“Sixty Six,” Helmet, John Waters, Dash Hounds, and more events of note in Madison this week. | By Emili Earhart, Scott Gordon, Erica Motz, Grant Phipps, Chali Pittman
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THURSDAY DECEMBER 15
Bad Cinema: New Year’s Evil. Central Library, 6:30 p.m. (free)
Emmett Alston’s 1980 gore-fest New Year’s Evil is mostly remembered in the critical record as a mediocre horror flick, or “just barely competent,” as Roger Ebert called it. Nonetheless, it’ll do to close out this year’s run of the Madison Public Library’s monthly Bad Cinema series. The plot: It’s New Year’s Eve, and a twisted killer is planning to take one victim as it strikes midnight in each time zone of the continental U.S. He broadcasts his intentions to a TV personality hosting a live, punk- and new wave-themed broadcast, and tells the host she’ll be the final victim. —Scott Gordon
Helmet, Local H. High Noon Saloon, 8 p.m.
Helmet’s shifting array of musicians under the helm of co-founder Page Hamilton contributes to the band’s vacillation between avant-garde and pop-metal tendencies. Helmet created a distinctive style in the 1990s that has been copied over and over by a bunch of heavy metal heavy-hitters. Helmet itself delivers some enjoyable music when leaning on the style they created: repetitive riffs, Hamilton’s vocals, out-there time signatures, and a bit of experimentation. But when they try to stray from that—making albums that are radio-friendly and easier to digest, or going the other way and taking more chances than is harmonious—they end up disappointing. Helmet’s new album, Dead To The World, seems like a confused mess, and their recent albums have failed to live up to the glory of high water-marks like 1994’s Betty. Still, Helmet’s worth seeing for its considerable influence, and perhaps some of that repetition-experimentation balance will sneak back into this performance. Long-time Illinois pop-rockers Local H will open. —Chali Pittman
Wil Anderson. Comedy Club on State, through Dec. 17, see link for all showtimes
Australian comedian Wil Anderson spends about half his time in LA, so he’s not unknown to American audiences, though certainly many fans here know him best from his guest appearances on podcasts including Dork Forest, Sklarbro Country, and The Dollop. In his stand-up, Anderson can come off as a combination of a slick, cocky rock-star comic (which he kind of is, at home) and a warm, genially lefty alt-comic. Which is a balance that works for Anderson: When he really gets going, even about relatively well-trammeled subject matter, he plays like a bubbly speeding train, or in other words the kind of person you want powering through a set at a comedy club. —SG
FRIDAY DECEMBER 16
Destroy All Christmas: Droids Attack, House Of Lud. Frequency, 9 p.m.
Madison metal outfit Droids Attack’s annual holiday show, Destroy All Christmas, is now in its twelfth year. The festivities combine the band’s love of heavy music, sci-fi geekiness, and weird humor, with features like a visit from “Santa Bot” and “sexy elves.” In addition to Droids, whose most recent album of sludge-y fun was this year’s Sci-Fi Or Die, Madison doom-metal outfit House Of Lud will be playing. —SG
Dash Hounds, Sleeping Jesus, Exploration Team. Williamson Magnetic Recording Company, 8 p.m.
Winona, Minnesota band Sleeping Jesus make cheerful, hazy, sun-blasted pop on their 2016 EP Perennial. That should make their set a nice complement to Madison’s Dash Hounds, who released an excellent debut EP of morose and richly layered songs in this year’s Eft. That EP ended up on our top 20 Madison records of 2016 list earlier this week. Also on the bill here is Exploration Team, a new band featuring members of Madison indie-pop outfits Jonesies and Automatically Yours. —SG
Ben Ferris Quintet. Crescendo, 7:30 p.m.
Jazz bassist Ben Ferris plays in a slew of local outfits ranging in styles from salsa to funk. But over the past year or so has also found time to play a lot of shows and create several original compositions with one of his own ensembles, the Ben Ferris Quintet, with Paul Dietrich on trumpet, Nicholas Bartell on sax, Paul Hastil on piano, and Miguel McQuade on drums. The quintet will play here to celebrate the release of its first album, Home, which consists entirely of original compositions by Ferris, Bartell, and Dietrich. Many of Home’s tracks are reflective, melodic compositions that leave a healthy amount of room for improvisation. But the clear standout track is the 15-minute “Another Choice,” which begins with a somber bowed bass solo and proceeds to steer its way through a series of emotionally turbulent, at times free-feeling passages. Hear an interview with Ferris, and a few snippets from the album, on our latest podcast episode. —SG
Rob Butler, DJ Evan Woodward. Gib’s, 10 p.m.
This Friday, Gib’s welcomes DJ sets from London-based Rob Butler, founder of Be With Records, and the ever-eclectic local DJ Evan Woodward. Be With’s carefully curated—but very diverse—selection of all-reissued records are a window into Butler’s DJ stylings (or vice versa—it was Butler’s desire for hard-to-find records as a DJ that inspired him to start a reissue label). The label’s catalog ranges from ’80s soul and groove, as in the introductory release, Leon Ware’s self-titled album, to contemporary R&B, with the first-ever vinyl release of Cassie’s 2006 self-titled album, featuring her debut single “ME&U” (I got major flashbacks to middle school Saturday mornings spent watching VH1’s Top 20 Video Countdown from this music video
Sixty Six. Vilas Hall, 7 p.m. (free)
Collagist Lewis Klahr’s latest project, which premiered at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan last winter, is a 90-minute anthology that unites the pop-art ephemera of the 1960s with the haunting depths of Greek mythology. Sixty Six‘s multifaceted visual presentation superimposes literal comic Pop Art, popular music, and classical composition. The film is arranged into 12 animated chapters or short films, beginning with “Mercury,” after the patron messenger god of commerce and eloquence, and concluding with “Lethe,” named for Hades’ river of forgetfulness. The film’s dazzlingly bizarre range of tones and textures evoke the erotic nostalgia of pulp-noir fiction while pushing forward into cosmically unnerving dimensions. In addition to its unique look, cultivated from the philosophies of the French godfathers of Surrealism, André Breton and Paul Eluard, the true resonance of the work can be traced to its mélange of color and black-and-white images from nearly 14 years (2002-2015) worth of meticulous craft. Sixty Six may have been shot digitally, but it possesses a raw and tangible quality that can only belong to cut-out stop-motion animation. It was also ranked as the 10th-best film of 2015 by The New York Times. —Grant Phipps
POSTPONED: A John Waters Christmas. Barrymore, 8 p.m.
Filmmaker and debonair filth-peddler John Waters’ annual Christmas tour is pretty much just this: Waters comes out on stage and spends an hour or so gleefully riffing about the holidays, making plenty of tinsel-strewn sick jokes and occasionally declaring things like “I love Christmas so much I could fuckin’ shit!” And OK, there’s some structure here thanks to Waters’ playful notions about gifts and how to have a good Christmas party, but the thing is Waters is totally the kind of person who’s worth going to see yammer for an hour—a dashing, immaculately put-together trashmonger who can talk up a charming storm. With any luck, you’ll also get a Q&A session as an encore. —SG
Taylor/Hamer/Henrickson/Grosse (-1). Arts + Literature Laboratory, 8 p.m.
Madison-based electronic and percussive maestros Gregory Taylor, Darwin Grosse, and Tom Hamer collaborate here as a formidable trio. This group usually also includes soothing and vivid visual projection from a fourth member, Mark Henrickson, so this show at the intimate Arts + Literature Laboratory space is being billed as “Taylor/Hamer/Henrickson/Grosse (-1).” The remainder of the typical THHG quartet will thread ornately improvised ambient drones and textures via laptop and analog synths (from Taylor and Grosse) with the gentle rhythmic pulse of exotic percussion (from Hamer). The three artists may be renowned individually in the Midwest’s avant-garde scene, but this event will undoubtedly provide a rare chance to absorb their unpredictably resonant interplay, a suitably moody soundtrack to an expectedly icy winter night. —GP
SATURDAY DECEMBER 17
Squarewave, Tippy. Mickey’s Tavern, 10 p.m. (free)
This bill pairs up two Madison bands that made two of the best local rock records of the year. Squarewave took a polished approach on its album A Tighter Knot, meticulously stacking up sonic layers to create gentle but powerful psych-pop tunes. Tippy, in its four-piece incarnation, created something a bit more shaggy on a self-titled album, but with smartly self-deprecating lyrics and arrangements that prove plenty resourceful in their own way. Read more about Squarewave in our recent interview, and hear a conversation with Tippy leader Spencer Bible on a recent Tone Madison podcast episode. —SG
Inferno Reunion. High Noon Saloon, 9 p.m. (free)
The North Side venue Inferno closed down in spring 2015, after almost 20 years of providing a vital home for all manner of industrial music, fetish nights, and other deviant activities[. But the venue’s spirit will power this party celebrating the 20th anniversary of Inferno opening its doors. The night will feature sets from Inferno residents including DJ WhiteRabbit and Samrock, and an appearance by fetish performer Karcus. Of course, there’s no way a single bill could account for the variety of music and performances Inferno actually hosted over the years, but it’s a piece of underground local history that deserves a celebration all the same. —SG
CANCELED: Micawber, The Central, Khazaddum, 40 Ounce Fist, Chaosophy. Red Zone, 8 p.m.
Heavy music in Madison can really ebb and flow, so we’re glad that local duo The Central contributes something that’s deftly executed and completely off-the-wall. Guitarist-vocalist Frankie Furillo and drummer Alex Roberts fling together disparate shards of grindcore, math-rock, pop, and prog on this year’s Discovery Of A Rat, an album of mostly very short tracks that burst with playful complexity. On standout tracks like “Statues,” The Central manage to be highly technical without coming off as pretentious or stiff, instead bringing a swinging, teetering feel to their odd rhythms and mangled riffs. Read more about the band in our interview from November. —SG
SUNDAY DECEMBER 18
Black Sheep Bazaar V. High Noon Saloon, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The Black Sheep Bazaar craft fair returns to the High Noon Saloon for its fifth installment this weekend. Per the bazaar’s custom, the approximately 20 vendors will be donating a portion of their profits to Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, and representatives from PPWI will be there to accept in-person donations and volunteer sign-ups. Wares for sale include prints and ouija boards from Snaggle Tooth Arts
TUESDAY DECEMBER 20
Pelham, Magma Carta, Bassliss. Frequency, 8 p.m.
Madison trio Magma Carta play here to celebrate the release of Zugzwang, a debut album whose bright guitar-pop recalls the feisty-sweet balance of The Weakerthans or Superchunk. Vocalist/guitarist Scott Stetsons builds the songs around punchy guitar figures and lyrics that feel sweet and empathic even when they’re a bit cryptic. There’s bite and conflict behind the sugary melodies of songs like “Perpetual 94” and “Roamin’ Empire,” but the band makes those qualities play together. The standout here would have to be the second track, “Gatecrashers,” whose chorus strikes a balance between sadness and soaring. —SG
WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 21
Blueheels, Faux Fawn. High Noon Saloon, 6 p.m.
This early show combines two of the more distinctive (also love-’em-or-hate-’em) voices in local music: Blueheels’ raspy (sometimes flat-out cracking), mischievous Robby Schiller and Faux Fawn’s plaintive, high-register Paul Otteson. Blueheels, the more raucous of the two bands, came back this year from a rather slow period with the release of their fourth album, Get Lonely, a collection of sly, funny, Americana-blasted rock songs. Faux Fawn’s latest full-length was 2014’s Lonesome Loon, a quietly ambitious take on folk music and narrative songwriting. Given the season, Faux Fawn’s opening set here might also include songs from their 2015 Christmas EP, Turtle Doves. —SG