El Cosmico’s annual Trans-Pecos Festival of Music + Love returns again this fall , September 22-26, with a stellar lineup. This year, the Marfa, TX festival includes performances from Sleater-Kinney, Courtney Barnett, Jade Bird, Paul Cauthen, Parquet Courts, Caroline Rose, Alex Maas, Ben Kweller and more. It’s four days of camping, music, food, and activities under big, beautiful skies in Marfa, TX … and we want to send you and a friend!
Enter here to win a pair of tickets to this year’s Trans-Pecos Festival of Music + Love!
If you win, you’ll receive two “Music + Camping” tickets to the Trans-Pecos Festival of Music + Love 2021, to be held September 22-26, 2021 at El Cosmico in Marfa, Texas. (Winners are responsible for their own transportation to Marfa and will need to bring their own camping equipment.) Enter here, now through July 31.
Entries must be received by 11:59 P.M. CT on Saturday, July 31, 2021. Two winners will be chosen at random. Winners will be notified by email no later than 5 P.M. CT on Friday, August 13, 2021. This KUTX giveaway is open to legal residents of Texas who are 18 years of age* or older. No purchase or donation is necessary to enter.
If you’re turned on by legalese, just wait ’till you read our official contest rules.
Spoon Gets The Fan Treatment In A New Podcast
by Jacquie Fuller
“We need to start a Spoon podcast,” I said to Art Levy sometime around 2017. At pre-pandemic KUTX, Art and I sat beside one another – only a cubicle half-wall and a potted plant between us. Every so often, we’d pop our heads over the half-wall like prairie dogs to make a Mr. Show reference or discuss our favorite band. We’d nerd out on the latter so often that we started thinking that our Spoon chats might make for a fun podcast. We went so far as to draft up a proposal for our boss, but our assigned jobs always got in the way.
For three years, a Slack or email (we really need to make that podcast!) would occasionally float between us. Then, one night while scrolling Instagram, I stumbled upon an about-to-launch Spoon podcast called I Turn My Podcast On. I forwarded it to Art: “Someone beat us to it.” Was I a little bummed? Of course! Until I heard it.
* * *
Though Spoon has been my favorite band since ’97-ish, it never occurred to me to connect online with other Spoon fans. Aside from going to shows and making mixed CDs for friends, my experience of music tended to be solitary. I knew the official Spoon message board existed, but I never participated. If I had, I would’ve encountered the podcast’s host and producer, Tyler Darling.
Darling didn’t learn about the band until 2005, via an interview in Guitar Player that moved him to buy their Gimmie Fiction release sound-unheard. But he didn’t join the message board until 2009, when he first saw the band live. It was then that, Darling told me by email, “I realized I needed to own every recording produced by the band, and seek out their message board to get tracks from fans.”
“I’ve never met up with anyone in real life from the site,” he said, “but there are several people over the years that I’ve traded tracks with.” The board still exists, but with the rise of social media, participation dwindled to only the die-hards. Darling calls the board “a cool time capsule with lots of dead MediaFire links and all kinds of opinions and conversations.” One of those die-hard conversations?: Darling proposing a podcast about his favorite band.
* * *
That’s where it began for Darling. He kicked around ideas with a few fellow members, but eventually the thread went quiet for a year and a half.
Then the pandemic hit, and the thread picked up again: “So this is still happening … stay tuned!”
The pandemic presented the perfect opportunity: Darling had a bit more time on his hands and his favorite band was, like so many others, grounded. Early on, Darling had emailed frontman Britt Daniel. There were polite back-and-forths and Daniel offered to retweet the podcast once it came to fruition. By the time of the pandemic, as Darling prepared to record the first episode, Daniel changed his tune, agreeing to be interviewed for the podcast. “It was supposed to be one interview,” Darling told me, “and I had all these questions I was trying to get through.” But once they started talking, Daniel proposed that they discuss each album, and so Darling split the interview up over several weeks. “Was I surprised? Absolutely.”
Had Art and I actually made our Spoon podcast, we would’ve arranged it through Spoon’s management, and recorded it in a high-tech studio by producers with years of broadcast experience. That’s not to say it wouldn’t have been an authentic effort from two fans. A podcast like this is every music fan’s dream: the opportunity to directly ask your music hero all your burning questions. But with I Turn My Podcast On, Darling approaches his subject with a delightfully starry-eyed enthusiasm that the traditional path beats out of most of us.
Darling is not a broadcast professional. He’s a 31-year-old father of two elementary-aged kids. By day, he works for a housing non-profit. He lives in rural Wisconsin, and records the podcast in his garage, sometimes pausing to sneer at the nuclear dicks speeding down the road in their oversized pickups. As a host, he brings a certain Midwestern, aw-shucks vibe that makes you wish you were actually there with him, say, debating the track order of Girls Can Tell over a six pack of Leinies. Darling brings his experience as a musician to bear, too, but never alienates non-musicians – where he lacks the legal rights to isolate a part of a song, Song Exploder-style, he’ll unabashedly sing it for us instead.
Darling’s conversations with Britt Daniel are the heart of the podcast, but he doesn’t stop there. With bonus episodes, he interviews members of the Spoon cosmos, from Peek-A-Boo Records’ Travis Higdon to producer Mike McCarthy. With these bonus interviews, our understanding of the band expands, through a deeper understanding of how these players shaped their work. Darling augments the interviews with bonus tracks, like the original of “Me & The Bean” (Spoon’s version was a cover), as well as “When We Go FM,” Spoon’s contribution to a 1993 compilation from UT Austin’s KVRX (where Daniel was a staffer) that celebrated the station’s move to an FM frequency.
Darling is not an Austinite – his focus is on the band, not the city that birthed it. (In one episode, he refers to the video for Spoon’s “Jealousy” as having been filmed on a bathroom floor, but he isn’t privy to which bathroom floor. If he ever visits Austin, I’ll buy him a beer at Hole in the Wall.) But place is unavoidable in the story of Spoon. Even if it wasn’t Darling’s intention, what begins to emerge in the podcast is a sort of love letter to a particular moment in Austin’s music history – one less storied than Austin’s Armadillo years, but still deeply cherished by many (including me). From the conjuring of defunct Austin bands like Teen Titans and venues like The Electric Lounge to the story of a stellar prank Daniel pulled on an unnamed ska band (I have my suspicions, but won’t say who), these interviews are a fascinating glimpse of the Austin music scene in Spoon’s early years.
At the time of this writing, Darling has covered five total Spoon releases with eleven episodes, including fan responses for each album. In Spoon’s chronology, we’re now in the early aughts, when the band first began its ascent from near-failure (dropped by their first major label) into the totally unassuming rock stars we know today (my favorite-ever analogy: writer Steven Hyden comparing the band to the Spurs’ Tim Duncan). As Darling cranks out episodes – between parenthood and pairing Wisconsinites with affordable housing – there will be more goodies in store, especially with the release of Spoon’s 10th LP coming down the pike. I Turn My Podcast On might be a bit too dense for the Spoon uninitiated – it is, after all, a podcast for fans. But it’s all the more enjoyable because it’s made by one.
You can hear I Turn My Podcast On wherever you get your podcasts. While you’re there, check out some of ours, too.
March 8 is International Women’s Day – a worldwide day of recognition and action for women. KUTX is participating in the best way we know how: with music!
For years now, KUTX has celebrated this annual event with special programming, curated by the women of KUTX. Join us again this year on Monday, March 8. Starting at 6 A.M., we’ll shine the spotlight on women-identifying musicians – from singer-songwriters, to kick-ass front-women, to rappers – from right here in Austin and around the world. (We can’t promise you won’t hear some men singing – how else do we honor awesome women on drums, guitar, and keys?!)
In addition to the music, you’ll hear only women hosts. (Kicking the men out of the studio wasn’t actually that hard – there were only two of them.) For the occasion, our usual Women of Monday – Taylor, Susan and Laurie – will be joined on the schedule by the co-host of our Pause/Play podcast Miles Bloxson and Live Music Producer Deidre Gott.
On-Air Schedule for March 8
6-9 A.M. – Taylor Wallace
9 A.M. – 1 P.M. – Susan Castle
1-5 P.M. – Laurie Gallardo
5-8 P.M. – Miles
8-11 P.M. – Deidre Gott
11 P.M. – midnight: World Cafe, hosted by Raina Douris
International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. Join the 2021 Campaign on social media with #IWD2021 and #choosetochallenge.
More International Women’s Day Events in Austin
Whole Planet Foundation – a Whole Foods Market nonprofit organization dedicated to poverty alleviation through microcredit – presents an International Womens Day virtual event March 7 & 8. The event features talks with women entrepreneurs and leaders, activities, and a concert with Debi Nova and Andy Allo. $10 registration funds the foundation’s microloans.
Join the Kendra Scott Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Institute at UT Austin on March 8 for a day of virtual content that inspires, empowers, and equips the next generation of courageous and creative female leaders to create an inclusive and more gender-equal world. The day will consist of virtual, live-streamed content that allows viewers to “go at their own pace.” Free with registration.
See more Austin events here.
Jim Brunzell is more than a movie buff, he’s a longtime festival curator, having worked with Austin’s aGLIFF (the All Genders, Lifestyles, and Identities Film Festival) and currently the director if the Sound Unseen Music+Film festival (based in Minneapolis but expanded to Texas audiences in 2020.) Based here in Austin, Jim is two-time My KUTX guest and, this year, covered all-films-music at Sundance. Read on for his thoughts on this year’s films.
The 2021 Sundance Film Festival wrapped on Wednesday, February 3, and its first virtual festival seemed to be a huge success on all fronts. For many, this might have been their first virtual festival and/or first time attending Sundance; for others veteran and professional attendees – those who have inhabited the snowy mountain town of Park City, Utah, standing in countless lines, nearly getting sideswiped by the flurry of buses, traffic and, of course, snow on a daily basis – it was probably a bit a of relief to take in the festival from home. Maybe you had the opportunity to attend and/or participate from home or, if you were lucky, to check out one of the drive-ins hosted locally by the Austin Film Society.
Sundance has always been a haven for great music- and art-related premiere selections (Sing Street, The Go Go’s, Anvil: The Story of Anvil! and Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest, to name a few) and this year was no different. I got the chance to catch the majority of the music-related films (with a couple winning awards) and they did not disappoint.
As I mentioned, in the preview post, I was looking forward to this year’s film music lineup. After taking in 41 films during the festival, an all-time first happened: the first film of the festival was also my favorite: the impressive opening-night selection and winner of the U.S. Grand Jury Prize and Documentary Audience Award, Summer of Soul (… or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised), directed by first-time director Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson. Thompson has assembled a love letter of a doc with so much love and compassion, not to mention footage that sat in a basement for 50 years – a helluva achievement. A documentary about the Harlem Cultural Festival, it features people who attended the festival series (which brought in 300,000 attendees!) People from Rev. Al Sharpton to teenagers living in the neighborhood reminiscence about how the Harlem Cultural Festival took shape and how it was definitely a moment in the zeitgeist. The deep dive of the performers (Sly & the Family Stone, Nina Simone, Mavis Staples, Gladys Knight & the Pips and Stevie Wonder … drumming!) is the highlight and exclamation point to the doc. The footage is incredible, and a joy to watch as you see how much fun the concert goers had, which makes the doc easily watchable and relatable. It will strike a chord with multiple generations and new fans, given the cultural and historical significance when the concert series took place in 1969. If you missed the film, Summer of Soul was recently bought by Searchlight and Hulu and will be released in late 2021.
The other music documentary going into the festival with quite a bit of buzz was Edgar Wright’s, The Sparks Brothers, featuring brothers Ron and Russell, who have been making music for over 50 years and are still relatively unknown to the mainstream. While Sparks have legions of fans, some have never heard of Sparks before and, on first listen, may think the band sound like a British new-wave band, despite the brothers growing up in Los Angeles. Their success semi-eluded them in the states – they did make the transition by going to London, and became mildly successful there, but never had the huge success many in the music industry felt Sparks was due. Clocking in at an absurd and unnecessary 140 minutes, The Sparks Brothers is definitely for die-hard fans, no question. Those unfamiliar with Sparks will find the doc engaging and interesting for sure, but some will find it a bit repetitive and an endurance test, especially, since Wright (“Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” “Shaun of the Dead”), a fanboy himself (he appears on camera as FANBOY), seems to have asked very famous (white) fans (like Beck, Jack Antonoff, Mike Myers, Jane Widelin, and more) to speak on camera about how great and strange the brothers’ band is. The most interesting nugget to come out of the film might be for Sparks fans to know that the script and music they wrote for the upcoming musical “Annette,” directed by French indie-darling Leos Carax (“Holy Motors”), has been picked up by Amazon Studios, so fans could potentially get a double-dose of Sparks on screen by the end of 2021.
Sundance is also known for discovery. One of the best discoveries of the festival was writer/director/editor Marion Hill’s lovely feature debut and NEXT Audience Award winner Ma Belle, My Beauty. Hill’s story may not be an original one, but shot in the beautiful French countryside, with a terrific New Orleans jazz score, this story of a complicated polyamorous love triangle flows as smoothly as all the red wine guzzled with only a touch of a hangover. Hill seems to know the film’s characters, and comes across as a pros’ pro in her writing and direction – finding the nuances, sexual tension, body language and insecurities among these characters. Its best unseen character, the excellent music soundtrack by Mahmoud Chouki, really pops in the film (especially with a nice glass of Merlot.)
The most-talked about film (on social media) from the entire Sundance festival, CODA, also found plenty of love from the jury and audiences, cleaning house in the awards section by winning four in total: the U.S. Grand Jury Dramatic Jury, the Audience Award, Directing Award for writer/director Sian Heder and U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Ensemble Cast. CODA was also the big winner as the film got picked up by Apple+ for $25 million (the biggest sale in Sundance history), ensuring it will be seen by a wider audience. CODA, standing for Child of Deaf Adults, follows young adult Ruby (a knockout performance by Emilia Jones), the only hearing member in her deaf family (including Academy Award winner Marlee Matlin and Troy Kotsur) as she works with them in the family fishing business everyday before school. Starting her senior year, she finds a passion in singing after joining the school choir, partly so she can be near her latest boy-crush. When it comes to the moment when Ruby needs to decide whether to stay with her family and continue to work in the fishing business or move away to pursue her singing career, CODA knows exactly what it is: a crowd-pleaser with a winning effect. Heder’s script has a naturalist approach, is surprisingly funny, and gives each character plenty of time to shine on screen. Even if at times the film plays like a TV-movie, CODA nevertheless, due to Jones performance, pulls at your heartstrings and should be one of the most talked-about films for the upcoming 2021 year.
Jim Brunzell III is the festival director of the Sound Unseen Music+Film Festival and currently resides in Austin. He can be reached by email, followed on Twitter, and heard as guest DJ onMy KUTX here and here.
Jim Brunzell is more than a movie buff, he’s a longtime festival curator, having worked with Austin’s aGLIFF (the All Genders, Lifestyles, and Identities Film Festival) and currently the director if the Sound Unseen Music+Film festival (based in Minneapolis but expanded to Texas audiences in 2020.) Based here in Austin, Jim is two-time My KUTX guest and, this year, is covering all-films-music at Sundance. Read on for the films he’s excited about (we are, too.)
Starting today and running through Wednesday, February 3, the 2021 Sundance Film Festival is taking place in Park City, Utah. For the first time, the festival will be available virtually across the United States and even in our own backyard, Austin, TX, thanks to the Austin Film Society, who will be hosting a few drive-ins starting today, too. You can also go to the Sundance website and get more info on tickets and passes. All feature films are available for three-hour screening windows and will include live Q & A’s; although many films have sold out, some tickets might be available the day of the screening.
While this is the 13th time I’ve covered Sundance, what will be a strange first is not being on the ground in Park City. (This year is also my first time covering the festival for KUTX.)
Sundance has 11 categories, into which most of its programming falls: U.S. Dramatic Competition, U.S. Documentary Competition, World Cinema Dramatic Competition, World Cinema Documentary Competition, Premieres, Spotlight (films that premiered at other 2020 film festivals), NEXT (low-budget and innovative storytelling), Indie Series Program (Episodiac), Short Film Programs (multiple short programs) Special Screenings and Midnight.
Not to be forgotten, the more edgier and risk-taking films will be featured in the the New Frontier program (multimedia, live art installations, panel discussions, and new media technologies presentations), the New Frontier films (more experimental and avant-garde fare) — and plenty of conversations, events, and Cinema Cafe with featured guests include Ahmir “QUESTLOVE” Thompson (The Roots), Rebecca Hall (Passing), Robin Wright (The Land), Rita Moreno (Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided To Go For It), Gregg Akari (Mysterious Skin), Cheryl Dunye (The Watermelon Woman) and Tabitha Jackson (Sundance Festival Director).
Music Films at Sundance
This year, I’ll be jumping head-first into all the music-related films, which include fiction films and documentaries on the band Sparks, the Harlem Cultural Festival, a queer love story between newlywed musicians, a young woman joining a choir and a short film on Phil Collins’ 1980 hit, “In the Air Tonight.”
Below are some of the music-related film highlights I’m looking forward to checking out and reporting back on following the conclusion of the festival. (Descriptions are provided by the Sundance Film Festival and Sundance Institute, and all start times are Central Standard Time / CST.)
CODA: “Ruby (Emilia Jones) is the only hearing member of a deaf family. At 17, she works mornings before school to help her parents (Marlee Matlin and Troy Kotsur) and brother (Daniel Durant) keep their Gloucester fishing business afloat. But in joining her high school’s choir club, Ruby finds herself drawn to both her duet partner (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) and her latent passion for singing. Her enthusiastic, tough-love choirmaster (Eugenio Derbez) hears something special and encourages Ruby to consider music school and a future beyond fishing, leaving her torn between obligation to family and pursuit of her dream.
Siân Heder’s heartwarming, exuberant follow-up to “Tallulah” brings us inside the idiosyncratic rhythms and emotions of a deaf family—something we’ve rarely seen on screen. In developing “CODA,” which stands for Child of Deaf Adults, Heder was determined to tell the story authentically with deaf actors. Her writing and direction—layered, naturalistic, frank, and funny—finds perfect expression in richly drawn characters and a uniformly outstanding cast, led by Jones in a fantastic breakout performance. Thursday, Jan 28 at 7pm
MA BELLA, MY BEAUTY: “Newlywed musicians Bertie and Fred are adjusting to their new life in the beautiful countryside of France. It’s an easy transition for Fred, the son of French and Spanish parents, but New Orleans native Bertie grapples with a nagging depression that is affecting her singing. Lane—the quirky ex who disappeared from their three-way relationship years ago—suddenly shows up for a surprise visit, bringing new energy and baggage of her own.
First-time feature filmmaker Marion Hill takes us on a tipsy, moody dive into polyamory that holds all of the gravity and complexity of sexual fluidity and triangulation, while maintaining the buoyant atmosphere of a hot summer adventure through the fields of Europe. Levitated by an intoxicating acoustic guitar soundtrack by Mahmoud Chouki, “Ma Belle, My Beauty” is a breezy and meaningful journey through wine-drenched candlelit dinners, firelit vineyard parties, farmers’ markets, and sunny hikes alongside the creek, as Fred, Bertie, and Lane grapple with how to get what they want inside the soup of their desires, passions, and life ambitions.” Saturday, January 30 at 5:00 P.M.
THE SPARKS BROTHERS: “Sparks is your favorite band’s favorite band, and soon to be yours too. Whether or not you’re aware of it, Sparks likely had a hand in something you’re fond of. This is a band that has been in the background of almost every art form across the last 50 years. Growing up in the ’60s, Los Angeles brothers Ron and Russell got by on a heavy diet of popcorn matinees and pop music until the spotlight of school talent shows illuminated their way on a musical journey that has so far spawned 25 studio albums.
It should come as no surprise to those familiar with the mind behind such comedies as “Baby Driver” that Edgar Wright’s debut documentary, “The Sparks Brothers,” is an absolute delight. Wright’s spirited vision brings five decades of invention to life through nutty animations and interviews with a who’s who of cool, and by digging deeply into the band’s rich, career-spanning archival. With tongue planted firmly in cheek, this charming love letter to innovation, music, and two rebel artists just might make this the biggest year yet for the brothers named Sparks.” Saturday, January 30 at 5:00 P.M.
SUMMER OF SOUL (…OR, WHEN THE REVOLUTION COULD NOT BE TELEVISED): “In 1969, during the same summer as Woodstock, a different music festival took place 100 miles away. More than 300,000 people attended the summer concert series known as the Harlem Cultural Festival. It was filmed, but after that summer, the footage sat in a basement for 50 years. It has never been seen. Until now.
“Summer Of Soul” is a stunning unearthed treasure destined to become a pillar of American music and African American history. In his striking debut as a filmmaker, the legendary musician Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson presents this transporting documentary—part concert film, part historical record—about an epic event that radiated the wholesale reevaluation of Black history, culture, fashion, and music. This rich tapestry deftly incorporates an unforgettable musical revue that includes many rare gems, such as a Stevie Wonder drum solo and a duet between Mahalia Jackson and Mavis Staples. “Summer Of Soul” shines a light on the importance of history to our spiritual well-being and stands as a testament to the healing power of music.” Thursday, January 28 at 9:00 P.M.
Jim Brunzell III is the festival director of the Sound Unseen Music+Film Festival and currently resides in Austin. He can be reached by email, followed on Twitter, and heard as guest DJ onMy KUTX here and here.