Noname, Debra DiGiovanni, dumate, and more events of note in Madison this week. | By Sasha Debevec-McKenney, Scott Gordon, Chris Lay, Grant Phipps
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THURSDAY JANUARY 12
I got tipped off to Debra DiGiovanni when she was the “comic of the week” on The Boogie Monster, Kyle Kinane and Dave Stone’s podcast (which is ostensibly about cryptozoology but more often than not is actually about barbecue and biscuits). The foundation of DiGiovanni’s comedy is a manic presentation where the pace, volume, and content can turn on a dime. In lesser hands, her staccato “sike” fakeouts would come off as schtick, but for her they’re part of the machine-gun rhythm of the show. Kinane quipped that “If you wanna see a comic get disappointed, tell them that they’re up after Debra DiGiovanni.” Based on the strength of her debut album Single, Awkward, Female, the endorsement is well-earned, and I’ve been looking forward to her weekend up shows since they were announced. Jim Flannigan features, Adam McShane hosts. —Chris Lay
Big Thief, headlining the first night of the annual three-day FRZN Fest package deal, are a credit to the perennially overcrowded region of mild-mannered guitar-pop, thanks to songwriter/guitarist/singer Adrianne Lenker’s knack for balancing familiar melodic comforts with bursts of bracing vulnerability. The NYC band’s 2016 debut album, Masterpiece, isn’t afraid to slow down, ponder, and let the unease seep in between its big, warm guitars. On “Real Love,” the band navigates deftly between a sparse, quavering chord progression on the verses and stormy outbursts on the chorus. The tinge of country in Lenker’s voice doesn’t hurt, and neither does the care the band takes with its scrappy but deceptively varied arrangements. —SG
During her 50-plus-year career, R&B singer Patti LaBelle has shown incredible savvy and versatility in the face of many changes in music, and sometimes helped to drive those shifts herself. LaBelle’s greatest successes came not with her early-’60s, Atlantic-signed vocal group Patti LaBelle And The Bluebelles, but rather amid later evolutions in pop and soul. The Bluebelles turned into LaBelle in the early ’70s and made important early contributions to disco with singles like the rollicking and raunchy “Lady Marmalade,” on which LaBelle’s vocal performance and Allen Toussaint’s production united the bouncy ferment of New Orleans funk with a peek into the future of dance music. In the ’80s, she explored still more dimensions, scoring hits with songs like the charmingly gauzy Michael McDonald duet “On My Own” and her driving, synth-heavy contributions to the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack. More recent endeavors include performing in the Fela Kuti-inspired musical Fela!Fela! and even launching a food brand (mixed reviews on that one). She’s also been helping to raise awareness about AIDS since the ’80s. Her most recent release is 2008’s Live In Washington, D.C., but LaBelle’s got more than enough under her belt to make for an interesting set here. —SG
FRIDAY JANUARY 13
The Cardinal’s Square one night generally focuses on house and techno, but swerves into more gritty and bass-centric styles of dance music for this edition. Madison DJ Diva-D’s set will focus on the skittering, fragmented intensity of jungle, presumably a bit like her free jungle mix embedded below. D-On, from Milwaukee, will focus on funky but abrasive breakbeat. Dissolvent, from Madison, promises “bass-crazed mayhem” to round out what should be a welcome side trip into aggressive and adventurous terrain. —SG
Ceremony have applied some ambition and intriguing shadows since forming in 2005 in Rohnert Park, California, and their fifth album, 2015’s The L-Shaped Man, heads unreservedly into Joy Division-worshipping post-punk. However, this bill (the second night of FRZN Fest) belongs to the Midwest’s punk treasures. The Appleton-formed Tenement have an eccentric scope of their own, but it tends to be wedded tightly to songwriting instincts deeply rooted in power-pop, R&B, and country. Minneapolis trio The Blind Shake have mastered a clanging sound that manages to work in surf-rock and psych-rock references without ever losing its severe, skeletal focus. And both Tenement and The Blind Shake are unfailingly fierce live bands. Rounding out the bill is the sweaty garage-soul of Chicago’s Yoko And The Oh No’s. —SG
WebsterX, Gerald Walker, Dumate, CRASHprez, Sincere Life, Zed Kenzo, Broadway Muse, DJ Mojamid. Majestic, 8 p.m.
This installment of the Majestic’s annual Wisconsin hip-hop showcase features several of the young artists who’ve given the genre a fierce new place in our state, like Milwaukee standouts Zed Kenzo and WebsterX, and the lyrically acrobatic Madison-based MC Broadway. But what’s equally exciting is that (slightly older) Madison hip-hop band Dumate will be playing its first proper live set in ages, with the full lineup that dominated local stages around the release of its last album, 2009’s We Have The Technology. That’s the MC pairing of DLO’s sober rhymes and Dudu Stinks’ skillful eccentricity, Natty Nation’s Jah Boogie on drums and reggae-tinged vocal hooks, Nick Moran on bass, and producer Man Mantis (who moved to Denver years ago) doing live MPC and turntable work. The group has been quietly working on new material over the years, and released a few one-off singles including 2015’s “Brutality”. Having seen them play before, I’d recommend catching their set even if you’re mostly here for the exciting youngsters. —SG
West side cinephiles eager for an alternative to the area’s many commercial theatrical offerings should celebrate the ongoing “Films from the International Film Movement Series” at the Alicia Ashman branch of the Madison Public Library (733 N. High Point Rd.). On the second Friday of each month, this curated series aims to highlight the best of independent and foreign film associated with distributor Film Movement. The series’ first presentation of 2017 is Justin Lerner’s The Automatic Hate, which premiered at SXSW in 2015. Although it’s ostensibly a tale of familial reconciliation, Lerner instills his second feature with a potent psychological mix of thrilling suspicion and black comedy that involves an extended dysfunctional family. After Boston-dwelling sous chef Davis Green (Joseph Cross) is suddenly approached by his formerly unknown younger cousin Alexis (Adelaide Clemens), who lives in a free-spirited enclave of upstate New York, the two team up to get to the bottom of their fathers’ estrangement. —Grant Phipps
SATURDAY JANUARY 14
Chicago rapper Noname’s 2016 debut, Telefone, starts with “Yesterday,” a track that reminds me of this past week in Wisconsin: bright, beautiful, and bitterly cold. By the time you realize how heartbreaking of a track you’re listening to, it’s too late—you’re already crying. And then you’re five tracks in, and somehow those playful lunchroom beats keep giving way to rhymes like, “my granny really was a slave for this / all your uncompleted similes and pages ripped / you know they whipped us niggas, how you afraid to rap it?” Again and again, Noname reminds us that black joy is what we make it and there’s nothing quite like the swagger that comes from experiencing and overcoming pain. Not only is Telefone the best rap album of the past year, Noname shines on all her features, too. Chance’s “Finish Line/Drown” (Coloring Book) and Saba’s “Church / Liquor Store” (Bucket List Project) would still be good, but not great, without her. Speaking of which: Watch her smile and bop her way through a recent SNL performance, also with Chance. Listening to Noname feels like watching Simone Biles spin: All of the grace in the world makes it impossible to see how much hard work and genius went into the performance. It’s that black girl magic that’s been there all along—people only just started listening. —Sasha Debevec-McKenney
Arts + Literature Laboratory First Anniversary Celebration. Arts + Literature Laboratory, 6 p.m. (free)
It’s hard to get a small non-profit venue off the ground, but since it opened in late 2015, Arts + Literature Laboratory on Winnebago Street has gathered some real momentum, pulling together a slate of curated group art shows, a summer experimental-film series, literary readings and workshops, and music ranging from jazz to experimental electronics. (Full disclosure: Tone Madison has also booked several music events there.) The venue is also in the process of knocking over into the space next door, which will double its size. ALL celebrates its expansion and first anniversary here with the opening of a new group art show, Bridge Work: New Art From The Midwest, and later, an after-party with DJs Evan Woodward and Nathan Port. —SG
Prairie Music & Arts, a non-profit music school out in Sun Prairie, has put together a promising series of three jazz concerts. It actually kicked off in October with a concert by pianist Paul Hastil (of the ever-reliable New Breed Jazz Jam), and picks up here with a duo performance by Racine-based trumpeter Jamie Breiwick and Milwaukee-based pianist Mark Davis. Breiwick is a member of the excellent Lesser Lakes Trio, among other collaborations, and Davis has performed with renowned musicians including saxophonist Phil Woods and bassist Richard Davis. Breiwick and Davis play a regular duo gig in Milwaukee with a repertoire that includes compositions from Thelonious Monk and Bud Powell, so hopefully they’ll offer an interesting take on standards and a few surprises here. —SG
Art In on East Wash opened in 2012 and, especially in the past two years, has provided a big but still rather homey space for occasional all-ages shows and art exhibitions. The space has also hosted projects like Madison’s Harlem Renaissance Museum. It’s not clear what Art In’s future role will be in meeting the needs of this DIY-space-deprived city, but it has a few things other upstart venues don’t, like a liquor license and a decent PA. On Saturday, it celebrates its next evolution—opening up a craft beer bar called Maria’s, named in honor of a mixed-media event series that used to go on at Art In. The night will feature neon art by Madisonian Scott Shapiro, and live body painting by artists Dawn Marie Harms-Svanoe and Joseph Ott. —SG
SUNDAY JANUARY 15
Madison seems to have more music and arts non-profits than it knows what to do with, but the Greater Madison Jazz Consortium, founded in 2012, has stood out by putting on events that reach across jazz sub-genres and artists of different ages and backgrounds (including the popular Strollin’ and InDIGenous concert series) and actually helping musicians get some financial support for their performances and original compositions, both through grants and paid gigs. It kicks off the year with a concert featuring a diverse handful of Madison-based jazz artists. Vocalist Gerri DiMaggio starts things off with a four-piece band. Next up, saxophonist-flutist Hanah Jon Taylor will lead a group featuring MC Rob Dz in spoken-word mode, Dave Stoler on piano, and Chicagoans Darius Savage on bass and Dushun Mosely on percussion. To finish the night, trombonist/trumpeter/vocalist Darren Sterud will lead his New Orleans Tribute group, with UW-Madison jazz program leader Johannes Wallmann sitting in on piano. —SG
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