Digital Leather, a Rare Plant showcase, Dan Savage, and more events of note in Madison this week. | By Joel Shanahan, Scott Gordon, Chris Lay
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THURSDAY MARCH 31
GateSound: Skeletons, Mid Waste. Gates of Heaven, 7 p.m.
GateSound, a Tone Madison-curated series of adventurous music at the historic Gates of Heaven synagogue in James Madison Park, continues with Skeletons, a project centering around singer and multi-instrumentalist Matt Mehlan. The band’s lineup has expanded and contracted since its founding in 2002 (it will be a five-piece here), grasping at strands of pop, jumbled art-rock, and jazz. For all its busily fractured rhythms and varied arrangements, the music usually coheres into something strangely amiable and accessible, with Mehlan’s pleasantly meandering vocal melodies providing a through-line of sorts. Skeletons play here behind the just-released album Am I Home? The show will begin with Madison drone duo Mid Waste, who use guitar and tape loops to create beautiful, unsettling, often long-form pieces. Read more in our curator’s notes for the show. PS: This is an early show, and should wrap up in time for people to get to the other things we’ve previewed in this calendar for Thursday. —Scott Gordon
Pokemon: The First Movie: A Staged Reading. Atlas Improv Co., 9:30 p.m. (sold out)
Madison comedian and writer Alan Talaga’s best projects sprinkle in just enough of the quixotic that they’re oddly charming, but not so much that they’re inaccessible. For several years he hosted a live variety show in-character as failed and hopelessly provincial Wisconsin travel agent Dan Potacke, and he’s been going on for years via all platforms available to him about something called “Dog Pope.” In that ridiculous-but-not-too-ridiculous-to-work spirit, he’s pulled together a bunch of local comedians and actors to give a proper staged reading of the script of 1999’s Pokemon: The First Movie. The cast (whom he actually auditioned for this) includes Emily Mills, Deon Green, David Fisher, and Danielle Lynch. (Full disclosure: Tone Madison contributor Chris Lay serves as stage manager.) —SG
Rare Plant Records Showcase: Trophy Dad, The Tea Heads, Howardian, The Momotaros, Pollinators. High Noon Saloon, 9 p.m.
As Madisonian garage-punk duo The Hussy continues their ascension from local workhorses to full-on international touring act and Bobby Hussy’s Kind Turkey imprint has slowed its release output quite a bit, the ever-increasing role that folks like Proud Parents guitarist-vocalist Claire Nelson-Lifson and Fire Retarded bassist Erick Fruehling have taken on in the weirdo rock community is crucial. Rare Plant—their passion project, record label, and show-throwing tag-team—has become one of the more exciting things happening locally. Hot on the heels of the label’s January’s showcase, which served as a dual release party for Proud Parents’ charming garage-pop debut Sharon Is Karen and Dumb Vision’s self-titled proto-grunge battering ram, this follow-up serves as the unveiling of Rare Plant’s latest release–Madisonian pop-rock outfit The Pollinators’ debut EP, Self Addressed Envelope. The showcase also features Madison trio Trophy Dad, whose whip-smart 2015 EP for Rare Plant, Shirtless Algebra Fridays, infectiously blurred the line between twee, power-pop, and even a slathering of noise-rock. Tunes like “Hypatia” exemplify the outfit’s blend of sugary vocal melodies, twisting chord turns, and witty rhythmic punctuation, working in true unison as parts of a single, highly functional pop-machine. It’s also worth knowing that ex-Japanther drummer-vocalist Ian Vanek will be performing here, under his freakish pop-collage alias Howardian. —Joel Shanahan
Perpetual Dusk At Curtsy Caverns, Benjamin Pierce, M. Martin, William Z. Villain. Bright Red Studios, 9:15 p.m.
FRIDAY APRIL 1
Emo Phillips, The Tiny Band. Stoughton Opera House, 7:30 p.m.
It might be surprising to some of you, but after more than three decades as a comedian, falsetto-voiced-oddball Emo Philips is not only still touring consistently, but he’s outright flourishing. He had a packed house at the Comedy Club On State eating out of his hand when I saw him there a few years back, drawling through one tightly composed bit of surrealy dark humor after another, selling the punchlines with what can be described as a “muppety” stage presence. —Chris Lay
Mad Men Of Comedy. Cardinal Bar, 10 p.m.
There’s something so wonderfully old-fashioned about a show presenting the top three comics from last month’s Madison’s Funniest Comic Competition (Charlie Kojis, Esteban Touma, and Deon Green), shuffled in between local burlesque performers (Ruby Devine, Marina Mars, and Veronica Smash). Doubling down on the mid-century vaudeville roots of this show, there’s gonna be a Mad Men costume contest so channel your inner Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce underling and some watch comics try to compete with bare female flesh. Check out our interview with Tulin Waters, who put this show together, as well as a bunch of others around town. —CL
Wood Chickens, Kitsch, Tarpaulin. Mickey’s Tavern, 10:30 p.m. (free)
Cedar Falls, Iowa trio Kitsch play pop that veers between anxious punk-leaning rhythms, swaying R&B, and even hints of jazz on their 2015 EP White Picket Fences 2.5. Guitarist Emily Otis’ voice is what girds it all together—on “Tempest” and “Inaudible,” Otis come off as both flustered and defiant. Also on the bill here are wonderfully frenzied Madison country-punks Wood Chickens, kicking off yet another tour, and affecting local indie-pop minimalists Tarpaulin. —SG
Comedians talk about Brian Regan with a level of admiration that’s almost unheard of. Hell, Seinfeld himself had him on Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee by just the third episode. While there’s an undeniable broadness to Regan’s squeaky-clean material, circling around his premises in a general way that maybe feels like softballs lobbed up to the cheap seats, the combination of truly unexpected angles he manages to ricochet off those topics with his endlessly goofball delivery is such a completely winning equation. Regan, the far-flung exception to just about every comedian stereotype, puts on a show that stands head and shoulders above practically every one of his peers so catch him if you can. —CL
Savage Lovecast Live. Barrymore, 8:30 p.m.
Dan Savage began writing his Savage Love advice column in 1991 while living in Madison and working at Four Star Video Heaven, and since then has patiently hammered it into ubiquity—it runs in dozens of weekly papers and has coined many terms that are just part of the English language for non-prudish folks of a generation or two. But don’t take him for granted—his column maintains a springy and incisive prose style, he can still throw bricks at intolerance with a mix of genuine fury and profane glee, and, well, how many advice columnists can you name who aren’t insufferable? He visits here to host a live taping of his also wildly popular Savage Lovecast, and has promised some surprise guests. —SG
Nikki Glaser. Comedy Club on State, through April 2, see link for all showtimes.
Nikki Glaser came up fast, making the Last Comic Standing semi-finals less than two years after her first time on stage, but she weathered that fast ascent well, landing not one but two shows on MTV in the past few years, Not Safe With Nikki Glaser and Nikki & Sara Live. Her material might trend a bit blue, as the Comedy Club’s silly all-caps “RATED R SHOW” advisory for her visit here will attest, but the effervescent every-woman point of view she brings to her smutty subject matter results in an overall charming act. Chicago’s Tom Brady features, and Toler Wolfe (who got his start in Madison) will host. —CL
Flatbush Zombies, Remy Banks, *hitmayng. Majestic, 9 p.m. (sold out)
Solo Sunny. Vilas Hall, 7 p.m. (free)
SATURDAY APRIL 2
Digital Leather, The Hussy, Cave Curse, Neens. Crystal Corner Bar, 10 p.m.
Nebraska synth-punk institution Digital Leather managed to cram two albums into 2015. The first, All Faded, favored more pop-leaning, better produced, and more traditional DL fare. Compared to tamed version of Digital Leather offered on their 2009 Fat Possum bid Warm Brother, All Faded still continues down the gritty and joyously nuked path they’ve been on ever since, but last December’s Whack Jam, released by Madison label Kind Turkey, reaches some dark and dirty lows that we’re extra stoked on. Whether it’s the filthy nods to raw minimal-wave found on “Rich Guy” and “Shadow Of A Dream,” the two-ton synth-bass patch and acoustic strums of “No Color,” or heady and droning dance-cut “Morsels,” there’s something pretty exciting about this blown out, demo-esque, and fuzzier side of Digital Leather, and we hope they’ll let some of these tracks loose in Madison. —JS
Tales Of Hoffmann. Vilas Hall, 7 p.m. (free)
It’s crazy to think that the films of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger were at one time viewed with middling disinterest, requiring eventual accolades from heavy hitters like Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, and George A. Romero (!) to put works like The Red Shoes, The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp, and Black Narcissus on their appropriate pedestals. The lush 1951 adaptation of Offenbach’s opera Tales Of Hoffmann, one of Powell and Pressburger’s most visually inventive films, frames the lovelorn “tales” of Hoffmann (Robert Rounseville) around breaks from his latest love, prima-ballerina Stella (Moira Shearer), performing on stage. This screening (last year’s 4K restoration?) is co-presented by Madison Opera, who will stage a production of Tales Of Hoffmann on April 15 and 17.
Il Brigante. Vilas Hall, 2 p.m. (free)
SUNDAY APRIL 3
Micro-Wave Cinema: Hit 2 Pass. Vilas Hall, 7 p.m. (free)
It might be hard for some to imagine emotional and intellectual richness streaming out of a film that can in one way be summed up as “a demolition derby documentary,” but Kurt Walker’s affectionately ragged Hit 2 Pass (which started making its way through the festival circuit in late 2014) manages to have its dirt-track cake and eat it too. “To gain experience and levels, you must fight monsters,” indeed! Walker will join the audience here via Skype for a post-screening Q&A. —CL
Friends of Sid Boyum Fundraiser. Harmony Bar, 4 p.m.
A volunteer group of Madisonians have been getting their hands dirty since last summer to preserve the works and East Side home of late Madison-based sculptor Sid Boyum. The long-abandoned house is now owned by Dane County, and advocates have formed a nonprofit called Friends of Sid Boyum in hopes of purchasing the home and salvaging the many paper works and concrete sculptures on the property. This event kicks off a campaign to raise $20,000 for that project, with live music from acts including Madison’s The Tiny Band, who exclusively use small instruments (ukuleles, mini drum kit, etc.) to make charming and achey pop. —SG
Shame. Chazen Museum of Art, 2 p.m. (free)
TUESDAY APRIL 5
Yonatan Gat, Fire Retarded, Dumb Vision. Frequency, 9 p.m.
Former Monotonix guitarist Yonatan Gat’s instrumental trio seems to get to Madison pretty regularly lately, with its lean but far-reaching excursions through punk, psych-rock, and myriad shards of Latin and African music. Even so, this show is worth catching for the scuzzy one-two of Madison bands Fire Retarded and Dumb Vision. Both are solid garage-punk outfits, with Fire Retarded favoring a sharp and swinging attack, and Dumb Vision plunging into a more warped but still pop-informed sound world. —SG
WEDNESDAY APRIL 6
Tacocat, Lisa Prank. Union South Sett, 8 p.m.
Seattle band Tacocat play here fresh off the release off their third album, Lost Time, which makes a sugary and punchy bid for power-pop distinction. They may be plunging into familiar territory here, but at least the execution is charged up and witty, as lead singer Emily Nokes joyfully greets natural disasters (“I Love Seattle”), drops X-Files references (“Dana Katherine Scully”), and fires off smart-assed feminist rants (“Men Explain Things To Me”). Opening up is Seattle’s Lisa Prank, a sunny but snarly punk project consisting of singer/guitarist Robin Edwards and her drum machine. Edwards plays here ahead of the June release of the next Lisa Prank album, Adult Teen. —SG