Holy Sheboygan, Collections Of Colonies Of Bees, R. Ring, Forge, and more events of note in Madison this week.
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THURSDAY JUNE 8
Jonesies, Holy Sheboygan, Glassmen. Williamson Magnetic Recording Company, 8 p.m.
Wisconsin’s own “garbage folk” big-band, Holy Sheboygan, defies genres barriers and shows a similar disregard for the definition of “instruments.” Structured as a jug band-like project, Holy Sheboygan implements winds, strings, trash, tape, and an assemblage of voices to produce a colorful, spirited collection of sounds and songwriting. Their 2017 release FOUR stretches the perception of an album. It incorporates what seems to be a compilation several persons’ ideas, stories, styles, all bound together with an appropriate looseness of a family-style aesthetic. Sharing the bill are adventurous Madison indie project Glassmen, and the scathingly witty, jangly Madison quartet Jonesies, who play their second-to-last show here. —Emili Earhart
Brooks Wheelan. Comedy Club on State, through June 10, see link for all showtimes
We recently included Brooks Wheelan in an episode of our podcast that rounded up some of the national comedians who have made a point of recording stand-up albums in Madison and he’s back at the Comedy Club on State all weekend. He’s still probably best-known for being a one-season-and-done cast member on Saturday Night Live back in 2013, but Wheelan’s talent as a stand up easily transcends that dubious honor. His material might lean towards the bro-y end of the comedy spectrum, but there’s just enough introspection in there to win over any room. The heart and soul of seeing him live, though, comes from the possibility of things going gloriously off the rails at any moment, as you can see in a couple recent morning-show clips, exhibit A and exhibit B. Adam Burke features, and Omar Nava hosts. Multiple showtimes, go here for the full schedule and tickets. —Chris Lay
FRIDAY JUNE 9
Russ Johnson Quartet. Arts + Literature Laboratory, 8 p.m.
Since relocating to the Midwest after a 23-year run in the New York City jazz scene, Milwaukee-based trumpeter Russ Johnson has explored new ideas and projects with a handful of internationally acclaimed Chicago musicians. His current collaborations include the adventurous Russ Johnson Quartet, with Jason Stein (bass clarinet), Anton Hatwich (bass), and Tim Daisy (drums). The group’s 2014 album Meeting Point starts on a driving, angular note with opening track “Lithosphere.” But elsewhere on the album, especially on “Chaos Theory,” the group unfolds into a certain airy expansiveness, inhabiting a more exploratory space. Their drive weaves back in, however, with a sharp exchange between pulse and temporal stasis. The product is a balance of freedom and control, as the quartet steers through an abundance of rich sonic experimentation. —Emili Earhart
Collections Of Colonies Of Bees, Auscultation, Asumaya. Art In, 8 p.m.
Milwaukee band Collections Of Colonies Of Bees play sweeping instrumental rock with plenty of billowing crescendos and cathartic melodies, but ground their compositions in obsessively precise, interlocking rhythms that owe much to electronic music and contemporary composers like Steve Reich. Bees have been a bit quiet over the past few years, with the lineup shifting and members getting pulled away into, or leaving for, projects including Volcano Choir, Sylvan Esso, and a reunion of Milwaukee instrumental band Pele. Their most recent album, 2015’s Set, dropped with little fanfare, which is a shame—its oddly named tracks, like “G (F)” and “C (G),” are among the warmest and most emotionally expansive the band has released to date. This will be Bees’ first Madison show with its new five-piece lineup, which includes Milwaukee vocalist Marielle Allschwang and Madison’s Matt Skemp (Czarbles, All Tiny Creatures) on bass. This set will include new material that features Allschwang’s looped, effected vocals, and leans more toward the rocking side of Bees’ sound. —Scott Gordon
Mama Digdown’s Brass Band, Immigré, Chants. High Noon Saloon, 8:30 p.m.
Three Madison bands team up on this show to help raise money for a friend battling breast cancer—billing the event as “EAT SH*T, Cancer.” The eight-piece Mama Digdown’s is pretty much a straightforward New Orleans second-line jazz outfit, all rollicking percussion, call-and-response vocals, and brash, festive horns, and they’ve done it well enough over the past 20 years to occasionally get invited to play actual parades in New Orleans. The more recently formed Immigré plays a mix of Afrobeat covers and originals, with a rugged, brassy attack of its own. Chants, the solo electronic project of jazz drummer and Mama Digdown’s member Jordan Cohen, has been veering into fractious club-oriented material lately, but it’s just as left-field and rhythmically complex as his earlier, more lush work. —Scott Gordon
Rooftop Cinema: Kamikaze ’89. Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, 9:30 p.m.
In summers past, MMoCA’s Rooftop Cinema series has often showcased short film collections under the umbrella of lesser-known experimental animators or directors. However, its 12th season turns a relevant eye to immersive feature-length dystopian futures, …’cause there’s no time like the present (which is rapidly turning into one). Amid a global economic recession and, nationally speaking, the philosophy of Reaganomics, the 1980s experienced a great boom of gritty prospective fiction. These films imagined totalitarian regimes in utter control of the media, and successfully merged oppressive, brutalist aesthetics with the broodingly intimate and suave elements of film noir. Released the same year as Blade Runner, Wolf Gremm’s Kamikaze ’89 (1982) is perhaps a bit of an anomaly in that canon. It’s a wacky low-budget conspiratorial cyberpunk thriller starring wunderkind Rainer Werner Fassbinder as Lieutenant Jansen. Dressed to the nines in a garish leopard-print suit, his scruffy yet slick demeanor might recall stoic secret agent Lemmy Caution in Godard’s Alphaville (1965) or the oddball Doc Sportello in Pynchon’s novel Inherent Vice (which Paul Thomas Anderson adapted into a 2014 film), which also proves true for the winding plot involving a string of bombings at a high-rise in a futuristic West Germany. Gremm hired Edgar Froese of Tangerine Dream to compose the spacey synthesizer and sequencer pulses, which underscore Jansen’s escalating encounters with the absurd. Series co-curator Mike King will be projecting the film in a new digital restoration by Film Movement. —Grant Phipps
Oedipus Tex, The Apologists, Building On Buildings. Mickey’s Tavern, 10:30 p.m. (free)
Oedipus Tex began as a solo project for guitarist Eric Caldera of the now-defunct Madison instrumental rock trio El Valiente, but over the years has expanded into a full band that gives a subtle kick to Caldera’s playfully glum songs. In band mode, Oedipus Tex has a stark Southwestern twang, but focuses around Caldera’s breathy and conversational vocals. Collaborators like drummer Joe Bernstein, guitarist Karl Christenson, and multi-instrumentalist player Nathan Tredinnick have focused on atmosphere and restraint, reinforcing the vocal melodies with gentle buoyancy (but not too much buoyancy—this is sad-sack indie-rock at heart). Caldera’s lyrics veer between cryptic and blunt, somber and smart-assed: On the title track of 2015’s Silver Lion EP, he calls out police violence in Madison (“I can’t shake the feeling in the city I’ve lost my pride / songwriters and dark-skinned boys buying mistakes with their lives”), while “Yonder,” from 2012’s album Borracho Corazon, functions as a winking boast track for a nerdy singer-songwriter who studies ants by trade (“Hey I’m master in all things numerical / And I’m coming out your fuckin’ stereo”). This will be our last chance to experience Oedipus Tex’s subdued charms for the foreseeable future, as Caldera, having recently completed a PhD in entomology at UW-Madison is moving to L.A. soon. Another quietly stirring Madison rock band, Building On Buildings, will be playing its first live set in a good few months here, and local country-rockers The Apologists will round out the bill. —Scott Gordon
SATURDAY JUNE 10
Marquette Waterfront Festival. Yahara Place Park, through June 11, see link for full schedule. (free)
East-side-festival season officially kicks off with Waterfront Fest, whose touring acts this year include omnivorous jazz guitarist Fareed Haque and Québécois folk outfit Les Poules à Colin, who are both slated for two sets. But it’s also worth timing your visits to the fest around the locally based acts on the bill, and there are enough overlaps and repeat appearances to make that pretty easy. Saturday kicks off at noon with Madison duo Mal-O-Dua’s mischievously charming blend of gypsy swing, French music, and Hawaiian tunes, and, on the other stage, an 11:45 a.m. set from the ambitious classical outfit Willy Street Chamber Players (who also play at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday), who will be presenting a mixed program including Mozart’s “Grand Sextet” and Daniel Bernard Romain’s “String Quartet No. 5: Rosa Parks.” Singer-songwriter Josh Harty plays at 4:15 p.m. on Saturday and 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, and the joyful, rollicking Afro-Peruvian jazz outfit Golpe Tierra plays at 3 p.m. on Sunday. —Scott Gordon
Forge. Madison Brass Works, through June 17, see link for full schedule. (free)
Madison has developed an affinity for big, collaborative, multi-media art events that briefly occupy an entire building with a host of ambitious installations, organized in part by the Madison Public Library’s interactive Bubbler program. On the heels of Bookless, Stacked, and last year’s Municipal comes the similarly conceived Forge, which will occupy the historic Madison Brass Works building on the east side as the nearby Goodman Community Center prepares to expand into that space. The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art’s Erika Monroe-Kane and local entrepreneur Ellen Carlson are organizing the event with support from the Bubbler program, and it’ll involve work from about 15 artists. Whereas Stacked, Bookless, and Municipal were all about transforming familiar public buildings (the Central Library and Madison Municipal Building), the Brass Works is likely more of a question mark to most Madisonians, which should heighten the show’s element of unpredictability. The viewing schedule for Forge is a bit irregular, so make sure to check the event’s website before you go. —Scott Gordon
Patton Oswalt. Orpheum, 8 p.m.
Patton Oswalt began performing stand-up during the seemingly prehistoric comedy boom of the late 1980s and early ’90s, and over time he honed an amiable but surreal style that affectionately harnesses the frivolity and satirical potential of pop culture. This is perhaps best exemplified by his 2013 appearance on Parks And Recreation. Yeah, it’s a dated reference for a show preview in 2017, but that’s the point: Oswalt’s oft-dissected, -celebrated, -mocked and completely improvised filibuster in that sitcom about J.J. Abrams helming the Disney-acquired Star Wars has proved prescient and ironic for reasons best left dissecting in greater detail in a Ph.D. thesis. “In character,” Oswalt foresaw the rise of needlessly malleable crossovers bridging intellectual properties stuffing movie theaters today that, back then, seemed a little far-fetched. Oswalt, of course, has no shortage of other credits pointing to his range, passion, and nuance (Ratatouille likely to be the one most widely known), but the point is this: Oswalt is a smart comedian who doesn’t mistake his astuteness or deftness for coolness. He’s still unafraid to geek out, be more honest than the comedians he’s usually lumped in with, and reliably point out that you can know a ton about pop culture and still have a brain and heart. Oswalt has also been doing a lot of healing and processing in public since his wife, Michelle McNamara, died suddenly in February 2016, just before the release of his Netflix special Talking For Clapping. That might make a stand-up show feel strange or uncomfortable right now, but the genuine warmth and openness Oswalt has always brought to his work should light the way for him and the audience alike. —David Wolinsky
Frequency B-Day Bash: DJ Abilities, Hudson Falcons, The Dead Deads, Redshift Headlights. Frequency, 9 p.m.
DJ Abilities is a consummate turntablist, beatmaker, and producer who left a slanted and emotionally raw mark on hip-hop in his Twin Cities-based duo with MC Eyedea, who died tragically in 2010. Currently based in Milwaukee, Abilities has remained active as a solo artist, and has been touring pretty heavily lately, sharing bills with artists including Providence rapper B. Dolan and noise-rap crew Dälek. You can expect Abilities’ live set to evince a lot of old-school mastery and draw on a wide sampling of hip-hop over the decades, but filtered through his own bold and sometimes warped lens. He plays here to headline night two of The Frequency’s 9th anniversary celebration (details on night one here). —Scott Gordon
SUNDAY JUNE 11
Donovan. Capitol Theater, 7:30 p.m.
Scottish folk songwriter Donovan Leitch found great pop success in the mid-to-late-1960’s under the aegis of Mickie Most, the British producer who had managed to create enduring singles for groups like The Animals and Herman’s Hermits. Donovan turned 21 in 1967 and had already scored a run of hits, on top of shaking off an early but persistent Bob Dylan comparison. As the ’60’s went on, Donovan became more and more entrenched in starry-eyed hippiedom, sometimes to near-parodic levels: Many British stars of the ’60’s were interested in flowery mysticism and lightweight material, but no one else titled songs “Breezes Of Patchulie” [sic] or devoted multiple albums to children’s music. Donovan’s commitment to sticking by his stylistic guns (or, alternately, his inability to adapt to new trends) eventually gained him fading relevance, but his mid-’60’s hits such as “Sunshine Superman” (with a shuffling, harpsichord-based arrangement that still fascinates) and “Mellow Yellow” still sound catchy and tuneful today. He also found fans in odd places years after his period of fame: Hüsker Dü covered “Sunshine Superman” and the Butthole Surfers covered “Hurdy Gurdy Man.” He plays here as part of the 50th Anniversary Sunshine Superman Tour. —Mike Noto
Hanging Hearts, Tony Barba. Art In, 9 p.m.
Chicago/Milwaukee trio Hanging Hearts use the improvisational spirit, and some of the instrumentation, of jazz as a starting point for brash and frequently exuberant music. Saxophonist Chris Weller, keyboard player Cole DeGenova, and drummer Devin Drobka somehow sound comfortable moving between surging, rock-inspired melodies one moment and fragmented free jazz the next. This show will celebrate the release of their second album, Into A Myth, which finds the band cohering around the guttural and gruff tendencies of their instruments on tracks like “Return Of Saturn” and “Jungle Juice,” but also making space for more contemplative moments and channeling brisk, rock- and funk-inspired rhythms on “Pilsen” and “June Bug.” Despite its heady, mystical themes—referred to in song titles like “Creation” and “Big Bang Anunnini”—Into A Myth more often than not feels like a record that came straight from the gut. —Scott Gordon
TUESDAY JUNE 13
Exotic. Art In, 8 p.m.
In the 2016 documentary Exotic, Baltimore-based filmmaker Amy Oden travels to the U.S. territory of Guam to take a deep and sobering look into the lives of the island’s sex workers. Guam’s lucrative tourism industry, largely fueled by Japanese visitors, attracts many young women there to work as exotic dancers, including people from the mainland U.S. But these women are also vulnerable to abuse at the hands of their employers, clients, and local officials. Oden gets the story directly from people who’ve worked in Guam’s sex trade, peeling back the curtain on an otherwise opaque industry and treating an often sensationalized subject with respect and dignity. Oden is touring with the film to build support for organizations that advocate on behalf of sex workers. —Scott Gordon
WEDNESDAY JUNE 14
R. Ring, Vanessa Silberman, Sally Grundy, Skizzwhores. Frequency, 7:30 p.m.
Kelley Deal of The Breeders and Mike Montgomery of Cincinnati instrumental-rock band Ampline have been collaborating for about six years under the name R. Ring. A handful of EPs and splits over the years hinted at something that stands apart from both members’ other bands, in a reflective but sharply melodic vein. R. Ring’s debut full-length, Ignite The Rest, released in April, delivers on that promise with a set of songs that might share some imprints of The Breeders’ razor-sharp indie-rock and Ampline’s winding post-punk, but more importantly bring out a vulnerability and warmth that feel specific to this project. Deal and Montgomery also sound comfortable switching up instrumentation and approaches from track to track, using a playfully plodding rhythm on “Fallout And Fire,” layering gentle guitar and keyboard arpeggios on the lovely “Singing Tower,” and sometimes but not always foregoing all but minimal percussion. R. Ring can still rock, though, as the rugged and cheeky “Salt” demonstrates. —Scott Gordon