When you talk to those involved at KUAA 99.1 FM, there’s a steady stream of internal compliments aimed at a Thursday night three-hour block. It is at this time, from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., that two smarties, Jon Christiansen and Justin Burch, maintain the 100 watts of the micro-station. They offer a show that is both educational and entertaining.
While the term “educational” might be off-putting to your average radio listener, people looking for a show like Second breath are going to be fine with a few long interstitial pauses. During these breaks, the pair slice through the set just played, giving a deep background to some deep cuts.
They do it with a certain sense of organization. On the first Thursday of the month, the pair focuses on the best releases of the past month. On the third Thursday, they dive deep into releases from a specific label. The other two weeks of the month, they put on a freeform style of program that bounces around a variety of different sounds, though even these get a rough ride from the conversations the pair have over the week. .
Burch says that “we’re both pretty omnivorous listeners and curators. And we have our own specialties, you know? In the simplest sense, I’d say John is the rock guy and I’m the rock guy. jazz, I guess. But! We both love it all.”
And by “all of it,” Burch means all of the music that’s been recorded and released, all of which is just for their expansive and adventurous playlists. For example, Burch sketched out a years-long love affair with West African music, which he collects en masse for a while now. Speaking of which, it not only delves into the music itself, but also into conversations about colonialism, the recording industry, and other related topics. On air, the pair do this regularly, bouncing an idea one way and then following it the other way. Eventually, they will collectively consider the conversation covered. And then another long song begins.
Their easy-going rapport has been on display at KUAA for over three years. But the pair have known each other for more than a decade, as both worked at the original Graywhale Entertainment house. Burch is at the Taylorsville store full-time, while Christiansen fills in occasionally.
Burch perfectly matches his day job and his weekly volunteer gig, saying “we want the show to be positive and inviting without any door guards. And we try to avoid pretension as much as possible, you know?” That said, he knows what people like, because “I’ve always worked at Graywhale, for 10 or 11 years now. Every day I see people I know and like, and I can adapt to the tastes of these people in a smart and purposeful way.”
It’s not bragging if it’s true. The hosts of Second breath know they have a delighted audience, one that is full of crate digger types. And they will challenge you in a good way if you consider yourself part of this self-selecting group.
“Our concise two-word description,” Burch says, “is ‘intersectional psychedelic.’
To which Christiansen adds, “we come from all angles and we play stuff from anywhere. We’re not limited by borders. There’s always a kind of vibe with psychedelia and jazz and, in a way, these are the main points of reference that we return to.”
Another way of saying this: Second breath is a world-class radio show with a global reach.