“The Outfit,” Lovely Socialite, Tig Notaro, Kevin Saunderson, Michelle Wolf, and more events of note in Madison this week.
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THURSDAY JULY 13
Stand-up and Daily Show contributor Michelle Wolf has a bubbly, beguiling stage presence that keeps you disarmed no matter how many barbs she throws out, and that’s just where a comedian wants an audience. Whether she’s arguing that men should have to put make-up on their balls (“or at the very least, googly eyes”), or deconstructing Kellyanne Conway, Wolf invests her material with a mischievous but genuine likeability. She knows how to keep it straightforward but isn’t afraid to exercise some cleverness as a writer—her 2014 TV debut on Late Night With Seth Meyers closed on an inventive note with a riff about what kinds of reminders she’d like to tattoo on her body. Wolf plays here as she prepares to tape an HBO special in August. The brilliantly odd Madison-based stand-up David Fisher hosts this weekend’s shows. —Scott Gordon
Psychic Drag combines members of Madison bands ranging including friendly power-pop outfit Proud Parents and bizarro math-metal band The Killer Dolphin With Rabies. Their self-titled debut EP, getting a cassette release at this show, comprises seven charmingly raggedy punk songs, ranging from the snottily tuneful (“Pretty Please,” “Bucks Fight Song”) to grimy hardcore-leaning outbursts (“That Boy,” “Trust In You”) to a closing track that reminds me a bit of Lungfish’s bare-bones anthems (“Monopoly”). It all makes for a very fun and worthy addition to the variety of unpretentious rock ‘n’ roll that Madison-based artists have been creating lately. The bill also features the proto-punk of Chicago’s Poison Boys and the good-natured, gravel-voiced rock of Madison’s Winning Ugly. —Scott Gordon
FRIDAY JULY 14
Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Mama Digdown’s Brass Band, The Handphibians. 100 block of King Street, 7 p.m. (free)
The multi-generational Preservation Hall Jazz Band formed in the early 1960s at its namesake French Quarter venue, with the aim of carrying on the traditions of New Orleans brass bands. In recent years the band has been combining that ongoing work with a focus on original compositions (which dominate its most recent albums, 2017’s So It Is and 2013’s That’s It) and collaborations with artists ranging from bluegrass veteran Del McCoury to the Foo Fighters. So It Is has its more subdued and conversational moments (the title track, “One Hundred Fires”), but still finds the band excelling at the kind of festive, rambunctious workouts that should translate well at this outdoor show. —Scott Gordon
This year’s installment of Musique Èlectronique, Madison’s beloved miniature electronic music festival, kicks off its seventh orbit with a night of house and techno from some top players. Octo Octa’s myriad releases on labels like 100% Silk, Running Back, and Honey Soundsystem’s HNYTRX pull together elements of deep house, techno, and ambient in a pensive fabric that feels genuine and cathartic. Her latest, Where Are We Going?, follows a similar recipe, tying lush piano, bubbling synth, classic breaks, intimate field recordings, and more into a deeply personal yet relatable narrative. Justin Long brings a mutant mix of EBM, electro, and throbbing techno that scores the ongoing Hugo Ball residency at Smart Bar in Chicago. Recent acid techno endeavors from Long in Circling Vultures have picked up heat from L.I.E.S. as well as Glasgow-based label Contort Yourself. Catch local favorites Golden Donna (a.k.a. Tone Madison contributor Joel Shanahan) and Glynis warming up at one of the best-looking nights of electronic music in Madison we’ve seen this year. —Zack Stafford
Jonesies formed a little less than two years ago, but over that time the Madison band has developed a distinctive voice, full of jangly indie-pop guitar hooks and corrosive wit. On the band’s first full-length, the recently released Keep Up, bassist Mary Begley and guitarist Luis Perez trade vocal lines that make up savagely funny little stories. The initial lineup of Begley, Perez, and drummer Tessa Echeverria added guitarist Peter Briggs in time for the new album, fleshing out the band’s minimal but infectiously catchy approach on caustically charming tracks like “Vinculum Gate,” “Blood Stone Shard,” and “Glass Factory.” This will be the band’s last show, as Begley heads out of town after several years of contributing to Madison’s music community in a variety of bands and as the co-founder of Half-Stack Sessions. —Scott Gordon
SATURDAY JULY 15
Here’s the thing that has always bothered me about stand-up: the thousandth fart joke is no funnier than the first. It’s easy to be an sarcastic comedian, to yell Carlin-esque observations and make them sound cheaply profound. I’m tired of comedians who yell until they’re red in the face to get a point across. It’s been done, there isn’t a ton to add to that category, and a lot of those jokes don’t age well anyway. Which brings us to why I love Tig Notaro, who is none of the above. Indeed, her strength as a comic lies in her deadpan humor and her almost painful sincerity. As Tig’s fans know, her comedy’s changed to become more personal since 2012, when she had a number of personal tragedies happen to her in a matter of months—a transition captured virtually in the moment on 2012’s album Live. What has resulted from that low point, though, is new and refreshing comedy, which finds Notaro digesting a battle with cancer, her mother’s death, and parenthood with a bit more hindsight on 2016’s Boyish Girl Interrupted. Before all this, Notaro had an excellent foundation as a stand-up, crafting simultaneously bizarre and restrained material on the 2011 album Good One. While plenty of comedians use personal experiences as a springboard for their material, only talented ones can use them so deftly as two sides of the same tragedy-comedy mask. —Chali Pittman
Over the years we at Tone Madison have become more and more grateful for Le Fete De Marquette’s Musique Electronique stage, as it’s one of the few occasions when big-room house and techno artists reach Madison. This has a lot to do with the passionate underground dance community here being disproportionately small when compared to the big performance fees, enhanced sound costs, and overall resources required to make it happen. This year’s lineup boasts a headlining DJ set from Detroit techno pioneer Kevin Saunderson, whose vast body of tunes has informed not just techno, but virtually every corner of electronic dance music. Saunderson’s early collaborations with Juan Atkins as Kreem helped set the tone for Detroit techno, his 1988 track “Just Want Another Chance” features the prototypical wobbly bass sound heard on myriad jungle records, and his work with vocalist Paris Grey as Inner City is some of the most infectiously powerful vocal-house ever crafted. Supporting Saunderson at the Fete will be Midwest rave pillar and house producer Miles Maeda, heady Chicago selector and co-founder of Smart Bar’s Hugo Ball residency Justin Long, and Brooklyn-based, shimmering house producer Octo Octa. After Saunderson’s free set at the Fete, he’ll be playing a ticketed after-show at the High Noon Saloon, with support from Madison’s own DJ Jared Perez. (Full disclosure: I’m playing one of the Musique Electronique program’s other bills this year.) —Joel Shanahan
This show celebrates new releases from two outfits that certainly have a foundational relationship with jazz, but build on them in ways that aren’t bound by tradition. The six-piece Lovely Socialite, formed in Madison in 2009, uses instruments including vibraphone, cello, trombone, and pipa (a Chinese stringed instrument) to create pieces that range from dense and moody to playful and giddy. Their new EP DoubleShark focuses mostly on lean, rock-informed compositions, making for some of the most driving and concise work the band has put out so far, but not sacrificing its colorful eccentricity. Madison-based outfit Left Field Quartet‘s new album, Please Take Us Seriously, uses more conventional instrumentation—drums, bass, keys, tenor sax—but is equally eager to prod at jazz conventions. “Straight Ahead F Blues” seems to revel in those conventions, as the title implies, but Josh Agterberg’s piano and Cooper Schlegel’s bass gently steer it in more abstract and dissonant directions here and there. “Hedonism” finds the group aggressively chopping up their rhythms, “Flowers Everywhere” dabbles in lush synth leads, and “Fun!” unleashes multi-reedist Alex Charland to improvised abrasively over drummer Jacob Bicknase’s funky, swinging beat. Ahead of the album’s release, you can listen to “Straight Ahead F Blues” right here. —Scott Gordon
In a delightfully cult-ish movement that Madison joined last year, performers in cities all over the world have been gathering in public spaces one day a year for mass re-enactments of Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights” video. Envision dozens of people in red dresses turning public spaces into “wiley, windy moors,” and, well, you’ve basically got the picture. The Madison edition, in James Madison Park, is open to anyone, with a rehearsal schedule and other resources provided at the Facebook event page. —Scott Gordon
TUESDAY JULY 18
Members of several bands from Madison’s busy punk scene will be switching it up here to play country songs. The Hot Band, a one-off featuring Mary Begley and Peter Briggs of Jonesies, Alex Reilly and Griffin Pett of Wood Chickens, and Etan Heller of Exploration Team, take their name from Emmylou Harris’ old backing band. In addition to playing some of Harris’ songs, they’ll be reaching across the classic country canon to cover tunes by Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, Johnny Cash, George Jones, and others. The set will feature pedal steel from Briggs and three-part vocal harmonies from Begley, Pett, and Reilly. Sharing this “Honky Tonk Happy Hour” bill will be Hippie Xmas, which also includes some Wood Chickens members, alongside members from fellow Madison band The Smells. —Scott Gordon
WEDNESDAY JULY 19
The most glaring omission from UW Cinematheque’s series of films based on pulp author Donald Westlake’s work is John Boorman’s cult classic Point Blank, with Lee Marvin as professional criminal Parker (there’s only one print in circulation, so we’ll just have to wait until fall). The rarely-seen 1973 film The Outfit will have to make do for now. It stars Robert Duvall as Parker (here renamed Macklin), who exacts his own personal brand of revenge on the crime syndicate that tried to kill him. Duvall is a brilliant choice to play the stone-cold protagonist, giving the character a grittier, more human edge than Marvin’s invincible tough guy. The film is set in a Midwestern crime underworld of small towns and dumpy motels, populated by aging veterans of 1940s noir such as Robert Ryan, Jane Greer and Elisha Cook. The result is a sordid feel true to Westlake’s Parker novels. Director John Flynn was early in his career when he made The Outfit; his grindhouse masterpiece Rolling Thunder was still four years away, but the best moments of The Outfit illustrate Flynn’s skill at taking you along for the ride with a fast-moving action scene. —Ian Adcock
Taking notes from Roxy Music and Wire just as earnestly as they do from Tom Petty, Chicago’s Ne-Hi spin a web of guitar-driven pop that feels accessible and sharp. It’s risky to bank on a riff and a vocal hook in the current landscape of popular music, but that’s part of what makes Ne-Hi refreshing. The core elements of the band carry the quality of their music: riff, rhythm, bass line, vocal. No smoke-and-mirrors in production or processing, just good songwriting. Certainly they look to the past for inspiration, but every influence they pull into the mix gets shrouded in a distinctive approach on the 2017 album Offers. Spacious vocal harmonies and calculated, breezy guitar lines sit atop driving bass and drum, cemented together by repetitive, sentimental vocals. Tippy, making its Shitty Barn debut here, is an umbrella outlet for Madison musician Spencer Bible’s solo work. This time, Tippy will be playing as the full band that recorded last year’s excellent self-titled album of scrappy but deeply felt rock. One of the Shitty Barn’s finest line-ups of the year, no doubt. —Zack Stafford
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