Sundance Film Festival

Drake lights up Park City, eventually (Aziz Ansari, not so much)


Photo courtesy of Bing/Bing Bar

Two years ago, Microsoft’s search engine Bing occupied the basement of Cisero’s off of bustling Main Street, where it played host to the after party of the Sundance hit WAITING FOR SUPERMAN—a documentary about the failings of the U.S. public education system. In the restaurant’s cramped, caliginous basement, John Legend, the film’s co-producer, teamed up with The Roots to perform an intimate show for about one hundred-plus people. To the right of the stage, behind a VIP rope flanked by three colossal security guards, stood a bespectacled middle-aged white guy in a fleece, cradling a beer and doing the Macarena. It was Bill Gates.

“We love the spirit of independence at Sundance, encouraging up-and-coming filmmakers, and the indie nature around it,” said Bing director Lisa Gurry. “Our first year at Sundance, we had such a great reception from the Sundance community that we decided last year to make a bigger investment.”

“WHERE THE F–K IS DRAKE?”

It’s around 12:45 a.m. on the third night of Sundance 2012 at the Bing Bar—a two-story hot-spot boasting dual open bars, upstairs and downstairs stages, lascivious women, and guys who likely alternate between Axe and Drakkar Noir. The space formerly known as the Claim Jumper hotel is playing host to the most anticipated concert during the Sundance Film Festival: a late-night performance by chart-topping rapper Drake.

Hordes of well-coiffed hopefuls, braving a mild snowstorm, form an attractive horseshoe outside the flashy venue, while inside, the basement area is packed with celebs. A trio of spindly blondes sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Breaking Bad star Aaron Paul, who’s holding court in a VIP banquette. When the DJ finishes spinning Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “Niggas in Paris” for the third (or fourth) time, the monotony is broken by a brief stand-up set courtesy of comedian Aziz Ansari.

Aziz, barely audible over the jabbering crowd and telling jokes skewering everything from the gay hookup app Grindr to the sanctity of marriage, is bombing terribly. He’s visibly annoyed. All of a sudden, Cuba Gooding Jr. bum-rushes the stage out of nowhere, snatches Aziz’s microphone, and yells, “Everybody, shut the FUCK up! Have some respect for the black men onstage.” Aziz—who is Indian— looks baffled, and when Cuba exits, remarks, “Y’all would be paying more attention if we were showing BOAT TRIP up here!” Aziz: 1, Cuba: 0.

“No seriously, WHERE THE F–K IS DRAKE?”

The crowd in the basement squeezes tight, affording little space for movement, let alone a bathroom voyage, and we’re all starting to think Drake “might be too strung out on compliments / Overdosed on confidence / Started not to give a f–k, and stop fearing the consequence,” as he raps on the song “Headlines.”

To my right is Donald Faison, who played the baggy-pantsed Murray in the seminal teen comedy CLUELESS, and to my left is Melanie Lynskey, who played Charlie Sheen’s cherubic faced neighbor/stalker, Rose, on Two and a Half Men (and impressed everyone at Sundance this year in HELLO I MUST BE GOING). Meanwhile, off in the distance, I spot THE HURT LOCKER’S Anthony Mackie talking into the ear of record industry legend Quincy Jones, while William H. Macy is sipping from a beer and bobbing his head along to the tune. Drake’s fan base is diverse, to say the least.

After 1 a.m., the DJ interrupts Aziz’s brief interlude, and spins “Niggas in Paris” yet again. The lights suddenly go down—met with roaring, relieved applause—and Drake takes the stage. The rapper is extremely apologetic (he’s Canadian, after all), and explains that he was caught in traffic, and implores the audience to take a shot with him. Then, he launches into his earlier hits “Over” and “Best I Ever Had,” before launching into selections from his recent album, TAKE CARE, which the New York Times named their No. 1 album of 2011. The crowd, buzzing off the hours of free vodka and assorted booze they consumed prior to Drake’s arrival, seems to forget the late arrival ever happened.

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