Hurray For The Riff Raff, Zakir Hussain, KennyHoopla, Acid Mothers Temple, and more events of note in Madison this week. | By Scott Gordon, Chris Lay, Mike Noto, Grant Phipps, Zack Stafford, David Wolinsky
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THURSDAY APRIL 27
Zakir Hussain and Rahul Sharma. Union Theater, 8 p.m.
Two world-renowned masters of tabla and the 100-stringed Kashmiri santoor cross paths at the Union Theater for a performance that will likely combine introspection with sheer dexterity. Zakir Hussain is widely considered one of the tabla’s premier players, wielding numerous awards from cultural institutions around the world. His discography features countless solo albums and original film scores as well as performance and arrangement credits for George Harrison, the Grateful Dead’s Mickey Hart, Pharaoh Sanders, Van Morrison, and the Apocalypse Now soundtrack, among many others. If you’ve been yearning to go deep on live tabla, you may not find an opportunity better than this. Rahul Sharma joins Hussain on santoor, a hammered dulcimer native to Iran and northern India. Like Hussain, Sharma appears alongside popular artists, most notably Kenny G, and has composed a number of original film scores. Together, these classical Indian virtuosos offer a promising performance of Hindustani music second to few in their realm. — Zack Stafford
Air It Out. Art In, 6 p.m.
This event showcases the creative endeavors of Madison teens with a welcome mix of gallery showings and live performance and interaction. The artists have spent a semester in a mentorship program organized by the Bubbler program at Madison Public Library and the 100arts program at startup space 100state, but this night is definitely set up to appeal beyond the students and their friends and families. Artwork on display will include media like string gardens and drip paintings, and artist and UW-Madison professor Faisal Abdu’allah will be hosting a live screenprinting demonstration. The night will also feature a showcase of hip-hop performances from teen rap outfit Kids These Days, dance group Fr3sh Trilogy, and UW First Wave student DJ Huizit. — Scott Gordon
Hari Kondabolu. Comedy Club on State, through April 29, see link for all showtimes.
“I can’t help it — I’m a killjoy who does comedy,” Hari Kondabolu says on his 2016 album Mainstream American Comic, in response to complaints that his comedy is incessantly political. Now, it’s a great time for political comedy, but most of the people making it that way (Samantha Bee, John Oliver, etc.) have the controlled environment and visual aids of TV and web video. So it’s all the more impressive that Kondabolu, who has a master’s degree in human rights from the London School of Economics, makes material about racism, rape culture, and even Bobby Jindal work in the merciless, blink-and-you’ll-lose-em environment of standup. He accomplishes that not by tempering his politics or lapsing into hokey Borowitz Report territory, but by keeping his pacing sharp and incisively connecting thorny issues to everyday situations. On the Mainstream track “White People Don’t Like Being Called White People,” he keeps the crowd on his side while encouraging people to call white people “white demons.” — SG
FRIDAY APRIL 28
The Ambassador. Vilas Hall, 7 p.m. (free)
Following up on a double dose of high– and low-brow features from Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus’s Cannon Films in 2015, UW Cinematheque has returned to that well for a duo of adaptations tackling the same Elmore Leonard source material. First up is J. Lee Thompson’s The Ambassador from 1984, followed next week by John Frankenheimer’s 52 Pick-Up from 1986. The Ambassador, sporting a pretty star-studded cast, with Robert Mitchum, Ellen Burstyn, Rock Hudson, and Donald Pleasence, reframes Leonard’s novel of infidelity and blackmail in a higher-class setting, but since it’s a Cannon production, even one of their more high-falutin ones, things still manage to get blow’d up real good in between ham-fisted attempts to solve “the Palestinian question.” — Chris Lay
Marc Maron. Orpheum, 7 p.m.
What a difference a decade can make. At this point, summing up Marc Maron’s second-act career ascent with his WTF podcast and the resulting legitimacy and renewed interest it garnered in him as a performer and comic mind is a simplistic cliché. More to the point, Maron himself, it seems, wants to prove he is more than a neurotic self-parody overly fascinated with other people’s career obstacles. To wit, his podcast-spawned IFC show Maron ended after four seasons in 2016 and has his sights now set on a Netflix series, G.L.O.W., inspired by 1980’s womens wrestling. That series is slated for June 23. Here, expect Maron to do what he has always excelled at live: Articulating how our daily lives are full of bullshit we should be more honest with ourselves about, exploring how our sadness unites us, and smart pointed commentary about too-public jealousies and bitterness. — David Wolinsky
The Chainsmokers. Alliant Energy Center, 7 p.m.
The Chainsmokers have been inescapable on pop radio for at least the last eight months, ever since “Closer” blew up the airwaves and YouTube (somehow attaining a billion views and counting). Unfortunately, since the group’s stock in trade is small-minded narcissism exactingly set to the kind of numbingly bland electronic pap that regularly pollutes your local H&M, this isn’t a good thing. Starting out as a more solidly EDM-oriented outfit before moving further into the mainstream, the group regularly comes off in their songs as the types of bros who mix the most culturally impoverished ideas of fun imaginable with barely hidden self-pity about how the women they’ve encountered through their lives haven’t given them a decent enough shake. In short, they’re jerks, and that’s what they’re selling. To be fair, lead DJ/frontman Drew Taggart has a surprisingly competent singing voice — which, along with lucking out on a feature from Halsey, is a big part of why “Closer” became such a hit — and the group has a knack for picking the kind of name collaborators who’ll at least get attention, though musical chemistry often seems like a low priority on their list. “Last Day Alive,” which features the smarmy pop-country duo Florida Georgia Line smelted into an anonymously auto-tuned choir over abusively peppy walls of gauzy synth, could actually make you contemplate the title as a blessing. The Chainsmokers’ music is calculated to fill stadiums, but for all their bombast you’d have practically the same experience any Thursday night at Wando’s, and there’s no way that’s worth spending $75 for. — Mike Noto
SATURDAY APRIL 29
Noxroy. Si Café, 9 a.m.
I’ve recently been advocating for more early shows in Madison, so it’s only right to point out that Si Café, a coffee shop and bar just off the Square, has been experimenting with really early live music on Saturdays. This installment features Noxroy, the solo electronic project of Andrew Fitzpatrick, who’s played guitar and electronics in projects including Cap Alan, All Tiny Creatures, and Bon Iver. Much of his recent work has centered on modular synthesizer and on guitar, and he has a knack for manipulating the latter beyond recognition. Every time I’ve seen him live is a bit different, and he’s interested in everything from textural abrasion to reassuring soundscapes, so dropping in on this extended improvised set should make for an interesting morning. — SG
Sicilia! Vilas Hall, 7 p.m. (free)
UW Cinematheque’s showcases of the rigorous, unconventional films of husband and wife duo Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet closes with the couple’s final film of the 20th century. Sicilia! (1999) — note the exclamation — may perhaps stand as one of their most accessible French New Wave-influenced (or Godardian) works, offering an elaborate portrait of a conflicted man (Gianni Buscarino) who returns to his native Sicily after a number of years abroad in New York to find himself a stranger in his own land. An adaptation of Elio Vittorini’s acclaimed 1941 novel Conversations In Sicily, the film simultaneously articulates the directors’ Marxist views while thematically tackling childhood memory and self-identity in the Italian region’s changing sociopolitical landscape in the 1930s. Rather than favoring a meditative architectural or visual splendor, the film achieves a conscientious air through intimately framed and offbeat series of exchanges with a bevy of characters, including a knife-sharpener (Vittorio Vigneri), train passengers, and the man’s own mother (Angela Nugara). This 66-minute feature, presented on 35mm, will be preceded by a 23-minute short film, a German theatrical triptych of sorts, The Bridegroom, The Comedienne, And The Pimp (1968), directed by Straub and starring a young Rainer Werner Fassbinder. — Grant Phipps
Ancient Future. Frequency, 2 p.m.
The Ancient Future festival, making its debut here with an 11-artist, all-Midwest lineup, combines heavy music and psychedelia in a natural but eclectic meeting. It ranges from the fairly straight-ahead if solidly executed rock of Cincinnati band Electric Citizen, who close out the event, to the gloomy post-punk journeys of Madison outfit Vanishing Kids (whose guitarist, Jason Hartman, organized the event along with local metal booker Jeff Bach). But two acts in particular capture the spirit Ancient Future seems to be going for: Madison-based Jex Thoth, who combine muscular doom with brooding melody on the excellent 2013 album Blood Moon Rise, and Rockford band White Shape, whose self-titled 2016 EP makes room for plenty of eerie atmosphere between expansive sheets of distortion. — SG
Hurray For The Riff Raff, Ron Gallo. High Noon Saloon, 9 p.m.
Hurray For The Riff Raff’s leader, Alynda Segarra, has the kind of voice that could put across nearly anything: It’s beautifully deep, richly emotive and obviously sincere, and dramatic without falling into overstatement. (She even nearly gets away with rhyming “hire” and “pyre,” though if she had actually done so miracles might’ve ensued.) One of the things that’s interesting about the New Orleans group’s latest album, The Navigator, is how the arrangements have become more imaginative while still foregrounding Segarra’s vocal performances. On the single “Rican Beach,” Latin percussion rolls under the entire fabric of the song without ever seeming like a showy add-on, and the poppy “Hungry Ghost” features what sounds like a processed, droning violin that keeps threatening to take the spotlight but never does. And there are also some more straightforward songs, like “Living In The City,” which sports a subtly “Sweet Jane”-esque bounce thanks to its strummed guitars and the hooked-in refrain of “it’s hard, it’s hard, it’s hard.” This all serves to draw the listener into a concept album that is overtly fantastical and frankly pretentious on paper — it’s nearly a musical concerning a young girl, a bruja’s magic and a Rip Van Winkle-esque elapse of time, and the main character is meant to a large degree to be an autobiographical stand-in. But Segarra’s voice is convincing enough to make sure that the theatrical conceit of the framework doesn’t smother the songs, and that is a genuine accomplishment. — MN
Lucinda Williams. Capitol Theater, 8 p.m.
Since emerging as a solo artist in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Lucinda Williams has distinguished herself with consistently frank and unforced songwriting, and a musical approach that’s rugged enough to sound like country but not too beholden to tradition either. There may be variations along the way, as she experiments with different arrangements and collaborators and her voice increasingly takes on a mournful thickness. Yet when Williams puts out a new record (which she’s doing more frequently now than early in her career), it tends to feel like a return to a familiar place. That tends to work for her. Her latest album, The Ghosts Of Highway 20, favors subdued and contemplative tracks, with Bill Frisell’s hazy liquid guitar figures both deepening and brightening the atmosphere. — SG
WUDstock: KennyHoopla, Camb And 4k, Rich Robbins, SteLouse. Union Terrace, 7 p.m. (free)
This weekend is when UW-Madison’s Revelry Festival would usually happen, but the event has been discontinued after last year’s low-selling installment at the Orpheum. In its place is WUDstock, which is smaller and doesn’t boast any big national headliners. But it is a worthwhile free show, thanks largely to three hip-hop artists with UW-Madison ties. KennyHoopla made his debut as a rapper and singer with his 2016 EP Beneath The Willow Tree, a collection of intriguingly woozy songs that cohere around his emotional rawness and sad, gentle melodies. A couple of the stronger MCs to come to Madison as UW students in recent years, Lucien Parker and Rich Robbins, join him on this bill. — SG
SUNDAY APRIL 30
A Toast To You: Cathy’s Thank You Party. High Noon Saloon, 5:30 p.m.
Whatever you make of High Noon Saloon founder Cathy Dethmers’ decision to sell the venue to concert promoter Frank Productions, you’d be hard-pressed to dispute that Dethmers has made tremendous contributions to music in Madison. She’s been active as a musician and booker for more than 20 years, managing downtown club O’Cayz Corral before it burned down in 2001 and opening the High Noon in 2004. While hosting a lot of touring acts, the High Noon has also been generous to local artists, even those without huge followings. Even as a proper 400-capacity venue with a real sound system, the High Noon has managed to always feel a bit like a neighborhood bar as well. That all helps to explain why Dethmers is so well-liked in the music community, and why one can’t exactly blame her from wanting a break after years of demanding work. Before the venue officially changes hands, Dethmers and High Noon patrons will celebrate each other with a night featuring live music from Bereft, The Hussy, Pupy Costello & The New Hiram Kings, DJ Real Jaguar, and a modified version of the venue’s long-running live-band karaoke. — SG
The Beach Boys. Overture Hall, 7:30 p.m.
While Brian Wilson plays in Massachusetts on a tour celebrating the 50th anniversary of The Beach Boys’ 1966 psych-pop masterpiece Pet Sounds, the Mike Love-led, reconstituted version of the band will be performing here. Granted, Wilson has long operated at a strange remove from the band he masterminded, and there’s been plenty of conflict. And most fans can accept that any act still touring after 56 years will have a lot of spare parts. (Two original members, Wilson’s brothers Carl and Dennis, are dead, and another, Al Jardine, is singing and playing guitar on Wilson’s tour.) It also won’t surprise anyone that in recent live footage, the retiring and oft-tormented Wilson’s performances are musically ornate and considered, while Love’s Beach Boys shows are more about just blasting through the hits. Still, it feels monumentally sad and cheap to have these parallel tours going, especially as Wilson’s commemorates a cherished pop institution’s most beloved work. — SG
MONDAY MAY 1
Library As Retreat Space. Central Library, through May 7, see link for full schedule. (free)
As libraries adapt to the digital word, they also become complicit in that world’s brain-razing flood of information and connectivity. In the case of the Madison Public Library, that also means turning libraries into frequent venues for social events and nightlife, for better or worse. Maybe with this in mind and maybe not, a group of anthropologists and artists are teaming with MPL’s Bubbler program on a weeklong project exploring libraries’ potential for contemplation and restoration. The Library As Retreat Space schedule will include a series of morning meditation sessions, a contemplative drawing workshop, a cooking class, and, on May 5, a few hours of “listening in the dark” with Madison electronic project Chants. I think of MPL’s digital efforts and revamped programming as a good thing on the whole, but I’m glad this project reinforces a side of libraries that’s just as important. — SG
TUESDAY MAY 2
Aimee Mann, Jonathan Coulton. Barrymore, 7:30 p.m.
Aimee Mann’s newest album, Mental Illness, reminds us it’s okay to take us seriously and laugh and also cry. Mann, who might best known to fair-weather fans as providing some of the most sigh-inducing songs for Magnolia’s soundtrack in 2000, lets more levity in on her newer songs. She set out to record “the saddest, slowest, most acoustic” sequence of songs yet, but it’s harder still to walk away from the album and not feel slightly more optimistic than when you first hit play. Which makes sense: Some things in life, if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry. Mental Illness is spare, secure and almost smirking in dissecting the way the shit tends to hit the fan. Opener Jonathan Coulton is a frequent John Hodgman collaborator whose songwriting career initially started with a desire to more broadly demonstrate that computer programmers have feelings and playful senses of humor as well (“Code Monkey,” “Re: Your Brains”). Based on the Foo Fighters-style angular pop on display in “All This Time,” the leading single off his upcoming Solid State — his first album since 2011’s Artificial Heart — it’s clear Coulton wants to remind us it’s okay to take ourselves seriously, and it’s okay to laugh, too. Expect a cathartic and intimate show heavy on the catharsis and open to letting comic relief in where and when it makes sense. — David Wolinsky
WEDNESDAY MAY 3
Acid Mothers Temple, Babylon, Vanishing Kids. Frequency, 7:30 p.m.
Guitarist Kawabata Makoto has led the Japanese collective Acid Mothers Temple through more than 20 years and various offshoots and iterations, just about all of them delving into massive, far-reaching psych explorations. Their live sets are both punishing and beautifully spacious, covering territory that stretches between Hawkwind, noise-rock, avant-garde experimentalism, and meditative chants. They seem to be getting to Madison a lot more often these days, but don’t take it for granted. — SG