Gender Confetti at Hot Summer Gays, noisy adventures with Toupee and Sissy Spacek, and more events of note in Madison this week.
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THURSDAY AUGUST 23
Over the last couple of decades, noise figure John Wiese has built an impressive, extensive, and overwhelming discography. Here, Wiese performs with drummer and vocalist Charlie Mumma as Sissy Spacek in the midst of several new releases. Among them, in July’s Ways Of Confusion, Sissy Spacek delivers an impressively heightened model of the duo’s intensity: The band delivers crushing bass positively bruising with blistering blastbeats. Also out this year from the grindcore-meets-musique-concrete duo: Pitched Intervention and L/L. Like most musicians, Wiese has been collaborating with other musicians throughout his entire career, but the pairing with Mumma is notable because his live drumming immeasurably revs things up while adding an element of urgency and accountability to these powerful performances.
Also on the bill is Chicago punk outfit Toupee, poised to deliver an absolute freak-out of hysteria. Its 2015 Moniker Records release Leg Toucher offers hook-filled bass, a spectrum of guitar colors, and drastic hairpin attitude shifts courtesy of vocalist Whitney Allen. A great demonstration of this cacophony is standout track “Sensei, Swami, Guru,” where Allen sings like she’s anxiously trying to keep her cool but is bound to blow up again at any minute. Chicago’s Unmanned Ship play here as well behind January’s No More Digital Blood. On “Sensitive Cyclone,” the trio constructs something minimal yet massive: Emerging out of a thin sheet of disorienting sounds, the band pulls together a swampy, psychedelic bass line that bears forward a Zeuhl-like sense of militaristic prog doom. As if to change battle tactics, they then launch full force with guitar noise washing out the rhythm section before achieving victory in a blissed-out delirium. —Emili Earhart
The east side’s summer music festival season crests with the four-day Orton Park Festival, and as always the local outfits playing in the afternoons and early evenings are just as good a reason to go as the touring headliners. Shakey (Friday, 51:5 p.m.) is a deep-reaching Neil Young covers project whose lineup boasts Madison veterans like Pete Kaesberg (who currently lives in Eau Claire but came up in the 1980s playing in local punk bands including Mecht Mensch), Dan Hobson (who played drums in Killdozer), and Maggie Weiser (who has played in outfits including Reptile Palace Orchestra and the late Marques Bovre’s band). Saturday’s Madison-based highlights include the Cajun-tinged country of Evan Murdock & The Imperfect Strangers (11:45 a.m.), the immaculately crafted psych-rock of Squarewave (2:45 p.m.), and the Acoplados Latin Jazz Project (5 p.m.).
Chuck Prophet, a wry and underrated San Francisco singer-songwriter and guitarist (and occasional collaborator to Alejandro Escovedo, who played a wonderful headlining set at last year’s Orton Park Fest), headlines on Saturday behind his 2017 album Bobby Fuller Died for Your Sins. Waco Brothers, a rough-and-tumble country-punk outfit led by Jon Langford of British punk legends Mekons, closes out the festival on Sunday night. As always, Madison’s Cycropia Aerial Dance troupe take to the park’s lush tree canopy for a mix of movement, visuals, and sound on Thursday and Friday night. —Scott Gordon
FRIDAY AUGUST 24
The annual Hot Summer Gays series, organized by the Queer Pressure music/art/activism collective and the Dyke Dive bar pop-up series, brings together a musically diverse lineup of artists from across Wisconsin’s LGBT community, and this weekend’s two-night installment is formidable. Friday’s event, art Art In, kicks off with a “queer market” of goods from local creators, including screenprints created right on the spot, running from 6 to 9 p.m.. Attendees can also sign up for a queer dating game that starts at 7:30 p.m. Friday’s music lineup is focused on Wisconsin hip-hop. Up first is rapper/singer Dequadray White, an Atlanta native and UW-Madison student, who incorporates a broad and bright electro-funk palette into his ambitious 2018 album Dequadray: A Black Sitcom. After that come Madison-based rappers Kilo Skitl’z and Landon Devon, then the explosion of surreal movement and verbiage that is Milwaukee MC Zed Kenzo. Friday closes out with Milwaukee DJ 88 spinning a dance party.
On Saturday, the series moves over to Robinia Courtyard, where the musical highlights will include Madison duo Gender Confetti. On the recent EP Queers Of Joy, drummer/vocalist Elyse Clouthier and guitarist/vocalist Sylvia Johnson swerve between powerchord-fueled queer-power sloganeering and tender, sparse post-punk on the recent EP Queers Of Joy. Johnson will also be closing out the night with a dance-party DJ set under their DJ Hitatchii moniker. Other performers on Saturday include the rugged Madison surf-punk outfit Venus In Furs and bewitching singer-songwriter Olyvia Jaxyn. —Scott Gordon
SUNDAY AUGUST 26
Longtime Madison drummer Michael Brenneis—whose numerous projects include the New Breed Jazz Jam and Major Vistas—embarked earlier this year on a series of improvised duo recordings with a rotating cast of other jazz musicians in the area. The latest installment, Bat Wing, finds Brenneis trading contemplative murmurs and occasional blasts of dissonance with bassist John Christensen, who is just as busy in the local music community; his recent collaborators include saxophonist Anders Svanoe and the Lesser Lakes Trio, and earlier this summer he celebrated the release of a composition-focused solo album, Dear Friend. Across Bat Wing’s seven tracks, Brenneis and Christensen patiently unfold the variety of textures and melodies at their command, in improvised workouts that always feel guided by a keen compositional sense. They’ll have a chance to dig deeper into the collaboration at this installment of Arts + Lit Lab’s monthly New Music Series. —Scott Gordon
WEDNESDAY AUGUST 29
The Madison chapter of the international Nerd Nite talk series regularly fills up the High Noon, and it benefits greatly from being near a major research university and in a city full of eccentrics. Nerd Nite speakers are basically community members who sign up to give a presentation, whether it’s on their area of academic/professional expertise or just some highly specific nagging passion—or, better still, a collision of the two. There are slides, too, but Nerd Nite talks are more loose and profane and expressive than TED Talks or proper lectures. Talks generally clock in under a half-hour, and there are three at each monthly event, with time in between talks for drinking and socializing. This week, Nerd Nite Madison comes back from its summer break with software engineer Hilary Stohs-Krause discussing the history of women and non-binary people in tech, radiologist Sam Hurley exploring what happens when you use medical imaging devices on inanimate objects, and transportation expert Chris McCahill asking the question “Parking in cities: Never enough or way too much?” —Scott Gordon
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