Potty Mouth, Sway, Selector Dub Narcotic, a Clyde Stubblefield tribute, and more events of note in Madison this week. | Emili Earhart, Scott Gordon, Chris Lay, Mike Noto, Grant Phipps, Joel Shanahan, Zack Stafford, David Wolinsky
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THURSDAY FEBRUARY 23
Johnny Cash Birthday Bash. Majestic, 6:30 p.m.
One of the more solid recurring events in Madison’s annual music calendar, the Majestic’s annual Johnny Cash Birthday Bash brings together Wisconsin country and folk acts near Cash’s birthday to play a bunch of the songs he wrote and/or made immortal. This year’s lineup features six acts, and most of them fairly young, underscoring how Cash’s appeal has cut across generations. Highlights include the rugged honky-tonk leanings of Nellie Wilson, the bright country stylings of Whitney Mann, Milwaukee rockabilly outfit Liam Ford Band, and the punk- and psych-blasted interpretations of Wood Chickens. —Scott Gordon
Potty Mouth, Tennis System, Dusk. Williamson Magnetic Recording Company, 8 p.m.
Northampton, Massachusetts band Potty Mouth take a no-frills approach to their unabashed reverence for grunge and alternative rock—songs from their latest self-titled EP would fit snugly between Hole and Veruca Salt sets in 1994. But this mode of derivative songwriting and candid lyricism is what makes their music such a treat. As bands like Potty Mouth tout 90s idols on their sleeve, it becomes possible for young audiences to experience a time and place in music they weren’t around to live through. This also goes for openers Tennis System, whose songs draw heavily from the blistering, heavenly pop of Swirlies and My Bloody Valentine. Appleton’s Dusk start the night off with their delightful blend of country rock and Toussaint-ian rhythm and blues, mixing pedal steel and Wurlitzer atop a driving foundation of guitar, bass, and drums. If you’re not sold thus far, let the vocal duets from Dusk’s Amos Pitsch and Julia Blair be the reason you make it out. —Zack Stafford
Train To Busan. Union South Marquee, 9:30 p.m. (free)
The modern cinematic concept of zombies, generally traced back to 1968 when George A. Romero’s released Night Of The Living Dead, might be thought of as an American construct but it’s much more international than the Walking Dead fans of the western world would like to admit. The word “zombie” itself comes from Haitian Creole French, which means that other countries are less taking brain munchers for their own than they are just reclaiming them from our imperialistic grasp. Such is the case with Yeon Sang-Ho’s Train To Busan, which premiered to rave reviews last year as part of Cannes’ “Midnight Screenings” series. Part World War Z with a dash of Snowpiercer, Train To Busan follows the passengers on a train as it hurtles towards Busan, the last known stronghold against a viral zombie outbreak that has quickly taken over the country. The characters seem a little bit off-the-rack (a workaholic fund manager with a pregnant wife) and the heart of the plot (a little girl with a birthday coming up wants to get home to see her mother), is primed to maximize emotional investment, but it looks cool as hell and who can say no to zombies? —Chris Lay
FRIDAY FEBRUARY 24
The Life And Music Of Charlie Parker. Madison Public Library, Alicia Ashman Branch (733 N. High Point Rd.), 7 p.m. (free)
You may not have cared about Madison Opera’s recent performances of Charlie Parker’s Yardbird, an opera based on the legendary saxophonist’s life. But it’s cool that part of Madison Opera’s outreach after the event includes some opportunities to learn more about Parker’s monumental contributions to music and the short, tumultuous life he led. At this event, UW-Madison music professor and accomplished saxophonist Les Thimming will discuss Parker’s harmonic inventions—which, whether you realize it or not, are still crucial to the way most people conceive of jazz—and put them in historical context. He’ll also do some playing to help illustrate the talk. —SG
Rooms, Tony Barba. Art In, 7 p.m.
Chicago jazz trio Rooms create something undeniably their own with familiar elements of jazz and improvised music. On their 2016 release, Vigil, Rooms carefully but organically situate these elements within each track, creating a multidimensional narrative. “Monolith” moves back and forth between jarring, electronics-heavy textures and adventurous melodic passages. But these two sides of the story are not isolated––both influence one another as the various colors from the electronics bleed into the melodic mix. Somehow, Rooms finds a way to follow an erratic piece like “Monolith” with a loungy piano jam paired with a Bossa Nova bass line in “Little Martin.” It is perhaps the almost appropriately out-of-place, driving drum beat that moves this otherwise stable piece forward––energetically and intentionally. The show will also feature the multifaceted Tony Barba––an essential force and collaborator in the Madison jazz community. Barba released his debut solo work, Winter’s Arms, in 2016. The eerie, enchanted world he creates through a warm ambience of processed solo saxophone put his record on our list of the best Madison records of 2016. After separate sets from Rooms and Barba, the night will end with a collaborative set of adventurous improvisation. ––Emili Earhart
The Arge, Roboman, Modesty Blasters. Mickey’s Tavern, 10:30 p.m. (free)
Madison band The Arge only plays about once a year or so these days and put out its last album, a self-titled effort, back when MySpace was still a thing, but they’ve still got a place in my heart for blasting out unapologetically snarly and smart-assed grunge. It’s meant to be a bit sloppy and drunken, but the band pulls out a lot of sharp and satisfying riffs and badass solos all the same. Sometimes it’s also just weird, but in an endearing way—their song “Summer Of ’89” includes a soaring passage in which the band members mock-seriously sing “Cliff Burton was the guy in Metallica before Jason Newsted.” If you want something that strongly recalls Mudhoney and Tad blasted at you, you could do a lot worse. —SG
Aquarius. Vilas Hall, 7 p.m. (free)
Aquarius, the second feature film by Brazilian director Kleber Mendonça Filho was also one of the most critically celebrated films of 2016. In addition to launching this spring semester’s Latin American, Caribbean, and Iberian Studies (LACIS) film series, this DCP presentation at Cinematheque also marks its Madison premiere. It’s long been documented that the cinema medium has not accommodated complex and challenging roles for women over 40, but this past year has provided at least something of a minor reassurance with the wide recognition of Oscar-nominated Elle, starring a tenacious Isabelle Huppert. Aquarius‘ widowed heroine, retired music critic Clara (Sônia Braga), brings a similar headstrong drive to Filho’s politically charged production and expose of corporate avarice. In the coastal town of Recife, an invading real estate developer begins pressuring residents of an apartment building to sell and vacate to make way for an ultra-chic condo complex. Refusing to yield, Clara actively rebels against their persistent harassment and corrupt tactics, which presciently speaks to issues of racial and class-based discrimination in contemporary life in Brazil that also apply globally. With a striking, eclectic soundtrack that features the hits of symphonic glam rockers Queen, classical compositions of Heitor Villa-Lobos, to Música popular brasileira/bossa nova vocalist Roberto Carlos, Aquarius is a distinctive, entrancing, and rousing character study. —Grant Phipps
Sway. Mezze, 10 p.m.
As the accessible/safe-space dance night Sway has taken shape over the past few months, it’s balanced DJ sets with side trips into other kinds of performance, from other live music to spoken word. This edition is worth seeking out for its performances from two artists who’ve played essential and under-appreciated roles in the growth of hip-hop in Madison in recent years. MC/singer/poet Hiwot Adilow and vocalist/guitarist Eric Newble (Otis Franklin) are both members of sprawling hip-hop/R&B ensemble ME eN YOU, in addition to creating solo work and contributing numerous memorable features on other artists’ recordings (like “Clown Car Tomfoolery,” a track from fellow First Wave student Eli Lynch, aka Smiley Gatmouth.) They both were also members of another excellent group, The Bellhops. Adilow’s set here will incorporate poetry, singing, and rapping, and will include songs for a new solo release she’s been working on. —SG
Hanah Jon Taylor. Mother Fool’s, 8 p.m.
Saxophonist and flautist Hanah Jon Taylor has been busy lately, what with leading the charge to open up a new downtown jazz club, Cafe Coda, and already breaking it in with a couple performances of his own. His collaborators in those recent sets have included two formidable Chicago musicians, drummer Dushun Mosley and bassist Darius Savage. The two will join Taylor here for a trio set in the more subdued atmosphere of Mother Fool’s. Taylor is a stickler for the art of improvisation, and Mosley and Savage are more than up to the task of helping Taylor explore an intense range of moods and textures in a flowing, dynamic musical conversation. —SG
SATURDAY FEBRUARY 25
Selector Dub Narcotic (Calvin Johnson). Ritual Barbers, 8 p.m.
To some, Calvin Johnson unfortunately only occupies a liminal headspace and fuzzy awareness that had had something to do with his influential ’80s indie label K Records. To say he has taste and vision is an understatement, and to think of him as only a label dude would be as well. He has performed in projects including Beat Happening and Halo Benders and used his label to elevate bands ranging from The Microphones to Modest Mouse, but as seems destined for every modern troubadour and performer past a certain age: He has gone solo. Given his lineage and historic output, when Johnson performs under his own name, the songs are surprisingly melancholy. Here, Johnson performs under his Selector Dub Narcotic moniker, which could conservatively be described as Fred Schneider fronting a funkier LCD Soundsystem. Suffice to say, expect a lively and groovy time, as SDN supports its 2016 debut album, This Party Is Just Getting Started. —David Wolinsky
Madison Comedy Roundtable. 122 State St., second floor, 5 p.m.
That famous line about comedy and dead frogs is often misquoted. The version I have heard tossed around most often goes: “Analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog. Few people are interested. And the frog dies of it.” In actuality the first incarnation, attributed to E.B. White, makes the important distinction that “…the innards are discouraging to any but the purely scientific mind.” To say that few people would be interested maligns us comedy nerds with hot takes on which writing team produced the best Mr. Show sketches, when in actuality we should be categorized as those of “purely scientific mind.” For those politically minded comedy scientists among us, there will be a panel discussion featuring local comedians David Fisher, Heather Lynn, Mark Roth, and Anthony Siraguse, moderated by Miles Kristan. In a modern political landscape where humorists are getting more and more national marquee status for “eviscerating” and “disemboweling” certain politicians and issues, it’s surely going to be interesting to get some unique local opinions on a slate of topics like the two-party system, “social justice warriors,” safe spaces, and the war on drugs. —CL
Sunnyside Up. Vilas Hall, 7 p.m. (free)
David Butler’s Sunnyside Up (1929), one of the earliest American movie musicals, concludes the “Fox Restorations from MMoA” series with its lengthiest (at 121 minutes) but most spirited production on 35mm. Sunday will surely prove to be a successful Oscar night for the most recent La La Land, but it’s interesting to compare the two—not just historically, but in terms of the productions’ similar tones and approach to casting. Specifically, this includes well-timed comedic flourishes, the central romance, and modest singing voices of Sunnyside Up‘s co-leads, Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell, as young working girl Molly Carr and wealthy socialite Jack Cromwell, respectively. During an Independence Day block party in Manhattan, the two are destined to meet; Jack persuades Molly to return to Long Island to give his relentless flirt of his fiancée a taste of her own medicine. However, in his scheming, he fails to realize that Molly has actually fallen for him. While its narrative arc may be predictable, Sunnyside Up is constantly buoyed by the brisk and charming score, a collaboration between veteran songwriters Buddy DeSylva, Ray Henderson, and lyricist Lew Brown. Their provocative sense of humor culminates in a most lavish and transformative pre-Code routine, “Turn On the Heat,” involving island women, melting igloos, and rising palm trees. —GP
Dantiez Saunderson, Ashoka, Ginjahvitiz, Umi, Whodie Guthrie. The Rigby, 10 p.m.
Nothing makes sense anymore, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Dantiez Saunderson, son of techno godfather Kevin Saunderson, was somehow booked to play at local Beatle-phile bar The Rigby. However, with crucial electronic venue the Cardinal Bar currently shuttered and in the process of becoming Nomad World Pub, and many other Madisonian venues becoming increasingly difficult to book at (due to promoter holds and shit), one has to work with what’s available. As a producer, Saunderson tilts more toward swinging, hyper-polished tech-house than techno—packed with pounding kicks, minimal basslines, and sporadic blasts of whirling white noise. If Saunderson’s 2015 mix for DJ Mag (posted below) is any indicator, the young selector doesn’t deviate far from the vibe of his own fully-functional floor-thumpers, but he does splash in hints of soulful vocal house and hypnotic, evolving synth bytes. —Joel Shanahan
SUNDAY FEBRUARY 26
LVL Up, Palm, Trophy Dad. Rathskeller, 8 p.m. (free)
LVL UP is a band that clearly knows the value of an old four-track: Their newest album, Return To Love, is full of the attractively overdriven and interestingly unorthodox production sound that creatively overloading recording equipment can get you. It’s a technique that was often explored on some of the more well-loved examples of ’90’s indie rock out there, and the band shows little desire to think beyond those stylistic parameters. In particular, opening song “Hidden Driver” sounds so much like an outtake from Neutral Milk Hotel’s On Avery Island—even guitarist Dave Benton’s vocals sound close to Jeff Mangum—that you may wonder to yourself when the out-of-tune high school horns will come blaring in over the three bright major chords. (It’s a wobbly synthesizer instead.) While the rest of the album isn’t anywhere near that blatant, the impression of name-that-reference pastiche casts a pall on even the better songwriting. That said, a seemingly cheerful song like “Pain” has the vicious chorus of “I hope you grow old and never find love” folded into the framework like a razor blade in a valentine, and little touches like that, plus the catchier tunes on songs like “Blur,” help elevate them past simple genre worship. Not that far past it, though. —Mike Noto
How To Steal A Million. Chazen Museum of Art, 2 p.m. (free)
Thirteen years after director William Wyler directed Audrey Hepburn’s star-making turn in Roman Holiday, the two teamed up again for the madcap heist comedy How To Steal A Million. Peter O’Toole gets wrapped up in things as the love interest who aids and abets Hepburn’s efforts to protect her father’s forgeries from being found out. UW-Cinematheque is screening this as part of a series of films highlighting the work of composer John Williams, so take that into account. Having seen Bachelor Flat, an early and under-seen Williams gem that screened as part of this same series a couple of weeks ago, I can say that it’s fun to hear all the hallmarks of his “sound” in their larval phase. For some historical context, Williams wouldn’t earn his first Oscar nomination until a year later, and almost a decade before the first time he would team with Steven Spielberg, so this is prime old-school Williams right here for ya. —CL
MONDAY FEBRUARY 27
Clyde Stubblefield Tribute. High Noon Saloon, 6 p.m.
The music world and the Madison community suffered a tremendous loss when Clyde Stubblefield died on February 18. Not only did Stubblefield’s inventions as a drummer in James Brown’s band prove indispensable in the development of funk and hip-hop, he also spent the last four decades of his life making an imprint on Madison audiences and musicians—a legacy Isthmus captured in a story this week. This show was supposed to be the latest installment of Stubblefield’s Funky Mondays series, but instead his band will carry on here with assists from many guest performers and DJ Vilas Park Sniper. The event will raise money to help Stubblefield’s family, and will also benefit a music scholarship fund established in his honor. —SG
Goatwhore, Disgunt, Vermillion, Squidhammer Metal. Frequency, 7 p.m.
The members of New Orleans metal band Goatwhore originally came from the ’90’s sludge metal scene that gave birth to bands like Eyehategod and Down—guitarist/backing screamer and founder Sammy Duet played in Acid Bath, while lead singer Ben Falgoust was a member of Soilent Green. But Goatwhore has refreshingly little in common with those bands stylistically. Instead, their music sounds a lot like a thrash-y cross between first-wave black metal and death metal. Like Venom (the band that invented the term black metal to begin with), Goatwhore puts a Motorhead-esque flavor of heavy rock and roll in its waving-spikes-in-the-air riffs and its obviously tongue-in-cheek lyrical allegiance to all things Satanic. But unlike Venom, the band’s technical ability and professionalism is never in question, and they’re clearly good at stringing together disparate, demanding musical sections into a coherent whole that (importantly) never stops pummeling away. More than anything else, Goatwhore are clearly a band that wants to have a whale of a time being as stereotypically metal as possible, and that’s exactly what they do: titles like “Forever Consumed Oblivion,” “Nocturnal Conjuration Of The Accused” and “Apocalyptic Havoc” leave nothing to the imagination, and if they don’t happen to be as good at this kind of overamped speed metal as bands like Midnight or Kreator, don’t tell your brain about it and chances are you’ll still be pretty happy. —MN
WEDNESDAY MARCH 1
Ghost Bath, The Fine Constant, Corridoré. High Noon Saloon, 8 p.m.
Madison metal trio Corridoré recently put up a pair of demo songs that find the band developing a sound that’s equal parts bleak atmosphere and bracing rawness. Two songs doesn’t seem like much to go on, but “The Earth Was The Floor Of The Sky” runs almost 13 minutes and “Vanquish The Light Of Day Nearly 15,” and both stay engaging throughout. “The Earth…” starts off in a harsh black-metal vein, but that gives way to a calm, clean-sung interlude. On “Vanquish…” the band manages to make blastbeat-throttled passages flow into blustery post-rock melody. Sure, lots of the post-metal elements are familiar here, but Corridoré combines them in a way that’s personal and expressive. —SG