Mirror Fears, Brian Regan, “Children Of Men,” Basi And Bhairav, and more events of note in Madison this week. | By Emili Earhart, Scott Gordon, Chris Lay, Caleb Oakley, Grant Phipps, 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 7
I Am Jazz Reading. Madison Children’s Museum, 6 p.m. (free)
Book-banning still happens, even in Madison’s backyard, and this event celebrates one recent triumph over that censorious tradition. In 2015, an anti-LGBT hate group called the Liberty Counsel attempted to stop teachers in the Mount Horeb Area School District from teaching Jessica Herthel’s book I Am Jazz, which tells the story of a transgender girl and is intended for young audiences. The Liberty Counsel’s efforts briefly succeeded, but ended up inspiring a massive backlash. Community members rallied in support of the book, organized a large public reading, and inspired other communities around the country to embrace the book. The whole thing also prompted Mt. Horeb’s school board to create new protections for transgender students. In short, a humble small town known for its trolls sent some real-life trolls packing, and stood up for tolerance and free speech in the process. At this event, Sarah McBride of Human Rights Campaign will read I Am Jazz, and Madison Metropolitan School District superintendent Jen Cheatham will speak. —Scott Gordon
Children Of Men. Central Library, 6:30 p.m. (free)
Alfonso Cuarón’s 2006 film Children Of Men, adapted from the P.D. James novel of the same title, introduces its dystopian vision of humanity’s future in a flawlessly choreographed two-minute sequence. Our protagonist, Theo (Clive Owen), enters a packed cafe, eyes glued on televisions covering the death of the planet’s youngest inhabitant. He exits the cafe into a congested, smoggy London and pours some booze into his coffee. An explosion rocks the cafe, our ears ring, we see a bloody, dazed woman exit the cafe, an arm freshly missing. In an instant, we are in a world where humankind is waning and desperate, turning to cults and political terrorism for solace and justice, a world where immigrants and refugees, cooped up in casual concentration camps, busses and shanty towns scattered throughout the city, are made the scapegoats of humanity’s degradation. Theo sets out to help one of these “fugees” into the hands of the Human Project, a scientific group focused on curing infertility. The film is masterfully executed on every level, especially during precise, breath-taking, long-shot action sequences shot by back-to-back-to-back Academy Award winner Emmanuel Lubezki (Gravity, Birdman, The Revenant). Stellar but grounded performances by a multi-cultural cast of thousands, with especially memorable turns by Julianne Moore and Michael Caine, add to the immersiveness of the film. The horrors Children Of Men may have seemed unimaginable when the film came out, but today the future feels right around the corner. —Caleb Oakley
Glassmen, Cop Circles, Mirror Fears, Church Fire. Williamson Magnetic Recording Company, 7:30 p.m.
Denver duo Church Fire make synth-pop that, at its best, simultaneously aches with gothy gloom and surges with urgent, minimal funk. On the 2016 album Pussy Blood, Shannon Webber and David Samuelson craft skeletal but engaging synth melodies and mournful vocal parts that at times push the music toward a raw edge—especially on the tempo-stretching “Unused” and the lush but eerie “Trash Time.” Mirror Fears, also from Denver, is the project of producer and vocalist Kate Warner, who explores a rich charismatic mix of industrial music, Throbbing Gristle-esque experimentation, goth-pop, and driving techno on the 2017 album Eaten. Mirror Fears is absolutely one of the most intriguing electronic acts to pass through town this fall, so don’t let this one slip under your radar. This show will also feature Madison experimental-rock duo Glassmen and playful but compelling Madison/Denver electronic project Cop Circles. —Scott Gordon
FRIDAY DECEMBER 8
Basi & Bhairav, DJ Knowsthetime, 3rd Dimension, KennyHoopla, Son!, Hiwot. Frequency, 9 p.m.
The partnership of Oakland emcee Basi and Princeton producer BHAIRAV, who met as students at UW-Madison, has been going steady for a little over a year now. They have a solid debut EP in this year’s Son Of The Moon, a handful of shows, a project slated for next year, and oodles of undesignated and unreleased tracks to show for it. The strongest track they’ve released together so far is “Zeitgeist,” wherein Basi flexes his rhyme scheme prowess and BHAIRAV’s tendency to dress up beats to the nines is on full display. Individually, they’ve also been productive—Basi has three singles out off his next EP, Skylord, which is largely produced by himself and members of ME eN YOU. It’s also due out next month. Each track he’s released so far from the project further establishes his core tenets as an emcee—airtight flows and sweet, but never saccharine, wordplay. Still, they show a different side of the emcee, perhaps in accordance with his habit of changing his artist name (he’s also gone as Heru and Ru). “Bbygirl” is a proper love song, on which Basi raps sweetly lines like “I’ma make a move if it feel good / Baby you can be my little backwood,” over a jazzy, ephemeral instrumental. BHAIRAV, on the other hand, has recently been working on his DJing skills and is holding out on releasing anything as he sharpens and expands his production palette. This show, though, will re-join the pair and will also feature some of said unreleased tracks. —Henry Solo
Brian Regan. Orpheum Theater, 8 p.m.
My first memory of ever entering a comedy club was when my mom took me and my brother to see Brian Regan at the Comedy Zone in Charlotte, North Carolina. I was certainly not old enough to drive at the time, much less legally fulfill the club’s strict two-drink minimum, but my mom was such a fan of Regan’s 1997 debut album, simply titled Live, that she absolutely had to bring us along. But Regan is indeed kind the sort of comic you can bring their kids to see. He’s notable for avoiding profanity and explicit talk of sex, but still manages to wring an unexpected amount of sometimes surreal material out of the most humdrum of experiences. He plays the lovable goofball, contorting his face into various expressions that suggest profound ignorance while leading the audience in a masterclass of timing, delivery, and tone. There’s a reason that Regan appeared on Letterman well over two dozen times, and was brought back specifically as part of the late night host’s set of big farewell shows in 2015. Regan’s most recent special, Nunchucks And Flamethrowers, which premiered on Netflix earlier this month, dabbles with a bit more political humor than he’s known for. That makes the special a bit of a mixed bag, but even so, each bit is stamped with his distinctively silly innocence. —Chris Lay
SATURDAY DECEMBER 9
Bad Bad Hats, Slow Pulp, Miyha. High Noon Saloon, 8:30 p.m.
Minneapolis/Madison four-piece Slow Pulp take a variety of quirky approaches to indie pop from song to another on their second EP, released earlier this year. Slow Pulp offer something just slightly oddball in each track on EP2, successfully challenging the arguably redundant trends of agreeable, summery, lo-fi indie music. Standout track “Die Alone” captures the listener immediately with a lethargic, discordant guitar riff that pummels you with passivity as much as it tramples you with dissonant determination. In a different sense, “Preoccupied” soaks a snappy drum line in dreamy synth pads as Emily Massey’s ethereal yet earnest voice trades off with balmy saxophone licks. Slow Pulp open up here for energetic Minneapolis pop outfit Bad Bad Hats, whose 2015 debut Psychic Reader hones in on strong songwriting as much as sharp production. Madison rock outfit Miyha play here as well with lyrics laden in aching honesty, delivered with a shade of sass. —Emili Earhart
Galaxy Express 555, Bhairav. Williamson Magnetic Recording Company, 8 p.m.
Minneapolis producer and multi-instrumentalist Christopher Farstad makes electronic music that’s at once immersive and airy under the name Galaxy Express 555. On his latest album, Natural Mind, Farstad balances fragmented structures with a sense of peace and cheer, opening up spaces where synth and flute melodies can gradually come together and gentle textures can patiently be explored. Sharing the bill at this Tone Madison-presented show is New Jersey native and current UW-Madison student Bhairav Chandrashekar. Under the name Bhairav, he’s emerged recently as a nuanced standout among hip-hop producers working in town, especially on the recent album Son Of The Moon, a collaboration with rapper and fellow UW-Madison student Basi. At this show, Bhairav will play an instrumental set and delve into some of his more left-field material. Alivia Kleinfeldt is the co-founder of the gorgeously gloomy Madison band Dash Hounds, and will play here in a solo set, drawing on some of that band’s material and throwing in a few other surprises. Kleinfeldt’s yearning vocals and elegantly winding guitar lines were a big part of what made Dash Hounds’ 2016 debut EP, Eft, a special release, so we’re excited to hear what Kleinfeldt does in this setting. A ticket presale is available now, and there’s a discount for Tone Madison Patreon supporters. —Scott Gordon
An Inn In Tokyo. Vilas Hall, 7 p.m. (free)
UW Cinematheque’s fall “Silents, Please!” series, which has showcased a number of shorts and features from around the world, will wrap up with a rare 35mm screening of the great Yasujirō Ozu’s 1935 film An Inn In Tokyo. From the late 1920s through the early 1960s, the Japanese director steadily developed his artistic sensibility with a continual focus on the dynamics of the close-knit family and its generational tensions. While under contract at Shochiku Studios in the 1930s, Ozu tried on many hats and experimented with more genre-rich tropes in jaunty comedies, tender melodramas, and the proto-noir/crime drama Dragnet Girl (1933), a previous Cinematheque presentation. However, the working-class struggles at the heart of An Inn In Tokyo feel more liberated from studio-imposed restrictions, and therefore more urgent and resonant. The subsequent decades have shown Ozu to be progenitor to the Neorealist movement that would emerge in 1940s post-war Europe (perhaps best represented by Roberto Rossellini’s Italian war trilogy). The landscapes of An Inn In Tokyo may not prove to be as harrowing or physically ruptured, but the narrative involving an unemployed and homeless father, Kinhachi (Takeshi Sakamoto), is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit. Without the proper means to support his his two sons, Zenko and Masako (Tomio Aoki and Takayuki Suematsu), he finds himself wandering the industrial flatlands of Kōtō City in Tokyo while his sons attempt to catch stray dogs for reward money so they may eat and afford shelter. In a fortuitous turn, Kinhachi runs into his old friend Otsune (Chôko Iida), whose soulful benevolence promises a more stable future for the displaced family. Improvising pianist David Drazin will not be providing live musical accompaniment as he did for the November screenings in this series, but the film will be presented with its original synchronized orchestral soundtrack. —Grant Phipps
SUNDAY DECEMBER 10
WORT Birthday Bash: Golpe Tierra, Panchromatic Steel. High Noon Saloon, 6 p.m.
This celebration of non-profit community radio station WORT-FM (where we produce the Tone Madison podcast) is also another perfectly good excuse to catch Golpe Tierra, who made a standout contribution to local music with this year’s EP Golpe Con Golpe. The quartet draws on various traditions from Latin American music and jazz, threaded together via the rich melodies of guitarist Richard Hildner and sax/bass-clarinet player Tony Barba. But it tends to really cohere around Juan Tomás Martínez’s vocals and cajon. On the EP’s title track, Martínez is a fiery, growling rabble-rouser, singing in Spanish about popular uprisings and trading percussive pulses with Nick Moran’s bass. On other tracks, like “Piaroa” and “Le Despedida,” he’s tender, elegant, and romantic. Plus, whatever mood the band’s music is exploring, you can always dance to it. —Scott Gordon
Joe Biden. Orpheum, 7:30 p.m.
The title of former Senator and Vice President Joe Biden’s speaking tour, American Promise, alludes to a reality that could’ve been, as well as the questions on everyone’s mind about how our country should move forward. In his new book Promise Me, Dad: A Year Of Hope, Hardship, And Purpose, and in interviews, Biden more or less confirms that he would likely have sought the Democratic Party nomination for president in the 2016 election had his son Beau not died of brain cancer in 2015. He’s also hinted at running in 2020. It’s hard to argue that the United States would not be in a better place now with Biden as our president—at the very least, he wouldn’t be overtly working to persecute the US’s historically marginalized groups, and probably wouldn’t sign any legislation as odious as the GOP’s looming tax scam. But let’s not mistake him for a savior or erase his many low points: his treatment of Anita Hill, his support of a 1994 crime bill that escalated mass incarceration, his support for the Iraq War. Biden has recently been tuned up on sexual assault, but like most Clinton-era Democrats, he’s yet to really address the damage done by ramping up the wars on drugs and terror. Sure, Uncle Joe may be a reassuring character, and a man who’s endured horrific personal losses and is capable of behaving like an adult. But this tour is a symptom of how easily liberals can be seduced by cults of personality, whether it be Uncle Joe, cool-parent Hillary or Socialist Larry David Bernie. —Henry Solo
WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 13
Erika Wennerstrom, Christopher Gold. High Noon Saloon, 7:30 p.m.
The enduring appeal of Cincinnati/Austin band Heartless Bastards basically comes down to singer/guitarist/songwriter Erika Wennerstrom. Not only is Wennerstrom the band’s only constant member, she also boasts one of the richest voices to lead a rock ‘n’ roll band in the last 20 years. Her vocals at once reach into deep baritone territory but stay at the center of the mix, driving classic Heartless Bastards songs like “Gray” and “Only For You” inexorably forward. The band’s music has also expanded into more reflective and subdued territory over the past decade, so it makes sense that Wennerstrom would eventually branch out into stripped-down solo performances. Playing here as she works on a solo album, Wennerstrom will get a chance to put those mighty vocals even more front-and-center, and presumably share a lot of new songs. —Scott Gordon