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.
On Friday, November 27, join KUTX and HOME (Housing Opportunities for Musicians and Entertainers) for Home Cookin’ for the Holidays. This free, virtual event will feature some of your favorite artists singing and cooking! Guests include Shinyribs, Jackie Venson, Lucinda Williams, Gina Chavez, Ray Benson, Joe Ely, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Delbert McClinton, Miss Lavelle White, and many more. The stream is free, but donations to HOME are appreciated.
Watch Home Cookin’ for the Holidays on the KUTX YouTube channel – Friday, November 27 from 7:00 to 9:00 P.M.
In honor of Home Cookin’ for the Holidays and Thanksgiving, some KUTXers shared the recipes that make them feel at home (even when they can’t be home) …
I think it annoys my mom that after all the hard work she’s done over the years cooking for the holidays that this became the “famous” family favorite. Now she doubles the recipe and makes two batches to ensure we have enough to eat all the leftover turkey with. Also, she didn’t note on her recipe card but she garnishes with parsley, ya know to spruce them up for the holidays.
– Amy Chambless, Assistant Manager, Cactus Cafe
My wife & I actually printed a cookbook with a mix CD in it for our family a few years ago. Each recipe came with a song & listening recommendation. Here’s our favorite meatloaf recipe, to be prepared while listening to Queens of the Stone Age.
It’s the ultimate comfort food. It takes longer than you might think, so make it when you have plenty of time & aren’t rushed. Great for a Sunday dinner. HINT: Cheapo white bread, ketchup & a slice of this loaf outta the fridge is the sandwich of a god the next day. Not sure just sure what god is that lazy, but it’s totally their sandwich.
– Jake Perlman, KUTX Production Engineer
This is my mother’s recipe. She passed in 2016 and I make this every Thanksgiving and Christmas in her honor.
– Matt Munoz, Manager, the Cactus Cafe
Okay, this isn’t my wild rice salad – it’s my take on a to-go side I used to frequently buy at Central Market back in the late 90s. I left Texas in 2002, and didn’t return until I took the job at KUTX in 2015, so while I was away from Texas and all things H-E-B, I had to improvise my favorite side dish. Over the years, my version has become a Thanksgiving staple – we’ve brought it to both family gatherings and Friendsgivings ever since.
– Jacquie Fuller, KUTX Assistant Program Director
While my Nana regularly made them around the holidays, these cookies were loved and devoured year-round. My first memory of these cookies was a time she made them for my Aunt’s drill team, and she would call them Eaglette cookies (after the drill team). I started making them myself for the first time in high school. My best friend and I would spend a whole day making treats for our friends, and the entire next day delivering them. Regardless of the occasion, these cookies remind me of my favorite person … then I look down, and they’re all gone. Note – her recipe specifically calls for yellow cake mix, but you can use whatever mix you like!
– Taylor Wallace, Host, weekday mornings
Deidre’s No-Recipe Turkey Recipe
I’m a gal that loves efficiency. So that’s why this crock-pot turkey is the best for a carefree, easy Thanksgiving. You can throw in whatever you want – no need for a recipe! I usually chop up an onion, celery and potato or two and throw in some baby carrots. Put the turkey breast (even if it’s still frozen!) in the crock-pot, fill with enough water or chicken broth to cover the turkey, add your salt and spices, turn on the pot and cook for 6-8 hours while you binge Netflix. The end.
– Deidre Gott, KUTX Live Music Producer
KUTX fans on Animal Crossing: pay a visit to KUTX’s Studio 1A in New Horizons!
If you’re longing for pre-pandemic live sessions in KUTX’s Studio 1A, come to the islands! My island, to be exact.
Dubbed “Avocado Island” by my elementary-aged daughter (in honor of her favorite food), it appears at first glance to be unremarkable – there’s nothing thematic going on, the art section of our museum is empty, and we still haven’t grown any gold roses. But head to the basement of my house and you’ll find Avocado’s crown jewel, and the project of many summer hours where I should’ve instead been learning to knit or reading an actual book: a recreation of KUTX’s Studio 1A.
Just fire up one of our KUTX at Home interviews, or a favorite past Studio 1A session, then take your seat in this state-of-the-art facility fashioned entirely of stuff purchased at Nook’s Crossing, or gifted by floating balloons or my New Horizons-playing KUT/KUTX coworkers (thank you, Ana Paula, for the drum kit.) Pay a visit anytime via Dream Code: DA-7816-6830-3135.
< You can also scan this QR code for your own KUTX logo, which you can wear as a sleeveless tank a-la-Jody-Denberg, or slap on any customizable item. Just log in to the Nintendo Switch app on your smartphone (not your Nook phone), choose Animal Crossing, then Designs, then scan the code using your phone’s camera. Next, open the Custom Designs app on your Nook phone (not your smartphone) and download the new design.
Use your Switch or smartphone to grab a photo – of your Studio 1A dream-visit, or sporting your KUTX shirt – and share it on social (be sure to tag us!)
And enjoy a couple other goodies, below, for KUTX fans of Animal Crossing: videos from Sylvan Esso and T Pain that pay tribute to everyone’s favorite time suck, plus a Zoom performance from the musicians behind the New Horizons theme song.
See you in my basement! (Yeah, that sounds creepier than I intended.)
– Jacquie Fuller, KUTX Assistant Program Director and resident of Avocado Island
Get to Know KUTX’s New Weekday Morning Host, Taylor Wallace
Photos by David Brendan Hall
There’s an old scout song that goes: make new friends, but keep the old / one is silver and the other’s gold.
After 50 years on the air, Austin gold John Aielli, who is recovering from a stroke, has retired the name of his show, “Eklektikos,” and passed the morning torch to host Taylor Wallace.
However, Taylor’s not exactly a new friend at KUTX 98.9. In addition to formerly hosting weekday evenings, Taylor also worked as John’s producer for three years. As your new morning pal from 6 to 9 a.m. weekdays, Taylor brings her own love of music and quirkiness to the time slot.
We posed a few questions to Taylor about how she got her start, what inspires her and why you should tune in. And if that’s not enough for you, get to know Taylor even better in this September 18 Austin Chronicle story “Taylor Wallace Takes Over KUTX Morning Show” and by following her on Twitter @TDubonNothing and Instagram @pineladyofmetropolitanorlando (Bob Vance bought her perfume too).
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up and why?
I’ve always been a want-to-do-it-all person (a true ENFP). I remember listening to Kidd Kradick with my mom on the way to elementary school, then Jagger and Julie (morning co-hosts on the now-dissolved DFW alt-rock station the Edge) during middle and high school, and I always thought, “this would be such a cool job! You just get to gab, talk about music, and interview artists. Who wouldn’t want to do that?!”
Literally being a radio host was the first career I wanted as a kid. But, through my childhood, I went through phases where I wanted to be a detective, vet, writer, professional musician, doctor, and probably a dozen other things I don’t remember any more.
What are you doing when you’re not working?
I’m alternating between novels and music history, or people’s history non-fiction, exploring and mastering new recipes, catering to my very affectionate cat, spending as much time on my porch or walking around my neighborhood as possible, gorging on my daily menu of podcasts, and – my true guilty pleasure and escape from reality – watching “90 Day Fiancé” and listening to … several … podcasts that cover it.
Oh! And listening to music and collecting records, but I think that goes without saying. Really anything that involves learning. Learning is my favorite hobby.
When did you start working at KUTX?
I started as a KUT intern back in the summer of 2012 (before KUT moved its music service to KUTX 98.9 in 2013) when we migrated the music library to digital. I was on a team of interns who hung out in the music library ripping CDs into the new system and getting to nerd out with some of the music hosts. It’s where I met John Aielli, Jay Trachtenberg, Susan Castle, and Jeff McCord. John and I even saw Idina Menzel together that summer.
What inspires your programming?
Inclusion. I don’t believe in the “a certain percentage of your show needs to be this” philosophy. It needs to be all-around diverse and inclusive across race, gender and sexual orientation. As a pansexual person, it irks me when people forget about queerness in programming. But this isn’t limited to the person holding the mic. Broken Bells is one-half Danger Mouse. Brix Smith, Poison Ivy and Kim Deal wrote plenty of songs in bands where a dude was behind the mic – and they shouldn’t be discredited because of that. When you’re being mindful, percentages don’t matter.
Why should people tune in to KUTX between 6-9 am?
Hey, if we all have to be up that early, we may as well have fun and get down!
What can listeners expect when they tune into 98.9 weekday mornings?
Absolute buffoonery channeled into a morning of music that I hope is fun for everyone.
Why work in public radio vs. commercial radio?
Well, for one, I don’t have to worry about format flipping, random management changeover or being erroneously fired as a result. And no one’s making me play Imagine Dragons.
Among the many Austin music non-profits that KUTX supports, Swan Songs has long been one close to our hearts. Swan Songs is dedicated to fulfilling musical last wishes by organizing personalized concerts for individuals nearing the end of life. Musicians who perform are compensated, so in addition to bringing comfort through music, the organization supports Austin musicians.
Since the organization’s founding in 2005, Swan Songs has provided concerts for more than 1,000 terminally-ill Central Texans, at no cost to the recipient, family or healthcare facility. Traditionally, these concerts were performed at bedsides, in homes, and in care facilities. However, the current pandemic forced Swan Songs to pivot. Most of their recipients had compromised immune systems, facilities weren’t allowing visitors, and it quickly became clear that singing was a high-risk activity in terms of virus transmission. Swan Songs founder and CEO Christine Albert explained to me by email how the organization responded. “We met the moment by engaging musicians to record virtual concerts of diverse styles and genres of music, making them available on our website.” Swan Songs essentially created a menu of pre-recorded concerts that families or facilities could easily access when needed.
“Gradually, as our community adjusted to the new normal,” Albert said, “the requests for specific music for individuals began to come in again.” Swan Songs’ musicians began to fulfill those requests by recording personalized concerts. “Now that the weather has cooled,” she added, “we’re also fulfilling requests with outdoor, safe-distanced concerts, both at care facilities and private homes.”
Like a lot of organizations, the pandemic has also hit Swan Songs’ bottom line. “We have lost some funding, for sure,” said Albert. “Sponsors who were not able to contribute this year, people needing to scale back their financial commitment, planned events that were put on hold.” But thanks to the organization’s strong board and years of community support, she says “We are not in danger of shutting our doors.”
Nevertheless, Swan Songs’ annual gala, Swan Song Serenade, remains a crucial source of both revenue and outreach for the organization. This year, the event will be held virtually on October 25, with a virtual silent auction, artist testimonials, and special performance by Texas music giant Robert Earl Keen. “Creating a virtual Serenade is giving us the opportunity to tell our story and highlight our programs more deeply than we do at the in-person gala,” said Albert. “We are excited about that and I believe that supporters and viewers will come away with an even greater understanding of and appreciation for what we do.”
Visit Swan Songs’ website to purchase passes to the gala and to learn more about their mission, services, and how you can get involved.
– Jacquie Fuller, KUTX Assistant Program Director