Trapo, Busdriver, “Paths Of Glory,” The Sklar Brothers, and more events of note in Madison this week. | By Emili Earhart, Scott Gordon, Erica Motz, Grant Phipps, Chris Lay, Joel Shanahan, Mike Noto, Chali Pittman
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THURSDAY DECEMBER 8
The Cursed Ones. Union South Marquee, 7 p.m. (free)
Nana Obiri Yeboa’s feature debut, The Cursed Ones, confronts the recent epidemic of satanic possession accusations in West Africa, in an effort that won Yeboa the Best Director prize at the 2016 Africa Movie Academy Awards. Shot entirely on location in Ghana, Yeboa’s native country, the tropical milieu diverges from the wooded landscapes of Robert Eggers’ The Witch on the subject of the occult. While the latter psychological “folk-tale” is situated in New England’s Puritanical 17th-century custom, The Cursed Ones‘ timely exposé of modern horror and religious perversion possesses a more urgent and heroic arc. After a series of communal misfortunes, an adolescent girl, Asabi (Ophelia Klenam Dzidzornu), is targeted for witchcraft. Local pastor/false prophet Uchebo (Fred Amugi) insists, with bombastic doom, that the community’s salvation is only possible through her exorcism and death. World-weary outsider and reporter Godwin (Oris Erhuero) finds himself in the midst of this crisis, as he attempts to save Asabi’s life and assimilate a divided village with the aid of a young teacher (Joseph Otsiman). —Grant Phipps
GateSound: Kyle Landstra, Page Campbell. Gates of Heaven, 7:30 p.m.
There aren’t many folks in the neo-New Age synth world who approach their compositions with the same level of focus and restraint as Chicago’s Kyle Landstra. For the past five years, the prolific synth explorer has dropped a wealth of meditative material for a pile of varying tape labels, which eventually earned him the recognition of legendary synth manufacturer Moog. Earlier this year, the company called upon Landstra to write a couple longform pieces for this year’s Variables Of Resolve using their Mother-32 synthesizer, and it was released and packaged with random sales of the semi-modular and monophonic synth. Nerdy technical jargon aside, Variables may be Landstra’s most definitive work to date. Gracefully paced and cut into two parts, the pieces unravel smoothly as layers of blissful chords crest and dive under an evolving arpeggio that keeps things in focus. Distantly faded mountains of pads anchor below a sea of shimmering lines that sway and swirl through Landstra’s illuminated stereo field. Our final GateSound concert of the year opens with a solo-acoustic set from Madison-based guitarist, songwriter, and singer Page Campbell. Her main outlets are the psych-pop project Dream Boat and folk duo Hope For Agoldensummer, but she’s also toured with artists including Patterson Hood and Dark Meat. For more about what to expect at this show, read our curator’s notes. —Joel Shanahan
Otis Redding Tribute. High Noon Saloon, 8:30 p.m.
Madison’s biggest musical claim to fame is still a tragic one—the great R&B singer Otis Redding died here on December 10,1967, when his plane crashed into Lake Monona. This year, the High Noon is marking the near-anniversary with two sets from a group of Milwaukee-based musicians playing songs from the considerable catalog Redding created in his 26 years. —Scott Gordon
Sklar Brothers. Comedy Club on State, through Dec. 10, see link for all showtimes.
Randy and Jason Sklar’s stand-up bits turn the quotidian into the pleasantly absurd, thanks to the twin brothers’ knack for rapid back-and-forth riffing and charming habit of saying just the right amount of stuff in weird twin-unison. At least two their four stand-up albums, 2007’s Sklar Maps and 2011’s Hendersons And Daughters, should rank among recent classics, balancing accessibility with tightly constructed, cerebral material that holds up brilliantly on repeat listens. The Sklars’ visit here comprises five stand-up shows and one live taping of their excellent podcast, Sklarbro Country. —SG
Meet The Patels. Central Library, 6:30 p.m. (free)
Sister-brother collaborators Geeta and Ravi Patel attempt to meld cultural documentary and romantic comedy in their 2014 documentary Meet The Patels. The film focuses on Ravi’s struggle, as a first-generation Indian-American, to balance his romantic affinities with his parents’ traditional views on Hindu marriage. This event will include a post-screening panel discussion with comedian Casem AbuLughod, musician/journalist/comedian Aarushi Agni, and community members Pat Antani and Anjali Sridharan. —SG
FRIDAY DECEMBER 9
Spartacus. Vilas Hall, 7 p.m. (free)
Is there a better way to celebrate the 100th birthday of Kirk Douglas than seeing Spartacus, his most memorable role, in a new 4K restoration of the original Roadshow version? If there is, then no one told UW Cinematheque, who scheduled a screening of Stanley Kubrick’s 1960 sword-and-sandals epic to coincide with the legendary actor’s centennial. Also on the bill are Laurence Olivier, Charles Laughton, Tony Curtis, and Peter Ustinov who won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his efforts. For more Douglas-plus-Kubrick action this week, see our preview of Sunday’s screening of Paths Of Glory. —Chris Lay
Busdriver, Lorde Freddee. Union South Sett, 9 p.m. (free)
I’ve liked Busdriver’s nasal verses ever since the odd melange of indie pop and rap that is RoadKillOvercoat soothed me back in 2007, but it’s been tough keeping up with the MC’s plentiful and uneven output. Some of Busdriver’s latest work ranks among his strongest, with the listenable mixtape Thumbs released last year and 2014’s Perfect Hair showcasing his talent for wordplay and flow, leading to some wickedly creative verses (“Questioning news items / playing pattycake with Ira Glass”). Lorde Fredee, moniker of Milwaukee rapper Cameron Henderson, opens. Especially considering Madison’s systemic lack of hip-hop and/or rap shows, this is a combination of rap-celeb and local talent not to be missed. —Chali Pittman
Coordinated Suicides, Twelves, Sex Scenes, Control. Mickey’s Tavern, 10 p.m. (free)
This Mickey’s bill offers three distinct takes on punishing, bent-up rock, rounded out with the more refined but still unpredictable post-punk of Madison band Control. Milwaukee’s Sex Scenes put out a short demo this fall that takes its cues from the debased yet lovable punk of bands like Pissed Jeans. Madison’s Coordinated Suicides play here to celebrate the vinyl release of their EP False Pleasure, which finds the trio evolving the noise-punk of its 2015 album Life Is Beautiful into more structurally complex, emotionally scorched territory. (Full disclosure: Member Mike Noto is a Tone Madison contributor.) This will also be the first hometown show for Twelves, a new noise-rock outfit that brings together members of Bron Sage, Hat Party, And Illusions, and Tyranny Is Tyranny. —SG
SATURDAY DECEMBER 10
Paris, Texas. Vilas Hall, 7 p.m. (free)
UW Cinematheque’s “Wim Wenders: Portraits Along the Road” series concludes this week with Wenders’ 1984 Cannes Film Festival winning-film Paris, Texas. Several of the films in this Cinematheque series have featured characters who take long, lonely journeys, sometimes aimlessly, often in a pastoral European landscape. Paris, Texas shares all those elements, except for the continent. Harry Dean Stanton stars as a homeless wanderer named Travis Henderson, who mysteriously returns from the desert to reconnect with the son he abandoned (Hunter Carson) and explore a troubled relationship with his long-lost wife (Nastassja Kinski) against the vast and desolate backdrop of the American Southwest. —Erica Motz
Municipal. Madison Municipal Building, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. (free)
In anticipation of the Madison Municipal Building’s renovations, the Bubbler at Madison Public Library is celebrating the history and significance of this landmark with an afternoon of arts and performance. Featuring over 100 local artists, the event will showcase work that utilizes the building itself, with performers and artists temporarily inhabiting specific rooms and spaces. Offices will be occupied by room-sized installations, including a piece by Rebecca Lessem, site-specific works by Marianne Fairbanks, and other municipal building-related tributes, including a piece by Gabe Strader-Brown. Some artists are taking advantage of the physical nature of the building, including Katrin Talbot who will be employing old signage from the building, and DB Pederson and Christine Olson who will perform in a large, reverberating stairwell. Electro-acoustic improvisation trio Nestle also plans to participate, presenting an extended-performance akin to an interactive sound installation. Furthermore, organizer and Bubbler director Trent Miller will be conducting an interactive piece, encouraging participants to ultimately exit the space, thus expanding the legacy of the historic municipal building outside its walls. Of course, the event also hearkens back to two other building-occupying hit events Miller has organized, Bookless (which celebrated the final days of the old Central Library building in 2012) and Stacked (which marked the opening of the new Central Library in 2013). —Emili Earhart
Wintersong. Barrymore, 8 p.m.
Singer-songwriter Anna Vogelzang moved from Madison to LA earlier this year, but returns here for the fifth installment of Wintersong, an annual concert that brings together local musicians (especially folk musicians) to play holiday-themed songs and raise money for the Second Harvest Food Bank. Along with Vogelzang, this year’s show includes performances from Faux Fawn, Phox singer Monica Martin, DB Pedersen, Seasaw, Nick Brown, and several others. Emceeing the event will be Andy Moore, a local musician himself and host of Wisconsin Public Television’s 30 Minute Music Hour. —SG
Archarus, The Garza, Cosmic Relic, Tubal Cain, Black Frost. The Wisco, 8:30 p.m.
Boasting guitarist-vocalist Alex Drake and drummer Christine Drake of sadly defunct Madison metal outfit The Antiprism, Tubal Cain strip black metal down to its barest and bleakest essentials. We’re still eagerly awaiting a proper release from the duo, but the gritty offerings available on Tubal Cain’s Bandcamp offer a peephole into their beautifully primal approach. “Apostasy” is a grueling death waltz loaded with layered demonic growls, sword-swinging chords, and trudging double-kick thuds, while “Death Posture” marches forward with galloping riffs that eventually give way to a ritualistic-sounding doom crawl. It’s worth noting that funeral-doom outfit Black Frost will be coming from Fond Du Lac to unleash a plodding sonic deep-freeze and polished, Indianapolis-based rippers Archarus will creep in with a set of Southern-fried fantasy-metal. Local noise-rock mainstays The Garza (which boast Bongzilla drummer-vocalist Mike “Magma” Henry) will also play. —JS
SUNDAY DECEMBER 11
Trapo, CRASHprez, Max Wonders Ra’Shaun, Trebino. Majestic, 8 p.m.
Madison rapper Trapo has been steadily making a name for himself over the past two years, and for good reason: He’s a potentially major talent. Contrary to his name, he’s stylistically closer to Chicago rappers like Mick Jenkins than anything considered trap. At age 18, Trapo is already a nimble, technically polished rapper and astute writer, able to convey a lot of varied, often opposing emotions within the confines of a verse. And he has a consistent ear for great beats, often rapping over hazily atmospheric production that often seems to focus on lush synthesizer and keyboard tones over deliberately heavy, hard-hitting drum samples. But the quality that puts Trapo over the top is his singing voice. He has an enviably easy command of melody, and that gives him the knack for sung choruses and verses that only gain in memorability when rendered with his rough baritone. At his best, he makes compelling and multilayered music: “Riot,” from his recently released album Shade Trees, pairs bulldozing, furious triplet flows with an emotionally complex chorus pleading for someone to avenge him if he dies young. Shade Trees, Trapo’s first full-length, peaks highly in more than a few places, but is a somewhat less cohesive overall experience than his EP She, which also came out earlier this year, and his 2015 debut EP, Black Beverly Hills. But Trapo’s clearly putting a lot of things together artistically, and here’s hoping that he gets it all combined on his future releases. —Mike Noto
Paths Of Glory. Chazen Museum of Art, 2 p.m. (free)
Seven years before the zany bureaucratic satire of Dr. Strangelove (1964), legendary auteur Stanley Kubrick wrote and directed the famously censored Paths Of Glory, a harrowing and audacious anti-war commentary loosely based on the Souain corporals affair. While sticking to the richness of Humphrey Cobb’s novel of the same name, Kubrick added his own burgeoning cinematic imprint on the World War I narrative about the resolute Colonel Dax (Kirk Douglas), who refuses to undertake a suicide mission. The French soldiers are then charged with cowardice in a court-martial by overzealous divisional commander Mireau (George Macready), whose only aim in the directive to capture a well-guarded German outpost is personal recognition and a boost in rank. The film’s procedural examination of the events’ macabre futility through off-screen dialogue and empathetic focus on reaction shots was a noted influence on Bruce Beresford’s Breaker Morant (1980). —GP
TUESDAY DECEMBER 13
Ellington’s Nutcracker Suite. Cardinal, 6:30 p.m.
Around the holidays there’s no shortage of opportunities to catch traditional performances of the Tchaikovsky-scored ballet The Nutcracker. What’s a little more rare is a chance to hear Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn’s clever and at times cheeky jazz re-arrangement of the Nutracker Suite. At this show, Madison-based trombone player Darren Sterud will be leading a 17-piece band in a performance of the Ellington/Strayhorn arrangement of the suite. It promises to be a refreshing detour from the usual Christmas-music fare: These arrangements bring swing and conversational melody to compositions like “Dance Of The Sugarplum Fairy” and “Waltz Of The Flowers,” but still capture some of the original music’s childlike wonder. In addition to the Nutcracker material, the show will feature a rendition of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” with vocals from Megan Moran and a version of the R&B Christmas classic “Merry Christmas Baby.” —SG
WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 14