Teju Cole, Lil Wayne, Slow Pulp, “Human Highway,” and more events of note in Madison this week. | By Scott Gordon, Mike Noto, Michael Penn II, Grant Phipps, Chali Pittman, Joel Shanahan, Zack Stafford
Sponsor message: The weekly Tone Madison calendar is made possible with support from Union Cab of Madison, a worker-owned cooperative providing safe and professional taxi services. 608-242-2000 | @unioncabcoop
Line Breaks. Overture Center, through April 16, see link for full schedule. (free)
The annual Line Breaks festival is generally the best opportunity to check out the work students of UW-Madison’s First Wave hip-hop arts program are doing in music, poetry, spoken word, theater, dance, and other media. You can expect at least a couple of those art forms to blur together in a lot of the performances. John Paul “JP” Alejandro’s piece “Kaleidoscopes,” for instance, combines choreography and spoken word to explore the notion that, as the Line Breaks program guide puts it, “difference is beauty.” In addition to performances that represent the labors of individual students, Line Breaks features a lot of collaborative or at least multi-artist sessions, including “Note To Self,” in which 14 students draw on their experiences of racism and sexism in Madison. For those who prefer music as a point of entry into this richly varied program, members of hip-hop/R&B outfit ME eN YOU will be leading music workshops on Saturday and Sunday with fellow First Wavers sharing their work in relatively straightforward rap music and beyond. Note: This year’s Line Breaks began on Tuesday, April 11, but the schedule was announced after last week’s Tone Madison calendar had already been published. —Scott Gordon
Darker Than Amber. Art In, 7:30 p.m.
The new Point Blank Cinema series aims to fill another esoteric corner of Madison’s art-house film void, focusing on 16mm screenings of movies from the 1970s, with a specific focus on crime dramas. “I tend to like grittier stuff like what you would have seen at a drive-in theater in years past,” says organizer Garrett Ameigh. The series is still taking shape and seeking funding, but for this installment will feature a 16mm print of Robert Clouse’s 1970 thriller Darker Than Amber. Rod Taylor stars as a private eye who’s out fishing one night when he sees a woman (Suzy Kendall) thrown into the water to drown. After rescuing her, Taylor gets drawn into the criminal underworld and a confrontation with a nemesis whom some synopses describe as a “crazed, murderous bodybuilder.”[http://www.thefilmcsa.com/darker-than-amber-1970–rod-ta1970.html]. It’s frankly a bit hard to find much information out there about the film, but Roger Ebert deemed it a worthy addition to the detective-movie genre. —SG
National Bird. Central Library, 6:30 p.m. (free)
It shouldn’t be revelatory that the rise of deploying drones in warfare has brought with it a whole host of existential and humanitarian concerns. With the ability to carry out campaigns through the abstraction of substantial physical distance and videogame-like controls, we’re forced to reconsider how ethical warfare is, can be, and should be. These issues and their devastating effects are humanized in National Bird, a new documentary by Sonia Kennebeck’s that, as promotional materials put it, “gives rare insight into the U.S. drone program through the eyes of veterans and survivors.” Although we as a species are still coming to terms with drone warfare, National Bird is one in a recently growing library of films sounding alarm bells. What distinguishes National Bird, though, is its intent to not merely horrify, but also highlight some paths to redemption. With Errol Morris and Wim Wenders serving as executive producers, you are guaranteed for a documentary ride equal parts poignant and visually striking. After the screening, there will be a panel discussion featuring panelists criminal-system activist Bonnie Block and peace activist Joy First. —David Wolinsky
Safety Dance: A Benefit For The Rape Crisis Center. Robinia Courtyard, 8 p.m.
The Dane County Rape Crisis Center provides an array of crucial, free services to victims of sexual assault, in addition to its education and advocacy efforts aimed at preventing sexual assault and combating the insidious societal forces that surround it. This fundraiser event for the RCC is organized by Spirited Women, a group of Madison women working for progress in the service industry. Members of the group will be slinging craft cocktails to help the fundraising effort, and the night will feature food donated from a variety of local restaurants (including the Weary Traveler and A Pig In A Fur Coat). DJs Yanni K, Funkenstein, and glynis will preside over the dance floor. —SG
FRIDAY APRIL 14
I Love The ’90s Tour: Salt N Pepa, Rob Base, All-4-One, Color Me Badd, Coolio, Tone Loc, Young MC. Alliant Energy Center, 7:30 p.m.
The I Love The ’90s package tour yearns to con hip-hop nostalgists on the most base level, and it’s hard to believe that the lineup is worth the $45-$85 price scale (and on some level, even worth stumbling into at a county fair). For starters, even though Young MC (the auteur behind “Bust A Move”) and Tone Loc (the raspy emcee responsible for “Wild Thing”) were quietly present in the ’90s, their actual heyday was one year—1989. Young MC basically generated one hit and Tone Loc, after an unsuccessful 1991 follow-up to smash-hit Loc-ed After Dark, moved on to an acting career that included a role in 1994’s Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. And while Harlem emcee Rob Base is undoubtedly a legend, his relevance peaked in the ’80s, making him another strange choice for a ’90s-centric tour. That said, the rest of the bill is soundly fucking ’90s. Hopefully All-4-One and Color Me Badd aren’t playing back to back, because no one has the power to stay awake through such dense layers of saccharine balladry. Somehow, Coolio is one of the stronger entries here. Say what you will about Coolio’s appearance on Celebrity Wife Swap with Sugar Ray frontman (and apparent homophobe) Mark McGrath, his “Jugalo Cool” tattoo, and his bizarre turn as a celebrity chef, but his 1994 debut It Takes A Thief and 1995 follow-up Gangsta’s Paradise produced a handful of timeless jams that truly soundtracked the era. Finally, we have pop-rap outfit Salt-N-Pepa, who are inarguably the most crucial act on the bill. None of the other acts on this bill stayed relevant through so many movements of hip-hop. Salt-N-Pepa and DJ Spinderella trudged from ’80s freestyle and electro with “Push It” to swingin’ party-rap with “Let’s Talk About Sex” to full-on pop hip-hop with “Shoop” and “Whatta Man.” If it wasn’t for the absurd ticket price, it might be worth attending just for them. —Joel Shanahan
Laura Jane Grace. Memorial Union Play Circle, 8 p.m. (free)
Singer-guitarist Laura Jane Grace formed Florida’s Against Me! in the late 1990s as a solo act, playing surly acoustic punk before gradually building up the muscular and shadowy full band captured on albums like 2005’s J. Robbins-produced Searching For A Former Clarity and 2010’s sleek White Crosses. So it’s more coming full circle than a departure for her to be playing an intimate solo-acoustic show here, though it’s a ways up from busking on the streets. She’ll precede her performance here with a talk dealing with her very public transition to life as a woman, something she’s tackled in characteristically blunt fashion on Against Me!’s most recent two albums (but hinted at in songs well before her transition) and the 2016 book Tranny: Confessions Of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout. —SG
Those Poor Bastards, Tubal Cain. Mickey’s Tavern, 10:30 p.m. (free)
From the ashes of beloved Madison metal outfits The Antiprism and Sardonyx arose primal black-metal duo Tubal Cain, who quietly released one of our favorite Wisconsin metal albums of late in last year’s Black Eden. Like Darkthrone before them, drummer-vocalist Kristine Drake and guitarist-vocalist Alex Drake work well within the limitations of being a duo, eschewing trem-picked minor-third harmonies and fancy atmospheres and focusing on direct punishment. Despite said limitations, Black Eden as an album is fully dynamic. From the sword-swinging pummeling of opener “Black Eden” to the bleak battle-trudge of “Dragonrite” to the raw, Bathory-channeling, and punk-infused power of “Dr. Revolution,” Tubal Cain’s debut pulls the listener through total sonic war. The Drakes also sat down with us on a recent podcast episode. —JS
Teju Cole. Central Library, 7 p.m. (free)
Internationally acclaimed writer, photographer, and critic Teju Cole will discuss his latest essay collection, Known And Strange Things, during this visit to Madison. Hailed for its unflinching brevity across mediums, Cole’s work is a persistent exercise in curiosity, where the world’s historical weight is a constant presence and our tomorrows lie where we don’t always care to look. He’ll respond to Baldwin, speak of his homeland Nigeria, dissect the human tragedies of yesteryear, and talk about Instagram with the same overarching precision. Given his track record—lecturing everywhere from Harvard to Amsterdam—this appearance guarantees an engrossing, intersectional journey into how the gravity (and proximity) of our past informs the cultural and social mess of our times. —Michael Penn II
SATURDAY APRIL 15
Iranian Film Festival. Union South Marquee, through April 23, see link for all showtimes. (free)
In mid-March, filmmaker and UW-Madison grad student Hamidreza Nassiri launched a GoFundMe to help raise funds for Madison’s first-ever Iranian Film Festival, in collaboration with the Wisconsin Union Directorate and UW-Madison’s Persian Student Society. In a promotional video, Nassiri echoed a fundamental belief in art as a genuine uniting force between cultures, which was stressed in a moving acceptance speech at the Oscars this year by absent director Asghar Farhadi (The Salesman), in protest of the executive ordered Muslim ban in the United States. It’s actually somewhat surprising this two-weekend festival (April 15-16, 22-23) is first of its kind, considering the local popularity of Iranian cinema, fostered by frequent inclusion in the art cinema programming at MMoCA’s Spotlight Cinema and UW Cinematheque. The Salesman, which was one of the banner films at the Wisconsin Film Festival earlier this month, will see an encore in a prime time slot (April 15, 5:30 p.m.) during a wonderfully curated festival lineup in Union South’s sizable Marquee Theater. While that Oscar-winner relationship chronicle, which entangles dramatic stage performance and real life, may be the obvious draw on opening night, the following afternoon (April 16, 2:30 p.m.) features the last wordless short film, Take Me Home, by Abbas Kiarostami, one of the most innovative artists in the medium through the last 50 years (and whose early 1974 film, The Traveler, also screened twice as part of this year’s Wisconsin Film Festival). Stick around afterwards at approximately 2:50 p.m. for a thorough look at the creative journey of the master filmmaker as told by documentarian Seifollah Samadian in his very literally titled 76 Minutes And 15 Seconds with Abbas Kiarostami. —Grant Phipps
Lil Wayne. Orpheum, 7 p.m.
Things haven’t been going well for Lil Wayne since 2014, when he became embroiled in a viciously bitter dispute with his label Cash Money and, more specifically, label head and noted pouty respeck-demander Birdman. Wayne’s endlessly delayed Tha Carter V seems like it will never be released, for unspecified reasons, but what is clear is that his label issues are holding him back from releasing much of anything under his own name for the moment. His most notable output of late was appearing as a heavily featured artist on 2 Chainz’s 2016 album Collegrove, the title a portmanteau referencing both rappers’ hometowns. In fact, Collegrove was originally supposed to be a full collaboration album, but Wayne’s label problems held him back from appearing on the whole project. On that album, however, Wayne’s rapping often seemed artistically rejuvenated, full of the kind of surreal images, bizarrely funny punchlines, and experimental delivery that defined his 2006-2007 prime. And it’s possible that his recently announced project Funeral, which may or may not come out on Tidal (and may or may not come out at all, considering the abundance of announced and unreleased Wayne projects out there), could find Wayne liberated from the business-related doldrums he’s been mired in. Considering the fact that he’s the main stylistic innovator of the last decade of hip-hop, we can only hope that’s the case. —Mike Noto
Slow Pulp, Vundabar. Rathskeller, 9:00 p.m. (free)
In 2017, jazz chords and the chorus pedal reign supreme in indie rock. For the most part it’s a combination that often feels contrived and played to death, but Madison/Minneapolis band Slow Pulp take control of this palette and run miles ahead of the rest. On their recently released EP2, six tracks push abrasive, driving guitar lines up against saccharine-sweet vocal melodies, at times calling to mind the crushing weight of Isn’t Anything-era My Bloody Valentine and Broadcast’s moments of cosmic bossa nova. Slow Pulp’s tour de force is “Die Alone,” the third track on EP2 and their best track to date. Guitarist Henry Stoehr’s unraveling refrain opens the track atop a slow swung drum line, gradually flailing out until its final appearance. Emily Massey’s ethereal vocal breaks through fraying instrumentation and weaves uncertainty into a solemn promise: “Now you’re gone / And I know I’ll die alone.” This is juxtaposition many reach for but few pull off with grace. It is the key to Slow Pulp’s quality. They play here in an opening set for Boston-based sunshine rock trio Vundabar. —Zack Stafford
The Zombies. Barrymore, 8 p.m.
It’s funny how a term like “psych-rock” brings to mind a subculture that historically spends more time fetishizing physical obscurity and sonic traditions than it does innovation or surprise. Thankfully, English psych pioneers and songcraft masters The Zombies have typically been on the right side of history. For this tour, the current Zombies lineup, which thankfully still boasts keyboardist-songwriter Rod Argent and beautifully singular vocalist Colin Blunstone, celebrates the 50th anniversary of 1968’s Odessey & Oracle, a monument in brave songwriting and warm production that also happens to contain The Zombies’ biggest single—”Time Of The Season.” And while the bizarre vocal percussion, slanted rhythm, and deceptively complicated hooks of “Time Of The Season” do plenty of justice toward the rest of the album, there’s so much more to explore in powerfully dynamic opener “Care Of Cell 44,” the stripped-down duo of bleak vocal patterns and wandering accordion in “Butcher’s Tale,” and the lonely progression of “A Rose For Emily.” Amos Pitsch of Wisconsin band Tenement helped us delve further into the Zombies catalog in an interview this week. —JS
Jonesies, Good Morning Midnight, Tippy. Williamson Magnetic Recording Company, 8 p.m.
Madison band Jonesies bring a distinctively funny and scathing voice to gentle guitar pop. Their debut album, Keep Up, which they celebrate with this show, has plenty of stripped-down hooks to recommend it, but really thrives on the slap-happy and sometimes downright harsh vocal exchanges of guitarist Luis Perez and bassist Mary Begley. On several of the album’s duet-type songs, the two portray people who are constantly lashing out at each other, rejecting each other, or pointedly downplaying their interest in each other, singing “shut up!” over and over again at each other on “Simon” and staging a classic shitty “nice guy” interaction gone wrong on “Blood Stone Shard.” Begley and Perez also spoke with us in an interview this week. —SG
MONDAY APRIL 17
Human Highway. Union South Marquee, 7 p.m. (free)
Neil Young’s schizoid nuclear rock drama Human Highway recently returned to theaters for the first time since its initial release in 1983. Human Highway features an all-star cast of Russ Tamblyn, Devo, Dennis Hopper, Sally Kirkland, Dean Stockwell, and Young himself, among others, navigating a small-town, post-apocalyptic drama filled with romance, spiritual delving, and nuclear radiation. Members of Devo depict a troop of glowing, radioactive garbage persons performing an angular take on “Worried Man Blues” while loading a truck with toxic waste to dump in a nearby town. Young’s character, Lionel, travels through the desert to a Pow-wow surrounding a bonfire of wooden Native caricatures who once played in his backing band during a comatose head trip. Nothing makes sense, and it all makes sense. Until just last year, Human Highway was only available on VHS and LaserDisc formats released in 1995 (12 years after its premiere), reserved for those willing to pay a premium to glimpse this twisted gem. It’s playful, it’s deranged, and it’s back just in time for the end of the world in a newly restored DCP edition. —ZS
TUESDAY APRIL 18
Jon Mueller, Jason Kahn, Sheba. Arts + Literature Laboratory, 8 p.m.
When we at Tone Madison present a show it’s always because we admire the artists involved, but it’s a special honor here to present a solo set Milwaukee-based percussionist, composer, and creator of otherworldly experiences Jon Mueller. Whether playing gripping and physical solo-percussion works (as captured on albums including 2016’s Tongues and 2008’s Metals) or collaborating abundantly in projects like Volcano Choir and the now-concluded Death Blues, Mueller creates some of the most compelling experimental music of the time, period. And no matter how challenging his work becomes, it’s always deeply cathartic and visceral. Mueller plays here in a solo set. Zurich-based sound artist Jason Kahn will be performing a set of experimental solo voice behind the new album Monads, which also explores his work in percussion and electronics. Sheba, a new project founded by multi-instrumentalist and Madison Symphony Orchestra viola player Jen Clare Paulson, makes its live debut here. Find out more about the show in our curator’s notes. As always, admission to this show is discounted for folks who support our work on Patreon. —SG
Eva Hesse. Union South Marquee, 7 p.m. (free)
Sculptor Eva Hesse’s unique style, celebrated in Marcie Begleiter’s 2016 documentary, was born of a short but overstuffed life of hardship. So much about her was extreme: She fled Nazi Germany as a child, had her mother die of suicide when she was 10, was overshadowed by her sculptor husband at a time when women artists weren’t taken seriously, and died dramatically from a brain tumor—possibly from so much contact with her signature postminimalist manipulations with fiberglass and plastics—when she was only 34. But Hesse’s work was dazzlingly brilliant, constructing webs of discarded rope, dripping sheets of cheesecloth, tubes of polyester and resin. Hesse’s copious journals reveal a deep sense of absurdity in and about her life, which informed her artistic practice in a way that emphasized process over product and the endless possibilities of a product in the moment rather than conservation down the line. Indeed, many of Hesse’s works are heavily disintegrated by light and time, making it a challenge for museums and collectors to show her works as they “ought” to be showed. Hesse embraced that disintegration, writing that “art doesn’t last; life doesn’t last.” Yet part of what makes this film such a treat is that it shows so many of these works before they disintegrate completely. With narration mostly composed from the Begleiter’s deep research dive into Hesse’s journals and letters, this film about Hesse’s story as an artist and the life of her work after her death is a must-see. —Chali Pittman
Nelson Institute Earth Day Conference. Monona Terrace, 9 a.m.
UW-Madison’s Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies may schedule its annual Earth Day conference like, well, an academic conference, right during work hours for most of us, but it’s worth playing hooky for if you can swing the $65 registration fee (not counting student and senior discounts). The timing is a bit of a shame, because the event’s appeal reaches beyond, say, scientists, urban planners, and other folks who think about environmental issues for a living. A big reason for that is the conference’s healthy embrace of fiction as a way to glimpse these issues. Perhaps emboldened by successes like China Miéville’s 2014 talk at the conference, the organizers this year have a concluding panel (3:40 p.m.) of three fiction writers who will discuss the role of dystopian fiction in tackling environmental challenges. I’m especially excited for Paolo Bacigalupi, whose 2015 novel The Water Knife imagines a parched Colorado River basin in which corrupt officials and privateers battle ruthlessly for control of water rights, amid a backdrop of societal collapse and gaping economic inequality. Emily St. John Mandel’s 2014 novel Station Eleven is set a bit closer to home, in the Great Lakes Basin, where a troupe of musicians and actors wander in the wake of a pandemic. Sherri L. Smith covers another slice of our ruin-bound continent with her 2013 young-adult novel Orleans, set in a quarantined Gulf in the aftermath of another plague. All three authors will sign books after the talk at 5 p.m. —SG
WEDNESDAY APRIL 19
This Saxophone Kills Fascists, Curved Light, Feeding Behavior, Louise Bock. Art In, 8 p.m.
Olympia, Washington musician and visual artist Arrington de Dionyso is best-known for the mangled and frantic blues of his band Old Time Relijun. But he’s recently has also gained notoriety among people who believe crazy unsubstantiated things on the Internet, thanks to right-wing conspiracy theorists who linked his paintings to the made-up but frightfully persistent #PizzaGate scandal. Inspired by this and other facets of the Trump era, de Dionyso formed the project This Saxophone Kills Fascists, along with fellow reedist China Faith Star and percussionist Sam Klickner. The project’s Bandcamp releases—so far all titled after lines in Martin Niemöller’s poem “First they came…”—find the group plunging into improvised and unapologetically chaotic spasms of free jazz. They share the bill here with Austin ambient project Curved Light and two Madison acts: Feeding Behavior, a harsher outlet for Beau Devereaux of electronic project Samantha Glass, and Louise Bock, a solo project of Taralie Peterson of avant-folk duo Spires That In The Sunset Rise. —SG