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Many people flock to Sundance just for the parties


PARK CITY, Utah — Sundance is one of the best places on the planet to talk about films with complete strangers — assuming those strangers have actually seen a film since they’ve been here.

I can’t count the number of people I’ve run into who are only here for the parties. On any given day, there are so many parties, after-parties and after-after-parties, you couldn’t attend them all even if you tried. Many of the festivities are to support individual films and projects. Some are corporate events. And some exist seemingly just for the heck of it.

I’m not a party guy. Never have been. But when you’re invited to a John Legend party, you go to a John Legend party.

The singer/actor hosted a bash to support WGN America’s “Underground,” the Underground Railroad drama he executive produces that returns for its second season March 8.

With a DJ mashing up hip-hop songs from the past decade or so, nothing I’ve seen here has done a better job of putting the dance in Sundance.

Then again, I missed this weekend’s separate Tiesto and Major Lazer concerts. I was invited to a house party for some company I’ve never heard of that promised a guest appearance by Common, but the email I sent expressing interest and asking if he would be performing or just showing up to say, “Hey y’all, thanks for coming” went unanswered. So I’m guessing it was the latter.

Lounges up and down Main Street have open bars pretty much all day long. Some are for everyone; some are only for invited guests. Not that that even matters. I’ve been pulled into a lounge I had no business being in by a woman I’d known for less than a day. After an hour or so, two guys we’d known for a combined three hours invited us to another party. Sure, why not?

We ended up spending several hours in a 22,000-square-foot mansion in the mountains that none of us had actually been invited to. It was the most elegant thing I’d ever seen. I was so in awe, I was told later that I nearly knocked over a departing Kenneth Cole. And the party was just something the homeowner threw simply for the sake of having a party.

Then there are the parties for a cause. Stella Artois hosted one at 3:30 p.m., with all the Stella you could ever hope to drink and a tasting menu from chef Marcus Samuelsson, to let Matt Damon talk about his Water.org foundation and its partnership with the beer company.

“It’s a massive issue for women and for girls,” Damon said of the need for clean water. “And I’ve been all over the world interacting with these young girls. And as the father of four girls, it’s deeply affecting. It’s impossible not to see the faces of your own children in the faces of these children.”

Every 90 seconds, he said, a child dies because they don’t have access to clean water and sanitation. So they’ve created a way to help save the world just by drinking beer. For every Stella you buy, you’ll provide someone in the world you’ll never know with clean water for a month. One $13 commemorative chalice, available on the Stella Artois website, will provide five years of clean drinking water.

“It’s so hard to find people who are interested,” Damon said, “because here in the West, we solved this a hundred years ago, right? We don’t have our kids dying because they have diarrhea. They maybe miss a day of school.”

Contact Christopher Lawrence at clawrence@reviewjournal.com. Follow @life_onthecouch on Twitter.