Pallbearer, WisCon, Plastic Crimewave Syndicate, Wurst Times, and more events of note in Madison this week. | By Emili Earhart, Scott Gordon
THURSDAY MAY 25
CANCELED: Spokes, Pollen Rx, Once A Month. Mickey’s Tavern, 10:30 p.m. (free)
Austin’s Pollen Rx play catchy pop songs that apply gritty garage punk, a wash of shimmering guitar tones, and expressive dual-vocals. The four-piece holds a striking balance between skronky dissonance and a sense of summery loveliness — a trade-off especially evident in the title track of their latest release, Sunbelt Emptiness. The appropriately fragmented lyrics challenge consumerism and dig into political and environmental issues, cleverly cutting straight to the point. Sharing the bill are local Madison “brat punk” trio Once a Month and psych-rock duo Spokes. — Emili Earhart
FRIDAY MAY 26
DJ Pierre, Beyun, Poor Boy Rich, Ashoka. Nomad World Pub, 10 p.m.
Producer and DJ Nathaniel Jones, aka DJ Pierre, helped to pioneer the development of the acid-house subgenre in the late 1980s as a member of the Chicago group Phuture. His recent activities have included founding his own label, Afro Acid, and opening a club in his current home base of Atlanta. He shares the bill here with two other DJs on his label, Boston’s Beyun and Milwaukee’s Poor Boy Rich, along with Madison DJ Ashoka. — Scott Gordon
WisCon 41. Madison Concourse Hotel, through May 29, see link for full schedule.
Madison’s WisCon has always been an outlier among sci-fi conventions, focusing on the representation and expression of women, LGBTQ people, the disabled, and other marginalized groups. Rather than focus on flashy meet-and-greets, this convention focuses on writing workshops, panel discussions, and readings, all of it centered more around attendees than around prominent visiting authors. WisCon also is the home of the James Tiptree, Jr. Award, which honors sci-fi and fantasy works that “expand or explore our understanding of gender.” This year’s guests of honor are sci-fi writer and poet Amal El-Mohtar and comic book writer Kelly Sue DeConnick. For more about WisCon, hear our recent podcast interview with two of its organizers. — SG
World’s Largest Brat Fest. Alliant Energy Center, through May 29, see link for full schedule
The music lineup at Madison’s annual Brat Fest has become a punchline over the years, spanning a weird and indifferent hodge-podge of aging hair-metal artists, Christian rock, post-grunge butt-rock, and assorted local acts who somehow got swept up in it all. So it’s a pleasant surprise that Friday brings a headlining performance from George Clinton, who pioneered brilliant, flamboyant, psych-infused funk as the leader of Parliament and Funkadelic. The 75-year-old Clinton has apparently been in better shape lately after some rough years — if you want to be charmed, see a recent video of Clinton and Killer Mike comparing their experiences owning barbershops—and he’s someone you really should see at least once in your life. Plus, P-Funk has always been about surreal spectacle, and it’d be hard to top “Maggot Brain” ringing out over that crazy truck grill the Brat Fest folks roll out every year. For more about everybody else playing Brat Fest, make sure to check out our comprehensive preview. — SG
SATURDAY MAY 27
Wurst Times VII. High Noon Saloon, 11 a.m.
Started as a bit of counter-programming to Brat Fest, the annual Wurst Times festival keeps the sausage but opts for a stronger focus on local bands, with the comparatively intimate setting of the High Noon Saloon, The Brass Ring, and their shared outdoor patio. This year the Wurst Times stage inside the High Noon has a strong wrap-up in the late afternoon and early evening, with performances from MC and spoken-word artist Rob Dz, wonderfully gloomy indie-pop outfit Dash Hounds, and the soaring psych-rock of Squarewave. The event raises money for the Madison Area Music Association, the Frets For Vets Charity, and the Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center. — SG
Assembler Electronic Music Workshop. Arts + Literature Laboratory, 2 p.m. (free)
In an effort to build a bit more community around electronic music in Madison, Tone Madison teamed up with locally based musician Thomas Wincek (All Tiny Creatures, Volcano Choir, Field Report) to create Assembler, a collaborative workshop focused on demystifying electronic gear and techniques. Rather than teaching the session as a class, Wincek will take a collaborative approach, encouraging attendees of all interests and skill levels to bring their gear, problems, and questions. This first session will focus on hardware, software, and the interactions between them, and will wrap up with Wincek performing some of the solo material he’s been working on lately. We’ll also be raffling off some items from MadCity Music Exchange and Dwarfcraft Devices. — SG
SUNDAY MAY 28
Pallbearer, Inter Arma, Gatecreeper. High Noon Saloon, 8 p.m.
Little Rock, Arkansas band Pallbearer have taken doom in a mournful, graceful, and slightly prog-infused direction over the course of three albums. The latest, this year’s Heartless, keeps on developing the sleek but soulful vein the band found with 2014’s Foundations Of Burden, with Brett Campbell’s balefully gorgeous vocals soaring over trudging, chorus, tinged riffs. Make sure to show up in time for Richmond’s Inter Arma, whose 2016 album Paradise Gallows is a bruising epic. — SG
Loop Retard, Plastic Crimewave Syndicate, Twichard. Mickey’s Tavern, 10:30 p.m. (free)
Plastic Crimewave, the all-encompassing creative moniker of Steve Kraków, is something of a Chicago institution, not only for his prolific musical output but also for projects like the “Secret History Of Chicago Music” comic in the Chicago Reader and his Galactic Zoo Dossier magazine. His music project Plastic Crimewave Syndicate churns up a mix of heavy psych-rock, Krautrock, and disorienting avant-garde music. — SG
TUESDAY MAY 30
Proud Parents, Lung, Tippy. Mickey’s Tavern, 10:30 p.m. (free)
The satisfying, gritty thrum of an electric cello powers Cincinnati duo Lung’s songs, using the instrument with a resourcefulness and balance that’s rare among rock bands who use the instrument. Cellist Kate Wakefield finds a lot of ways to straddle the roles of bass and chunky rhythm guitar, which good because the only other things in the mix are her vocals and Daisy Caplan’s drums. The band’s recent album Bottom Of The Barrel also boasts strong songwriting, with tracks like “Actor” and “Hypochondriac” swinging between anthemic hooks and sour-witted indie-rock. This show also marks the end of a spring tour for Madison power-pop standouts Proud Parents, who will have a new live recording to share here. Fellow Madison band Tippy rounds out an excellent bill here. — SG
WEDNESDAY MAY 31
Cap Times Talks: Should Madison Privatize More Park Services? Central Library, 7 p.m.
The Capital Times’ series of live panel discussions frequently hits the nail on the head by simply choosing the right question, and this one couldn’t be better timed. The City of Madison has long privatized some functions in city parks, but a couple of high-profile moves lately call into question how far that should go. Over on the east side’s Olbrich Park, a Madison alder has been accused of helping her developer husband get a sweetheart deal on operating a new beer garden. At the city-owned Breese Stevens Field on East Wash, Big Top Baseball (which also owns the Madison Mallards) has a contract to put on concerts and other events, and its approach includes cushy VIP packages and gentrification-friendly abominations like $500 picnic baskets. However you feel about those particular examples, there’s no doubting that public parks are an essential part of any city’s soul, and that privatizing services in them impacts their character. Cap Times city-government reporter Abigail Becker will moderate this panel, which includes representatives from Big Top, the Madison Parks Division, the Common Council, the Wisconsin Alcohol Policy Project, and Capitol Neighborhoods Inc. — SG