Julianna Barwick, Bawku West Sound System, Austin Lucas, Nones, and more events of note in Madison this week. | By Scott Gordon, Maija Inveiss, Joel Shanahan, Chris Lay
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THURSDAY JUNE 16
Adia Victoria, Dash Hounds, Tin Can Diamonds. Frequency, 8 p.m.
Nashville singer Adia Victoria and her band interpret the blues with a balance of eerie grit and accessible swagger. Her new album Beyond The Bloodhounds has a bright and contemporary finish, and finds a lot of variety in that, from the moody slow build of “Sea Of Sand” to the swagger and stomp of “Dead Eyes.” The openers here include Madison band Dash Hounds, who are finishing up their debut EP, and the gorgeous, morose pop I’ve seen them play in recent live sets have me looking forward to it. —Scott Gordon
Sing Me Back Home: A Tribute To Merle Haggard. High Noon Saloon, 8 p.m.
Merle Haggard’s death in April 2016 was a great loss for anyone who likes country music or just appreciates a brilliantly crafted song. And Haggard left behind plenty of those: to plan this tribute night, several bands, most of them from Madison, divvied up enough Haggard songs for a full set each. The bill includes Madison western-swing outfit North Country Drifters and the rugged but subtle stylings of Madison songwriter Nick Brown and his band, so you can expect a variety of interpretations on top of the big helping of material from all different eras of a master’s back catalog. —SG
Austin Lucas, Adam Faucett. Gates of Heaven, 7 p.m.
Austin Lucas began putting out country albums in 2006, after years of playing in hardcore bands, and since then he’s proven a formidable, if under-appreciated, songwriter and vocalist, at once on the fringes and very in tune with the genre’s traditions. Some of his recordings have been rocking full-band affairs (2013’s Stay Reckless), and some beautifully stark (2009’s Somebody Loves You). On his new album, Between The Moon And The Midwest, sounds refreshed and ready to charge back, fusing and boiling down elements of his past work. As a songwriter, he’s able to combine empathetic character sketches, stories of dysfunctional love, and a deeply nuanced understanding of his place in society. The solo-acoustic “William” is a great showcase for Lucas’ mighty but tender voice, while “Wrong Side Of The Dream,” a duet with Lydia Loveless, considers the ravages of touring life over gently rocking drums and wistful pedal steel. —SG
Bad Cinema: Breeders. Central Library, 6:30 p.m. (free)
As brain-bendingly and bafflingly stupid as Tim Kincaid’s 1986 sci-fi shit-fest Breeders may be, and as tough as it is to take a second of any of this footage seriously, the Madison Public Library’s film programmers might’ve been wise to at least package this one with a trigger warning (seriously). Why’s that? Because it’s a horror movie centered on rape. Not just any rape, but fucking alien rape. Yeah, it’s about women in Manhattan being violently abducted, raped, and impregnated by alien beasts with an agenda. So if you want to tune in and laugh at all of the clueless misogyny, exploitive objectification, gore, and horrible acting, go for it. But if you want to sit this one out because it’s almost too abhorrent, even for the library’s Bad Cinema series, we can’t really blame you for that either. —Joel Shanahan
Immigre. Memorial Union Terrace, 9 p.m. (free)
FRIDAY JUNE 17
The Smells, Nones, Slow Walker, Kazmir. Mickey’s Tavern, 10 p.m. (free)
On their freshly released XOXOXO Sue LP, Chicago post-punk nasties Nones conjure a disaffected wasteland for listeners to flail around, burn all their clothes and smash windows in. However, unlike so many of their garage-y contemporaries, the Nones have crafted something reasonably dynamic within the chaos. Album opener “Maybe I Should Get A Dog” holds a nasty, mid-tempo LA punk trudge, as guitarist-vocalist Brandon Bayles spits his disaffected rants over ominous, fuzzy riffing and a muddy bassline. Meanwhile, the nihilistic battering of “Steal Shit And Quit” channels bleak, anthemic ’80s hardcore and “Where’s My Other Boot” lets its freak flag fly with scattershot noise-guitar shredding and pummeling rhythms. Definitely recommended for those who prefer their punk-rock microwaved. —JS
Rooftop Cinema: Karen Aqua. Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, 8:30 p.m.
I had no idea that the works of so many art-world luminaries could be found in episodes of Sesame Street, but here we are. Everyone from Terry Gilliam to Keith Haring, and more than a hundred in between, have cashed checks from Jim Henson as a means of educating the public television masses. On this the third night of Rooftop Cinema’s “Summer of Animation” schedule, we’ll be looking at works spanning the career of Karen Aqua. The American animator’s colorfully primal works might trigger long-buried memories, since she was behind more than twenty Sesame Street shorts. Of course, MMoCA’s lineup is guaranteed to be a bit more cerebral than the clips that ran in-between Cookie Monster and Elmo, so maybe leave the kiddos at home, especially if they’re prone to squirming, since this is the longest Rooftop program of the bunch. If anyone recalls the collection of fellow Sesame Street alum Al Jarnow’s short films from six years back, then Karen Aqua will be right up your alley. —Chris Lay
Bluelight Festival. 5210 Nels Rd., Highland, Wisconsin, through June 18, see link for full schedule.
Madison musician Spencer Bible (Christian Dior, Tippy, Mid Waste, etc.) organizes the annual Bluelight Festival in a barn on his family’s property in Highland, about 60 miles west of Madison. With 12 sets planned for Friday and 21 on Saturday, it offers a pretty varied cross section of Madison bands (including most of Bible’s), and an exuberant smattering of artists Bible has met while touring or booking off-the-beaten-path shows. The Madison-based highlights here run the gamut from electro-folk hybridizers Double Ewes to rock ‘n’ roll standbys like The Hussy and We Should Have Been DJs. Standouts from further afield include Milwaukee ambient artist Apollo Vermouth, Dubuque noise-improv duo Sex Funeral, and expansive Chicago electronic producer-vocalist Lykanthea. There is free camping if you’re into that sort of thing, and attendees are asked to bring their own food and drink. —SG
Madlennial Tech And Culture Forum. Broom Street Theater, 8 p.m.
Between competing in the Madison’s Funniest Comedian competition and directing a standing-room-only live reading of the script of the first Pokemon movie, it’s been a busy year so far for Madison comedian and writer Alan Talaga. With his next project, the Madlennial Tech And Culture Forum, he’s set up an evening of Ted Talk-style skewerings aimed at Madison’s tech-savvy start-up sector. Talaga’s tone is so on message that the Facebook event for the show was rolled out using the corny “surprise show!” method that’s been so effectively employed by Madison’s bigger concert promoters over and over again. Check out this recent episode of the Tone Madison podcast, where we got our synergy appropriately all networked it up and talked to Alan about the event. —CL
Waxahatchee, Allison Crutchfield, Proud Parents. High Noon Saloon, 9:30 p.m.
WIth last year’s Ivy Tripp, Philadelphia’s Waxahatchee—the longtime outlet of singer-songwriter and Alabama native Katie Crutchfield—whipped up another sharply executed mesh of infectiously catchy, alt-rock gems, tastefully emotive downer ballads, and straight-ahead pop-rock tunes that sort of teeter in between. One of the album’s most memorable cuts, “Under A Rock,” with its sugary chorus, jangling guitars, crooned harmonies, feels like it should’ve been introduced by Kennedy on Alternative Nation after some “Buzz Clip” from The Sundays. But tunes like the understated electro-pop of “La Loose” or stripped-down album opener “Breathless,” which unfolds over a bed of droning guitar buzz, take a few listens before gradually worming their way into the listener’s heart. We’re admittedly huge suckers for artists who can master that balance between pop immediacy and the rewarding slow burn, which is why we keep coming back to Waxahatchee. —JS
Isthmus Jazz Festival. Memorial Union Terrace and Play Circle Theater, through June 18, see link for full schedule.
This year’s Isthmus Jazz Festival is set up a little awkwardly, in that the ticketed headlining performance by 12-year-old pianist Joey Alexander happens a few days after everything else. But the free weekend portion stands up pretty nicely on its own with a lineup heavy on Madison-based jazz artists. Friday night features The Chicago Yestet (a 13-piece band featuring Madison MC and recent White House honoree Rob Dz on spoken-word vocals), the self-explanatory but very solid Caravan Gypsy Swing Ensemble, and a Latin-jazz quartet led by seemingly omnipresent Madison bassist Nick Moran. Saturday boasts a set from saxophonist Eric Koppa’s “triple saxtet,” the Cuban stylings of nine-piece dance band Charanga Agoza, and a workshop hosted by vocalist Marilyn Fisher and pianist Paul Hastil. It’s also nice to see this event incorporating some film stuff: On Friday, Toni Jakovec will give a talk on the role of jazz in movie soundtracks, and Saturday brings a screening of the 2005 documentary Jazz On The West Coast: The Lighthouse, which examines the history of the important southern California venue. —SG
SATURDAY JUNE 18
Roscoe Mitchell. Arts + Literature Laboratory, 8 p.m.
Saxophonist, improviser, and composer Roscoe Mitchell has played an essential role in the development of avant-garde jazz and contemporary music in general. He helped found the pathbreaking free-jazz group Art Ensemble Of Chicago in the mid 1960s, and ever since then has restlessly explored a variety of woodwind instruments, compositional approaches, and collaborations. At this rather late-announced show, Mitchell will be playing a set of improvised music with bassist Junius Paul and drummer Vincent Davis—and considering how much he’s been bouncing around the world these past few years, with recent performances in Reykjavik, Glasgow, and Sao Paulo, it’s a pretty big treat to see him in a small venue in Madison. Read more about what Mitchell’s been up to in my interview with him this week. —SG
Double Fist Fest. Frequency, 5 p.m.
Madison doom-metal duo Dos Malés organized Double Fist Fest as a way to celebrate other two-piece bands playing heavy music. Seems like a small niche, but there’s some sonic variety on the four-band bill. Portland, Oregon’s Satanarchist, in the headlining spot, lay down a filthy but dynamic mix of black-metal pummeling and complex, melodic leads on a 2015 split with a band called Resigned To Fate. Milwaukee’s Galactic Hatchet take things in a more prog- and psych-infused direction, but with a lot of dense, droning low end. Rounding out the bill are Dos Malés’ own grimy and rumbling take on doom and fellow Madison band Serpent Lung. —SG
Maria’s Sonic Exhibition. Art In (1444 East Washington Ave.), 7 p.m.
All-ages “pop-up” venue Maria’s has combined music, visual art, and other media in its events since it started up last year, and this night will probably rank among its more outlandish ones. The music is from two Madison bands—burly noise-rockers The Garza and metal outfit Droids Attack. But the bookers at Maria’s want to “ramp up the volume and intensity of the artistic experience,” as they say in a press release, so along with the music the night will feature an exhibition of metal (the material)-based art and live body painting. —SG
MONDAY JUNE 20
Julianna Barwick, Mas Ysa, Cap Alan. Frequency, 8 p.m.
Much of Brooklyn-based pop-ambient explorer Julianna Barwick’s new album, Will, still leans heavily on her mighty voice, as layers of drifting harmonies swirl around, connect, and then disconnect within a rich echo chamber. However, what we weren’t necessarily expecting (but probably should be expecting given the today’s broader sonic climate) was the tasteful addition of synthesizers, which weave gracefully in and out of the album, providing color, texture, and low-end backbone. Between the hypnotic, dripping melodic sequence that glues “Nebula” together, the floating bass below “Someway,” or perhaps the album’s most pleasant surprise—the zoney arpeggio and loose rhythmic groove of “See Know”—Barwick’s use of synths always serve the tune, rather than becoming overbearing and turning everything into “synth music.” —JS
West Side Story. Memorial Union Terrace, 9 p.m. (free)
It’s fitting that the most award-winning musical film in cinema history is nothing but Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet with a greasy slick pomade sheen and a grip of legendary songs from Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim. The 1959 film West Side Story is an interesting choice for the Memorial Union’s summer movie lineup, perhaps a bit mothballed for the summer-school set still kicking around town, and it’d be a shame if the music just gets talked over by the droves of pitcher-splitters and euchre players. But who knows—maybe this Broadway monolith will be a bigger draw than expected, so get there early and scope out a good spot. —CL
Built To Spill, Love As Laughter. High Noon Saloon, 8 p.m.
TUESDAY JUNE 21
Make Music Madison. Multiple venues, all day, see link for full schedule. (free)
In 2013 a few civic-minded folks proposed that Madisonians should greet the summer solstice by flooding their city with free live music, joining a yearly tradition that began in Paris and has spread to cities around the world. The idea is actually lovely, even though I have mixed feelings about the $90,000 in city funding the event has received so far. Organizers say that this year spans 305 artists at 103 venues, so perhaps it’s in the spirit of things to just see what you stumble upon as you go about your day. But just for starters, I can suggest a couple of potential highlights: Milwaukee hip-hop outfit AUTOmatic in front of Graze and singer-songwriter Casey Foubert at Forequarter. MMM also has a couple of mass-participation events within the mass-participation event: a stage in Vilas Park where apparently anyone can join in on playing ’50s and ‘60s rock hits, and a potentially terrifying thing at the Madison Children’s Museum called “One Hundred Harmonicas.” —SG
Psycroptic, Disgunt, Casket Robbery, Cyanosis, Apothesary. Frequency, 8 p.m.
WEDNESDAY JUNE 22
Any Number Can Win. Vilas Hall, 7 p.m.
UW Cinematheque’s summer season, and its “French Tough Guys” series, begins with Henri Verneuil’s 1963 heist thriller Any Number Can Win. This action- and noir-centered series honors three leading men in French cinema—Jean Gabin, Lino Venura and Jean-Paul Belmondo—and spans from the late 1930s to the early 1970s, covering many of the most powerful roles in each individual actor’s career. Gabin, in his prime, stars as Charles, a man who gets out of prison and immediately turns back to crime. The last scene alone is a stunning testament to Verneuil’s delicate artistry, and the film as a whole transports the audience to a world filled with subtle irony and a jazz soundtrack that sometimes speaks louder than the dialogue. Like several of the films in the series, Any Number Can Win screens here in a 35mm print. —Maija Inveiss
Bawku West Sound System. Field Table (10 W. Mifflin St.), 9 p.m.
We seem to write pretty often here about Luke Bassuener, a Madison musician whose current activities include the style-warping one-man band Asumaya and drums duties in Control and Faux Fawn. Throughout his adult life he’s also spent a lot of time traveling to Ghana and Ethiopia as a teacher and Peace Corps volunteer. That has clearly influenced the songs he makes in Asumaya, and it’s yielded a couple of other musical results: He helps musicians in Ghana record their work in his Bawku West Collective project, and he’s amassed a ton of cassettes of African music, much of it stuff that hasn’t made that palatable crossover to Western labels and American “world music” festivals. He’ll be sharing some of his collection here, and some of Bawku West Collective’s material, in a cassette-based DJ set at the new downtown restaurant/bar/market Field Table. For some hints as to what it’ll sound like, check out the guest mix he made for us a few years back, which has pretty much the same M.O. as this gig.
Paleface, Seasaw. Shitty Barn, 7 p.m.
New York artist Paleface has been writing songs since the late 1980s, interpreting folk and country through a cracked but nuanced lens. Paleface (who has somehow kept his real name under wraps all these years) got some early songwriting lessons from Daniel Johnston, though he’s not as unhinged as Johnston and doesn’t try to be—rather, his 1991 self-titled debut album lands closer to Loudon Wainwright III, though with a distinctively early-’90s strain of smart-assedness. He hasn’t put out a new album since 2011’s One Big Party, but has a deep enough backlog of endearing, idiosyncratic material to make this Shitty Barn show worth the drive to Spring Green. —SG