Dead Rider, Mark Shippy, Nikki Giovanni, Trebino, and more events of note in Madison this week. | Emili Earhart, Scott Gordon, Chris Lay, Erica Motz, Mike Noto, Grant Phipps, Zack Stafford
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THURSDAY FEBRUARY 9
Love + Evolution: To The Best Of Our Knowledge Live. Majestic, 6 p.m.
Wisconsin Public Radio’s show To The Best Of Our Knowledge grapples with an array of curious topics, from particularly timely subjects like immigration to ageless discussions on the science behind empathy and the ins and outs of hip-hop’s exposure of the Illuminati. This live edition of TTBOOK will focus on the science of love, romance, lust, and the ways in which we tackle these concepts as we evolve. Host Anne Strainchamps will be joined by various guests for conversation as well as a local musical guest, Asumaya. Asumaya combines a spectrum of dubby, percussive, and lyrical colors, organized in a series of rhythmic loops. —Emili Earhart
Gary Gulman. Comedy Club on State, through Feb. 11, see link for all showtimes.
When you think of comics who are “joke writers,” you maybe think of a guy like Anthony Jeselnik, who is known for drawing the shortest possible line between a premise and a punchline, crafting individually ornate little wonders. Someone like Gary Gulman, though, treats jokes like they are set pieces from the movie Inception. Premises are drawn out for deliriously long stretches, with layers of punchlines folding in on each other all the while. Some people may remember Gulman from Dane Cook’s Tourgasm reality show a decade back, but rest assured that Gulman’s approach has grown significantly more refined than whatever his connection to Cook might bring to mind. Paul Farahvar features and Charlie Kojis, who was last year’s Madison’s Funniest Comic winner, hosts. —Chris Lay
Cloud Nothings, Moon Bros. High Noon Saloon, 8 p.m.
Cloud Nothings started as a solo lo-fi bedroom pop-punk project for Cleveland musician Dylan Baldi, and in time-honored indie-rock tradition, the project soon became a full band. It turned out, not too surprisingly, that the band’s performance was the deciding factor in helping to translate Baldi’s songs to a wider audience: 2012’s Attack On Memory, the first album to feature the full band, was a short, punchy collection of often Wipers-inspired material (especially the long, stormy “Wasted Days”) that got over on Baldi’s nasally vocal angst and uptempo, ringing guitars. The band’s latest album, Life Without Sound, is much more of a straightforward power-pop record—something like the original intention of the group, but less punk-oriented and far more fleshed-out and produced, practically radio-ready by its own standards. Songs like the introductory “Up To The Surface” provide far more obviously worked-over craftsmanship than before while remaining nearly as immediate as a band like this could want to be, and Baldi’s voice has lowered and gained melodic control over time to pleasing effect. With the recent addition of Chris Brown (no, not that other Chris Brown) on lead guitar, the band’s also restored more instrumental interplay to their overall sound. —Mike Noto
FRIDAY FEBRUARY 10
Starless Dreams. Vilas Hall, 7 p.m. (free)
Cinematheque’s “Premiere Showcase” spring series concludes with the intimate and poignant Starless Dreams, from renowned Iranian producer and documentarian Mehrdad Oskouei. In just 76 minutes, the film provides a remarkably focused and empathetic perspective on the shattered lives of several young women who’ve been accused and convicted of theft, drug possession, and assault. Over a 20-day span at a juvenile detention center on the outskirts of Tehran, Oskouei attentively captures their lost childhoods in tragic stories of poverty and sexual slavery. The film candidly provides incomparable insight into the inmates’ individual resilience while also forming a grand portrait of enduring friendships forged in shared grief. A number of surprisingly and literally playful scenes acknowledge the potential of redemption, but with it, a looming fear in returning to their lives beyond the walls. Promotional descriptions may conjure associations to Nick Broomfield’s Tattooed Tears (1979) or perhaps Herzog’s Into The Abyss (2011), but Starless Dreams is less concerned about the penal system and more about the region’s harrowing historical circumstances, as well as views of Iranian women in the present moment. —Grant Phipps
MMOCA Nights: Do Ho Suh. Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, 6 p.m.
Artist Do Ho Suh has had many homes. Born and raised in Seoul, educated at Seoul National University, Rhode Island School of Design, and Yale University, and currently living transiently between New York City, London, and Seoul, Suh naturally explores themes of migration, displacement, and space in his work. Suh, a sculptor and installation artist, has work in permanent exhibitions at the Guggenheim, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Walker Art Center, and others, but many of his installation works are site-specific. For his exhibition at MMoCA, Suh will invite visitors to literally enter his New York City apartment, its walls and furnishings recreated in draped fabric. A scale model of his Korean home and gardens, along with drawings, films, and luminous sculptures will also be part of the exhibit, which runs from February 11 through May 14. On Friday from 6 to 9 p.m., visitors can get a first look at the exhibit with a lecture from Suh at 6:30 (free for MMoCA members, $10 for non-members). —Erica Motz
Access Denied. Central Library, 6 p.m. (free)
The Access Denied event offers yet another a model for what safe dance spaces should look like and how to foster their growth. Organized in part by DJ Boyfrrriend and promoter/DJ Sarah Akawa, the primary forces behind Madison’s long-running queer dance nights, Loose Cannon and Queer Pressure, this event provides a critical look at accessibility in Madison nightlife. Part one of Access Denied is a panel discussion on the barriers obstructing people of color, immigrants, women, transgender people, queer people, disabled people, people with addictions, and youth from attending and freely experiencing parties and events. The panel includes moderator Jessica Williams, an advocate for survivors of domestic violence, along with a diverse group of community organizers and students who will share their personal and professional experiences relating to entertainment and nightlife in Madison. In part two, DJs will transform the library into a dance party, serving up an example of what events could look like with ample consideration given to all members of the community. The event is free and open to all. —Zack Stafford
Meat Wave, Absolutely Not, Twelves. Frequency, 8 p.m.
The punnily named Chicago punk band Meat Wave have a not-so-secret weapon in drummer Ryan Wizniak, whose tremendously dynamic and vital pummeling pushes just about every song into hyperdrive sooner or later. But directly tuneful songwriting and Chris Sutter’s plain, melodic Midwestern voice are always at the forefront of their music, more even than their formidable presence as musicians. Oddly, the band is so reliably tireless and stylistically consistent from song to song that picking out specifics about their albums can be paradoxically difficult, but previews of their newest record, The Incessant, indicate a similar follow-up to the elastic, livewire rush of 2015’s Delusion Moon. The Incessant boasts a characteristically muscular and hands-off engineering job from Steve Albini and somewhat more darkness and tension injected into their sound than before, as documented on the increasingly paranoid and noisy title track. On the other hand, however, “Run You Out” sounds just as concise, bright and hooky as the band ever has, and continually sustaining that high, even level of quality and seemingly inexhaustible energy is a real accomplishment. They appear at the Frequency a week ahead of the official release of The Incessant with fellow Chicago guitar-and-synth punk band Absolutely Not and the newer, emotionally ambiguous and technically oriented Madison group Twelves. —MN
Mark Shippy, Pachinko, No Hoax, Coordinated Suicides. High Noon Saloon, 9:30 p.m.
In a pretty unbelievable coincidence, both of the guitarists from Chicago noise-rock institution U.S. Maple will be in Madison this weekend. Not only are the current projects of both Mark Shippy (performing Friday, under his own name) and Todd Rittmann (playing Saturday at The Frequency with his band Dead Rider) are going to be totally killer, but the spread of artists sharing both bills are also not to be missed. Shippy has been a force in number of noise and experimental rock projects, notably Shorty, U.S. Maple, and Invisible Things. Shippy’s high-register guitar tone, paired with an absolutely brutal sense of energy, helped him stand out among ’90s experimental guitarists. Shippy has remained an integral part of the Chicago/Skin Graft Records/Drag City scene, while also heavily diving into guitar-drum-duo improvisation, such as his latest work in Invisible Things. Sharing the bill is post-hardcore, goof-noise-rock outfit Pachinko, who have an extra level of hometown-hero status for being signed to Alternative Tentacles (run by Jello Biafra of Dead Kennedys). Local stand-out rippers No Hoax and Coordinated Suicides, will start out the night. ––EE
Wood Chickens, TS Foss, The Foamers, Reverend Rectifier & The Sinners. Mickey’s Tavern, 10 p.m.
In celebration of their new EP Skunk Ape, which we previewed this week, Madison band Wood Chickens are celebrating alongside a solid lineup of Wisconsin-based projects. The first vinyl release for the Madison-based cowpunk outfit, Skunk Ape straddles hardcore punk and fast-paced country, adventurously diving into both styles and upending any expectations one has for either genre. Sharing the bill is Green Bay duo The Foamers, who give spastic punk a grimey, bluesy, lo-fi wash. TS Foss, the solo singer-songwriter project of Tyler Fassnacht (Proud Parents, The Hussy, Fire Heads), will open up the night with stripped-down, lyrical bedroom pop. The show also features the first public appearance of a new Madison project, Reverend Rectifier & The Sinners. —EE
Priests, Stef Chura. Rathskeller, 9 p.m. (free)
Priests had me hooked on their 2014 EP, Bodies And Control And Money And Power. On that record, the DC punks, led by Katie Alice Greer’s shrieking vocals, rail against the oppressive systems named in the EP’s title. Sometimes the lyrics are playful and irreverent, as in the song “Doctor,” (“You put your fingers in other people’s mouths all day, don’t you doctor?”), and sometimes they’re bleak, as in “Design Within Reach.” (“Design within reach, facing fear only when you have to, consequences only when you have to.”) In a recent interview with Tone MadisonTone Madison, Greer expresses an idea central to what makes great punk bands great—the ability to create compelling art that doesn’t compromise politically: “art is not coercing people into believing what you believe. Art is presenting something on a pedestal and leaving it out for people, hoping that you’re enticing them into wanting to learn more and wanting to do their own critical thinking.” On Nothing Feels Natural, the group’s first LP, released earlier this year, the band takes on a more instrumentally diverse sound. The added elements of piano, strings, saxophone, and more are at least in part thanks to the growing community of artists under the band’s label, Sister Polygon Records. Yet Greer’s vocals sacrifice none of their wailing, growling sarcasm: “Come on nothing, come on surface meaning, come on cash grab, safety masturbating, ooh baby my American dream, ooh baby my American dream,” she chants on “Pink White House.” They’ll be headlining one of the first shows at the newly renovated and re-opened (!) Rathskeller in the Memorial Union, with Detroit artist
Noname, Ravyn Lenae. Union South Sett, 9 p.m. (free, sold out)
SATURDAY FEBRUARY 11
The Trial Of Vivienne Ware + 6 Hours To Live. Vilas Hall, 7 p.m. (free)
The “Fox Restorations From The Museum Of Modern Art” series at Cinematheque continues with another rare and adventurous double-bill, which jumps from the early John Ford comedies of last week to two succinct, melodramatic mysteries from separate directors. At 7 p.m., the first is William K. Howard’s The Trial Of Vivienne Ware (1932). The film is characterized by its dizzying whip pans, and MoMA adjunct curator and critic David Kehr describes it as one of the fastest feature films ever made (clocking in at a tightly edited 56 minutes). The titular court session chronicles sprightly socialite Ms. Ware (Joan Bennett, of Hitchcock’s Rebecca), who’s accused of killing her adulterous fiancé; and, in a twist, she’s defended by ex-lover John (Donald Cook). The film’s multiple and conflicting flashback accounts resemble the plot device in Kurosawa’s breakthrough Rashomon (1950). The second feature at 8:15 p.m., 6 Hours To Live (1932), directed by William Dieterle, imagines a fantasy scenario where diplomat Paul Onslow (William Baxter) is brought back to life through the miracles of experimental science to pursue his own killer. The film is a striking influence on Rudolph Maté’s film noir D.O.A. (1950). —GP
Leon And Mad Dogs. High Noon Saloon, 5 p.m.
Singer, songwriter, pianist, and guitarist Leon Russell, who died last year at age 74, was renowned both as a solo artist and a session musician, playing on dozens of pop, R&B, and blues recordings throughout the 1960s and ’70s. Dave Adler and Andy Wallmann of Madison institution The Gomers spearhead this show, which brings together a dozen-odd Madison musicians to perform in tribute to Russell. The set will draw on Russell’s self-titled solo album from 1970—which, in a nice bit of turnabout for a session player, seemed to feature contributions from everyone else, with guests including George Harrison, Steve Winwood, and Mick Jagger—and Joe Cocker’s 1970 live album Mad Dogs & Englishmen, on which Russell served as a bandleader and arranger and arguably stole the show. The performers here include several members of Steely Dan tribute band Steely Dane, so between that and the Gomers’ years playing live-band karaoke, this bunch should be well equipped to handle an esoteric set of covers. —SG
Dead Rider, Battlerat, Talker, Mori Mente. Frequency, 9 p.m.
Chicago experimental sleaze-rock group Dead Rider’s once-a-year-ish appearances in Madison tend to be among my favorite nights of a given year. This time, guitarist/vocalist Todd Rittmann, formerly of ’90s noise rock group U.S. Maple, serves as Part Two of U.S. Maple guitarists-come-to-Madison (with Mark Shippy’s appearance at High Noon Saloon the night prior; see above). Dead Rider stands out among most “rock”-formatted bands: Rittmann’s awkwardly seedy veil as a frontman, his manic vocals glazed over with a confused haze, and that low guitar tone that sneaks in here and there right out of the U.S. Maple days only make up a portion of Dead Rider’s unmatched personality. Drummer Matthew Espy slides back and forth on the line between virtuosic, jazz-influenced arrangements and a spasmodic chaos. A shifting lineup of musicians add a chromatic range of sounds on trumpet, harmonica, bright keyboards, glitchy electronics, and dense, dubby bass. This bill also features Downwards Records dark-techno duo Talker, as well as the piano-driven Minneapolis project Battlerat. Mori Mente, a project led by Madison musician Courtney Jarman (also of Myrmidons), will open up the night behind a newly released tape, with a colorful mix of dark melodies, bright synthesizers, and ethereal vocals. ––EE
SUNDAY FEBRUARY 12
Trebino, Ra’shaun, Lucien Parker, DJ Pain 1, 6Wisco Bang, 1neofmani, Kiloakaskitlz. High Noon Saloon, 8 p.m.
This show, which also celebrates the launch of a new clothing line called 608 Union, offers a chance to see a few of Madison’s promising young hip-hop talents on one bill. It’s got stylistic variety, too. Trebino’s singles and his 2015 mixtape #BinoBusiness put rapid-fire verses over steamy, trap-inspired beats, suggesting the emergence of a sharp, gritty MC. His occasional collaborator Ra’Shaun has tended to go in a more melodic direction, embracing healthy doses of pop and neo-soul on his 2016 debut EP, Kolors, but he can also explore more straight-ahead rap territory between the bubbly hooks. Lucien Parker, a Minneapolis native and UW-Madison student, cast a wide thematic net on his 2016 full-length Black Sheep, and has continued to show his versatility as a rapper and singer on a recent trio of singles. —SG
Boyz II Men. Overture Hall, 7 p.m.
Philadelphia’s Boyz II Men achieved massive success in the early 1990s with a mix of immaculate R&B harmonies and hip-hop swagger. Of course, they’re best remembered for the slow, soul-baring songs of devotion and contrition, especially the chart-demolishing trifecta of “End Of The Road,” “I’ll Make Love To You,” and “On Bended Knee.” These songs hold up as very much of their era in R&B, but in a mature, admirably polished way. Currently Boyz II Men is down to three of its original members, and they’ve kept recording fairly steadily, their most recent album being 2014’s Collide. —SG
Micro-Wave Cinema: Ted Fent. Vilas Hall, 7 p.m. (free)
When Filmmaker Magazine put Ted Fendt on its 25 New Faces list in 2015, Fendt was wrapping up Short Stay, his first feature work following up on a string of promising comedic shorts, most notably the low-stakes slacker-centric Broken Specs and Going Out. Thanks to the forward-looking Micro-Wave Cinema series, not only do we get a chance to see Fendt’s most recent work, but also those two earlier films. Since all three films were shot by Sage Einarsen and star Mike MacCherone as a guy named “Mike,” there’s an easy through-line that runs from film to film and should keep things from getting too confusing. —CL
MONDAY FEBRUARY 13
Japandroids, Craig Finn And The Uptown Controllers. Majestic, 8 p.m.
Vancouver duo Japandroids’ first two albums, 2009’s Post-Nothing and 2012’s Celebration Rock, developed a sound that cut pretty admirably through the rock ‘n’ roll clutter: Rugged but with an effusive sparkle (especially on that second album), unabashedly sincere but still bombastically fun. Guitarist/vocalist Brian King and drummer/vocalist David Prowse also gained a deserved reputation for ferocious live sets, but they’ve been pretty quiet the past few years, which finally yielded the new album Near To The Wild Heart Of Life. It’s pretty in line with the first two albums, though songs like “Arc Of Bar” and “North South East West” have a bit more of the world-weary reflectiveness you’d expect to set in with time. To double the earnest shout-along potential, Craig Finn of The Hold Steady and Lifter/Puller will open here with his band The Uptown Controllers. Finn will release a new solo album, We All Want The Same Things, in March. —SG
TUESDAY FEBRUARY 14
Mary Mack, Tim Harmston. Comedy Club on State, 8 p.m.
Valentine’s Day stuff is tough. You want to do something a little more outside of the box than just chocolates and or flowers. Making a romantic dinner is always a good thought, but you have to actually be good at making food to pull that one off. For those of you who are feeling the pinch of cupid’s time crunch as the clock winds down to do-or-die for V-Day plans, the Comedy Club on State offers this duo stand-up show from Mary Mack and Tim Harmston. They’re husband and wife comedians, sure, but don’t expect a novelty act. Mack and Harmston, both Wisconsin natives, have made names for themselves independently of each other and will fuse their delightfully whimsical acts together for this one-off love-centric performance. —CL
WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 15
Garrett Mendelow: An Evening With Xenakis. Mills Concert Hall, UW Humanities Building, 6 p.m.
At this concert, Madison-based percussionist Garrett Mendelow celebrates the work of 20th century Greek composer Iannis Xenakis, who applied mathematical and architectural influences and systems to musical composition. While Xenakis was an integral force in orchestral work, electronic and electroacoustic sound art, and countless chamber and solo combinations, this program focuses in on the various opportunities his work opens for percussion in both solo and collaborative settings. Mendelow, a doctoral student at UW-Madison and member of local-new music ensemble Sound Out Loud, will be joined here by a group of talented Madison musicians providing accompaniment on instruments including saxophone and harpsichord. —EE
Nikki Giovanni. Gordon Commons, 7 p.m. (free)
For its Black History Month Keynote Address, the Wisconsin Union Directorate’s Distinguished Lecturer Series brings Nikki Giovanni to campus for a free talk titled “Black Joy: Getting Black To Happy.” Giovanni, currently a Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech, is a poet and activist whose work was born of the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements in America. A recipient of multiple NAACP Image Awards and the American Book Awards, Grammy nominee, and author of over twenty volumes of poetry and children’s stories, Giovanni is prolific and timeless, possessing an ability to honor tragedy by creating beauty in her writing. Besides writing as a black woman about experiences of race and gender in America, Giovanni’s writing has responded to hate crimes, being a black lung cancer survivor, the Virginia Tech shooting, and the death of her mother. Her latest book, Chasing Utopia: A Hybrid (2013), is a collection of poems, prose, and recipes. In “Spices,” (link below), Giovanni celebrates memories of cooking with her mother “with lots of talk, and love, and laughter.” —EM
Run The Jewels, The Gaslamp Killer, Nick Hook, Gangsta Boo, Cuz. Orpheum, 7 p.m. (sold out)
You can probably get a lot more depth from Atlanta rapper Killer Mike and NYC rapper-producer El-P if you go outside their collaboration as Run The Jewels, now three self-titled albums deep. In RTJ, Mike’s heart-on-sleeve humanity (as captured on solo efforts like 2012’s R.A.P. Music, which El-P produced) and El’s warped, blackly funny worldview both take a backseat to fun and bravado—but it’s triumphant, the fun is well deserved, and the project has a boisterous, lovable heart of its own. Especially on 2016’s RTJ3, the collaboration (and the friendship behind it) gives both artists a chance to reflect a bit more on themselves and their place on the word, as tracks like “Down” and “Everybody Stay Calm” reveal if one listens beyond the charming bluster. There’s also a real treat on this bill: An opening set from Memphis rap veteran and former Three 6 Mafia member Gangsta Boo, who’s been teasing a new project to follow her 2015 mixtape Candy, Diamonds & Pills. —SG