Reza Aslan, Print & Resist, Kris Kristofferson, Sincere Life, and more events of note in Madison this week. | By Emili Earhart, Scott Gordon, Chris Lay, Erica Motz, Mike Noto, Chali Pittman, Joel Shanahan, and David Wolinsky
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THURSDAY MARCH 23
Theo Von. Comedy Club on State, through March 25, see link for all showtimes.
Theo Von is one of the very few Road Rules/Real World personalities who had enough legitimate talent (and hustle) to survive outside of the bubble of MTV reality “star”-dom. He had been performing as a stand-up before MTV foisted him on America in 2000 with Road Rules: Maximum Velocity Tour, so it’s only natural that he’s followed up his 15 minutes by touring the country with his drawlingly enthusiastic Louisiana charm for almost 20 years. Despite the decidedly “bro’s bro” delivery, Von exceeds expectations as a comic with robust storytelling skills. Madison’s Antonio Aguilar hosts. —Chris Lay
Bubbles Brown, Boo Bradley, Leopard Hound. Mickey’s Tavern, 10:30 p.m. (free)
With the weather warming up, you’re likely to see a lot of Madison’s Boo Bradley—guitarist/singer Scott Mullarky and washboard-wearing percussionist Bradley Selz—busking around downtown Madison. But the acoustic duo’s take on blues, folk, ragtime boasts an understated mastery and a playful presentation that makes it worth catching them at a proper show. (Mullarky, for instance, can play the freaking kazoo over his rugged open-tuned guitar patterns and somehow make it all work together.) Their last proper release was the 2014 album Rub Rub Rub, which captured the unvarnished charm of their live sets. They play here with Chicago blues duo Bubbles Brown and Madison folk outfit Leopard Hound. —Scott Gordon
FRIDAY MARCH 24
Charlie Parr, Willy Tea Taylor. Stoughton Opera House, 7:30 p.m.
We can say without hesitation that Duluth-based ragtime guitar wizard and urgent bluegrass crooner Charlie Parr is one of the Midwest’s finest exports. This is because Parr’s been grinding away for a long time, offering a welcome dose of grit and sincerity that sometimes gets lost in the sector of contemporary bluegrass that’s embraced within the jam band community. Whether he’s stomping and wailing on 2015’s Stumpjumper, joining forces with Pelt offshoot Black Twig Pickers on 2011’s Glory In The Meeting House, or collaborating with Low’s Alan Sparhawk for 2014’s gorgeously heady, instrumental rag-guitar album Hollandale, Parr’s soulful energy cuts through every time. —JS
InDIGenous Jazz Series: John Christensen Atlas Project. Central Library, 7 p.m. (free)
John Christensen is one of the handful of jazz bassists in town (like Nick Moran and Ben Ferris) who collectively seem to play in everything, and he’s played in several projects focusing on original compositions and improvisation, including the avant-jazz outfit Deconumisms, the stately, atmospheric Lesser Lakes Trio, and saxophonist Anders Svanoe‘s versatile, visceral trio. At this installment of the InDIGenous Jazz Series, which focuses on original works by local and regional artists, Christensen will lead his Atlas Project, which also features Johannes Wallmann on piano, Dave Miller on guitar, and Andrew Green on drums. The set will consist of new compositions that Christensen and band hope to record soon. —SG
The Godfather Part II. Vilas Hall, 7 p.m. (free)
It’s not often that you see a sequel presented in a standalone screening without its predecessor, which makes this screening of 1974’s The Godfather Part II an unexpected three-plus hour long treat. The sequel to The Godfather presents parallel plots, one looking backwards to the rise of Vito Corleone in turn-of-the-century New York and another that picks up where the first film left off. It’s an epic story of immigration that doubles down on the promise of what came before and exceeds every possible metric of success. Few films are as ubiquitous as Francis Ford Coppola’s Godfather trilogy, so it’s unlikely this will be most people’s first time around the bend with the Corleone crime family, but it will probably be the first time you had the chance to see Part II in a rare IB Technicolor print, so thank your lucky Cinematheque stars for that opportunity. —CL
SATURDAY MARCH 25
Print & Resist. Central Library, 11 a.m. (free)
There’s so much variety in this annual festival of art and activism that it can be a bit overwhelming, but in a good way. That’s doubly so this year, given our political climate, so expect a sea of solidarity against fascism at the top floor of Central Library. While there’s no real confirmed list of exhibitors at this time, some solid regulars to check out include fantastic prints from the decentralized JustSeeds Artist’s Cooperative, wry and irreverent cultural criticism from magazine The Baffler (one of whose founders, Thomas Frank, will be in Madison on March 29, as previewed below), and LGBT Books to Prisoners. Talented arty locals—the backbone of any zine scene—will be in attendance, from the radical feminist Spooky Boobs Collective, to the UW Comics Club formed under the tutelage of Lynda Barry, to the latest zine from UW-Madison Art professor Derrick Buisch. Some solid newcomers to check out include Chicago’s Brown and Proud Press and the long-running leftist comic anthology World War 3 Illustrated. Oh, and don’t forget to give Tone Madison contributor Rachal Duggan some love while you’re there! —Chali Pittman
Sincere Life, Landon Devon, Trebino, Red, Gooh, Mojami. High Noon Saloon, 9 p.m.
Madison’s Sincere Life, real name Craig Smith, is a studiously lyrical rapper who’s always liked to jump between modes of delivery and production approaches, which continues on the new release King Poetic Vol. II, celebrated at this show. It’s his first proper release since 2015’s King Poetic Vol. I—a self-titled album released last year mostly repackaged previously released songs, including a few from his promising 2013 EP Write Of Passage. King Poetic Vol. II has a bit more clarity and continuity to it than Vol. I, leading with tracks like “Here We Go” and “Illist” that ooze along ominously on swollen, yawning bass hits. But Smith continues to switch it up later on in the album, collaborating with rapper/producer DLO on the upbeat “Hands High” and drawing on his gift for vulnerable moments over the gritty snare and mournful strings of “No Love Loss.” —SG
Eric Miller, Patrick Reinholz, Brian Grimm. Arts + Literature Laboratory, 8 p.m.
This evening offers an interesting mix of music for stringed instruments drawing on 17th-century traditions, newly composed work, and improvisation. A member of the Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble, Eric Miller performs Baroque repertoire on the viola da gamba. The beautiful, pure color of this cello-related instrument evokes a certain nostalgia when paired with 17th century music rarely heard outside of Early Music contexts, and it is refreshing to hear this traditionalism showcased in a space such as Arts + Literature Laboratory. Patrick Reinholz plays here solo behind a new album, 4 Movements For Cello And Electronics. Reinholz also plays in Milwaukee’s new music and improvisatory chamber outfit Tontine Ensemble, as well as Madison/Milwaukee leftfield jazz/rock project Lovely Socialite. On the new release, Reinholz plays with drastic contrasts of density––while often creating thick, brutal surges of texture, Reinholz will quickly scale back into an open, spatial, pointillistic quality. Also a member of Lovely Socialite, and operating under several ensembles and monikers, Brian Grimm will open the night with solo cello. Grimm’s sets vary drastically, spanning from Bach cello suites to original work to music composed for an array of Chinese instruments. —Emili Earhart
SUNDAY MARCH 26
Kris Kristofferson. Capitol Theater, 7:30 p.m.
For good and for ill, Kris Kristofferson is one of the most distinctive and divisive vocalists in country music history. His voice is a gravelly, wavering croak and his range must be about seven notes at best, but the catch is that the world-weary conviction in his singing carries an inimitable and incredibly moving authority that will never be duplicated. That plainspoken, direct power shines throughout his writing, too: His ability to fold precisely brutal emotional insight into neatly crafted, tuneful songs became a personal trademark, and those songs often became hits on country and rock radio in other artists’ hands. Willie Nelson, of course a brilliant songwriter himself, even devoted his 1979 record Sings Kristofferson to Kristofferson’s songs and scored a #5 hit on the country album charts with it. Classic offerings like “Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down” (with an offhand reference to drugs that shocked the conservative Nashville establishment at the time) and the tortured hymn “Why Me,” which became his greatest commercial success as a solo artist, did more than enough to make Kristofferson one of the most respected and covered songwriters in the outlaw country movement, and his varied onscreen acting career ensured that he stayed in the public eye in an assortment of colorful roles. Kristofferson is 80 and has recently been recovering from a long bout with Lyme disease. But video of performances from last year show that he’s still about the same as ever—just older, as we will all be with time. —Mike Noto
Born On The Fourth Of July. Chazen Museum of Art, 2 p.m. (free)
Oliver Stone’s 1989 film Born On The Fourth Of July adapts the autobiography of Ron Kovic, who entered the Vietnam War an eager young Marine and came back paralyzed from the mid-chest down and traumatized with the memories of accidentally killing civilians and a fellow soldier. Tom Cruise, starring as Kovic, memorably captures his slide from fresh-faced patriotism to drunken misery to gnarled but determined anti-war activism. Stone keeps the personal and political shades of Kovic’s journey fiercely intertwined through a series of bitter and claustrophobic confrontations: An inebriated and wheelchair-bound Kovic screaming at his mother (Caroline Kava), angry delegates scorning Kovic at the 1972 Republican Convention, a nasty roadside fight in Mexico with Kovic’s fellow paralyzed veteran Charlie (Willem Dafoe). Born On The Fourth Of July screens here in 35mm, as part of UW Cinematheque’s ongoing celebration of film composer John Williams. —SG
TUESDAY MARCH 28
Journey, Asia. Alliant Energy Center, 7:30 p.m.
Whenever Journey’s inspirational Camaro-mullet classic “Don’t Stop Believin'” pops up on the radio or blares from the jukebox of a bleak dive bar, I feel like a could build a fucking cabin from the scraps of quasi-guilt I feel for not hating it. Journey is the band we hate to not hate. This has as much to do with Steve Perry’s pitch-perfect, emotional wailing and the suspiciously infectious relatability of his lyrics as it does with the band’s ability to craft perfect, arena-ready pop-rock tunes with insane production flair. Unfortunately, Journey’s greatest asset (and apparent Eels megafan) Perry left the group a long time ago and has since been replaced twice (previously by another Steve and most recently by Arnel Pineda), but the hall-of-famers still have two founding members onboard in guitarist Neil Schon and bassist Ross Valory. Apparently, the 43-year veterans are using this tour as a warm-up before a lengthy Las Vegas residency, where washed-up pop-culture goes to die. Oh yeah, also, Asia’s playing. —JS
Alex Wiley, Trapo, Lucien Parker, DJay Mando. Frequency, 8 p.m.
It’s safe to say that Chicago rapper Alex Wiley has more than a casual affinity for psychedelia—he titled a 2016 mixtape Tangerine Dream, and ends its second track with a sample of one of Bill Hicks’ more spiritual moments, and in much of his work, his barbed, gritty delivery contrasts nicely with a pleasantly woozy atmosphere. Playing here behind this year’s Village Party III: Stoner Symphony, he’s sharing the bill with two Madison rappers who share his youth and his deft balance of gruffness and melody. Lucien Parker, who’s been following up last year’s album Black Sheep with a series of singles, and Trapo, who had a big 2016 with the release of his She EP and the full-length Shade Trees, and has been following that up lately with a lot of live shows and a couple new tracks of his own. —SG
WEDNESDAY MARCH 29
Thomas Frank. A Room of One’s Own, 6 p.m. (free)
Thomas Frank earned his stripes as the founding editor at the wonderful magazine The Baffler, but he’s better known for his books of bombastic critiques: Of the duping of GOP voters in What’s The Matter With Kansas? and of the failings of the corporate Democratic Party in the new Listen, Liberal! Or, What Ever Happened To The Party Of The People?. In Listen, Liberal!, Frank, the two-decade editor of a magazine that promises to “blunt the cutting edge,” delivers what would be a serious critique of both parties if it didn’t spend a ton of its momentum on anger, sarcasm, and some Jim Hightower-esque progressive folksiness. Definitely go, but ask for specificity in your questions to avoid rehashing pop political theory. And take a tequila shot every time he admonishes the audience to “wake up.” —CP
Reza Aslan. Wisconsin Union Theater, 7:30 p.m. (free)
Reading Reza Aslan’s 2010 book Beyond Fundamentalism: Confronting Religious Extremism In The Age Of Globalization (originally titled How to Win A Cosmic War), I kept expecting to turn the page and find Aslan discussing the current battle for Mosul or the recent UN resolution condemning illegal Israeli settlements. His understanding of the role of nationalism, religious extremism, and western influence in the Middle East is so prescient that one could forget that this particular book was published nearly a decade ago. Even those who haven’t read one of Aslan’s books may remember him from a Fox News interview regarding his 2013 book, Zealot: The Life And Times Of Jesus Of Nazareth, in which anchor Lauren Green repeatedly asked Aslan why he would write about Jesus if he’s a Muslim, to which Aslan repeatedly answers that he is a scholar of religions (video below). His talk this Wednesday, cosponsored by the WUD Distinguished Lecture Series and the Multicultural Student Center is titled “Islamophobia In America.” It’s likely to be packed, so arrive early. —Erica Motz
Arts Education Forum. Arts + Literature Laboratory, 7:30 p.m. (free)
This year’s Madison Metropolitan School District board elections have stirred up an uncommon amount of interest, thanks largely to the entry of several relatively young candidates making their first run for public office: Ali Muldrow and Kate Toews, running for seat 6, and Nicki Vander Meulen, running unopposed for seat 7 after incumbent Ed Hughes dropped out of the race. It’s made for a race that’s put a lot more emphasis on serving people of color, people with disabilities, and young parents. The intersection of local politics and the arts is an important one, and here Muldrow, Toews, and Vander Meulen will share their positions on arts in education in a discussion moderated by Mark Fraire of the Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission. Attendees can submit questions for the candidates here. —SG
Captured! By Robots, The Central. Frequency, 8 p.m.
It’s hard to top San Francisco band Captured! By Robots’ official bio in terms of concision: “2 kick ass robots, 1 stupid human. Brutal pummeling music. End of story.” As said human’s robot overlords will no doubt remind you repeatedly at this Frequency show, this year marks the group’s 20th anniversary. And, well, if there’s one thing that tight bio quoted here wouldn’t seem to imply, it’s shelf life. Which is not to imply that C!BR isn’t worth your time, but obviously a band whose chained frontman wears a modified S&M gas mask and fake intestines spilling out of his guts while his animatronic back-up band flagellate him between songs isn’t so concerned about commercial appeal. In the band’s 20th year, gone are the mask, and in comes an unexpected poignancy not present in the band’s pre-internet and -social media 1997 origins. As the tour’s name, “20 Years of Suffering,” somewhat implies, the band performs poppy grindcore songs about reluctant human subservience to technology in all ways macro and micro in our lives. The recently released Endless Circle Of Bullshit cranks up the dystopian hijinks, which should resonate with anyone who even marginally pays attention to the news. C!BR is like one of those SNL sketches that ultimately wins you over thanks to its undying commitment to a bit, long after you thought the joke should have been over. —David Wolinsky