A new Frank Stella retrospective, a Black Panthers documentary, and more events of note in Madison this week. | By Chris Lay, Bianca Martin, Joel Shanahan, Scott Gordon, Mike Noto
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THURSDAY FEBRUARY 4
Wattstax. Union South Marquee, 7 p.m. (free)
Mel Stuart’s lively 1973 documentary Wattstax captures what is considered to be black America’s first proper response to Woodstock. The Wattstax benefit concert of 1972, put on in Los Angeles by Stax Records—one of the most significant record labels in black music—was a legendary gathering of some of the greatest black musicians and performers of the time, including the Staple Singers, Isaac Hayes, Carla Thomas, Kim Weston, and Richard Pryor, just to name a few. The documentary brilliantly captures a spectrum of music—funk, jazz, gospel and blues—through raw footage of dazzling performances, dancing, speeches, and some frank conversations about what it meant to be young and black at that time. —Bianca Martin
Dave Chappelle’s Block Party. Union South Marquee, 9:30 p.m. (free, also Feb. 6 at 11 p.m.)
In the window of time between the second season of Chappelle’s Show and his sudden departure to Africa to wrap (and ultimately unwrap) his head around his 50 million dollar payday from Comedy Central, Dave Chappelle put together one of the most distinctive concert films ever made. Directed by Michel Gondry and featuring performances from Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Erykah Badu, The Roots, Dead Prez, Common, a reunited Fugees, and a still (relatively) humble Kanye West in Brooklyn, 2006’s Dave Chappelle’s Block Party also follows Chappelle across the country rounding up various guests to his overstuffed (and nearly rained-out) Brooklyn block party. While the performances are undeniably a ton of fun, the real joy of the movie comes from watching Dave charm the pants off of everyone from an artistic couple who live across the way from the concert space on up to Ohio’s Central State University marching band and everyone in between. A lot’s happened to Chappelle in the decade since the film was released, so it should be fun to take a glance back at who he was right before the bottom fell out. —Chris Lay
Caspian, O’Brother. High Noon Saloon, 8 p.m.
Instrumental post-rock often centers on anthemic, lengthy composition, and Massachusetts’ Caspian are no exception to that rule. In particular, 2012’s Waking Season showcased Caspian’s dedication to their craft: an overtly technical and pristinely polished rhythm section provided the bedrock for soaring and often unnervingly precise arrangements designed to showcase the band’s impressive triple-guitar interplay. Since then, the band has weathered some tragedy: bassist Chris Friedrich died unexpectedly in 2013 at age 32. But the group eventually moved forward, releasing Dust And Disquiet in 2015 with new bassist Jani Zubkovs. The new album showcases the band’s characteristically immaculate technique and penchant for extreme dynamics, but notably adds post-metal riffage and keening tremolo-picking in the pummeling latter half of early highlight “Arcs Of Command,” and even makes room for (admittedly, somewhat buried) vocals on “Echo And Abyss.” —Mike Noto
Maps To The Stars. Central Library, 6:30 p.m.
David Cronenberg has always been fascinated by the gory inner-working guts of us mortals, creating more explicit horror flicks like The Fly, Videodrome, and Scanners in his early career. But in recent years his fetishes have turned much more cerebral, resulting in films dramatically varied in their manner and mode. His latest is Maps To The Stars, which finds him exploring the transience of fame, celebrity obsession, and psychosis. Reviews of this were mixed (60%… fresh?), but as with everything Cronenberg’s put his hands to, there’s a depth here that will likely reward repeat viewings. —CL
FRIDAY FEBRUARY 5
MMOCA Nights: Frank Stella. Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, 6 p.m.
Legendary minimalist abstract painter Frank Stella will be stopping by MMoCA to celebrate a new retrospective of his tightly conceived and colorfully energetic prints, the artist’s first since 1982, which will be on display at the museum until the middle of May. Along for the ride this evening will be MMoCA director Stephen Fleischman, MMoCA senior curator Richard H. Axsom, and art collector Jordan Schnitzer, holding a conversation that promises to give a bit more context for the prints in the exhibit. While the event itself is sold out, there will be overflow viewing on a first-come, first-served basis, so get there early if you want a spot. —CL
Can Heironymus Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe And Find True Happiness? Vilas Hall, 7 p.m. (free)
Falling smack in the middle of UW Cinematheque’s trifecta of musicals from 1969, the cumbersomely titled Can Heironymus Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe And Find True Happiness? is the only one of the bunch that could come close to fitting a more lewd interpretation of that numerically ever-so sexual twelve month span. Writer-director-actor-composer Anthony Newley’s semi-autobiographical film, a series of movies within a movie that doubles as an interpretation of Fellini’s 8 1/2, is a legitimately X-rated soft-core porn starring Playboy centerfold Connie Kreski as the titular Mercy Humppe and Newley’s wife Joan Collins as Polyester Poontang. Needless to say, this particularly brash mix of high and low won the film few fans on its original release. But its whimsical approach to narrative, coupled with some fun songs, certainly make it worth revisiting in 35mm on the big screen, and it’s hard to come by on DVD these days. —CL
Brad Paisley. Alliant Energy Center, 7:30 p.m.
SATURDAY FEBRUARY 6
Stephanie Rearick Bowie Tribute. Mother Fool’s, 8 p.m.
A lot of Madisonian musicians and venues have been lining up to pay respects to David Bowie over the past month, with performances, open-mics and film screenings, but singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Stephanie Rearick seems particularly well-equipped to honor Bowie’s shape-shifting legacy. Rearick’s own work tends to flit across genres from cabaret to folk to jazz to electro-pop, and her songwriting shows an affinity for the strange and cryptic corners of the psyche. At this show, Rearick will accompany herself on electric piano with a set that spans Bowie covers, versions of songs Bowie covered himself (“Wild Is The Wind,” please!), and Rearick originals that she says were inspired by Bowie in one form or other. —Scott Gordon
Ferals, Detached, No Question, Fistful Of Pistol. The Wisco, 10 p.m.
Appleton band Ferals recently released demo comprises five tracks of filth-streaked hardcore. Ferals plunge through short D-beat sprints like “Warcop” and “Shitworld,” but slow down just long enough to add some suspenseful twists on “Crosses,” but even at its most unsparing, it stands out as a particularly satisfying burst of spiteful noise and rhythm. —SG
Martin Courtney, Pollinators. Union South Sett, 9 p.m. (free)
In Real Estate, guitarist-vocalist Martin Courtney’s razor-sharp pop-sensibilities and songwriting chops prove the perfect counterpart to guitarist and Ducktails mastermind Matt Mondanile’s art-rock tendencies, serving up ’80s post-punk and Felt-inspired riffing that sonically tug the songs out of their concise frameworks. Last year’s Many Moons, Courtney’s first proper solo album, resembles a Real Estate record that’s softened such edges and replaced them with gorgeously crafted, acoustic guitar-powered pop tunes that share far more with Wilco than they do with Durutti Column. Thankfully, Courtney’s breathy vocal delivery and gorgeous chord progressions remain fully intact throughout, particularly on mellow swinger “Vestiges” and piano-laden earworm “Northern Highway. —Joel Shanahan
UCLA Festival Of Preservation, Day 1. Vilas 2 p.m. (free)
SUNDAY FEBRUARY 7
The Seventh Seal. Chazen Museum of Art, 2 p.m. (free)
UW Cinematheque’s deep-reaching, all-35mm Ingmar Bergman retrospective continues with perhaps his most iconic film, 1957’s The Seventh Seal. The film’s most important character is, literally, Death (Bengt Ekerot), who descends to medieval Europe to preside over the plague and of course play chess with a weary knight (Max von Sydow) home from the Crusades. For more on Bergman at Cinematheque this season, make sure to read our series preview from this week. —BM
MONDAY FEBRUARY 8
Junot Díaz. Union Theater, 7:30 p.m. (free)
Novelist Junot Díaz broke through with 2007’s The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao, an ecstatic, sprawling, cathartic, and tragic story of a young man who, like Díaz, grew up between New Jersey and his native Dominican Republic. He followed that with 2013’s short story collection This Is How You Lose Her, and it’s not exactly clear what’s next—he said in a 2015 interview that he would likely abandon a novel he’d been working on. Nonetheless, Wao alone puts Díaz among the more compelling fiction writers of the age, and it’ll be worth catching this free talk, presented jointly by the WUD Distinguished Lecture Series and UW-Madison Center for the Humanities. —SG
Paris Is Burning. Union South Marquee, 7 p.m. (free)
Trans men and women might be “having a moment” right now, but as one-and-done director Jennie Livingston’s landmark 1990 documentary Paris Is Burning shows, we’re all just late to the party. The film covers the mid- to late-’80s golden era of New York City’s ballroom dance drag balls, capturing players both major and minor on the scene candidly talking about what makes this subculture and community so special and empowering, as well as copious footage from celebratory competitions around the city. It’s sincerely difficult (literally impossible?) to overstate the value of this film in the canon of queer cinema, much less its power as an historical document. —CL
TUESDAY FEBRUARY 9
The Black Panthers: Vanguard Of The Revolution. Central Library, 6:30 p.m. (free)
“We stand on the eve of a black revolution, brothers!” Stanley Nelson’s powerful documentary film The Black Panthers: Vanguard Of The Revolution takes a holistic approach to the revolutionary group, examining not only the names you might know like Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale, but the whole arc of a movement. The film will be airing on Wisconsin Public Television starting February 16, but this early screening will feature the added bonus of a post-film discussion with Nelson. —CL
Serious Singer Songwriter Series: Ian Olvera. Mickey’s Tavern, 10:30 p.m. (free)
WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 10
The Minotaurs, Tongue Party, Dumb Vision. Mickey’s Tavern, 10:30 p.m. (free)
Dumb Vision, a punk outfit comprised of people already busy in Madison bands including Fire Retarded, Wood Chickens, and Coordinated Suicides, put out its self-titled debut cassette earlier this year, and it’s yet another reminder of why Madison is such a fertile town for punk and power-pop right now now. On standout tracks like “Leave It Alone,” “Warm Meat,” and “All Dried Out” (sung by now-former member Joe Darcy, also of Paint), Dumb Vision balances sharp pop melodies with grimy, blasted-out noise, revealing a lasting charm beneath the scruffy surface. They play here with fellow Madisonians The Minotaurs and gritty Minneapolis punks Tongue Party. —SG