Lex Allen, Black Poets Society, Violent Cop, and more events of note in Madison this week. | By Scott Gordon, Joel Shanahan, Chris Lay
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THURSDAY JUNE 30
Lex Allen, DJ Boyfrriend. Memorial Union Terrace, 9 p.m. (free)
Milwaukee singer Lex Allen swerves fluidly through a host of contemporary R&B and pop styles, making for a consistently charming and funky body of work that’s tough to pigeonhole. That’s mostly because there’s usually a strong melody for everything else to cohere around, whether he’s navigating a slow and wistful groove on “Lost Galaxy” (from his 2014 album Anonymous Vibes) or a charismatic, up-tempo flirtation on this year’s delightful single “Cream And Sugar.” It doesn’t hurt that he has a wealth of MCs and producers to collaborate with in the New Age Narcissism crew, but his songwriting and vocal versatility are what really carry Lex Allen’s music. —Scott Gordon
Swamp Thing, Optometri. Crystal Corner Bar, 9 p.m.
This show will raise money for community radio station WORT to start digitizing some of the many interviews and music in its analog archives. Headlining band Swamp Thing is one of the more playful and eccentric bands to come out of Madison’s 1980s/early-’90s post-punk scene, and they’ll be playing their 1985 album, Learning To Disintegrate, in its entirety here. You can expect singer and guitarist Jonathan Zarov to inject a cracked sense of humor into the proceedings—one of the songs on the album is about eating children, and the band played a reunion show of sorts at a gas station on West Wash in 2010. —SG
Violent Cop. Vilas Hall, 7 p.m. (free)
The over-the-top policing style of cinematic coppers like Dirty Harry might not have aged well in an era that’s so oversaturated with cell phone footage of unnecessary police brutality. But in the 1989 Japanese film Violent Cop, director and star “Beat” Takeshi Kitano gives the titular violence a certain surreal Three Stooges quality while never quite leaving his grimy grindhouse comfort zone. There’s not much plot to speak of, but then again this is the same dude who, three years before making this film, leveraged his comedy career into developing the most abusively complex video game ever made, so don’t expect anything resembling traditional narrative structure. —Chris Lay
Under The Gun. Central Library, 6:30 p.m. (free)
In the wake of mass shooting after mass shooting, the point of no return that most pundits point to is Sandy Hook, where 20 children were gunned down in December 2014. Stephanie Soechtig’s new film Under The Gun examines the aftermath of that tragic day in Newtown, Connecticut, and examines why there have been no significant changes in gun violence prevention despite overwhelming public outcry. Soechtig has teamed with Katie Couric again, following their 2014 film Fed Up, which took a granular look at food and weight loss, to create a film that attempts to be as objective as possible and give voice to all sides. Under The Gun promises “never-before-seen footage of the shooting in Aurora,” so apply whatever trigger warnings you see fit going into it. This screening is presented by Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America,and there will be a Q&A following the film. —CL
FRIDAY JULY 1
Something To Do, Proud Parents. Memorial Union Terrace, 9 p.m. (free)
Madison needs more shows where the bands are arguably mismatched, because it’s fun and might shake people out of the little cliques and alliances that form around music, even if just for a night. Milwaukee/Madison band Something To Do combine ska and chunky pop-punk, so they’re not quite the first band you’d think to pair up with Madison’s Proud Parents, who play things a bit more scruffy in their charming and emotionally diverse approach to power-pop. Something To Do recently put out a couple of new songs ahead of an album they’ve got planned for the fall, and Proud Parents released a solid debut album in this year’s Sharon Is Karen. Somewhere in between Something To Do’s horn hooks and shout-along choruses, and Proud Parents’ more personal-feeling vocal exchanges and sweet dual-guitar leads, we may yet find some common ground. —SG
Steve Miller Band, Charlie Musselwhite, Leo Sidran. Breese Stevens Field, 6:30 p.m.
Milwaukee native, San Francisco transplant, and all-around classic rock grumpus Steve Miller became a trending topic recently for the first time, well, ever for being a dick to The Black Keys and pitching a fit about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Admittedly, a pretty amusing way to recirculate into public consciousness. This behavior also adds contextual color to the embarrassing pop comforts of a pristinely produced earworm like smash hit “The Joker.” When you listen to the song after hearing Miller talk about how he wanted to kick his record label executive “in the nuts,” all of those cheesy, but admittedly memorable, conversational guitar catcalls sound like they’re coming from a dude trying desperately to write the most infectious, pandering pop song he can while also taking the biggest piss possible. And frankly, that Randy Newman-esque and sugar-coated bitterness kind of makes me want to catch the show, but not really. If Miller would bring Boz Scaggs back into the lineup, we can talk about it, but the shuffling, bar-band blues-rock vibe of the band’s most recent album—2011’s Let Your Hair Down—isn’t quite taking me there. —Joel Shanahan
The Black Poets Society, 3rd Dimension, DJ Vinyl Richie. High Noon Saloon, 9:30 p.m.
Madison hip-hop band The Black Poets Society played a couple of reunion shows last summer to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their founding, and have been working on a new mixtape, Positive Change Movement!. For those of us who weren’t around during the band’s ’90s heyday—which saw them opening for acts including Guru and De La Soul—they’ve finally put some of their recordings online for streaming and purchase. Tracks like “ABC” and “In Our Society” pick up admirably on classic ’90s hip-hop, with, to my ear, an affinity for the extroverted, playfully funky West Coast variety. It’s exciting to see them back again with their combination of multiple MCs and live instrumentation, and it’s also really cool that they’ve teamed up with a younger hip-hop act to open the show. That would be Madison’s five-MC outfit 3rd Dimension, who are working on a new release to follow last year’s album Things Have Changed. —SG
The Time Of Their Lives. Vilas Hall, 7 p.m. (free)
The original print ad for Abbott and Costello’s phantasmagorical 1946 Revolutionary War farce The Time Of Their Lives led with the all-caps tagline “FOR PEOPLE WHO WANT TO DIE LAUGHING!” But don’t worry, because no one’s life will really be in danger, and honestly the film is pretty tame compared to other vaudeville high watermarks from the two-some. This film marks the first collaboration between Abbott & Costello and director Charles Barton, who would go on to direct Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein, generally regarded as the duo’s best work on the big screen. What it lacks in deep comic punch (the duo only share the screen once in the film), The Time Of Their Lives makes up for in a twisty narrative that spans generations and manages to squeeze in a love triangle, murder, ghosts, true love, and a letter of commendation from General George Washington himself. —CL
SATURDAY JULY 2
Headlining the first ever “All American Girls Edition” of the monthly Rated Her comedy and acoustic music showcase (the audience is encouraged to wear red, white, and blue) is the multi-talented Emily Mills, who is apparently adding stand-up to her already jam packed resume with a headlining spot here. The acoustic music will be provided by Ginny Kincaid and comedy from locals Vickie Lynn, Carson Leet, and Lucy Tollefson. There’s a thirty minute open mic for the first half hour after the doors open, so bring your best if you want some stage time. —CL
SUNDAY JULY 3
Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, Those Poor Bastards, Curio. Frequency, 9 p.m.
Denver band Slim Cessna’s Auto Club has spent more than 20 years playing a macabre, rockabilly-lased strain of country. For all the frenzied darkness of songs like “This Is How We Do Things In The Country,” Slim Cessna and band are knowledgeable and sensitive about the country and gospel elements they’re working with. Their shows, as captured on 2005’s live album Jesus Let Me Down, tends to inject a punkish fury into the band’s hybrid of string-band and rock-n-roll instrumentation. A new album, The Commandments According To SCAC, is due out in the fall. Madison’s own gothic-country institution, Those Poor Bastards, play here behind a new album, Sing It Ugly. —SG
MONDAY JULY 4
American Graffiti. Memorial Union Terrace, 9 p.m.
The name George Lucas gets kicked around a lot these days, and for good reason, in the wake of Episodes I through III and his steadfast insistence that Greedo shot first, not to mention that Chicagoans (again, rightfully) laughed him out of town after his attempt to build a museum there. But his second feature film, 1973’s American Graffiti, feels a bit more insulated from all this than the rest of his legacy. Set in the summer of 1962, the film follows a group of recent high-school graduates across a summer evening as they race their cars, eat hamburgers, listen to rock and roll… basically every baby boomer will have this film flash before their eyes when they die, and it’ll be incredible. (After that will be The Big Chill followed by the part where they all voted in Bush Jr., but the less said about that the better.) American Graffiti is truly excellent and, so far, the best of the films to screen on the Terrace this summer. —CL
TUESDAY JULY 5
Chris Cornell, Fantastic Negrito. Overture Hall, 7:30 p.m.
The Chris Cornell we know and love was locked into the trunk of a burning sedan and dropped into the Pacific Ocean some years ago. What we really mean is that once the beloved Seattle proto-grunge (and later grunge) legend joined Audioslave, the liquid feeling behind his insane voice just kind of hardened into action-figure plastic. Sure, it was nice to get an unexpected full-length out of Soundgarden in the 2012 reunion record King Animal, but the incendiary wailing that zapped Soundgarden’s 1988 classic Louder Than Love with an inextinguishable urgency and freshness and ripped our hearts out on Superunknown’s immortal sludge-pop tune “Fourth Of July” is sadly long-gone. Don’t get us wrong, the folk-tinged tunes of Cornell’s 2015 solo effort Higher Truth seem well-crafted and even welcome after 2009’s disastrous Timbaland collaboration Scream, but it’s pretty sad that it makes us nostalgic for 1998’s Euphoria Morning, which bummed us out and made us nostalgic for Soundgarden, and—well, you get the point. Now, where’d we put our Steve Miller Band records? —JS
Christian Dior, The Avantist, No Question. The Wisco, 9:30 p.m.
WEDNESDAY JULY 6
Stoughton Opera House Benefit: The Honey Dewdrops, Sparetime Bluegrass Band. High Noon Saloon, 8 p.m.