Rich Robbins, the Madison New Music Festival, Golf Clap, Birthing Hips, and more events of note in Madison this week. | By Emili Earhart, Scott Gordon, Joel Shanahan, and Henry Solotaroff-Webber
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THURSDAY AUGUST 10
Golf Clap. Memorial Union Terrace, 9 p.m. (free)
Whether Detroit-based DJ and production duo Golf Clap are steering a party from the decks or cranking out a mix, Movement Festival alums Bryan Jones and Hugh Cleal select as though they’re playing for an arena, desperate to strike a nerve in as many attendants as possible. And while that big-room vibe sacrifices rawness and atmosphere for clarity and polish, the pair’s knack for selecting infectious, poppy, and functional house tracks is tough to deny. A lot of Jones and Cleal’s selections reside in over-produced tech-house territory, but explore the genre’s most tolerable—and often most enjoyable—climes. Expect to hear a lot of pristine-sounding, catchy tracks that pull shards of influence from classic deep house and vocal house, which thankfully do manage to rest well below the tacky EDM threshold. —Joel Shanahan
Madison New Music Festival. Through Aug. 13, multiple venues.
The Madison New Music Festival got a modest start last summer with plans to expand in the future, and this year it’s back with a three-day program of performances focused on contemporary classical music and new compositions. An opening-night program at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art combines politically charged visual art with performances of works ranging from John Luther Adams’ “Drums Of Winter” to Nico Muhly’s “It Goes Without Saying” for clarinet and electronics. Friday’s program at downtown’s Bethel Lutheran Church features a performance of “13 Changes” by beloved experimental-music pioneer Pauline Oliveros, who died in November 2016. Saturday brings two more eclectic programs, one at the Terrace and one at Robinia Courtyard. —Scott Gordon
Oh My Love, CRASHprez, Zed Kenzo, Dudley Noon. High Noon Saloon, 9:30 p.m.
Oh My Love’s first Madison show since the electropop duo moved to Austin just a few months back also marks a return for UW-Madison grad CRASHprez and yet another show in town for Milwaukee’s Zed Kenzo. The two opening acts, both rappers, offer a nice contrast from the headliner but also between themselves. Compare CRASHprez’s latest, “mind if I wyle out?” to Kenzo’s “EVANESCENCE,” for example. Though Crash (real name Michael Penn II, who also contributes to Tone Madison) is at his most intro- and retrospective on his new track, he still lands on something somewhat stable by the song’s end when he repeats “Fuck the Alt-Right worldwide” twice. Even when he is at his most conflicted, he still provides listeners a direction that feels like forward. Kenzo’s “EVANESCENCE” has the opposite effect. Over a cold, self-produced electronic beat, Kenzo uses a second-person approach to conflate herself with the listener. This confusion and dissonance begs and then forces us to ask the question “who are we?” both within and outside the song. Both of these processes, resolution (no matter how fleeting) and introspection (no matter how unsettling) can, of course, co-exist within the self, and also probably should. When both artists perform in the same space, it should make for a complex blend. —Henry Solotaroff-Webber
FRIDAY AUGUST 11
Tippy, Early Eyes, Earthman, Squarewave. High Noon Saloon, 9:30 p.m.
Wisconsin band Squarewave have played a few shows since releasing last year’s long-in-the-works album A Tighter Knot, but this will be the first chance in a good while to hear their panoramic psych-rock on a really good soundsystem. And that matters with the sets founding members Jeff Jagielo and Patrick Connaughty (both on vocals and guitar) have been playing in the band’s current live lineup, with Dash Hounds members Alivia Kleinfeldt on bass and Brendan Manley on drums. A Tighter Knot‘s songs take cues from jangly indie-rock, krautrock, polished dream-pop, and sometimes even reggae. They’re not ones to leave the details or the gear behind in the studio. Bringing it across live involves Jagielo and Connaughty managing a collective barge-load of guitar pedals and a lot of sonic finesse, and Kleinfeldt’s backing vocals add another welcoming nuance that wasn’t on the record. Madison band Earthman’s recent debut EP, Fire Night, is just as varied in its way, but sounds more tormented as it tosses between warped electronics, post-punk gloom, and dark pop grandeur. —Scott Gordon
SATURDAY AUGUST 12
Sweet Spirit, His & Her Vanities, Proud Parents. Frequency, 10 p.m.
Austin nine-piece Sweet Spirit play powerful, high-energy rock. Founded by A Giant Dog’s Sabrina Ellis (and joined by AGD’s Andrew Cashen), and hailed by Spoon’s Britt Daniel, Sweet Spirit at times holds singer-songwriter sensibilities, while flirting with E Street Band-style instrumentation. On their 2017 release St. Mojo, Sweet Spirit emphasize powerhouse dual vocals, horns, glammy guitar, and auxiliary percussion. The approach yields taut but soulful R&B on tracks like the duet “I Wanna Have You,” which pulls the big ensemble through a dissonant but exciting key change on its third verse. They play here with Madison post-punk outfit His & Her Vanities, who reunited in 2016 after several years of laying low, as well as power-pop sweethearts Proud Parents. —Emili Earhart
Ra’Shaun, Rich Robbins, Hanks, Tas Raww, Landon DeVon, 6Wisco, P Swagger, The Pro, DJ Pain 1. Memorial Union Terrace, 9 p.m. (free)
The Urban Community Arts Network’s series of summer concerts highlighting local hip-hop is having a particularly strong year, and this show, dubbed 808s In The 608, might be the best lineup of the bunch. (There’s also another installment of the series earlier in the day on the Square.) Most importantly, this will be Rich Robbins’ last show as a Madison resident—the MC graduated from UW-Madison’s First Wave program a couple years ago, and is moving back to his hometown of Chicago soon, along with his right-hand producer Since’93. Robbins, real name Christian Robinson, has distinguished himself on two albums—2015’s Nimbus and 2016’s All.This.Gold—that reflect his conceptual ambition as well as a gift for charming yet challenging bars. On tracks like “H.o.V.,” Robinson uses smooth and nimble delivery to delve into complex questions about facing one’s flaws and the value of life itself: “This the Fountain of Youth, I done punctured the vein / I done been up so early, heard the moon while it’s prayin’.” Combine it with other Madison-connected MCs including Ra’Shaun and DJ Pain 1 hosting, and this is an excellent night of hip-hop on the Terrace. —Scott Gordon
SUNDAY AUGUST 13
The Quickies, The German Art Students. High Noon Saloon, 6 p.m.
Madison band The Quickies broke up in 1999, but several of its members still play active roles in the local music community today—singer Anna Purnell in several outfits including Reptile Palace Orchestra, bassist/vocalist Lisa Marine in The Tiny Band, and drummer Pete Kaesberg in several more outfits, including his Neil Young tribute outfit Shakey. Here they’ll join guitarist Blain Kennedy for a reunion set in their original lineup. The band played cutting, punk-fueled rock with occasional dashes of surf and country, and could also summon dark urgency on tracks like “Don’t Touch Me,” from the 1997 album Dying Of Happiness. They share the bill here with another veteran Madison band, effusive power-pop outfit The German Art Students. —Scott Gordon
Main Street Meats. Barrymore, 7 p.m.
Wisconsin has developed a tradition of quirky independent horror films that use the state’s idyllic landscapes and benign self-image as a backdrop, from 2010’s grimly restrained Re-Cut to ghoulish gimmicks like Ed Gein: The Musical. Writer-director Jeff Lyon throws in on that with the long-in-the-works feature Main Street Meats. With a darkly comic approach and lots of nods to ’80s slasher flicks, the film tells the story of a meat shop that tries to turn its fortunes around by getting into some grisly business. (Not to drop spoilers on you but it maybe involves killing people?) The filmmakers have declared that Main Street Meats contains “partial decapitations, belligerent nudists and a complete lack of good taste,” so here’s hoping for a campy good time at this premiere screening. —Scott Gordon
Castle, Vanishing Kids, Tubal Cain. Frequency, 7 p.m.
Formed a few years ago from the remains of excellent Madison metal outfit The Antiprism, the duo Tubal Cain have become one of the best heavy bands in town. They might fly below a lot of folks’ radars, given their self-effacing nature and lack of interest in self-promotion—their 2016 album Black Eden is pretty much only available if you buy a cassette from them at a show. But drummer/vocalist Kristine Drake and guitarist/vocalist Alex Drake are quite focused when it comes to old-school black-metal songwriting and ferocious live performances. Hard-charging, unvarnished songs like “Dragonrite” and “Apostasy” thrive on filthily concise riffs, rhythm with just the right amount of ominous swing, and the vocal combination of Alex’s baying growl and Kristine’s raspy retch. They play here with Madison goth-rock standouts Vanishing Kids, who are at work on a new album, and Bay Area doom outfit Castle. —Scott Gordon
MONDAY AUGUST 14
Lee Bains III And The Glory Fires, Static Eyes, Sex Scenes. Frequency, 8 p.m.
On their recent Don Giovanni Records release, Youth Detention, Alabama’s Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires candidly communicate the sticky dynamics of Southern life, while playing rock that often verges on gospel-infused power-pop and folk. Their ballad “Nail My Feet Down To The Southside Of Town” conveys a feeling of hometown uneasiness and small-town dynamics over fuzzy guitar and hardly-hidden nostalgic piano lines. They play here with Milwaukee’s garage wailers Static Eyes, who’ve recently released a 7-inch on Madison’s Kitschy Manitou Records and an EP, Traps. Sex Scenes join them from Milwaukee with trashy noise punk and an outrageous, exciting live performance. —Emili Earhart
TUESDAY AUGUST 15
Points & Pints. High Noon Saloon, through August 17, see link for full schedule.
The combination arcade-and-bar thing that’s taken off in other cities has begun to seep into Madison, with locations including Alt Brew and Art In taking on arrays of pinball machines and enterprising retro arcade cabinet rehabbers Aftershock installing machines all over town. The High Noon joins in with three nights of gaming, with each night’s admission including free play on a variety of pinball and other arcade games. What makes it worth checking out, though, is that it adds some solid musical pairings to the grown-up combination of drinking and gaming. Night one comes with musical accompaniment from the TV Dinner DJs, known for their residencies at venues including Gibs and Genna’s, and a DJ set by Samantha Glass’ Beau Devereaux. Night two is a punk show, featuring Madison’s blasted-out and catchy Dumb Vision and New Orleans band Bottomfeeders. Night three is a full-on gaming tournament. —Scott Gordon
Coordinated Suicides, Tunic, Birthing Hips. Mickey’s Tavern, 10:30 p.m. (free)
Boston’s Birthing Hips play topsy-turvy skronk-pop that spins listeners around until they’re dizzy enough to lock into an appropriately twisted dance routine. Angular vocal inflections, acute tempo changes, and erratic outbreaks lend the band’s music a welcomed sense of disorientation. Their 2016 release, No Sorry, induces a manic daze, while also lending a balanced sense of accessibility like any successful pop album. “Up Ramp” quickly swerves out of a state of poppy placidity to a jumbled spaz-punk episode, occasionally entering a realm of heavy, psychedelia. They perform here with Winnipeg’s Tunic, who play wailing, discordant noise punk behind their new EP Boss, released in July. Madison’s Coordinated Suicides (which includes Tone Madison contributor Mike Noto) join them with ominous, sludgy noise-rock. —Emili Earhart
Cold Mountain Child, Tin Can Diamonds. Frequency, 8:30 p.m.
This show will be Madison band Tin Can Diamonds’ last for a good while, as lead singer Aarushi Agni (who also plays in a duo called Little Curl) is getting ready to move away to New York City to pursue a graduate degree in writing. Over the past couple of years the band have made a mark with a mix of folk and R&B, and the songs on their self-titled 2016 album grapple with intertwined strands of the personal and political—whether unpacking the power dynamics of a relationship on “Impression,” pondering capitalism on “Leader Man,” or taking an upbeat on the struggle to survive on “We All Gotta Eat.” They’ve also hinted at dropping one more EP soon. They share the bill here with Michigan band Cold Mountain Child. —Scott Gordon
WEDNESDAY AUGUST 16
Central Park Sessions: Chicago Yestet, Major Vistas, Jon Cleary. Central Park, 5 p.m. (free)
This edition of the Central Park Sessions spans jazz and blues, with a bit of hip-hop mixed in. The Chicago Yestet is a big, effusive outfit from Chicago that teams up with Madison MC Rob Dz to create a dynamic combination of jazz, hip-hop, R&B, and spoken-word performance. Madison trio Major Vistas’ 2016 album Minor Anthems combines guitar, drums, and a variety of keyboard sounds to create instrumentals that embrace the improvisational sensibilities and harmonic complexities of jazz, but also subtle influences from rock and electronic music. Bringing yet another dimension to this bill is pianist Jon Cleary, who’s been a workhorse in New Orleans blues and R&B circles for decades and just recently finished his first solo album, Live At Chickie Wah Wah. —Scott Gordon
Jazz At Five: Chuchito Valdes, Kinfolk. State and Mifflin Streets, 4 p.m. (free)
Pianist Chuchito Valdes was born in Havana to a family that’s played a huge role in Afro-Cuban jazz since the 1940s when his grandfather Bebo Valdes began playing professionally. (His father, Chucho Valdes, is also a renowned pianist.) As a bandleader, composer, and improviser, Valdes seems to relish in playing across a wide range. His 2012 release Live In Chicago stretches from the rippling grooves most often associated with Afro-Cuban jazz to more meditative and thorny workouts that evoke everything from Chopin to Herbie Hancock. Around the time of the album’s recording he was also accused of overdoing it a bit, and indeed there are moments where he pounds away on the piano more than seems interesting or reasonable. But all in all, the richness of Valdes’ repertoire and his flexibility as a player outweigh those gripes. —Scott Gordon