits an old suitcase full of handmade CDs and a sign telling people to take one for as much as they can afford.

As guitarist Chaz Prymek smiles at a listener who dropped a few coins and urges her to take a CD, it becomes clear the members of Bramble aren't out for monetary gain.

Their good nature, it seems, is infectious even in the freezing temperatures.

"We've gotten a lot of ear-to-ear smiles and people dancing," said James Miska, charango in hand.

Pretty good for a band whose drum kit features a makeshift wine bottle cymbal stand, a utility bucket and a drum pad laid out on an afghan-covered table.

"That's how we play everywhere," said percussionist Steven Schmit. "This is our live show, basically."

Their eclectic assortment of instruments is what makes the band stand out among the other acoustic musicians trying to gain exposure at Sundance. True to their laidback sound, the musicians said the acquisition of their equipment came about naturally.

"The charango was just gifted to me by a really good friend last year and I decided to try it out and actually start playing it," said Miska, who also has bells tied to his shoelaces.

The band, whose folky songs manage to be both tangled and melodic, got its start just five months ago when the members came together from various side-projects and solo careers. The idea, Miska said, formed while he was on a bike tour with Prymek that spanned from Seattle to San Diego.

"This whole idea started over summer," Miska said. "It was the first time Chaz and I ever actually collaborated and we just got together as we were touring and wrote some songs."

Since then they've recorded a CD, which officially drops on Feb. 8, and booked numerous upcoming shows including the CD-release party at Slowtrain records in Salt Lake City on Feb. 8. They're setting their sights on playing at the True/False Film Festival in Columbia, Mo., in February and hope to plan a tour through the neighboring states.

The band also has plans to load up their bike trailers and embark on another tour in the summer. The band's schedule can be found on its official Web site, www.bramblemusic.com

For now, nestled in a prime spot between O.C. Tanner and Cafe Terigo on Park City's Historic Main Street that the band reserved in October, members of Bramble are concentrating on fighting the cold as their time at Sundance winds down.

"You put your hands on your neck," Miska said, "Wear coats. That's all you can really do."

Warmth isn't the only thing Bramble has sacrificed to devote time to busking. Band members have taken time off from their various jobs to be up at Sundance every day, some even giving up their employment.

"I had to get time off and they won't let me request any more for the rest of my employment," Accord said, "so I'm going to have to quit for True/False, but that's fine. I'm quitting a job to play music."

"Very rock 'n' roll," Miska chimed.

Still, Prymek said the experience has been "really, really crazy and awesome." Right on cue a passer-by stops to dump a backpack full of Kit-Kat candies into the worn suitcase, much to the delight of the band members.

"Have you guys heard about angels?" said Prymek. "That was an angel. I think the craziest thing is an angel came down and gave us a million Kit-Kat bars just now."

And with that the group gears up for another four hours of energetic music making.

e-mail: amears@desnews.com

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