Orton Park Fest, Wartorn, Peaking Lights, Evan Murdock, and more events of note in Madison this week.
Sponsor message: The weekly Tone Madison calendar is made possible with support from Union Cab of Madison, a worker-owned cooperative providing safe and professional taxi services. And don’t forget that we have a new and improved, browsable calendar section.
THURSDAY AUGUST 24
The Orton Park Fest music lineup always has some gems, but it’s exceptionally good this time around. Saturday brings a headlining set from Alejandro Escovedo, whose signature meld of country, glam, punk, and Mexican folk music has been in rugged, roaring shape over the past decade. The Texan has been putting out extraordinary solo records since the early 90s, but the stuff he’s made since narrowly surviving a case of hepatitis C has been some of his best, from 2006’s gorgeously bleak The Boxing Mirror to last year’s bright and gritty Burn Something Beautiful. Saturday also boasts the twangy, rollicking proto-rock of Appleton band Dusk, featuring members of Tenement and Holy Sheboygan. For the early risers on Sunday, the fest’s annual “jazz brunch” will feature jazz/hip-hop/neo-soul hybridists Soulmen, who boast a gifted instrumental lineup as well as solid young MC Protege The Pro. Later highlights on Sunday include the Tony Castañeda Latin Jazz Band and deep-digging cover band The Low Czars. It’s also definitely worth catching Madison’s Cycropia Aerial Dance group, who perform Thursday and Friday nights. —Scott Gordon
There’s something inherently comical about naming a concert “Madison’s Favorite Concert” before it’s even happened, and then getting a Chicago band to headline it. But that’s how local weekly Isthmus has chosen to celebrate the rollout of its annual MadFaves reader poll results. Garage-rock outfit Twin Peaks will be topping the bill, which is all well and good but it makes the concert feel more like an extension of the Live On King Street series than, say, a celebration of all things Madison. Madison’s DJ Nick Nice will be spinning and local psych-pop outfit Disq will be playing, both of which redeem the concept a bit. Isthmus put one more spot to a reader vote, and disco band VO5 won out over outfits including furious country-punks Wood Chickens and demented spectacle-conjurors Cribshitter. Isthmus could very well have put its weight as a long-running and popular media outlet behind something that more fully celebrates the musical variety of Madison. But maybe wanting to be Madison’s favorite doesn’t always inspire the best decisions. For now, it’s at least a chance to see the promising Disq get a shot to play for a big outdoor crowd, and perhaps the event will have a better sense of itself in the future. —Scott Gordon
Singer/guitarist Dave Rawlings has one of the most enviable collaborative gigs in American music, using his reedy harmony vocals and prickly acoustic guitar to provide a subtle shadow to Gillian Welch. The two have flipped things on three albums under Rawlings’ name and with Rawlings singing lead and other musicians in the mix. The latest, this year’s Poor David’s Almanack, might not have quite the eerie weight of Welch’s albums, letting Rawlings steer things in a slightly more lighthearted direction, especially on tracks like “Money Is The Meat In The Coconut” and “Come On Over My House.” “Yup” is a new take on a, um, humorous folk song about the devil taking a man’s wife to hell. But the level of craft is still there, especially in the way the duo’s voices mesh and in their just-understated-enough instrumentation. There’s still emotional depth to be found in between the lines here, and more overtly on standouts like the beautifully sad “Airplane.” —Scott Gordon
FRIDAY AUGUST 25
It was incredibly sad this February to lose the legendary drummer Clyde Stubblefield, who held down a free and very fun “Funky Mondays” gig at small Madison clubs for years, later taking a break from it and more recently reviving it as a monthly gig at the High Noon. But his band, the Clyde Stubblefield All Stars, has kept busy, with drummer Joey Banks directing things and Cowboy Winter singer Kevin Willmott II joining in on the band’s solid set of funk and R&B chestnuts. One big motivator is that the band’s gigs raise money for a scholarship fund the Madison Area Music Association has established in Stubblefield’s honor. Banks recently announced that Funky Mondays would cease after July and return as Funky Fridays, hopefully drawing in a big crowd and more dollars for the worthy cause. The ever-solid DJ Vilas Park Sniper will be on hand for this gig as well. —Scott Gordon
Crust-blasted metal outfit Wartorn formed in Manitowoc in 2004, and eventually hooked up with renowned metal label Southern Lord, which released the band’s 2013 album Iconic Nightmare. Songs like “No Sanctuary No Salvation” and “All Flags Still Burn” convey the band’s bleak political fury, but also achieve a deft balance of lashing hardcore and dense, sludgy undertones. It’s tough to be this heavy and this nimble at once, but Wartorn (whose drummer, Hart Alan Miller, lives in Madison and plays in other bands including Vanishing Kids) has a lock on it. They’re planning to begin work on the follow-up to Iconic Nightmare later this year. They share this bill with two heavy Madison standouts, black-metal duo Tubal Cain and scorching punk band No Hoax. —Scott Gordon
Nate Meng And The Stolen Sea, Gods In The Chrysalis, We Should Have Been DJs, Dear Violence. The Frequency, 9 p.m.
Over the last couple years, guitarist/vocalist Aaron Miller and vocalist/percussionist Alissa Taylor have cultivated their own distinctive niche in the Madison music scene as Gods In The Chrysalis. Miller’s background includes singing in metal acts like Dissent And Revolt and The Faith Hills Have Eyes, so it isn’t altogether surprising to hear a stark acoustic rock and post-grunge influence here. However, in Gods, Miller’s riffs are tempered and complemented by Taylor’s penchant for quirky freak-folk atmospherics. When their sound fully comes together, it emphasizes a certain earthy yet mystical duality. “Sun Water Sky,” the opener on their new album Lovers’ Blood, soars on its serene dreamlike vocal reverb and lyrical imagery that meld with simplistic but catchy chord changes that recall the stripped-down approach of Thurston Moore’s Demolished Thoughts. The lengthy “Witchdom,” a meandering and complex ode to femininity, is bookended by noisy drone passages— before an Alice In Chains-esque bridge, Miller and Taylor’s haunting and wild vocal interplay reveals the depth of their dynamic and stylistic range. There are even shades of Deradoorian and Cat Power in the softer timbre of Taylor’s expressions on the staccato rhythm of “My Man.” While the multi-tracked vocal production on Lovers’ Blood is spacey and ethereal, Taylor is at her most commanding, charismatic, and grounded during Gods In The Chrysalis’ modestly theatrical live performances. They’ll play here to celebrate the album’s release; give “Sun Water Sky” a listen below. Fellow local rock acts We Should Have Been DJs and Dear Violence round out the bill, while vivid alt-country/Americana group Nate Meng And The Stolen Sea headlines. —Grant Phipps
SATURDAY AUGUST 26
New York’s Marateck swerve swiftly between driving and halting cadences, creating a jolting turn of events narrated by angular lines and varied guitar tones. Marateck’s approach manages to wring out everything that its guitar-bass-drums instrumentation (traditionally) has to offer, while still remaining focussed and direct. The four-piece play here behind their latest full length, Time Is Over, released last month. On the standout track “Shrimp Tooth,” Marateck create a sequence of sudden structural deviations followed by prompt surges of realignment. All members hone in on a concentrated zone, patiently building up tension around a meandering drum line. As the band deviates from their zone, they always return sharply, yielding a thicker, bolder, more convincing pulse until an appropriately sudden halt. Marateck plays here with Chicago’s goof-math-rock outfit Space Blood, as well as local bass experimenter Rob Lundberg (of Jobs and Nestle) and superb post-punk/dub outfit Control. (Full disclosure: Lundberg also helps book Tone Madison‘s concert series.) This show is the second installation of OTHERsound, a series of intersecting and exploratory sounds taking place at Art In. —Emili Earhart
Is there a bigger question mark or potential X-factor in Madison’s music scene than ME eN YOU? The uber-talented, groovy and thoughtful-but-never-contrived hip-hop band makes music that cuts right to the bone, but tragically, they’ve put out so few recordings. Still, the four songs they’ve released (three of which form an EP, We Are A Mediocre Masterpiece. Now What?) are jam-packed with ideas and provide hearty listening sustenance on their own. That’s especially true of the defiant track “We Are,” where the group seems to invoke both The Roots and Kids These Days to create a punky, funky combustion of jazzy melodies and rapid-fire rhymes. That said, live is the best way to get introduced to the vocal and instrumental talent crammed into the band’s large and frequently shifting lineup. —Henry Solotaroff-Webber
San Francisco garage-rock outfit Male Gaze combine the sweet spirit of indie rock with a darker post-punk flavor. The band’s songs tend to play with your emotions, burying them under fuzzed-out guitar and submerging them in a bath of reverb. The grave bellow of vocalist Matt Jones rings comparable to certain goth-rock frontmen, but the band pave their own path within the garage-rock scene. Boasting members of Mayyors, and Blasted Canyons, Male Gaze comes across as both charming and vulnerable on their latest release, Miss Taken. They play here with local garage-punk mad me Fire Heads and maniacal punk trio Solid Freex. —Emili Earhart
SUNDAY AUGUST 27
Formerly Madison-based duo Peaking Lights nurse their thirst for a forever-summer on their latest double LP, this year’s The Fifth State Of Consciousness. The now LA-based psychedelic dub-pop project often captures the pleasantly dizzy feeling of a faded, humid summer-day-turns-to-night cycle. The track “Sweetness Isn’t Far Away” slowly induces a welcomed daze carried by Aaron Coyes’ dub-rooted bassline and lifted by Indra Dunis’ airy voice. Ethereal synth pads echo Dunis’ top-of-consciousness observations—”sweet scents fill the air/ I’m taken back/ I feel good”—soaring over a circular beat that wafts the song forward. You find yourself no longer pining over a summer soon to end; you are present, but you are elsewhere. Only at the end of the night do you return, with Dunis asking, “Why can’t I keep this feeling forever?” Madison’s own ever-changing, always energetic and adventurous Golden Donna (aka Tone Madison contributor Joel Shanahan) opens. Playing behind his 2017 release Fairydust and pulling from a deep pool of sounds and beats, Golden Donna executes some of the most alive electronic music in town. Listeners find themselves engaged mentally and physically—relishing in the swooping sonority, losing themselves in the pulsating palpitation. —Emili Earhart
TUESDAY AUGUST 29
Madison singer/songwriter Evan Murdock and his band The Imperfect Strangers bring a welcome warmth and a bit of playfulness to the local country/folk landscape. Murdock’s voice tends toward the baritone but still has lots of wry and vulnerable shades to it—not always an easy balance for singers with a deeper range. The band’s instrumentation hangs between Murdock’s tastefully overdriven guitar (when he’s playing electric) and Aaron Jossart’s gently trilling accordion and organ, but Liz Stattelman-Scanlon’s vocals, Pat Logterman’s upright bass, and Colin Good’s drums all contribute to a full, well-rounded sound. The band plays this happy hour show to celebrate their second full-length album, Animals. The record feels amiable and familiar throughout, but covers a lot of approaches, from the extended ballad “A Way To Leave” to the honky-tonk hookup duet “Let’s Finish What We Started.” Give “A Way To Leave” a listen below. The band will have CDs for sale at this show, with a portion of the proceeds benefitting the Dane County Humane Society’s Wildlife Center. —Scott Gordon
WEDNESDAY AUGUST 30
Country-fried vocalist and guitar wizard Bonnie Raitt has undergone several reinventions over the last several decades—see the bluesy roadhouse vibe of 1972’s Give It Up, 1979’s loungey, R’n’B-tinged The Glow, and the balance of pop-country and deep ballads on 1991’s Luck Of The Draw. But her timeless hooks and signature rasp have consistently glued it all together. And when you get past the cringe-y acclimating needed to appreciate a rural dive favorite like goose-necking bar jam “Something To Talk About,” there are deep rewards in store for those willing to jump into Raitt’s back-catalogue. Raitt’s evocative delivery has the power to completely redefine a song. Take “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” for instance, which was originally written as an upbeat bluegrass tune by a couple of Nashville-based songwriters, but in Raitt’s hands became a masterful, spacious, and heart-wrenching slow jam, colored in with Bruce Hornsby’s lush, otherworldly pop piano stylings. —Joel Shanahan
Drummer and experimenter Jordan Sobolew single-handedly constructs succinctly spazzy noise-rock tunes under the name Reptoid. Between drum-controlled synthesizers and Sobolew’s abrasive yet expressive playing, Reptoid expands the drum-centric noise-rock territory of players like Brian Chippendale or Zach Hill. Sobolew, while often manic and dense in his playing, also backs off considerably, exhibiting a strong sense of spacial awareness that lets the electronics come through. That makes for varied layers and colorful complexities, as you can hear on the track “Dead Planet,” released this month off Reptoid’s new EP, Scum Supreme. Reptoid plays here with a few local one-man experimental outfits: dub looper Asumaya, trip-hop mixer Bell & Circuit, and drone project Keelhauler. —Emili Earhart