Madison calendar, December 19 through January 1

Telechrome at Mickey’s, a solstice celebration at Communication, and more events of note in Madison during the last days of 2019.

Telechrome at Mickey’s, a solstice celebration at Communication, and more events of note in Madison during the last days of 2019.


Ben Ferris Octet Holiday Party. North Street Cabaret, 7 p.m.

Jazz bassist Ben Ferris wraps up another busy year, which included the release of a wildly ambitious album with the band Mr. Chair, with his annual holiday party in the cozy confines of the North Street Cabaret. Just how much Christmas music and how much non-seasonal jazz Ferris and his eight-piece band (plus guest vocalist Rose Heckenkamp-Busch) end up playing is up to the crowd: Ferris will set out two tip jars, one marked “ho ho ho” and the other marked “no no no,” and audience members can vote with their dollars as to how festive the next selection in the set should be. Ferris has also promised some “surprise presents,” but the real draw here is the octet’s excellent lineup of some of Madison’s most active and versatile jazz musicians, including trumpeter Paul Dietrich, drummer Matt Endres, and trombone player Darren Sterud. On Friday, Sterud has his own annual holiday concert at the Majestic, which includes a special performance of Duke Ellington’s version of The Nutcracker Suite. —Scott Gordon


Kat And The Hurricane, Graham Hunt & CNL, Grace Olson. Communication, 3 to 7 p.m.

This early show marks the winter solstice with three artists in singer-songwriter mode and one burst of burly hard rock. Claire Nelson-Lifson, best known as a guitarist in vocalist in Madison power-pop outfit Proud Parents, will perform in a duo setting here with recent Madison transplant Graham Hunt, where the two plan to back each other on stripped-down versions of their original songs. The two collaborated on Nelson-Lifson’s 2017 solo release Why Am I Like This, which comprised two songs that combined bright, warm jangle with cutting self-reflection. Hunt, whose other projects have included the Milwaukee bands Midnight Reruns and Sundial Mottos, released a couple of solo efforts this year, the album Leaving Silver City and a single called “Change Their Mind.”


Madison trio Darker N’ Darker was initially slated to play on this bill but had to drop off. In their stead, Grace Olson of Madison band Norris Court has stepped in to play a solo set. Kat Farnsworth of introspective Madison folk/pop outfit Kat And The Hurricane plays a solo set, as the band prepares to release a new album in spring. —Scott Gordon


The Punch Bowl. High Noon Saloon, 9 p.m.

Between tense family reunions, and long hours spent on either side of the checkout counter getting the gifts, the holidays are undeniably one of the most stressful times of year. One of the most magical moments of the season comes right when the clock strikes midnight on December 26, and a good deal of the pressure suddenly vanishes. And what better to do in the midst of a magical moment than to party?

Over the years, Madison’s Foshizzle Family has made a name for itself putting on party after party with the promise that you will want to dance. The Punch Bowl is among the group’s most ambitious events to date. Beyond the killer lineup of DJs headlined headlined by Fortune, who’s been a central part of Milwaukee’s electronic music scene for about 20 years now, the party brings a slew of visual artists and dancers to High Noon Saloon.

The most intriguing item on the lineup, though, is Stevens Point-based artist and fashion designer Yuliya Bay’s “Trash Fashion.” Bay’s designs, made with artfully woven bits of glittery plastic detritus, wed the elegant with the grotesque with such finesse that it’s hard to make sense of whether they come straight out of a dream or a nightmare. It’s a beauty so freaky that to witness it in the flesh is the only real way to do it justice. —Sannidhi Shukla

Telechrome, Venereal Crush, Taralie Peterson & Adam Flottmeyer, Hannah Edlén. Mickey’s Tavern, 10 p.m. (free)

Dubuque, Iowa band Venereal Crush plays improvised sets that travel a murky zone between ambient music, free jazz, and abrasive noise. The five-piece’s electronics, guitar, bass, and percussion often come together with an eerie restraint, occasionally incorporating other instruments and guest players into the filthy free-form miasma. Venereal Crush’s live sets have a bit more bite and catharsis than the band’s recorded material, but even then, the band is good at keeping listeners adrift on a sea of unease. The rest of this show is an excellent mix of experimental-leaning acts from Madison. Taralie Peterson of Louise Bock and Spires That In The Sunset Rise will be doing a live collaboration with Adam Flottmeyer of Like A Manatee and Norris Court. Telechrome, the duo of Terrance Barrett and Kenneth Tarek Sabbar (who both multi-task on guitars and electronics), is fresh off recording a new album and has been playing rapidly evolving live sets that mix Krautrock with unsettling psychedelia. Multi-instrumentalist Hanna Edlén draws on both a background as a classical clarinetist and an interest in unpredictable loop-driven compositions in her solo work. —Scott Gordon


Wartorn, Pyroklast, Warbastard, Black Cat. Mickey’s Tavern, 10 p.m. (free)

Mickey’s Tavern and a group of local musicians put this show together as a fundraiser for Brett Messner, a Madison resident who recently sustained serious injuries in a work accident. The lineup is a detonation of filthy, political heaviness from Wisconsin. Madison’s own Pyroklast is playing a rare reunion set here, and Wartorn has been more active lately but hasn’t played very much locally in recent years, so both should be a big draw. The two bands released a split together in 2011, The Last Line Of Resistance, and each has its own way of blending the high-tempo fury of hardcore with elements of metal, never quite wanting to be pinned down as “crust punk.” Between the two bands there are members of other solid acts who’ve been more active around town recently, including Dosmales, Vanishing Kids, Ruin Dweller, and Tubal Cain, so even if you’re new to Pyroklast and Wartorn, it’s clear there’s plenty of grisly excellence under the hood here. 

Two (relatively) newer Madison punk bands add to the excitement here. Black Cat’s 2018 debut album, Withdraw Your Consent, offered a joyfully defiant perspective on political hardcore with songs that take on the scourges of capitalism, sexism, and police violence. Warbastard released its album Blood On Your Hands in January, and contributes even more dependably scuzzy d-beat to the proceedings. Does Mickey’s really have room for four bands and a furious pit? Absolutely not, but it’s always fun to try. —Scott Gordon 


12/19: Thursday Night Movie Club: Yen Ching. Central Library, 6:30 p.m.


12/20: Darren Sterud Orchestra Holiday Concert. Majestic, 7:30 p.m.

12/21: Tom Gullion Quartet. Café Coda, 8 p.m.

12/21: Waylan St. Palan & The Magic Elves. High Noon Saloon, 8 p.m.

12/21: Ladyscissors, Gentle Brontosaurus, Able Baker. Crystal Corner Bar, 9 p.m.

12/26: The Punch Bowl. High Noon Saloon, 9 p.m.

12/28: Barbacoa. North Street Cabaret, 8 p.m.

12/28: Hanah Jon Taylor Artet Holiday Concert. Café Coda, 8 p.m.

12/31: James Pennington, Soundmurderer, Mystic Bill, Starski And Clutch, Kitty Spit, Jared Perez, Cykophuk, Delilac, Demix, Jethrox, Piledriver. Crucible, 8 p.m.

12/31: New Queer’s Eve Party: Damsel Trash, Gully Boys, Gender Confetti. Crystal Corner Bar, 9 p.m.

12/31: Fire Heads, Poney, Neens, Tom Grrrl. Mickey’s Tavern, 10 p.m. (free)

An ode to the best and worst of Madison summers.

Eight stories over eight days, delivered directly to your inbox.

This site uses cookies to provide you with a great user experience. By continuing to use this website, you consent to the use of cookies in accordance with our privacy policy.

Scroll to Top