Willy Street Chamber Players, Tunic, Cloud Becomes Your Hand, and more events of note in Madison this week. | By Chris Lay, Scott Gordon, Maija Inveiss, Joel Shanahan
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THURSDAY JULY 21
The Picture Of Dorian Gray. Vilas Hall, 7 p.m. (free)
“If only it was the picture who was to grow old, and I remain young. There’s nothing in the world I wouldn’t give for that. Yes, I would give even my soul for it.” Many folks know the general conceit of The Picture Of Dorian Gray, one of Oscar Wilde’s most memorable creations, but less remembered is the cost of the debauchery that comes from the years that dusty portrait spends sopping up the conspicuous aspects of aging. Luckily for anyone who needs a brush-up on the story’s narrative intricacies past the one-note pop culture reference, there’s Albert Lewin’s 1945 film adaptation. The screening is part of a UW Cinematheque series tying in with UW-Madison film scholar David Bordwell’s new book about film criticism in the 1940s, and Cinematheque will be handing out copies of reviews by James Agee, Parker Tyler, Otis Ferguson, and Manny Farber before the film. —Chris Lay
Bad Cinema: Lifeforce. Central Library, 6:30 p.m. (free)
One only needs to move from the punishing 1974 horror masterpiece The Texas Chainsaw Massacre to the borderline embarrassing, but watchable Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 to recognize the wild inconsistency of director Tobe Hooper’s canon. While 1985’s Lifeforce is being featured in the Madison Central Library’s Bad Cinema series for good reason, this busted, sci-fi horror journey is packed with enough space vampires, zombies, and scenes with women killing men and wrecking shit that this massive box-office failure is worthwhile. Basically, a few aliens are brought down to earth after being found on an abandoned space shuttle and, once awakened, begin feasting on the life force of humans. If you aren’t sold yet, Patrick Stewart is in it. —Joel Shanahan
Tunic, Coordinated Suicides, Wasteland Survival Guide, Christian Dior. Mickey’s Tavern, 10 p.m. (free)
All of Winnipeg trio Tunic’s work so far (and there’s not a lot of recorded output just yet) has offered a particularly urgent and paint-peeling take on punk and noise-rock. But the title track from their new EP, Disappointment, takes Tunic’s austerity and menace to a new extreme. Guitarist-vocalist David Schellenberg’s scorched-throat screams and bassist Rory Ellis and drummer Samuel Neal’s frantic but just slightly swinging rhythm leave me feeling like I’ve been hit with a good deal more than just one minute and 58 seconds of tautly executed pestilence. —Scott Gordon
FRIDAY JULY 22
Willy Street Chamber Players: Black Angels. Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, 8:30 p.m.
Avant-garde composer George Crumb’s 1970 piece “Black Angels” is a sequence of harshly trilling strings, mournful melodies, and a host of eerie percussive sounds wrung from voices, crystal glasses, and unconventional playing techniques on conventional stringed instruments. Crumb wrote the piece for a string quartet, but also assigns musician a few other objects used during the performance, including metal thimbles and glass rods. It’s one of the most revered pieces in American avant-garde music, and inspired the formation of the Kronos Quartet, who also made probably the best-known recording of it. Here, Madison classical ensemble Willy Street Chamber Players will perform “Black Angels” on MMOCA’s rooftop, accompanied by video art from Madison-based artist Helen Hawley. Judging from the preview stills Hawley has shared on the Chamber Players’ website, the video component will be as dark and sublimely disorienting as the music. Before playing “Black Angels,” the Willy Street Chamber Players will start the evening with Shostakovich’s equally foreboding but more subtly adventurous “Two Pieces For String Octet, Op. 11.” —SG
A Face In The Crowd. Vilas Hall, 7 p.m. (free)
Maybe you only think of On The Waterfront or A Streetcar Named Desire when you hear the name Elia Kazan, but his 1957 film A Face In The Crowd is an overlooked gem. The film, which marked the beginning (and arguable peak) of Andy Griffith’s film career, charts the rise and fall of a media personality from po-dunk nobody up through the ranks of radio and TV until he ends up with, for all intents and purposes, a Bill O’Reilly level of demagogic power. Griffith’s performance is absolutely fantastic, but the real treat here is the still smoldering power the film has nearly 60 years later to hold a mirror up to the talking head news media. A Face In The Crowd predicted a lot more than I’m sure Kazan and screenwriter Budd Schulberg could’ve imagined in their worst nightmares, so don’t miss the chance to catch it in 35mm less than 24 hours after the Republican National Convention wraps up with a speech from former reality TV host Donald Trump because that’s the world we live in now! —CL
Johannes Wallmann Quintet. Memorial Union Terrace, 5 p.m. (free)
Pianist Johannes Wallmann has made a point of balancing his academic duties—he directs UW-Madison’s jazz studies program—with a broader involvement in Madison’s jazz community. He recently recorded a collaboration with Madison MC/spoken-word artist Rob Dz, and the other musicians in various groups he’s pulled together represent a broad spectrum of gifted regional jazz players, whether or not they’re also part of the higher-ed world. He also doesn’t shy away from humble gigs like, well, playing a happy-hour slot on the Terrace. That attitude has also helped him stay productive as a composer and recording artist: Last year Wallmann released two albums of mostly original material, the big-band record Always Something and a quintet record called The Town Musicians. If the latter is any indication, expect his quintet set here to cut through the Terrace chatter with flowing, expansive, and conversational improvisation. —SG
Tyranny Is Tyranny, Heavy Hand, Fox Face, Paper Wasp. Art In (1444 E. Washington Ave.), 7 p.m.
On 2014’s agreeably obnoxious Northwoods Knives, Milwaukee-based post-punk outfit Heavy Hand zapped out a set of catchy, mutant blast-offs packaged with titles like “David Bowie Wants To Steal Your Baby” and “Milwaukee Cum Dumpster.” The battering rhythm section of bassist Isa Karini and drummer Chris Roberts locks in below the herky-jerk riffing and sassy yelps of guitarist-vocalist Anthony Weber. Whether it’s the animated guitar hooks and jarring harmonics of “Winner Winner (Beer For Dinner),” the slanted Jesus Lizard flirtations of “Motherfucking Bobcat,” or the sugary pop-punk whim of the amazingly titled “I Freed All Four Wizards,” the trio pulls its stripped-down, no-frills attack through a handful of territories. All the while, Heavy Hand never loses grip of its damaged, visceral approach. —JS
Strollin’ Main Street. 100 Blocks of East and West Main Street, 5 p.m. (free)
SATURDAY JULY 23
Wei Zhongle, Cloud Becomes Your Hand, Cap Alan, Julian Lynch + BC Grimm. Mickey’s Tavern, 10 p.m. (free)
New York musician Stephe Cooper’s project Cloud Becomes Your Hand has mutated through a few different lineups since 2010, each one pursuing Cooper’s cracked but somehow frequently pleasant vision of psych-pop. On the new album Rest In Fleas, Cloud Becomes Your Hand is a sextet incorporating synths, violin, and a marimba-like MIDI controller called a MalletKAT, but every song still manages to feel like an avant-leaning bedroom-pop lark that Cooper actually followed through on. The instrumental “Third Avenue Slime” maintains a bouncy charm even as the band layers on teetering synth chords and fragmented guitar melodies. “Garden Of The Ape” manages to cram a miniature prog-rock suite in between its swooping violin themes, and like much of CBYH’s work, is pretty whimsical but never too much for the band to handle. They play here on a solid bill with clarinet- and guitar-led Chicago math-jazz prodders Wei Zhongle, Madison experimental duo Cap Alan, and a duo set from Madison-based musicians Julian Lynch and Brian Grimm. —SG
Automatically Yours, Owls Foxes And Sebastian, TS Foss, Mix Minus. Williamson Magnetic Recording Company, 8 p.m.
Automatically Yours officially hung it up last summer, which was sad because they hadn’t been going that long, and because their self-described “twangy twee indie pop” added something gentler, but not overly precious, to Madison’s rock offerings. (Members have kept on playing in several other bands around town, including Jonesies and Tarpaulin.) But circumstances changed, and the band makes its return here, with new songs and a new member. This show also celebrates the release of a new EP from TS Foss, a solo project of Tyler Fassnacht (of Madison bands Fire Retarded, Proud Parents, and The Hussy). Titled Improvident, it consists of seven acoustic tracks that feel a lot more scrappy and vulnerable than anything from Fassnacht’s other projects, especially on “Transparent & See Thru”: “You laugh at something I just said / It’s not a joke, my cheeks turn red,” he sings in a subdued but wounded voice over quiet plodding strums. Madison label Rare Plant will be releasing Improvident on cassette and digital. —SG
SUNDAY JULY 24
The Smart Studios Story. High Noon Saloon, 6:30 p.m.
If you didn’t attend the local rollout of The Smart Studios Story during this year’s Wisconsin Film Festival, it’s still worth catching the documentary. Director Wendy Schneider (a Madison resident and a musician and recording engineer herself) delivered a thoughtful and rather honest assessment of the diverse music and many challenges that arose during the Madison recording studio’s 28 years in business—not just a rah-rah piece for Butch Vig and Nirvana, though of course both are still big parts of the film. Despite the well-received WFF screenings and a handful of festival pickups, The Smart Studios Story isn’t actually out yet. This event will feature a screening of the director’s cut, as well as a silent auction to raise money for the film’s music-licensing costs and to fund a fall screening tour. For more about the film, hear the live podcast we recorded with Schneider earlier this year. —SG
Blair Braverman. A Room of One’s Own, 2 p.m. (free)
Nonfiction writer and current northeastern Wisconsin resident Blair Braverman visits here to read from her new memoir Welcome To The Goddamn Ice Cube, which deals with her experiences in Alaska and Norway. With an approach that has been praised for its journalistic frankness, Braverman chronicles adventures ranging from perilous dogsled trips to more messy and interpersonal encounters with harassment and dysfunctional boyfriends. —SG
MONDAY JULY 25
David Liebe Hart, Beefus, Wood Chickens, Ion, Anthony Siraguse. Frequency, 8 p.m.
When comedian, street performer, and actor David Liebe Hart makes me laugh, I am laughing with him—whether he’s arguing the existence of aliens with John C. Reilly’s Steve Brule on Check It Out! or singing about puberty as a crude ventriloquist on Tim And Eric Awesome Show Great Job. Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim are part of a long tradition of comedians and talk show hosts using eccentric people with flat-out bizarre (or sometimes non-existent) acting chops, and often a couple of opposing narrative frames can come tumbling out of such relationships—works of genius vs. problematic exploitation. To even the biggest fan of Hart’s work, this can feel awfully tricky to navigate, but Hart is genuinely funny. Sure, there’s a rawness, awkwardness, and purity in his work, but this also gives him a singular voice and viewpoint, and it makes him unpredictable. Hart is billing this show as a “multimedia spectacular” incorporating stand-up, videos, puppetry, and music. —JS
Faun And A Pan Flute, Cyrus Pireh, Brennan Connors And Stray Passage. Arts + Literature Laboratory, 7 p.m.
On “Brevity,” the latest single from Atlanta-based weirdo-prog outfit Faun And A Pan Flute, this freakish 9-piece stirs up total sonic alchemy: The song blends elements of free-jazz, post-rock, and some strange flavor I can only grasp at straws to pin down. Let’s call it mutant-Mancini—there’s some kind of dystopian Pink Panther shit going on here. As the rhythm section glides through odd meters and head-spinning rests without shaking its loose groove, ominous chord changes unravel under weeping strings and sneaky sax lines. Behind the unsettling dissonance of “Brevity,” there’s an endearing playfulness, highlighted by growling tuba and wandering marimba work that whirls in and out. Most impressive are the band’s numbing-agent dynamics, which slide between jarringly complex arrangements and desolate minimalism. —JS
Funky Mondays. High Noon Saloon, 6 p.m.
TUESDAY JULY 26
Margaret Wappler. A Room Of One’s Own, 6 p.m. (free)
Margaret Wappler’s debut novel Neon Green centers around a family dealing with a flying saucer squatting in their backyard in suburban Chicago in 1994. In Wappler’s version of that year, a lot of the pop-culture context remains the same (the jacket copy mentions Forrest Gump and Kurt Cobain’s suicide), but aliens from Jupiter have become something of a normal fact of life. In fact, the main reason that the saucer presents a conflict is that the father in the family is an environmentalist worried about its effects. Wappler has also worked extensively as a journalist and cultural critic, and co-hosts the Maximum Fun podcast Pop Rocket, so hopefully she’ll go down many avenues of discussion when she visits Room of One’s Own to share the book. —SG
WEDNESDAY JULY 27
Mothers, Devin Frank Vanishing Blues Band, Double Ewes. Frequency, 9 p.m.
We’ll gladly acknowledge that the relationship between electronic music and folk-pop is pretty dicey. At its worst, this sonic marriage can yield limply unimaginative Starbucks fare that one could hang up on a wall like a framed Dave Thomas poster at a Wendy’s. But when it works, we get something closer to the heady, slow-burning, and beautifully articulate vibe of Janesville/Madison trio Double Ewes. We’ve been waiting patiently for a follow up to 2014’s excellent self-titled full-length, especially since the band spoke with us a few months ago about their new and improved electronics rig, but tunes like fuzzed-out cruiser “Comptroller” and spacious mover “Tears In The Sun” are still sitting pretty well with us. —JS
Greed In The Sun. Vilas Hall, 7 p.m. (free)
Henri Verneuil’s 1964 action film Greed In The Sun boasts as many twists and turns as the rough roads its characters use to traverse the Sahara Desert. The journey starts when the attractive and smooth-talking Rocco (Jean-Paul Belmondo) decides to hijack a brand new truck, and the head of the trucking company sends Rocco’s older, wiser friend Marec (Lino Ventura) to get back the truck and its secret, precious cargo. Gert Fröbe, best known for playing the title role in Goldfinger, makes an appearance as La Bettrave—French for “the beet,” a perfect name to describe the look on his face whenever he explodes with anger. Belmondo and Ventura strike a balance here between suspense and comedic relief, making Greed In The Sun a strong closer for UW Cinematheque’s “French Tough Guys” series. —Maija Inveiss
Castle, Brimstone Coven, Tubal Cain. High Noon Saloon, 8 p.m.
On their new album Welcome To The Graveyard, Bay Area trio Castle find some refreshing paths into the well-trod territory of classic doom metal. Part of that is songwriting that uncoils some of metal’s early strands without being too slavish to any one influence—”Hammer And The Cross,” for instance, might be the most Black Sabbath-indebted song here, but still adds lots of nuanced harmonic layers and rhythmic shifts to the plodding sludge riffs. Castle’s other great strength is vocalist/bassist Elizabeth Blackwell, whose singing ranges from ominous baritones to triumphant, almost Maiden-like choruses on the epic “Down In The Cauldron Bog.” It’s worth arriving in time for an opening set from Tubal Cain, a Madison outfit with a stark and excoriating take on black metal . —SG
Movie Hell. The Fountain, 6 p.m.
Mystery Science Theater 3000 fans will appreciate Movie Hell, the new local twist on the format of funny people forced to sit through a godawful movie while cracking jokes at the film’s expense. Hosted by the sublimely odd Madison-based stand-up David Fisher, the first installment will pit three victims, Madison comedy mainstays Anthony Siraguse, Cynthia Marie, and Eric Olander, against 1991’s rubber-suit sci-fi schlockfest The Guyver. Where will the comedians go with a film that was directed by someone literally named “Screaming Mad George” who, believe it or not, never made another movie? You’ll have to come by and find out.—CL