“E.T.” on the Terrace, a day of good local music at the Social Justice Center, and more events of note in Madison this week. | By Ian Adcock, Scott Gordon, Edwanike Harbour, and Katie Hutchinson
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.
FRIDAY JUNE 21
Social Justice Center Jubilee. Social Justice Center (1202 Williamson Street), 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. (free)
As part of the annual Make Music Madison event, Willy Street’s Social Justice Center is taking its first crack at booking a music festival. It’s an impressive lineup of Madison-area artists (see the Facebook event for set times) and the event is a good opportunity to learn about and support the SJC, which provides a home base to non-profits working in areas ranging from the Tenant Resource Center to LGBT Books To Prisoners to 608 Arts. The recently renovated building also hosts a gallery space and shared working space. The event, like all the Make Music Madison performances around the city, is free, but the SJC will be asking for donations throughout the day, and providing food and drinks.
The bill is heavy on young bands and indie-rock bands, but not exclusively so: Madison MC Red The Bully will be capping the evening off with a headlining set at 9 p.m, and R&B artist Mr. Jackson, fresh off the release of his third album, has a 7:45 p.m. slot. Miyha, which recently released its first full-length album of beautifully heartbroken guitar-pop, will be playing one of its last live sets (3:45 p.m.) before hanging it up later this summer. Teacher and musician Gene Delacourt will be leading an ensemble of fiddle students from Shabazz High School to start off the day (10 a.m.). Stephanie Rearick, of SJC member organization Madison Mutual Aid Network, will be performing both as a solo artist (noon) and as a member of the lovably lo-fi jangle-pop band Ladyscissors (5:15 p.m.). Other highlights include the sharp-witted rock of Labrador (8:30 p.m.) and the introspective experimentation of Glassmen (6:15 p.m.). Tone Madison is a sponsor of the event, and we’ll have a table out during the day. Come say hi. —Scott Gordon
Rooftop Cinema: Tony Conrad: Completely In The Present. Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, 9:30 p.m.
Note: This documentary includes excerpts of Tony Conrad’s films that may cause epileptic seizures.
The documentary Tony Conrad: Completely In The Present presents the life of a pioneering experimental artist in a non-linear fashion, allowing us to see how cohesive his personal and artistic vision truly was. Director Tyler Hubby first encountered Conrad in 1994 while filming performances for the Table of the Elements label. Hubby continued filming Conrad for the next 20 years as he began to be recognized as an important figure in American experimental art. Following Conrad through his performances and day-to-day life, we’re given a glimpse into the life of a radically unconventional artist constantly questioning societal norms.
A Harvard-educated mathematician, Tony Conrad moved to New York City in the early 1960s and quickly became an omnipresent figure of the underground film and music scenes. Playing microtonal drones with La Monte Young, John Cale, Marian Zazeela and Angus MacLise, Conrad helped create music that today is recognized as some of the earliest and most important American Minimalist music. As Cale’s roommate and collaborator, Conrad was also a crucial element in the forming of the Velvet Underground. Conrad’s 1966 film The Flicker, composed solely of alternating black and white frames to create a strobing effect, was considered by many to be not a film at all, but it was a landmark work of structural film and remains a powerful (and potentially seizure-inducing) work. Conrad continued to push the boundaries of film, video art, and music throughout his life, and while his work is often intense and challenging, it’s also refreshingly free of “serious” composer pretentiousness.
Completely In The Present does fall into some familiar documentary traps; there’s some animation that seems out of place and the usual talking heads (ugh, Moby again?). However, the strength of Hubby’s documentary footage combined with Conrad’s archival videos shows how consistently Conrad’s forward-thinking philosophies were maintained throughout his art, teaching, and personal life. One of the most moving sections of the film focuses on Conrad’s call-in public access show, helping underprivileged children in Buffalo with their math homework. It’s a radically simple project but also one that helped countless people while subtly challenging the audience’s one-sided relationship with television. Tony Conrad passed away shortly before Completely In The Present was released in 2016, and as a result Conrad’s life seems eternally preserved in film, a detail Conrad would have undoubtedly enjoyed. —Ian Adcock
SATURDAY JUNE 22
The free two-day Pursuit Of Happiness Session grew out of the Sessions at McPike Park series (formerly known as Central Park Sessions), and organizers initially planned to make Pursuit Of Happiness a full-on festival in its own right in 2018, but scaled it back a bit. This time around, it’s part of the Sessions at McPike Park series, which will continue later throughout summer with several other separately branded events, each with their own distinct mix of music. And it’s booked by folks who used to book some of the other east-side neighborhood festivals, but don’t anymore, but still shares a lot of the vibe of those festivals, and anyway it’s all very complicated and bound up in east-side neighborhood drama. But set all that aside for a bit, because said organizers have booked a very good weekend of music and comedy across two stages, all of it interspersed with performances from Madison’s Kanopy Dance Company.
As it did last year, the Pursuit has partnered up with the ongoing Madison Comedy Week to present a couple of stand-up showcases on the smaller, tented stage. The headlining comics, Kyle Kinane (Saturday) and Marina Franklin (Sunday), are big gets, folks who would usually play the Comedy Club on State. Kinane has made an art of presenting himself as a bumbling oaf (he at one point summed up his shows as “coming to see Uncle Barbecue tell his dum-dum stories for a little while”), but he combines that with a gift for carefully paced storytelling and the occasional whirl of the fantastic. Franklin’s style is a bit more concise and tightly wound, often starting with a premise that feels pedestrian (being single) and making a few quick leaps into something entirely more hairy, like the racial dynamics of dating. She performs here ahead of the July release of her debut stand-up special, Single Black Female.
The music lineup at this year’s Pursuit comprises a couple of dozen sets, and Sunday might have the strongest lineup. The main-stage headliner that day is Tribu Baharú, a Colombian band that draws on various elements of Afro-Latin folk music, jazz, and prickly highlife guitar melodies. The band played another Sessions event last year and this is a welcome return. I’d also recommend hitting the tent stage early on Sunday for back-to-back sets from a couple of standout Madison jazz artists. Drummer Michael Brenneis will be kicking things off at 11:30 a.m. with the ensemble he showcased on his 2018 album Plutonium, a set of original compositions that experiment with dissonance and otherworldly texture while wrapping together a wealth of complex but tuneful horn parts. At 1 p.m., baritone sax specialist Anders Svanoe performs a set of his own original compositions with his “double trio,” an ensemble that features two drummers, two bassists, sax, and trumpet, as showcased on the 2018 album 747 Queen Of The Skies. See the Facebook event for the full Pursuit Of Happiness Session lineup. —Scott Gordon
The Anthropocene Reading: Jennifer Boyden, Dr. Heather Swan, Meghan O’Gieblyn. Arts + Literature Laboratory, 7 p.m.
Though many circles of geological science have yet to officially adopt it, the term “anthropocene”—popularized in the year 2000 by atmospheric chemist Paul J. Crutzen, though in use as early as the 1930s—indeed describes our current epoch: severe and perhaps irreversible climate change caused principally by man-made interventions. Like most issues of profound import the anthropocene has provoked as much of a humanities-driven response as it has a scientific one. The creatives of our time are musing on the potential cultural implications of such an era, asking what and who will survive, and perhaps even doing some collective mourning. The anthropocene, then, can be understood not just as a geological era, but also a sociocultural one.
What is the responsibility of art and scholarship in the age of the anthropocene? Not a complete answer, but certainly part of one: to bear witness, and tell the stories with urgency, particularly in light of the grave and damning report recently released by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Arts + Literature Lab has invited three writers to share their work, examine the confluences therein, and discuss their own artistic responses to the epoch: Wisconsin essayist and graduate of the UW-Madison MFA program Meghan O’Gieblyn, whose work has explored transhumanism and artificial intelligence; Jennifer Boyden, Pacific Northwest-based poet and novelist whose most recent book, The Chief Of Rally Tree, explores the reckoning of our cultural drifting from eco-consciousness; and Dr. Heather Swan, UW lecturer and author of Where The Honeybees Thrive, which investigates the critical role these insects play, their precarious future, and the work that their advocates are doing to protect their future (which is, of course, also our future). —Katie Hutchinson
Perhaps nothing is more quintessentially well-intentioned, second-verging-on-third-wave feminism than Lilith Fair. Named for Adam’s first wife (willful, wanton, ill-behaved), the festival was originally spearheaded by Canadian singer-songwriter Sarah McLachlan, who was frustrated by the tokenization of female musicians on commercial radio and lack of all-female lineups on concert tours. From 1997 to 1999, the festival descended upon cities in both the United States and Canada during the summer months. (There was also an ill-fated attempt to revive it in 2010.) Only McLachlan and Suzanne Vega played all the dates, but they were joined by an impressive roster of mostly folk-rock, adult contemporary singer-songwriters such as Diana Krall, Meredith Brooks, and Shawn Colvin.
Despite its historical relevance in women’s music history, Lilith’s ethos is not intersectional by any stretch of the imagination. Its feminism, is distinctly rooted in a privileged, Feminine Mystique-soaked rhetoric combined with a barefoot, divine goddess. And though the festival (very politely!) included more POC acts in the last two of its three original runs, India Arie, even McLachlan has acknowledged in a Glamour retrospective that Lilith Fair “got a lot of flak for being a white-chicks folk fest,” a description that India Arie, one of very few women of color to headline the event, noted as well: “I know why they called it the white-chicks folk fest, but I love that music.”
There is still a fight to be fought when it comes to equity in the music industry, at every level, and the renewed war on reproductive justice reminds us that the tireless work of (mostly) women activists in days past is far from over. But this showcase of Madison musicians playing 25 tribute sets to Lilith Fair acts, two decades later after the original, begs the question: why revive it now, when the staggering confluence of identity politics has been brought to the fore, and not just race (which the original organizers probably did their due diligence in addressing) but also ability, gender, orientation, and kinship? Why not use the old models as a blueprint to create something else, something new, that speaks to the fruitful and crucial discussions of convergence?
Still, the lineup boasts some incredible local talent: Anna Wang as Nina Persson (The Cardigans), Julia Rose Kelly as Lauryn Hill/Missy Elliott, Hannah Switzer of Labrador as Vega, Pam Barrett of BingBong playing Lucinda Williams, and WORT’s Cooper Talbot set to emcee, to name only a few, so there is little doubt that the show will be a good one. All proceeds from the event will go to Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, Domestic Abuse Intervention Services of Dane County, and Madison Girls Rock Camp. —Katie Hutchinson
SUNDAY JUNE 23
The Terrace’s summer Lakeside Cinema series is in full swing, making up a bit for the relative slowdown in quality local programming for cinephiles such as myself during the warmer months. Granted, the superhero blockbusters we are accustomed to don’t seem to be fading anytime soon, so anything that verges on being substantive must be consumed between the months of September and January, before awards season. This summer’s Lakeside series is heavy on the blockbusters of yesteryear, including one of the better family-friendly films of the early 1980s, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982).
While E.T. was not the first film I saw on the big screen, it certainly was one of the most significant. In the short run, it inspired childhood fantasies about meeting Steven Spielberg, and in the long run it helped make me the film obsessive I am today. ( E.T.‘s influence is also pretty easy to see in other corners of pop culture now, especially in the ’80s nostalgia trips of Stranger Things.) This is arguably one of Spielberg’s better movies, and both adults and children can still appreciate it on so many levels. The range of emotion and the beauty of the narrative has stood the test of time. I’ve always appreciated Henry Thomas’ portrayal of Elliott—a natural performance that doesn’t rely on precocious dialogue or the kinds of gimmicky plot devices that often revolve around children characters in movies. If a friendship can develop between a little boy and a tiny alien that moves me to tears even some 30-odd years later, then E.T. truly deserves its place in the pantheon of feel-good stories. —Edwanike Harbour
6/21: Lorde Fredd33, Zhalarina. Memorial Union Terrace, 10 p.m. (free) Read more about this in our interview with Lorde Fredd33.