Graves At Sea, Frankie Cosmos, Trin Tran, and more events of note in Madison this week. | By Scott Gordon, Chris Lay, Joel Shanahan
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THURSDAY APRIL 21
Wisconsin Film Festival Closing Night. Sundance Cinemas Madison, see link for all showtimes.
The openings and closings of film fests are where they bring out the real paydirt. Wanting to come out swinging, this year’s Wisconsin Film Festival kicked things off at the Barrymore Theater with a sold out screening of Taika Waititi’s charming film The Hunt For The Wilderpeople, which, by all accounts (the handful of folks I’ve talked to in line waiting for other screenings), was a big hit. For the closing night’s festivities out at Sundance Madison, they have a trifecta that we’ve correctly identified as a Sophie’s Choice sort of scenario. First up at 8:15 p.m. is Anna Biller’s eye-poppingly pitch-perfect ode to loveable technicolor smut from decades past, The Love Witch. Then at 8:30, the projectionist will cue up Matt Johnson’s mysterious mockumentary Operation Avalanche, which hails from an alternate reality where the Moon Landing was actually faked. Then at 8:45 we’ll get to lay eyes on the Jane Austen adaptation from Whit Stillman, Love & Friendship, which stars Kate Beckinsale and Chloë Sevigny. Only The Love Witch has tickets still available, which is sad since it’s the most risk-taking one of the closing night bunch (and the one I’d most want to watch with an audience), but as always there will still be rush tickets available for fast-acting film fanatics. —Chris Lay
Rebels Of The Neon God. Union South Marquee, 7 p.m. (free)
Taiwanese filmmaker Tsai Ming-liang’s debut feature, Rebels Of The Neon God, was released in 1992 but didn’t hit American screens until last year. Set in a bustling yet oppressive Taipei, the story follows a few unhappy youth through the travails of work and school, petty crime, dating, and ultimately violence. In a New York Times review last year, though, critic A.O. Scott argued that the sometimes meandering story is way less important than Tsai’s knack for capturing youthful alienation and the conflicting moods of urban life. —SG
Nate Bargatze. Comedy Club on State, through April 23, see link for all showtimes.
One of the most talented comics to come up over the past few years, Nate Bargatze is also one of the most low-key dudes in the game. His pleasantly lazy stage presence is so disarming, and his story-joke everyman goofball material so tightly constructed, that you might make it the whole way through his set before you realize he didn’t say a single dirty word. Bargatze’s application of silliness to straight-ahead premises might not be new, but the loping but deliberate rhythm of his delivery makes all the difference. Dan Shaki features, and Charlie Kojis (Madison’s Funniest Comedian winner for 2016, and perfectly matched with Bargatze) will host. —CL
Fire Retarded, Nice Guys, Skizzwhores, The Smells. The Wisco, 9 p.m.
FRIDAY APRIL 22
Unhood Yourself: The Real UW One-Day Exhibition. Chazen Museum of Art, 5 to 9 p.m.
Students of color at UW-Madison have been amplifying the conversation about racial incidents on campus—including, recently, a student being spit on with no criminal charges for the assailant, another receiving a threatening racist note under her dorm-room door, and, most recently, a student being hauled out of class on accusations of tagging campus buildings with anti-white supremacy graffiti, whidh did result in criminal charges. Students and their allies have been using #TheRealUW to discuss such incidents and the systemic issues behind them, and their efforts are forcing UW faculty and administrators to respond. This one-day show will build off those efforts with a variety of artwork addressing those issues. The title of the show conveys a spirit of UW students of color expressing themselves openly and without fear of intimidation, instead of dwelling in anonymity. —SG
Graves At Sea, Order Of The Owl, Dos Males, Ossuary. Mickey’s Tavern, 10:30 p.m. (free)
When the brilliantly hideous Documents Of Grief EP dropped in 2003, Portland, Oregon’s Graves At Sea had concocted a highly influential gruel of black metal and doom, blending the most unsettlingly sinister rawness of the former with the slow-burning textural pummeling of the latter. The stripped down looseness of “Praise The Witch,” when paired with the reckless screams of vocalist Nathan Misterek, engaged listeners by making the song feel like a living organism that’s been buried alive, attempting to claw itself out from a pit of crawling, down-tuned guitar and primal drum work. Nearly 13 years and a few lineup shifts later, Graves At Sea’s first full-length The Curse That Is, has finally arrived. With its crisp production, the album captures a slightly less evil, but far more evolved, progressive, and melodic version of the band. Album opener “The Curse That Is” showcases said progression immediately, as as a busy, hammer-off guitar riff speeds over a slowly pounding rhythm, before evolving into an ominous, crash-laden shuffle. “The Ashes Make Her Beautiful” is another gorgeous highlight—a weeping violin lurks in and out of the desolately melodic funeral march guitar lines of Nick Phit. The looseness that drew us to Documents still weaves in and out of the band’s lengthy epics, but the powerful songwriting is more focused than ever. We’re not sure how Mickey’s Tavern will still be standing after this show, which also features two outstanding heavy bands from Madison—grimy doom duo Dos Males and death-metal trio Ossuary. —Joel Shanahan
Zebras, The Crosses, No Hoax, Coordinated Suicides. Frequency, 9 p.m.
Milwaukee’s The Crosses are basically a Die Kreuzen tribute band, with two key differences: Actual Die Kreuzen vocalist Dan Kubinski in at the front of it, and the sets focus specifically on the brilliantly warped hardcore outfit’s self-titled 1984 debut album. Die Kreuzen’s reunion shows a few years back alternated between pit-stirring early stuff and more spacious, complex material from albums like October File and Century Days, so this one’s for fans who preferred the former. And while Die Kreuzen’s cracked meld of hardcore, psych, and metal was a brilliant group effort, Kubinski boasts one of the most distinctive voices in heavy music, and The Crosses brings in members of Milwaukee bands Realm and Population Control to back that up. —SG
McCabe & Mrs. Miller. Vilas Hall, 7 p.m. (free)
One of Robert Altman’s best films, 1971’s anti-western McCabe & Mrs. Miller, tells the story of John McCabe (Warren Beatty) who sets up a casino and a brothel in the north-west mining town of Presbyterian Church. McCabe gets Constance Miller (Julie Christie) to be the brothel’s madam and thus balances both sides of the ampersand in the title. Even though it’s set on the fringes of western expansion and has some stock tropes, this is far from a run-of-the-mill western, thanks to its Leonard Cohen soundtrack and unexpectedly deep character arcs. Visually, McCabe & Mrs Miller is stunning, with cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond using as much natural light as possible to capture the dark interiors and bleak wilderness landscapes. Of Altman’s most notable masterworks, McCabe & Mrs Miller still strikes me as being woefully underseen and thankfully will get a bit of love locally as the second of five Altman films screening at the Cinematheque this spring. —CL
Square One: Vaughn Marques, Saadoun. Cardinal, 9 p.m.
This week’s installment of Cardinal Bar dance night Square One features a guest set from former Madisonian house fixture Vaughn Marques. Marques is known locally for throwing down smooth, hyper-polished club-cuts that blend sugary depth with pounding functionality. Joining Marques will be slamming Tunisian house DJ and current Madison resident Saadoun, whose killer mix, embedded below, combines deep, chordy classics, blissed-out R’n’B swingers, and a dash of bare-bones Chicago-style floor pounders. Get there early for sets from Square One resident Tre Ginjahvitiz and Foshizzle Family vibe-lord Izhai. —JS
Pwr Bttm, Yoko And The Oh No’s, Dylan Wright. Union South Sett, 9 p.m. (free)
The New York duo of Ben Hopkins and Oliver Bruce, aka Pwr Bttm, make pop songs that smear together playfulness, vulnerability, and punk-rock smart-assery. On the 2015 album Ugly Cherries, the two switch off instruments and share lead vocal duties, and as much as people define them by their defiantly over-the-top glam-trash-drag aesthetic, it’s just as important to note the youthful world-weariness of “Nu1,” the universal longing for an ideal partner on “I Wanna Boy,” and the slippery descending hooks of “West Texas.” And of course, the queer-punk politics of it are important, in that this band gleefully rips up the stereotypical boxes in which society tries to place queer people, but the scrappy resourcefulness and variety of the songwriting makes Pwr Bttm actually memorable. —SG
Marlon Wayans. Orpheum, 8 p.m.
SATURDAY APRIL 23
Dick The Bruiser, Cave Curse, Transformer Lootbag. Frequency, 7 p.m.
In the Madison duo Dick The Bruiser, bassist Kevin Wade and drummer Tony Sellers work a groove that’s somewhere between post-punk jabs and slippery funk, topped with Wade’s chopped-up wordplay and the occasional boost of fuzzed-out theremin. DTB laid low in 2015, but recently recorded six new songs for an EP to follow up 2012’s Purgatory Stories And Severe Songs, and the new rough mixes they’ve shared with us find a more raw and overtly noise-rock-influenced side of the band coming to the fore. It’ll be interested to see how that translates here, in their first live show in quite a while, and it’s also worth getting there in time for Madison noise-pop institution Transformer Lootbag and synth-punk duo Cave Curse. And don’t forget to listen to our new podcast episode, featuring a conversation with Dick The Bruiser. —SG
The Midwest Beat, Dusk, Fox Face. Crystal Corner Bar, 9 p.m.
Boasting a swath of Wisconsin ringers from the likes of Tenement, The Tea Heads, Miserable Friend, and Black Thumb, Dusk jams concise country-pop tunes through a power-pop filter. The Appleton-based quintet’s recent single “My Own Design” sounds like it could sit perfectly somewhere in between The Byrds’ psych-rock detour Fifth Dimension and their underrated, country-tinged masterpiece Untitled. Bassist-vocalist Amos Pitsch earned a reputation for crafting brilliantly concise but endlessly turning pop tunes in Tenement, and that sort of next-level craftsmanship pops up in “My Own Design” too, as rich vocal harmonies glide over the top and chuck hook after hook at the listener. Dusk are currently in the process of writing and recording a proper full-length and we’re hoping this show provides a deeper glimpse into what’s to come. —JS
An Evening With Buckethead. Majestic, 9 p.m.
At about nine minutes into Buckethead’s “11111111,” a lengthy and exhaustingly wanky instrumental from 22222222, one of the 16 albums the obnoxiously prolific ex-Guns N Roses noodlesmith has already released this year, it becomes painfully obvious why he wears a Michael Myers mask and an empty KFC bucket on his head at every show. Similar to how olympic wrestling is a sport and the WWE is sports entertainment, Buckethead at his least focused is music entertainment. It’s a White Castle slider, an aimless, shred-happy speed trial that requires a cartoonish visual accompaniment to be entertaining. To be fair, we even attempted to dive into Drift, another recent effort. Album-closer “Streamlet” mirrors our issues with 22222222—it’s just an aggressively generic radio-metal backdrop, serving as nothing more than a vehicle to a sleepy onslaught of autopilot wah-wah shred. It wasn’t always like this: The mysterious guitar virtuoso has thoughtful and even tasteful flirtations with dynamics and emotional content (gasp) on collections like 1998’s Colma, a lush, spacious, and acoustic-driven album (the title-track we’ve embedded below). Helll, we can make fun of him all we want, but more power to anyone who wants to see a guy who played on the $13,000,000 Guns N Roses comeback album Chinese Democracy (but quit years before the album was released), was denied entry into Ozzy Osborne’s backing band because he refused to not wear something stupid on his head, and has continued to stick to his schtick for all these years with defiant commitment. —JS
Electra Glide In Blue. Vilas Hall, 7 p.m.
With the number of hacks out there somehow able to grind out one uninspired film after another (I’m looking at you, Uwe Boll!). it’s fascinating to look at the folks who put out a single shining lightning bolt of a film, and thus was begat UW Cinematheque’s “One and Done” series, which started a couple of weeks back with Charles Laughton’s The Night Of The Hunter and continues this week with James William Guercio’s Electra Glide In Blue. Starring Robert Blake as a diminutive officer with a chip on his shoulder, Electra Glide In Blue is a sometimes campy take on the ubiquitous 1970s cop flick. The film’s mood doesn’t pander to the establishment, but never aligns with the hippies either. It’s garnered something of a cult status now, but it was woefully undervalued upon its release, so learn from the mistakes of the past and catch this one while you can in glorious 35mm. —CL
SUNDAY APRIL 24
Jack Wright & Bob Marsh, BC Grimm & Michael Koszewski, Tontine Ensemble. Arts + Literature Lab, 7 p.m.
With a legacy of recorded collaborations with avant-jazz shredders and sound-sculptors ranging from percussionist Michael Zerang to saxophonist Bhob Rainey, Pittsburgh-based sax-mangler Jack Wright and Pueblo, Colorado-based bizarro violinist Bob Marsh have enjoyed a creative partnership hailing back roughly three decades. In the live setting, Wright and Marsh repurpose their traditional instrumentation in myriad ways to summon a melting panorama of sonic oddities. Animalistic groans and squawks shake out of Wright’s sax, while Marsh’s screeching strings and electronics send contorted tones flying in and out of sharp, brain-prodding frequencies. Despite their outsider leanings, Marsh and Wright’s heavily improvised live work can still visit more recognizably “musical” territories, sometimes by way of conversational free-jazz leanings. However, we can speculate all we want on how this collaboration will unfold, but Wright and Marsh are historically heavy improvisers, so it might be best to leave your expectations at the door. —JS
Beach Slang, Potty Mouth, Dyke Drama, Micah Schnabel. Frequency, 7 p.m.
Hour Of The Wolf. Chazen Museum of Art, 2 p.m. (free)
MONDAY APRIl 25
Trin Tran, Sunwatchers, Lens. Mickey’s Tavern, 10:30 p.m. (free)
Madison resident Steve Coombs launched his project Trin Tran in 2001 as a one-man band, simultaneously wrangling guitar, synth, drums, and charmingly strangulated vocals into fragmented collisions of pop and avant-rock. He’s a local cult treasure who’s long deserved a bit more, and has sort of gotten it in recent years—the 2012 rarities compilation Dark Radar came out on Ty Segall’s label after Segall ran across some obscure Trin Tran CD-Rs, and 2014’s EP Far Reaches, showcasing some of his catchiest material to date, was his first for the excellent San Francisco punk/psych label Castle Face, run by John Dwyer of Thee Oh Sees. Recently he’s also experimented with expanding Trin Tran into various full-band formats, some of them including Coombs’ teenage son ripping it up on guitar. But at this show, Coombs will get back to performing as a one-man act, and maybe play some new stuff, as he continues to work on a follow-up release for Castle Face. He’s joined here by labelmates Sunwatchers, a New York band that plays superbly fried psych-jazz. —SG
TUESDAY APRIL 26
Frankie Cosmos, Eskimeaux, Yowler. High Noon Saloon, 6:30 p.m.
New York City songwriter, guitarist, and vocalist Greta Kline has been releasing DIY recordings since she was 15, first under the name Ingrid Superstar, and more recently expanding her tender, nuanced songs in the band Frankie Cosmos. On the new album Next Thing, Kline’s voice uses tender melody, and the occasional bit of Pavement-ish talk-sing slack, to bring across lyrics that at times are unnervingly frank—“I’m 20/ feel washed up already,” she sings on “I’m 20.” The band as a whole somehow lets Kline’s voice thrive in that lonesome home-recorded zone while fleshing out the songs into tasteful full-spectrum pop. —SG
Super Serious Singer Songwriter Series: Erick Fruehling. Mickey’s Tavern, 10:30 p.m. (free)
Erick Fruehling co-founded the local tape label Rare Plant, plays bass in Fire Retarded, and plays guitar and sings in fellow Madison garage-punk outfit Dumb Vision. The latter band’s recent self-titled debut tape featured songwriting and lead vocals from several members, and Fruehling’s contributions, like “Warm Meat,” brought a fun, mangled pop sensibility to the proceedings, so it’ll be interesting to see how he uses his time in a solo set at the Serious Songwriter Series, hosted by Midwest Beat leader Matt Joyce. —SG
WEDNESDAY APRIL 27
Nerd Nite Madison. High Noon Saloon, 8 p.m. (free)
At this month’s edition of Nerd Nite Madison’s informal but thoughtful presentations, we’ll hear from neuroscientist Annie Racine on the connections among food, addiction, and obesity; Rob Lumley on the 1992 USA Olympics basketball team; and Jon Hendrix on “classic” bad TV of the 1970s and 80s. As usual, we at Tone Madison will be recording the talks for our Nerd Nite Madison audio series. —SG
LakeFrontRow Cinema: Take The Dog. Central Library, 6:30 p.m. (free)
Milwaukee-based filmmakers Andrew Tolstedt and Carol Brandt offer an emotionally tangled take on the road-trip movie with the 2015 feature Take The Dog. In this case the journey is from Milwaukee to California and the travelers are a dog, a pair of brothers, and one brother’s girlfriend. One of the brothers, Tim, is fresh out of jail, and the destination is a third, estranged brother’s wedding, so the road trip naturally turns into a complex test of spirits and famili relationships. This screening is presented by our friends at Madison film website LakeFrontRow. —SG