A talk from poet and sociologist Eve Ewing, the return of Houses In Motion, jazz from Eddie Gomez and Caroline Davis, and more events of note in Madison this week.
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THURSDAY APRIL 19
Comedian Hari Kondabolu’s work is centered in speaking hilarious truth to power. He holds a Masters in Human Rights from the London School of Economics, and he wields his knowledge to mercilessly demolish ideas like “not seeing race,” and explain why having white guilt is a great alternative to racism. His combination of conscientiousness of issues surrounding marginalized groups, and pointed anger at those in power, comes to a head in his 2017 comic-documentary, The Problem With Apu. Kondabolu is coming from a place of love for The Simpsons, but he’s intent on grappling with an offensive portrayal that targets immigrants like his parents as a source of one-dimensional humor. The film, newly in the spotlight of late, a goose-chase to hold Hank Azaria, the white actor who voices Apu (and many other Simpsons characters), accountable, but also documents the recent gains Indian-Americans have made in mainstream media representation. As Kondabolu interviews people like Noureen Dewulf, the inspirational side of the documentary shines. —Reid Kurkerewicz
FRIDAY APRIL 20
One of the most enigmatic directors in cinema history, Andrei Tarkovsky managed to create several masterpieces in his lifetime. He wasn’t one for subtlety, or brevity for that matter. But the nearly three-hour Stalker (1979) is a must-see, and fortunately, this screening is taking place after the beloved Wisconsin Film Festival, so you will have some time to recharge your batteries before strapping in for this esoteric dreamscape.
In a dystopian, futuristic wasteland, a mysterious object fell from the sky and destroyed a small Russian village. The area was referred to as The Zone and anyone who went near it never returned. It is forbidden to go near The Zone but for a fee, one can follow a “stalker” who can guide them through the area. The path is not easy and there are several dangers along the way but within The Zone is another peculiar Room where one’s wishes can be granted.
The story benefits from Tarkovsky’s skill at creating ambiance and a sense of dread and loathing. There is always a sense of foreboding that lies just beneath the surface here. The surrealism and the horror of the human condition interplay with one another in a way that challenges, revulses, and engrosses the viewer at the same time. Stalker screens here in a new 4K DCP restoration. —Edwanike Harbour
SATURDAY APRIL 21
Alto saxophonist Caroline Davis is a formidable scholar, but she’s hardly limited to academic pursuits. Yes, she earned a PhD from Northwestern University, interviewing groups of jazz musicians and combing the data for clues about music cognition. And her 2015 album, Doors: Chicago Storylines, was the tip of an iceberg-sized project that collected oral histories on the city’s fertile but until then poorly documented jazz scene of the 1980s and 1990s. But Davis was an active musician even while a student, and graduating only made her busier; for example, as she puts it, she began attending Von Freeman’s jam sessions “religiously” once her diploma was in hand.
In 2013 Davis moved to New York, where she threw herself into the artistic melee (she used to go to a show every night of the week) and found a foothold. Now, she has released her first true New York album, a quintet record called Heart Tonic. On the album, Davis’ solos seem exploratory and thoughtful, and her sound is, as always, light and controlled while retaining some brassiness and ballast. All this combines terrifically with the velvet-toned, swashbuckling Marquis Hill, a fellow Chicago expat and the deserving winner of the 2014 Thelonious Monk trumpet competition. For the tour, however, Davis will bring a trio of long-time collaborators: pianist Rob Clearfield (Matt Ulery’s Loom) and bassist John Tate (Charles Rumback). It would be great to hear the full band, but these old friends, in the small, resonant room at Arts + Literature Lab, should rework Davis’ material in rewarding and new ways. —Abe Sorber
Cinematographer and UW-Madison alumnus Peter Deming got his start on Sam Raimi’s beloved Evil Dead II and has been David Lynch’s go-to behind the camera since Lost Highway: the latter collaboration includes all 18 episodes of the recently aired mindwarp Twin Peaks: The Return. Deming will be back at his alma mater to host a screening of Raimi’s Drag Me To Hell and then settle in for a follow-up Q&A.
For Raimi’s most devoted fans, Drag Me To Hell was a hotly anticipated feature at the time of its release. After nearly a decade of devoting his cinematic directorial efforts solely to the adventures of a man with spider-like abilities who was admittedly amazing, Raimi returned to the territory of scary movies. Depending on how one chooses to categorize some of the director’s genre-mashing romps, the 2009 feature could be seen as Raimi’s first foray into horror since his scrappy 1980s heyday, when he was still nailing cameras to planks of wood in order to pull off loopy visual tricks.
In Drag Me To Hell, Alison Lohman plays a bank employee who refuses a merciful loan extension to an elderly errant mortgagee (Lorna Raver). As happens from time to time, the cold-hearted business decision results in a curse being levied, and Lohman spends the remainder of the film grappling with supernatural hardships of escalating lunacy. Raimi evinces only the thinnest interest in plot, characterization, and the other fundamentals of narrative. But he’s fully engaged in the giddy, gory play of the movie, lavishing clear affection on the various set pieces. It makes for an uneven film, but a sterling showcase of the crafty work of Deming and his cohorts. —Daniel Seeger
There was a time in Madison, a decade or so ago, when Houses In Motion kind of ruled the roost, occasionally selling out the High Noon with two-set shows of Talking Heads covers. (Also, local musicians were slightly less bananas about tribute projects than they are today, I think?) This is a music nerd’s cover band, not really interested in giant suits or any of the other lovably weird theatrics, but it didn’t matter—a bunch of Talking Heads songs played right makes for a pretty great dance party. The one Chicago-based member, bassist/vocalist Greg Ujda, can actually pull off the vocals, and the Madison-based members have done a lot of vital work in other, mostly far weirder outfits in town: Matt Skemp and Jeff Sauer play together in bizarro math-metal trio Czarbles, and Andrew Fitzpatrick (along with Skemp) is a member of electronic project All Tiny Creatures.
Houses In Motion has been less of a presence the past few years, in part because the members have been busy with other projects—Fitzpatrick became a member of Bon Iver and has expanded on his challenging electronic solo work under the name Noxroy, Sauer and Fitzpatrick have been putting more time into their experimental project Cap Alan, and Skemp’s projects include playing with Milwaukee band Collections of Colonies of Bees. At their first show in almost three years, Houses In Motion will stick to their usual format: One set of early Talking Heads material as a four-piece, then a set of later material (well, up through 1983’s Speaking In Tongues) enhanced with additional vocalists and percussionists. Catch it if the ticket prices for David Byrne’s upcoming show at the Orpheum made you die a thousand deaths of sadness, or if you just need to blow off some steam. —Scott Gordon
On his recently released debut album, Veteran, experimental rapper and producer JPEGMAFIA, a.k.a. Peggy, explores beats that sound like glitchy versions of trap productions, but with elements of noisy sound collage reminiscent of rap collectives like Clipping. The album’s tracks often jump from abrasive distortion to dreamily chill interludes.
Peggy identifies himself as a veteran of the U.S. Army, which invites the listener to associate his persona with that loaded political term. As he disses everything from the president to feminists, and jokes about trying to have sex with Kellyanne Conway, like on the track “1539 Calvert” (a reference to a defunct but legendary Baltimore recording studio), you realize he’s trying to insult everyone, and that’s part of the point. We don’t usually think of veterans as being expert enough in internet culture to throw around these targeted references, but Peggy achieves this at a breakneck clip. With these wide-ranging disses, Peggy become difficult to pin down. On “I Might Vote For Donald Trump,” Peggy and collaborator Freaky announce, basically, that the state of democracy in America is so degraded, and the fact the Trump was even able to run in the first place is so abhorrent, that they might vote for him, “Just to say I did it.” —Reid Kurkerewicz
SUNDAY APRIL 22
Poet and former Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing fellow Derrick Austin’s lyricism evokes a wide range of subjects, from medieval and contemporary art to queerness, blackness, film and pop music. These topics, often thought of as separate from each other and the natural world, are blended together in Austin’s latest book, Trouble The Water. Austin helps readers appreciate his universe as a complex whole, even as the poems jump from the swamps of Florida to European art galleries. For Austin, inanimate objects, humans and animals are constantly in a state of becoming. Rivers meet oceans, but when do they cease to be rivers? Where does the body start and end when it is physically connected to another? In many of these poems, there is a tension between the internal and external. In “Okaloosa,” for instance, Austin declares the heron one of his favorite animals, because its mating call is silent, and therefore kept within the body that seeks another. By connecting images like these to human relationships and environments in decay, Austin’s words evoke the connectedness of all space. Ahead of this reading, make sure to check out Austin’s recent visit to the Tone Madison podcast. —Reid Kurkerewicz
Hurray For The Riff Raff is the multi-faceted project of nuyorican songwriter and vocalist Alynda Segarra. Growing up in the Bronx, Segarra was drawn to the punk and Latin poetry scenes in the Lower East Side. Struggling to find her place and identity, Segarra ran away at 17 and eventually settled in New Orleans. There she played washboard for a tramp band called Dead Man’s Street Orchestra and self-released her first EP, 2007’s Crossing The Rubicon. In the decade between that release and 2017’s The Navigator, Segarra has created a composite that blends American folk, country, blues, and Latin influences.
A concept album, The Navigator builds on a self-inspired narrative that follows a Puerto Rican city kid named Navita Milagros Negrón. In design, the album is theatrical, presenting itself in two “Acts” and with explicit opening and closing tracks. The album commences with “Entrance,” a doo-wop hymn, complete with characteristic nonsense syllables and lack of instruments. Beginning with sounds of city clamor, a male choral ensemble sings “One for the navigator / Call my Lord!” then proceeds to harmonize and back up Segarra’s sweet vocal melody. The closing track, “Finale,” pairs an acoustic melody with Latin-inspired percussion. Segarra’s vocals are sung in English, but Spanish verses are also incorporated at times in the undercurrent and others in the forefront. The starting and ending points of the album perhaps function to acknowledge Segarra’s own geographic origin—New York City, where doo-wop thrived in the 1950s and ’60s—and the journey of reconnecting with her Puerto Rican roots.
The body of the album has an abstract, wandering storyline that explores themes of gentrification, colonization, and navigating identity among clashing cultural identities. “The Navigator” has a somber, romantic quality with latin-inspired percussion and sustained violin melody. In the outro, Segarra sings “Oh where, will all my people go?… Oh, where, will all my people live,” as if she’s plagued with the uncertainty and insecurity of displaced groups. In “Rican Beach,” Segarra points out the damage of gentrification and appropriation. She declares, “Well you can take my life / But don’t take my home / Baby it’s a solid price / It comes with my bones,” acknowledging the ejected people as the soul of these communities. The album culminates in a call to arms, the piano-fronted ballad “Pa’lante.” On this track, Segarra gracefully moves between a strong, poetic tone and belting the first three verses before transitioning into a more melodic bridge and eventually sampling Pedro Pietri’s “Puerto Rican Obituary” speech.
The breadth of musical styles intermingle seamlessly and echo the autobiographical quality of The Navigator, paying homage to Segarra’s nuyorican roots, southern dwellings, and nomadic constitution. Despite the conceptual nature of the album, Segarra maintains a rawness and humanity, showcasing the personal and political convictions that birth her music. Katie Crutchfield’s band Waxahatchee and Syrian-born Azniv Korkejian’s country-folk blend Bedouine round out this bill. —Katie Richards
MONDAY APRIL 23
Dr. Eve Ewing is a poet, scholar, and general badass whose work covers topics such as race, urban policy, social inequality, and discrimination in public school systems. Ewing has written for publications such as The Atlantic, The New Yorker, and The Washington Post. In an effort to increase awareness of poetry and how to navigate its broader scope, Ewing comes to the UW-Madison campus as a part of UW’s Litfest and the global celebration of National Poetry Month. The conversation will center around what poetry can do to inform readers about social issues and how the arts can can lead to positive change in other disciplines.
Ewing’s 2017 book Electric Arches examines black womanhood through poetry, prose, and visual art. She recently worked alongside Nate Marshall, co-authoring No Blue Memories: The Life Of Gwendolyn Brooks. Ewing’s admiration for Gwendolyn brooks also led her to recently produce and write We Real Cool, a short film dedicated to Brooks’ famous poem of that title as well as Brooks’ life. The film was made in coordination with Crescendo Literary, a Chicago-based community-focused arts, poetry, and education center. Ewing is also an educator and sociologist whose work has focused on school closures and their impact on communities of color. That work continues in the book Ghosts In The Schoolyard: Racism And School Closings On Chicago’s South Side, due out in September. —John McCracken
TUESDAY APRIL 24
Bassist Eddie Gomez is a jazz legend, primarily thanks to his work as an accompanist. Besides his 11 years as a member of the Bill Evans Trio, Gomez has had a close working relationship with jazz musicians such as Jeremy Steig, Jack DeJohnette, and his Julliard classmate Chick Corea. Throughout his career, Gomez has adapted to working in pretty much every genre and style, so he’s been an in-demand session bassist for decades of jazz, classical, and pop recordings.
As a collaborator, Gomez’s interests are wide-reaching, but in his own groups he typically sticks to playing standards in a traditional jazz trio format. At Arts + Literature Laboratory Gomez will perform with longtime collaborators Stefan Karlsson and Rodrigo Villanueva. Gomez’s versatility and flexibility as an accompanist are also his strengths as a bandleader, exploring the subtle interplay between improvising musicians. —Ian Adcock
Hailing from a thankfully bygone era of Saturday Night Live in which making fun of Christopher Lowell for being gay was a bankable punchline, squirmy comedian-actor Chris Kattan once seemed primed for the same kind of megastardom as his A Night At The Roxbury co-star Will Ferrell. Unfortunately, the launchpad Kattan got was none other than 2001’s Corky Romano—an incompetent mess of a mob comedy that co-starred Chris Penn, and one of the most annoying and justifiably lambasted mainstream comedies of all time.
After the failure of Corky Romano, Kattan became more famous for the notorious ways in which Saturday Night Live would misuse him for obnoxious characters and being the target of Norm Macdonald’s ire than anything else, and he eventually sank into B-movie territory. This included an appearance in horror film Santa’s Slay, which starred wrestler Bill Goldberg, as well a role in Chapelle’s Show writer Neil Brennan’s ’80s throwback comedy Totally Awesome. Back in 2012, Kattan also starred in low-budget comedy Crazy Enough, where he portrays twin brothers (the film surfaced on Netflix a few years ago and hot damn—it’s a serious shitshow).
Not unlike Tom Green and Pauly Shore, Kattan is currently working the nostalgia circuit as a stand-up. His act now includes digging up old SNL characters like Mango and Doug Butabi and talking about them, VH1 Storytellers-style. —Joel Shanahan
WEDNESDAY APRIL 25
St. Vinny’s annual record sale is back, and the Willy Street thrifting institution promises a huge selection of 10- and 12-inch records, 45’s, 78’s and more. Organizers are recommending you get there on the first day of this two-week long event to comb through their vast array of abandoned musical history before those other culture vultures snag your dream LP. I’m still looking for that bloody babies Beatles cover, so if you find it, dibs.
There will also be a selection of general music related items, from band memorabilia and shirts to sound equipment and musical instruments. This could be a good chance to start your band from the ground up, expand that totally not creepy part of your basement dedicated to The Rolling Stones, or to flesh out that record collection you use to score dates. One person’s kitschy garbage is another person’s treasured collectible, so there should be something for anyone interested in the musical arts. —Reid Kukerewicz