Todd Barry, The Dave King Trio, Strollin’ East Johnson,Spires That In The Sunset Rise, and more events of note in Madison this week. | By Emili Earhart, Scott Gordon, Joel Shanahan, David Wolinsky
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THURSDAY MAY 18
Chuck Klosterman. Central Library, 7 p.m. (free)
Whether journalist and novelist Chuck Klosterman is frantically trying to get real answers in a Britney Spears interview, musing on Billy Joel’s 1982 highlight The Nylon Curtain, or bitching about Coldplay, his essays are typically pretty evocative. Now, exactly what it is that the king of the hot take is actually evoking is constantly up for debate, but the reactions generally wobble between mind-expanding awe and utter bafflement — not unlike reading Vice, which leans toward the latter. But even if you don’t agree with him (which this writer often doesn’t), it’s hard not to feel the pull when Klosterman’s making absurdly compelling arguments that Toby Keith and the Dixie Chicks are way more interesting than Moby or that Barry Bonds didn’t give a shit about baseball. Klosterman is currently touring behind his latest essay collection, X. — Joel Shanahan
GateSound: High Plains, Anjou, Alej Perez. Gates of Heaven, 7:30 p.m.
This installment of the Tone Madison-curated GateSound series marks the local live debut of High Plains, a duo formed by Madison-based cellist Mark Bridges and Canadian electronic musician Scott Morgan, best known for his diverse work under the name Loscil. High Plains’ first album, Cinderland, came out in March, showcasing a dynamic and often haunting body of ambient music the two created together during a 2016 arts residency in Wyoming. Chicago electronic duo Anjou plays here behind a new album, Epithymía. Alejandra Perez, who sings, writes songs, and plays guitar in Madison band Miyha, will open the show with a solo set. For more details about the show and why we booked it, read our curator’s notes. — Scott Gordon
FRIDAY MAY 19
Todd Barry. Through May 20, see link for all showtimes.
Some deadpan comedians turn their performances into strange ventriloquism acts where you can’t help but see the strings being pulled, the effort being put into the straight face, the forced nonchalance, and the inquisitive spark in their eyes asking, “Can’t you see how cool I am, not caring about how this is going?” Todd Barry is not that kind of deadpan. Acerbic, quick-witted, and sharply attuned to idiocy in the human experience, his material can range from how kids these days “talk like 90-year-old Chicago blues guitarists,” people bragging about the speed and intensity with which they give handjobs, and lots of other miscellany. Barry may not be a household name but has a lengthy list of credits that reveals he’s been in your house plenty of times. Not in that way. More like, he’s been on everything from Sesame Street and Dr. Katz to Sex And The City and The Larry Sanders Show. (Louie deserves a special mention, as well, especially for the episode where Barry gleefully lampoons his own persona and celebrates his exceptional pettiness and the lengths he’ll go to be an asshole while on the road.) Live, Barry has a way of reminding people who think they’re sarcastic and clever that they really aren’t. He mocks the tropes of being a stand-up comedian, the tropes of overzealous audience members, the tropes of bailing on jokes, and yet remains fully present. — David Wolinsky
Strollin’ East Johnson. 800 block of East Johnson Street, 5:30 p.m. (free)
Each installment of the Greater Madison Jazz Consortium’s Strollin’ series picks a Madison-area neighborhood and for one evening populates a few of its businesses with a staggered lineup of diverse jazz music from Madison and around the Midwest. This time the concept comes to a stretch of East Johnson Street that’s finally reached a critical mass of bars, restaurants, and other businesses after years of storefront turnover and never quite hitting its potential. Highlights include a Rob Dz-hosted session of poetry and jazz at Macha Tea, free-jazz trio Brennan Connors And Stray Passage blasting away at Good Style Shop, and Milwaukee/Madison band Lesser Lakes Trio playing earlier at Macha to celebrate the release of their new album The Good Land. — SG
Doomstress, Wife, Red Museum, Clean Room. Mickey’s Tavern, 10 p.m. (free)
It’s been a few years since anyone heard from Madison band Wife, who play a muscular and catchy but also tongue-in-cheek take on metal that guitarist/singer Brian Steele has dubbed “progressive townie rock.” The band can rip out excellent Maiden-esque gallop riffs and acrobatic solos, and Steele’s voice capably emulates the piercing dramatics of Bruce Dickinson, but instead of swordfights and pharoahs, Wife’s songs are populated by barflies, eccentrics, and the occasional cat. They open here for Texas doom outfit Doomstress. Also on the bill are two other Madison acts: affably scuzzy punk trio Clean Room, playing behind their new album Bad Bad Dream, and eerie electronic project Red Museum. — SG
SATURDAY MAY 20
Antique Aloha: Hawaiian Music Of The Golden Age. Mother Fool’s, 8 p.m.
Madison-based guitarist Chris Ruppenthal is a fleet-fingered disciple of Django Reinhardt and probably best known for playing in the long-running Caravan Gypsy Swing Ensemble. But his work in the duo Mal-O-Dua draws on his equally deep affinity for and knowledge of Hawaiian music. In this case, Hawaiian music means slack-key guitar and music popularized for mainland ears in the early 20th century. At this event, Ruppenthal will be reaching into his collection of old 78s to play some music and offer some perspective on the Hawaiian-music boom the recording industry experienced between 1915 and 1925. After the talk and listening session, Ruppenthal’s Mal-O-Dua bandmate Cedric Baetche will join him for a performance drawing on Hawaiian material. — SG
Bonobo, Jeremy Sole. Orpheum, 7 p.m.
The music London producer Simon Green makes under the name Bonobo has usually tended to draw elements from across house, trip-hop, ambient music, and folk traditions spanning from Africa to Latin America. Green manages to channel all this into palatable if contemplative pieces. On tracks like “7th Sevens,” from the 2017 album Migrations, Green’s polished approach certainly helps to tie it together, but so does his knack for subtle melodies that let their craft and emotional impact unfold patiently over the course of a song. At times there’s so much eclecticism at work in Bonobo’s music that you wonder if Green is interested in having a voice of his own, but he still makes poignant statements that don’t fit neatly into any given electronic subcategory. — SG
SUNDAY MAY 21
Dave King Trio. Café Coda, 7 p.m.
Dave King is best known as the drummer in ever-adventurous Minneapolis jazz outfit The Bad Plus, but his collaborators have included folk-pop artist Haley Bonar and contemporary jazz piano standouts like Craig Taborn and Jason Moran. King’s trio with pianist Bill Carrothers and bassist Billy Peterson, though, goes full-on into the members’ fascination with jazz, from the atmospheric to the avant-garde, and sometimes both at once. Carrothers, a resident of the UP, has been performing since the late 70s, playing with musicians including Lee Konitz and Dave Douglas. Peterson, from Minneapolis, has worked across jazz, rock, and funk, with collaborators over the years including Bob Dylan, Sheila E., and Mose Allison. The Dave King Trio released an album titled I’ve Been Ringing You in 2012, but a better way to get introduced is to listen to a live set NPR recorded in 2013. — SG
Michael Zerang + Spires That In The Sunset Rise, Brandon Lopez. Arts + Literature Laboratory, 8 p.m.
It’s been a while since Madison-Brooklyn psych-folk duo Spires That In The Sunset Rise played a show in town, and this local appearance holds a heightened rarity, as STITSR will be performing with Chicago percussionist Michael Zerang. The collaboration between Kathleen Baird and Taralie Peterson of STITSR and Zerang began in 2011 and has resulted in two releases of material recorded at the Experimental Sound Studio in Chicago. Baird and Peterson have established a certain personality while exploring a variety of instrumentation, namely through adventurous vocal colors and swirling loops of woodwinds. On the recently released album Illinois Glossolalia, STITSR and Zerang place an expected emphasis on auxiliary percussion as well as a colorful mix of instrumentation — something common throughout STITSR releases. The result on Illinois Glossolalia is an extensive space rich in distinct, resonant timbres, an accordance between rhythm and freedom, and an exhibition of all three musicians’ distinct sonic personalities .— Emili Earhart
TUESDAY MAY 23
Earthen Sea, Emili Earhart. Arts + Literature Laboratory, 8 p.m.
Jacob Long’s 20-odd years of making music have included some pretty frenetic and abrasive projects, especially the brilliantly spazzy Dischord band Black Eyes and the fractured but more groove-oriented Mi Ami. His solo project Earthen Sea, though, dwells in a zone of overcast atmosphere and quietly enthralling percussion. Earthen Sea’s new album An Act Of Love spans from full-on ambient dives like opening track “The Present Mist” to more propulsive, beat-driven, but still seductively nocturnal songs like “Exuberant Burning” and “The Flats 1975.” Read more about Long in our interview this week. At this Tone Madison-presented show, long will share the bill with Madison-based musician (and Tone Madison contributor) Emili Earhart, whose recent work has included the experimental duo And Illusions and a series of piano performances encompassing composers from John Cage to Philip Glass to Henry Cowell. — SG
WEDNESDAY MAY 24
Wednesday Warm-Up. James Madison Park, 4 p.m. (free)
Madison DJ crew Foshizzle’s DJ nights at James Madison Park have become a warm-weather music staple in Madison the past few years, showcasing the crew’s tasteful grasp of house and techno and bringing in the occasional guest. For its first outdoor outing this year, Foshizzle is bringing up Chicago DJ Michael Serafini, whose mixes possess a bubbly vibe that should suit the occasion. Serafini owns the DJ-focused Chicago vinyl mecca Gramaphone and spins regularly at dance-music institutions like Smartbar. He’s joined here by Foshizzle crew members Maze and Umi. — SG