Northless, “All About My Mother,” Double Ewes, the Madison Hip-Hop Awards, and more events of note in Madison this week. | By Emili Earhart, Scott Gordon, John McCracken, Mike Noto, Joel Shanahan, and Henry Solo
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.
THURSDAY DECEMBER 14
Otis Redding Tribute. High Noon Saloon, 7:30 p.m.
December 10, 2017 marks 50 years since Otis Redding’s private plane crashed in Lake Monona, killing the monumentally gifted R&B artist and six of the seven other people aboard. (The sole survivor, trumpeter Ben Cauley, died in 2015.) Now, Madison has a lot to offer musically, but our greatest musical claim to fame is still that one of the greatest singers and songwriters in popular music died here, at age 26, with so much still ahead of him. (He recorded “(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay” just a few days before the crash, and it became a posthumous hit.) You might even think we’d be kind of solemn or sheepish about the whole thing, but Madison has marked the 50th anniversary of this tragedy with two tribute shows, one on December 7 at the Majestic and this one at the High Noon, with Milwaukee-area musician Craig Baumann and band playing two sets of Redding’s covers and originals. Make of that what you will, but there’s no doubt Redding left behind an incredible legacy. —Scott Gordon
FRIDAY DECEMBER 15
Northless, Aseethe, Sunless, Corridoré. The Wisco, 9 p.m.
Milwaukee four-piece Northless have a dynamic way of reconciling the lean and epic tendencies of heavy music, stretching elements of doom metal and noise-rock into grandly corrosive songs. The band’s third album, the new Last Bastion Of Cowardice, is its most varied release yet, from the thrashing verses of “The Origin Of Flames” to the descending guitar melodies that cut through the choruses of “Godsend” to the eerie clean vocals at the beginning of “Our Place In The Dirt.” Last Bastion uses the same bleak palette the band has been developing since 2007—Erik Steinglen’s throat-scraping howl and lyrical fixation with humanity’s destructive tendencies, Steinglen and Nicholas Elert’s dense but flexible guitar work, Jerry Hauppa’s guttural bass tone, John Gleisner’s lumbering but sophisticated drum patterns—but carefully works new and surprising shades into each song. Sure, it’s fair enough to lump Northless in with Neurosis and other intricate, ambitious metal bands, but they’ve also carved out a realm of crushing excellence on their own terms. —Scott Gordon
Double Ewes, Damsel Trash, Cave Curse, Tippy. Crystal Corner Bar, 8 p.m.
Madison/Janesville acid-Americana outfit Double Ewes have always been a scarce resource. They don’t play live too often these days, and it’s taken them over three years to follow up their self-titled debut. As evidenced by the ornate production and potent songwriting on their new full-length Dead Furrow, the trio of crooner-guitarist Whilden Hughes, keyboardist Jeremy Nealis, and bassist Max Jewer have been lording over and learning piles of electronic samplers, drum machines, and synths, and laboring hard in the studio. Spacey, sun-blasted cruisers like soaring opener “Pride” and “How Many Times” blend head-massaging synth frequencies, shimmering guitar riffs, and Hughes’ tasteful crooning with sprawling atmosphere. On poppier cuts like “Dead Furrow” and “Big Blank Page,” Hughes’ quavering vocals come into focus and electronic rhythms steer the tunes along. As difficult as it may sound on paper, Double Ewes have managed to make another record that tastefully blends folk-rock with with electronic music. —Joel Shanahan
SATURDAY DECEMBER 16
Chrissy, DJ Zukas, Nathan Port. Robinia Courtyard, 10 p.m.
Hailing from Chicago by way of Kansas City, Missouri, Chrissy Shively has earned a reputation as one of the most agile selectors and producers in the Midwest. Shively demonstrates his range when bouncing between the intricate footwork and jungle tracks he crafted as Chrissy Murderbot and his gorgeous disco-house collaborations with vocalist and songwriter Hawley Shoffner as Chrissy & Hawley. Of course, when it comes to Shively’s DJing, be sure to check out the batshit amount of territory he covered with his now-defunct My Year Of Mixtapes project, which seemingly ran the gamut of every subgenre of electronic dance music. Despite Shively’s insane range, he’s been settling deep into disco and tasteful house cuts over the past several years. He gave us a tiny peek into his record bag in the latest installment of our Aces series. —Joel Shanahan
Madison Hip Hop Awards. Majestic, 7 p.m.
In its eighth year, the Urban Community Arts Network’s Madison Hip-Hop Awards event continues to serve as an important supplier of legitimacy in a town where hip-hop frequently has been, and continues to be, decried as an entry point or facilitator of violence and hoodlums. Madison’s relationship with hip-hop has been both analogous to and a manifestation of its relationship with folks of color, reluctant at the best of times and downright discriminatory at others. Whatever its flaws, the awards program offers a space where artists can be celebrated for their art first and foremost. This year, however, with the establishment of a long sought-after city task force, and actual backlash to discriminatory policies, the local hip-hop community might actually be able to celebrate some progress, rather just persistence in the face of adversity. The Madison Hip-Hop awards are also thorough in their award categories, which honor not just MCs but also sound engineers and b-boys. The finalist pool, this year, as in most years, also skews toward the greater Madison community and away from UW-Madison. This makes sense— the awards show is largely a local event, and is important considering UW artists usually have more resources and natural spotlights available. Further, the performances at this year’s event are also a boon for the event. Ted Park will be returning home from New York to perform alongside frequent collaborator DJ Pain 1. Stalwarts and frequent award winners 3rd Dimension will also be there, alongside a solo performance from KiloSkitL’z of the group Bloodline. —Henry Solo
No Hoax, Solid Freex, Sex Scenes, DJ The Real Jaguar. Mickey’s Tavern, 10 p.m. (free)
As much as we’d love to rap about how adorable it is that Madison-based multi-instrumentalist Steve Coombs—mastermind of legendary one-man no-wave project Trin Tran—decided to start a band called Solid Freex with his two teenage sons, it’s way more important to discuss how this band fucking rips. The band pulls the explosive anxiety from ’80s hardcore, the spastic slant from post-punk, and the nasty hooks from the grittier end of Detroit garage-rock. Drummer-vocalist Steve Coombs, guitarist-vocalist Josh Coombs-Broekema, and bassist Evan Coombs-Broekema write the songs together, with Steve’s manic yelps and Josh’s raspy shouts working together in call and response or even as one instrument. The trio’s debut full-length still awaits a title and a release date, but it’s finished and very much worth looking forward to. Solid Freex’s quick bursts are packed with earworms, whether it’s the dissonant guitar screeches and seasick bassline that bring in “It Hurts,” the off-kilter wallop of “Vibesakeeper,” or those nasty chords that shouldn’t quite work—but do—on “Teenage Evil.” Hear more about the band on the latest episode of the Tone Madison podcast. —Joel Shanahan
Resistance Writers Tour. High Noon Saloon, 3 p.m.
The lack of transgender and gender-nonconforming visibility in the publication world at large can be disheartening. There are loads of talented writers and poets that break down barriers with their writing daily. The Women Your Mother Warned You About: Resistance Tour is a travelling group of some genre-defining voices and authors. The group comes together to showcase transgender women and AMAB (Assigned Male at Birth) nonbinary writers with the second stop of the 2017 Heartspark Press Great Lakes Tour. Heartspark Press is a publishing collective that exclusives publishes and promotes stories, poems, collections, oral histories, and more from transgender women, non-binary, agender, and AMAB trans people. Their mission is to promote financial accessibility to the work with a Pay-What-You-Can model. One prominent reader on the tour includes Kokumo, a black poet, musician, and activist from Chicago who recently won a 2017 Transgender Poetry Lamba Literary Award for the collection Reacquainted With Life. The collection focuses on survival and resilience reimaging music such as Erykah Badu and Disney Villains like Ursula. Another featured reader is Tobi-Hill Meyer, who is a teacher, activist, and author of many texts focusing on trans lifestyle and sexuality. This lineup is packed with even more accomplished and exciting readers, and you can find more about them here. The venue will be wheelchair accessible and the speakers do ask audience members to be fragrance free. As always, respecting pronouns is appreciated and asking for pronouns is nice thing to do. Some of the writers use she/her pronouns, while others do not. Be respectful of the writers and space being created to give trans women and AMAB trans people a place to share their stories. —John McCracken
Mad Max Elliott, Westernwhere, Exploration Team, M. Martin. Williamson Magnetic Recording Company, 7 p.m.
To celebrate the holidays and raise money for the Dane County Humane Society, local twee janglers Exploration Team host a festive evening of exclusively Madison projects. Songwriter Mike Noto, who can be seen singing and playing guitar in Coordinated Suicides, performs here behind his new solo album A Harvest of Ice, released as M. Martin on local label Rare Plant. While definitely a songwriting-centered project, the tape features an array of instrumentation and styles that make it essentially uncategorizable. Noto’s earnest songwriting is sometimes buried in reverb, accompanied by psyched-out organ tones, or embellished by effects. On the standout track “Catacomb Song,” colorful effects and dense guitar suggest a shade of sinister psychedelia, all the while pushed forward by a bass line that belongs just as much in a pop song as it does a classic, doomy stoner rock track. It is a jarring follow up to the spooky, spaced-out, kaleidoscopic first track, “Against My Ruins.’ Westernwhere (formerly called Hippie Xmas), a project of Justin Johnson from Wood Chickens and James Runde of The Smells, and one-man rockabilly stomper Mad Max Elliot play here as well. —Emili Earhart
SUNDAY DECEMBER 17
Black Sheep Bazaar VI. High Noon Saloon, 11 to 6 p.m. (free)
The Black Sheep Bazaar is a pop-up marketplace featuring wares from local illustrators, artists, woodworkers, and more. It leans a bit more toward the edgy and adventurous than your average craft fair, giving people a chance to buy some truly odd but wonderful items, like found object and bone jewelry by OSOCULT Crafts, pop-culture hand stitching by Stitch Boom Bang featuring your favorite 90’s rapper or 80’s horror movie villains, surreal and astral prints from Dead Meat Designs, and the dark storybook drawings of Ashlie Brophy. The Bazaar will also feature some handmade, humorous soaps by Reek Havoc and body products by ShnazzyDory. Co-organizer Claire Warhus of Snaggle Tooth Arts (the talent behind Tone Madison‘s first ever t-shirt) will have prints, wood-carved ouija boards, and leatherworks. At this edition of the event, 10 percent of all sales will be going to Planned Parenthood, as will all proceeds from a raffle. The vendor list is sprawling and peculiar so hopefully you can find a gift or three for the holidays amongst the oddities, or maybe just one glorious Pizza Butt to gift yourself. Tone Madison will be curating and hosting a DJ booth throughout the event, featuring wide-ranging music selections from Jenni Ladd of WORT’s Leopard Print Lounge show, Grandma Cyd of WSUM’s Heavy Petting Zoo, Madison musician Emili Earhart (whose projects include the avant-garde duo And Illusions, and who also contributes to Tone Madison), sharp house and techno spinner DJ Quinley, Sarah Akawa, and DJ Allison of Madison band Exploration team. —John McCracken
All About My Mother. Chazen Museum of Art, 2 p.m. (free)
Pedro Almodóvar’s 1999 film All About My Mother is a massive drama of tremendous and confusing power, in which the emotions start at 8, leap to 10, and stay pinned in the red throughout. But this film also handles its wild material with deceptive nuance, dealing with a plot that even soap opera writers would deem far-fetched if not for Almodóvar’s sincerity. Cecilia Roth’s starring performance as Manuela, an Argentine nurse in Madrid and then Barcelona who is left devastated after her son Esteban dies in a car accident, does a lot to keep the film grounded. Roth doesn’t overplay. She pulls out the stops when called for (the scene where she sees her son die is agonizing to watch), but navigates every feverish plot twist and coincidence with perfect plausibility. If there was a hint otherwise from her, the tone of the film would be ruined, and Roth is never less than totally honest. Manuela is the rock for the other characters to bounce off of, from her old best friend, a transgender prostitute named Agrado (Antonia San Juan in a lively and moving turn), to Rosa (Penelope Cruz), a pregnant, HIV-positive nun. Many of the characters are sketched with broad strokes, as would be expected from a director this influenced by sensationalized ’50’s melodramas, but they are also paradoxically given dignity, complexity and depth. And it is finally this humanity, found in places and characters that would have easily made for utter caricature in less talented, wise and generous hands, that elevates All About My Mother into the realm of at least a minor classic. The film screens here in a 35mm print, closing out UW Cinematheque’s extensive fall retrospective on Almodóvar. —Mike Noto
Chris Speed/Dave King/Chris Tordini Trio. Arts + Literature Laboratory, 8 p.m.
Multi-reed instrumentalist Chris Speed serves as an important piece of the New york scene, composing, improvising, and performing with figures such as Mary Halvorson, Trevor Dunn, and Craig Taborn. His jazz career incorporates a number of styles ranging from deconstructions of classical music to free jazz to rock-infused Downtown music. His trio, in collaboration with drummer Dave King (of The Bad Plus) and bassist Chris Tordini, communicates a take on jazz that is starkly traditional, but nevertheless avant-garde and progressive. The trio’s 2014 release Really OK moves between hooky, melodic jazz tunes that suggest a standard-like, popular style, and a share of abrasively free, mathy passages. The trio ties the album together, however, through sheer expression and impassioned playing. On standout track “All Of Me,” Speed establishes a meandering melody that, when reinforced by King and Tordini, finds its place in the shape of a sentimental tune suggesting a charming naivety. The trio shifts energy on “Nimble Demons”, a track in which Speed, amidst jolting, spasmodic surges, reintroduces an angular motif that protrudes against the free, thick textures of the trio. —Emili Earhart