Barbacoa starts an Art In residency, “Sizemore: The Big Salad II” screens at Communication, five random bands, and more events of note in Madison this week.
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FRIDAY MAY 3
The east-side venue/gallery/literary incubator Arts + Literature Laboratory has developed a central role in Madison’s jazz programming over the past few years, not only bringing in luminaries from Roscoe Mitchell to Ken Vandermark, but also becoming one of the key spots for a resurgent locally based jazz scene. The venue’s second annual jazz festival, coinciding with Spring Gallery Night, uses several spaces along Atwood Avenue and Winnebago Street to showcase a variety of approaches to jazz. ALL Jazz Fest builds on ALL’s own successes as a jazz venue, and on the model that the Greater Madison Jazz Consortium and Madison Music Collective (now ALL’s partner organizations) developed with the Strollin’ series. This year’s performances take place at ALL itself, the courtyard outside glass-blowing operation Studio Paran, Monona State Bank, MadCity Music, the TAP IT/New Works Space, and Union Hair Parlor. The programming is heavy on Madison-area artists. Trumpeters Dave Cooper and Paul Dietrich will both perform layered original compositions in quartet settings outside Studio Paran, combustive free-jazz trio Brennan Connors & Stray Passage will play at MadCity, and saxophonist/composer Anders Svanoe will lead his boisterous, rhythmically expansive “double trio,” as featured on his 2018 album 747 Queen Of The Skies. Joining Stray Passage on the more experimental side of the lineup are saxophonist Tony Barba and drummer Michael Brenneis, who play the TAPIT space behind their improvisational, electronics-enhanced album Outside The Sphere.
The out-of-town musicians of note here include veteran drummer Vincent Davis, whose role in Chicago’s fertile avant-garde jazz scene goes back decades and has included collaborations with artists including Roscoe Mitchell (joining him for a show at ALL in 2016, in fact) and Malachi Favors. He’ll perform the festival-closing set at ALL in a trio with bassist Jeremiah Hunt and saxophone player Isaiah Collier. NYC-based saxophonist/vocalist/flautist Caroline Davis (who has also played ALL before) will perform at Monona State Bank with her project Maitri, and will apparently also be dropping in on some of the other sets scheduled throughout the evening. —Scott Gordon
SATURDAY MAY 4
Derek Hain’s 2017 short film The Big Salad, shot on a low budget around Madison with local performers, reinterpreted the Seinfeld episode of the same title. Hain and a largely amateur cast stuck faithfully to Larry David’s teleplay—a tale of pencils, murder, and severe pettiness—but didn’t try to mimic the look, mannerisms, or comic timing of the original. It’s the kind of adaptation you might make if you simply treated the script as a dry set of instructions, and if you’d never been exposed to the pervasive cultural influence of Seinfeld. You can tell that George is miffed about not getting credit for buying Elaine the big salad, and that Jerry loathes Newman, but there’s no laugh track, none of the jokes really land, and the actors inhabit the characters with discomfort or surreal numbness.
Sizemore: The Big Salad II, screening here, takes this dissociative experiment a few steps further. Instead of just working with the episode script, Hain has fleshed it out with some writing of his own, expanding upon several of the intertwining plot lines that feed into the episode. The result runs 68 minutes. Hain wasn’t able to share the full movie with me to watch ahead of this screening, but shared his detailed production notes, and the film’s trailer suggests that Sizemore: The Big Salad II shares its predecessor’s tone and feel (tonally ambiguous, and nothing like Seinfeld). Hain did take plot and structural cues from Larry David’s script while writing Sizemore, but notes that many of the liberties he takes “are arbitrary, whimsical, or willfully perverse.” Most of the actors put together their own costumes from written instructions Hain provided, which should further contribute to the film’s stylistic dissonance. Viewers will also notice plenty of local filming locations, from downtown Middleton to the Mound Street Laundromat. Sizemore‘s cast includes Sarah Friedland as Elaine, Lewis Peterson as George, Jack Beise as Kramer, and Shelby Turner as Jerry. —Scott Gordon
The Random Band Generator is maybe the most clever project Madison’s Half-Stack Sessions group has organized in its efforts to make the local music scene more inclusive and empowering for women and non-binary people. Participants throw their names into a random drawing, and end up paired with a brand-new bunch of bandmates. Then they have a few weeks to write a short set’s worth of songs, pick a name, and practice for what might be these rapidly formed bands’ only performances ever. It gets people collaborating who otherwise might not, in what is often a very segmented and siloed music community. Plus, unfamiliar contexts and deadline pressure always makes things interesting.
At the first Random Band Generator show in November 2018 at Communication, the six bands formed actually got solid results, mixing up members from local acts including Dash Hounds, Gentle Brontosaurus, and Gender Confetti. I don’t think any of those randomly generated bands have played again since, so the ephemeral appeal here is real. I have no idea what the five bands formed for this second round will sound like—that’s kind of the point—but they are The Tyme Machines (Nancy Rost, Laura Detert, Huan-Hua Chye) Hats (Ginny Kincaid, Kelli Miner, Heidi Forney, Phoebe Frenette) Cassowary (Sarah Hallas, Claire Nelson-Lifson, Allison Geyer), Little Lungs (Jeri Casper, Leah Schultz), and No Egrets (Tricia DiPiazza, Molly Mitchell, Jules Clementi, Hanna Kohn). That lineup includes some RBG round one alums and some new participants. —Scott Gordon
SUNDAY MAY 5
Meghan Rose and Emily Mills have used their side project Damsel Trash to blast out punk songs filled with crude humor, feminist rage, and their opinions about such unsavory targets as men’s-rights activists and Scott Walker. As a live band, it’s a simple proposition: Rose’s distorted guitar and bass, Mills’ raucous drums, both shouting a lot and sporting wacky getups of one kind or another. (Full disclosure: Mills is an occasional Tone Madison contributor.) Damsel Trash’s third album, The EPP Tape, which the band will celebrate here, doesn’t make things any more serious or town down the intentional absurdity and tackiness. But it does back up Damsel Trash’s over-the-top persona with the band’s most thoughtfully executed and varied set of tracks so far.
On opener “Watch It Now (The Bike Song),” Rose channels the story of a (potentially?) fatal car-bike accident through creepy-crawly grunge dynamics, attaining a nice guttural roar on the chorus. “Don’t Eat That” finds Mills and Rose basically acting out a skit about gross food, and “Fuck Trump” is a self-explanatory shout-along affair. The duo experiments with a brighter, more power-pop-informed approach on “No FOMO,” a playful but self-affirming duet about the glories of staying in for the night: “It’s 9 and I’m tired / It’s fine to be boring.” The album wraps up with two covers. Rose turns the sample/synth hook of Britney Spears’ “Toxic” becomes a grimy rapid-fire low-end riff, and gives the vocals a dash of over-the-top menace (“taste of poison para-diiii-ssse” with, say, a James Hetfield-style jaw-clench). Mills turns in an impressive vocal performance on a relatively straight-up version of Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody”—a stylistic reach for the duo, and one that totally works. Two other Madison bands, black-metal trio Tubal Cain and surf-infused punk outfit Venus In Furs, support Damsel Trash on this solid bill. —Scott Gordon
WEDNESDAY MAY 8
Madison quartet Barbacoa combines elements of funk, jazz, and Latin-American music into a muscular instrumental take on R&B. There’s a fair bit of versatility built into this band given its lineup: Guitarist Richard Hildner (a masterful practitioner of jazz and Afro-Peruvian music, who takes a bright electric approach in this band), keyboardist Mike Cammilleri (Madison’s resident Hammond organ buff), veteran drummer Chris Sandoval (who plays in Madison band The Jimmys and has collaborated with artists including Roy Ayers and Freddie Hubbard), and saxophone/clarinet player Tony Barba (who plays with Hildner in the excellent Latin-jazz bands Golpe Tierra and Acoplados, and fuses his sax with electronics in his experimental solo work). So far Barbacoa has released just a two-track EP, though of course there’s more material in the band’s live set, and more new stuff in the works. Here Barbacoa will kick off a monthly residency at Art In, which they’ll use in part to workshop new songs in progress, including pieces written specifically for these shows. Those songs, alongside music that has already been in Barbacoa’s live set for a good while, should provide a fun window into the working process of four gifted players. —Scott Gordon