Cutting and catchy metal from Tubal Cain, Afrobeat grooves from Immigré, a small Kevin Hart show at the Alliant Energy Center, and more events of note in Madison this week.
Sponsor message: The weekly Tone Madison calendar is made possible with support from Union Cab of Madison, a worker-owned cooperative providing safe and professional taxi services.
THURSDAY JANUARY 18
FRZN Fest 2018. High Noon Saloon and Majestic, through Jan. 20
Every January, FRZN Fest seems to approach with relatively little fanfare. In the dead of winter, bookers at Frank Productions cobble together what touring acts with reasonable appeal will bear the abominable cold of Januaries in Wisconsin and house them all in the High Noon Saloon over the course of three to four days, as if for communal warmth, under the guise of a festival. This year the bookers and their partners at the Majestic are doubling down, booking six concerts’ worth of bands, spanning three days and both venues. Still, curmudgeonly and cynical as we tend to be, even we must cede that this year’s FRZN Fest packs some actual heat. On night one, Shredders, an outfit featuring P.O.S. and other members of Minneapolis’ Doomtree, and some fellow Midwestern hip hop acts seize the High Noon. Shredders’ 2017 debut Dangerous Jumps, feels like a needed new wave in the rap movement that Doomtree has helped define. Over percussive and electronic beats on songs like “Flipping Cars,'” Shredders’ emcees brandish and flex tack-sharp lyrics and cadences like broadswords. The next night marks a return for Dan Bejar as Destroyer, the project under which he’s received pompous accolades like “rock’s exiled king.” Still, the Canadian singer-songwriter’s work holds up as enduring and inventive. His newest album, 2017’s Ken, is a departure. Tracks like “Sky’s Grey” are sparser than the norm, requiring careful attention but rewarding the listener with unexpected peaks and valleys. Night three, at the High Noon, brings a stateside visit from Spanish band Hinds. Sweet, slow and garage-y, the four-member outfit write songs like “Garden” that take their time strolling with sweet riffs and unison singing, but never meander. There’s more at this year’s maybe-a-festival, so see the full schedule. —Henry Solo
SATURDAY JANUARY 20
Dearth, Twichard, Tubal Cain, Dos Males, Comets Ov Cupid. Bos Meadery, 6 p.m.
Madison duo Tubal Cain play metal so cutting and catchy one almost forgets that drummer/vocalist Kristine Drake and guitarist/vocalist Alex Drake are drawing on the bare-bones, inhospitable days of early black metal. The drums swing and pummel at once, the riffs are grimy but well constructed, and the vocals combine Alex’s guttural lows with Kristine’s menacing cackles. Oh, and they finally decided to put Black Eden, a very good album they released a couple years back, on Bandcamp. They’re a treasure, and it’s worth catching them here alongside other heavy Madison bands including Dos Males and Twichard. —Scott Gordon
Immigré, ¡ESSO!, Bumbac Joe. Frequency, 8 p.m.
Madison-based band Immigré have promised to finally work on a proper recording in 2018, but for the past couple years they’ve gigged at a respectable pace and made a strong impression around town with their propulsive and nuanced interpretations of Afrobeat, channeled through both originals and obscure covers. The grooves come from a couple other directions at this show, thanks to two Chicago acts. ¡ESSO! braids the funky ferocity of Afrobeat with a host of rhythmic and melodic ideas that draw on Afro-Latin musical traditions, capturing the multi-layered echoes of a diaspora. On their 2017 album Juntos, the band takes multi-layered percussion and call-and-response vocals as a starting point, but threads in everything from cutting surf-rock guitars to sleek filter-sweeping synths. Producer and DJ Bumbac Joe combines an equally broad sonic and geographic reach with the pulse of house music. —Scott Gordon
Tyranny Is Tyranny, Poney, Our Friends The Savages. Mickey’s, 10 p.m. (free)
For a band that identifies as “post-metal,” Madison’s Tyranny Is Tyranny still tend to eschew the sleepy tropes that saturate the genre these days. There’s nothing shimmering, ethereal, or fancy about the sonic territory or overall production of the band’s second and most recent album, 2015’s The Rise Of Disaster Capitalism. Brooding and delicate guitar progressions give way to tasteful, growling crescendos with maximum feel, as guitarist-vocalist Russell Hall’s urgent screams cut through to the point where it seems like he’s actually berating the listener—which, to be fair, he probably is. We’re also stoked to see some activity from Wisconsin stoner-punk mainstays Poney. Despite trudging through a lineup change and having drummer-vocalist Ben Brooks and guitarist-bassist Tyler Spatz also splitting their time with moody punk outfit No Hoax and synth-laced garage project Cave Curse, Poney have been hard at work on a proper follow-up to 2013’s Rorschach, which the band says should drop sometime this year. —Joel Shanahan
SUNDAY JANUARY 21
Kevin Hart. Alliant Energy Center, 7 p.m.
To understand Kevin Hart’s place in the comedy firmament, one has to consider the record-breaking year the Philadelphia-born had in 2015. It’s easy enough to sum up with this single, large factoid: On his What Now? tour, he became the first stand-up to headline an NFL stadium for a sold-out crowd. What’s perhaps even more staggering and impressive to reconcile about his expansive success is how versatile he still remains, equally comfortable playing the stone-faced straight man to Conan O’Brien on absurdist remote pieces as he is making Saturday Night Live cast members crack. It’s remarkable how little Hart has compromised or self-censored in his ascent. If anything, it’s likely due to his career-long explorations of how life, celebrity, and Kevin Hart is ridiculous. The BET parody reality show Real Husbands Of Hollywood, which ended in 2016, is another example of this, a show that’s shot through with Hart and loads of other comedians and celebrities playing exaggerated versions of themselves as they try—and fail—to climb Hollywood’s many social ladders. Hart’s latest album, 2017’s What Now? (with material culled from the tour of the same name), is full of his characteristic rapid-fire delivery, but what’s starting to bleed into his material are ruminations on maturity. Yes, his jokes are about his family, kids, and new life as a movie star, but are more about deflating himself over these milestones than puffing his chest out. —David Wolinsky
Fire Heads, Sass, According To What. Mickey’s, 10 p.m. (free)
In their first concert of the new year, Madison garage-punk band Fire Heads will likely perform a lot of songs from their sophomore album, a self-titled effort released in late 2017. The tracks on Fire Heads are not so much a departure from their debut LP, 2014’s Scroggz Manor, as an all-around intensification. Everything, especially the guitars, becomes even more tempestuous here. On tracks like “Dad’s Theory,” Tyler Fassnacht and Bobby Hussy’s guitar parts race around one another like hyperactive dogs, kicking up a ton of dust in the process. Still, for all the chaos present on the project, Fire Heads also impose structure to ensure tracks do not go off the rails. The pocket is always airtight on Alex Ross’ drums and Erick Fruehling’s bass, and Fassnacht’s vocals and lyrics reliably cut through all the noise. There is a moment of respite, though, just before the album closes. On “Night Comes Again,” Fassnacht sings and strums sadly all by himself, murmuring lyrics like “And in the end I’ll wait until it’s over / I’ll stay until they all go away.” It’s a poignant juxtaposition, given the adrenaline that laces all the album’s other tracks. Speaking of contrast, Fire Heads will share the bill here with Minneapolis band Sass, whose alt-pop songs, like “Velvet,” are much softer but have some chaotically frayed edges all the same. —Henry Solo
WEDNESDAY JANUARY 24
Nerd Nite 054. High Noon Saloon, 8 p.m. (free)
It would be easy for a series of talks from self-declared nerds to devolve into nerd-culture nostalgia, but thankfully a deep bench of Madisonians who are highly credentialed and/or deeply obsessed with hyper-specific subjects keeps the local edition of Nerd Nite consistently populated with one or two curveballs every time it comes back around. Madison’s first Nerd Nite of 2018 features a biology PhD student’s view of polygamy versus monogamy, a look behind the scenes of air traffic control from an audiobook narrator, and an in-depth lesson on the Talmud from an atheist. That said, we think these talks could get weirder. Where is primer on ghost hunting within the steam tunnels running beneath the UW-Madison campus? Where is the hydroponic hop farm tutorial? This knowledge must exist. Step forward, people. —Mark Riechers