Spotlight Cinema, Aparna Nancherla, Lady Laughs, Dave Weigel, and more events of note in Madison this week. | By Emili Earhart, Scott Gordon, Chris Lay, Grant Phipps, Joel Shanahan
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THURSDAY NOVEMBER 10
Equinox Flower. Union South Marquee, 7 p.m. (free)
Yasujiro Ozu’s 1958 film Equinox Flower was his first in color and uses color well, with its measured, sympathetic take on a generational clash in the traditional Japanese Hirayama family. The title of Equinox Flower, which refers to the autumnal red amaryllis, reflects the emphasis on shades of red throughout, as well as its passionately independent heroine, Setsuko (Ineko Arima). After rejecting forceful father Wataru (Shin Saburi)’s choice of spouse to pursue her own love interest, Setsuko is swept up in intricately written familial scenarios that humanely address the absurdity of social conventions. Ultimately, the calming, subtly comic rhythms of the film turn a particularly modern ear to the women characters, including Wataru’s wise wife Kiyoko (Kinuyo Tanaka), who attempts to convince her husband of the error of his unyielding patriarchy. UW Emeritus professor and author of Ozu And The Poetics Of Cinema, David Bordwell, who cordially celebrates Ozu’s superlative work as “modest in effect yet extravagantly precise in execution,” will introduce a new DCP restoration and lead a Q&A after the screening. —Grant Phipps
Tommy: A Bluegrass Opry. Capitol Theater, 7:30 p.m.
There really hasn’t been a tremendous amount of innovation in the genre of bluegrass since its admittedly innovative inception. In the 1970s there was an influx of hippies like The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and John Hartford, who pushed the sound and tone into weirder territory, but otherwise the form has more or less stayed the same through the decades. Springfield, Missouri band The Hillbenders, though, had the bright idea to take that sandbox and simply drop it down in the neighborhood of rock-opera bombast with their whole-cloth reworking of The Who’s internally expansive 1969 concept album Tommy, which they will perform live here. Everything about this operation is deeply weird, but in just the right ways. While they might not be the first band to hitch their apple cart to rock covers (Hayseed Dixie beat em to the punch by a decade), the straight-faced commitment to the admittedly outlandish conceit, coupled with masterful technicality, results in something way better than it has any right to be. —Chris Lay
Kazmir, The Harlequins, Soup Moat, We Should Have Been DJs. Mickey’s Tavern, 10 p.m. (free)
Boasting guitarist Jason Jolly of fallen cosmic destroyers Catacombz, Milwaukee’s Soup Moat scales back on the technicality of the former and replaces it with the frantic bite of 1980s hardcore. That said, 2015’s Enjoy Your Hobbies EP is hardly a straight-up hardcore effort, with its growling and textured guitar riffs and whiplash tempo shifts. Erupting from a scorched wasteland of hissing feedback and recorder chaos, “nevernotfuckedup” sets a heavy precedent for the rest of the release with its quaking rhythms, rumbling guitar riffs, and sandpaper growls. Rounding out the bill will be Cincinatti’s bizarro garage outfit The Harlequins, playfully unsettling Madisonian art-punks We Should Have Been DJs, and jangly psych-rock locals Kazmir. —Joel Shanahan
Alex G, LVL Up, Brandon Can’t Dance. Frequency, 8 p.m.
It’s been a bonkers year for Philadelphia-based singer-songwriter and guitarist Alex Giannascoli, who recently garnered some deserved recognition for his extensive collaboration with Frank Ocean on the pair of brilliant long-players he dropped earlier this year in Blonde and Endless. For this tour, Giannascoli is performing behind 2015’s Beach Music, a collection of reclined guitar-pop tunes that expertly blend the adventurous guitar passages of Durutti Column with subdued but whip-smart songwriting chops. Chordy charmers like “Bug” and “Kicker” find the album at its most immediate and inviting, with Giannascoli’s breathy vocal lines twisting over a tastefully sugary progression that’s colored in lightly with contorting textures and feedback. However, the album shapeshifts a bit—between the bleakly loungey shuffle of “In Love,” synth-powered meditation “Look Out,” and the scattershot psych-pop of “Station.” —JS
Lady Laughs. Through November 12, multiple venues, see link for full schedule.
Madison-based comedian Dina Nina Martinez is inaugurating her Lady Laughs comedy festival in ambitious fashion, with more than a dozen separate showcases across the weekend, each featuring multiple comedians and storytellers from Madison and across the U.S. and Canada. The shows are spread across three venues—Plan B, The Frequency, and Glass Nickel Pizza on Atwood—and encompass stand-up, sketch comedy, storytelling, and improv formats. So it’s a lot, but the pricing is actually quite reasonable ($20 for weekend passes, $8 for day passes) and makes it fairly easy to sample a varied selection. And, in way more of a gracious gesture than dudes deserve right now, the festival oddly kicks off with an all-male showcase before the dozens of women comics take the reins. —SG
FRIDAY NOVEMBER 11
Aparna Nancherla. Memorial Union Play Circle, 7 p.m. (free)
Aparna Nancherla has been making a name for herself in the tough-as-nails NYC stand-up scene for a while, but over the past year or so she’s begun to explode past those confines and get broader recognition in the indie comedy world. Nancherla’s well-honed material explores insecurities both external and internal, and she even finds ways to make the mundanities of city life personal. That Nancherla pointedly discusses her battles with depression in her act makes her a perfect performer for an event designed to raise awareness of mental illness and addiction on campus, and that she delivers it all with warmth and charm is all the better. —CL
Steven Wright. Barrymore, 8 p.m.
Well-crafted jokes are amazing things. They are little technical wonders of misdirection, built as lean as possible, but, when delivered correctly, their effect can far exceed the sum of their parts. While you might know him as the dude on the couch from Half Baked or the radio DJ from Reservoir Dogs, Steven Wright is about as close to a living comedy legend as we’re likely to see swing through town anytime soon (sadly, you’ll have to wait until next February to see Adam Devine on stage). Wright’s material is airtight in its construction, with some jokes as sort as a sentence, but, in seeming defiance of the economy of words (and the barest minimum effort of delivery) that got you there, each one wrings the maximum punchline payload. —CL
Clocks In Motion. First Unitarian Society of Madison, 7:30 p.m.
It seems that in today’s world of innovative classical music, the composer-performer relationship has become essential, maybe more than ever. Madison-based percussion quartet Clocks In Motion and composers Laura Schwendinger and Joseph Koykkar exemplify this symbiosis at this show, performing two world premieres written specifically for the ensemble. Both pieces should be particularly interesting, with Schwendinger’s Aviary channelling a variety of imaginary bird songs, and Koykkar’s Time In Transcendence featuring microtonality that requires handmade percussion instruments. While holding extensive and largely successful careers as composers, Schwendinger and Koykkar reside in Madison and are members of the UW-Madison faculty in the music composition and dance departments, respectively. This local, innovative, close-knit-collaborative program will also feature 20th and 21st century works by Louis Andriessen, Steve Reich, and Marc Mellits performed by Clocks In Motion. —Emili Earhart
Heaven’s Gate. Vilas Hall, 7 p.m. (free)
While the Michael Cimino-directed Heaven’s Gate has been favorably revisited since its 1980 release, the film is best known for being a monstrous flop that took a disastrous path to completion and lost over $40,000,000 at the box office. Based loosely on the Johnson County War, this western stars country music icon Kris Kristofferson as James Averill, a Marshall in Johnson County, Wyoming who becomes entangled in a brutal battle between European settlers and cattle barons. —JS
SATURDAY NOVEMBER 12
Earworms, The Central, Mellow Harsher, No Question. Mickey’s Tavern, 10 p.m. (free)
Brooklyn’s Earworms won’t be dropping their new LP Superalien Coliseum until next month, but the hyper-technical post-hardcore outfit recently teased the first single, “Failsafe.” The tune features the trio’s tightly wound mix of crookedly melodic riffing, filthy bass tones, and powerfully precise drum work, as guitarist-vocalist Neil Halpin’s melodic screams push over the top. While Earworms’ airtight and conventionally structured take on hardcore sounds almost Warped Tour-ready in presentation, Madisonian grindcore destroyers Mellow Harsher and no-frills, batshit hardcore outfit No Question will represent the bleaker, more chaotic edge of the punk spectrum. Fellow locals The Central’s shapeshifting mesh of blistering hardcore and mathy art-rock should sit well between the two extremes. —JS
Madison Hip-Hop Awards. Barrymore, 7 p.m.
Local and regional music awards like the MAMAs and the WAMIs are famously spotty affairs, reflecting a hit-and-miss cross section of artists and awkwardly granting a Grammys aesthetic onto smallish music scenes. But the Madison Area Music Awards, now in its seventh year, has a few things going for it, namely that it’s got a specific focus (with categories that fit the logic of the genre, like collab of the year and mixtape of the year) and that it’s a genuinely exciting time for Madison-based hip-hop artists. Plus, the event is run by the Urban Community Arts Network, which has been putting on shows in places like James Madison Park and on the square for several years, and involves musical heavies like DJ Pain 1. This year’s nominees manage to catch at least a few of the key folks who’ve made it stand out recently, including Lucien Parker, Broadway, 3rd Dimension, Ra’Shaun, and Trapo—though Rich Robbins and his excellent album All.This.Gold are bizarrely absent from the list. This year’s awards will feature live sets from rapper Keon Andre, R&B group Trend N Topic, Milwaukee rapper DJ Sixteen, and the dance team X-Clusive Movement. —SG
SUNDAY NOVEMBER 13
Sid Boyum Benefit. Harmony Bar, 4:30 p.m.
It’s been more than a year since a group of Madisonians began an effort to preserve the abandoned home and many also-abandoned work of sculptor Sid Boyum. (If you’ve ever strolled down Atwood Avenue, you’ve seen Boyum’s work.) They’ve formed a non-profit called Friends of Sid Boyum, marshaled a lot of community support, and issued a delightful benefit T-shirt. The Friends recently celebrated a big victory when they managed to purchase the artist’s abandoned East Side home, where a lot of his concrete sculptures and paper works were also languishing. Now they have to plan the next steps—which might include turning the house into a museum. This event, featuring a raffle and live music from Youngdyke and Griffin Paul And The Lesser Evil Band, will raise money for the Friends’ ongoing work. —Scott Gordon
Shane Mauss: A Good Trip. Comedy Club on State, 7:30 p.m.
It’s rare for the Comedy Club on State to host a show on an evening outside its usual Thursday-through-Saturday schedule, but thankfully it’s making an exception for Shane Mauss’ psychedelic sense-talking one-man show, A Good Trip. Originally from La Crosse, Mauss is no stranger to longer-form deep dives into single topics—he recently dedicated an entire album to the time he broke both of his feet. With A Good Trip, the topic at hand will be Mauss’s experiences bouncing around inside his own head, high on mushrooms and LSD. While it might be a bit more loose and story-centric than joke-focused, expect an evening that will be as enlightening as it will be entertaining, touching on the topics of hallucination and self-discovery while avoiding the usual drug-humor tropes, as well as some side trips into the legal issues surrounding these mind-bending substances. —CL
Williamson Magnetic First Anniversary. Williamson Magnetic Recording Company, 6 p.m.
Williamson Magnetic Recording Company opened up last November in the basement of the Nature’s Bakery building on Willy Street, with the goal of providing affordable, analog-only recording. Founders Tessa Echeverria (who has played in several Madison bands, including Jonesies) and Mark Haines (a former Smart Studios engineer) have also turned the space into a much-needed additional venue for all-ages shows. (Full disclosure: We’ve booked a couple of Tone Madison-presented shows there, and the studio also advertises with us.) Here the studio celebrates its first anniversary with live sets from several artists who have recorded there or will record there soon: Versatile singer-guitarist Louka Patenaude, country outfit American Feedbag, concise indie-pop smartasses Jonesies, bluesy psych-rockers Royal Station, and Miyha, a new project led by Alejandra Perez of Tarpaulin and featuring members of Tippy, We Should Have Been DJs, and Christian Dior. —SG
Micro-Wave Cinema: Driftwood. Vilas Hall, 7 p.m. (free)
From our preview a couple of months back: “Eagle-eyed Micro-Wave Cinema fans might recognize actor Joslyn Jensen from Funny Bunny, which closed out the series’ schedule last December. In the mostly silent film Driftwood, Jensen plays a woman who mysteriously washes ashore on a beach and is taken in (kidnapped?) by a man who locks her up in his cabin with him. Ostensibly playing with the “Women in prison” grindhouse subgenre, Driftwood ends up presenting a complex set of metaphors that go past mere criticisms of the possessiveness of the male gaze and eventually ask metaphysical and existential questions about how reality itself is shaped. Clocking in at a lean 75 minutes, the directorial debut of Paul Taylor (which won the Slamdance Jury Award for Narrative Feature this year) is the sort of subdued yet confident filmmaking that genuinely excites me.” —CL
Driftwood Trailer from pault on Vimeo.
KMFD, Asumaya, And Illusions. Mickey’s Tavern, 10 p.m. (free)
Pittsburgh-based experimentalist Keith DeVries creates a fascinating collection of abstract vignettes, heady synth meditations, and unraveling grooves under the name KMFD. On the funkier end, the jazz-infused “Be Here Then” is a beautifully bizarre, collage-esque journey that starts with slippery percussion breaks, wobbling synthesizers, and meandering saxophone, before giving way to a thicker electronic rhythm that still maintains the loose humanity of the overall track. Madison-based multi-instrumentalist, loop wizard, and one-man post-punk band Asumaya (the brainchild of Control drummer-vocalist Luke Bassuener) should complement DeVries’ penchant for worldly rhythmic slices nicely, as he builds up his pop-focused tunes live—one kalimba, drum, or bass guitar loop at a time. —JS
MONDAY NOVEMBER 14
Rufus Du Sol, Cassian, Dena Amay. Majestic, 8 p.m.
As with Disclosure and countless others before them, Sydney, Australia-based dance-popsters Rufus Du Sol grab shards of influence from house music, croony indie-rock, and EDM, channelling it into a hyper-polished glob of thirsty, saccharine-pop. On this year’s Bloom, we hear a trio as hungry for the airwaves as they are for a slot at Electric Daisy Carnival—and the formula is obviously working for them, as many of the shows on their current tour have already sold out. Whether it’s the harmony-laden “Brighter,” the predictably moody chords of “Say A Prayer For Me,” or the smooth guitar line that guides “Daylight” along, the group’s formulaic sheen makes it tough for us not to hear this in relation to house music as we do Coldplay to art-rock. —JS
TUESDAY NOVEMBER 15
Consent, Amplified: Panel Discussion. Arts + Literature Laboratory, 7 p.m. (free)
When it comes to going out to shows and dance nights, marginalized people—from women to people of color to members of the LGBT community—often face a lower level of safety and respect. Tired of hearing about these things in anecdotal dribs and drabs, we at Tone Madison wanted to shine a more public light on harassment and safety at shows and in the music community generally, and talk about how people can do better. We begin the effort with a survey anyone can take confidentially and with this panel discussion moderated by Madison-based journalist and musician Emily Mills. Panelists Lili Luxe, Dana Pellebon, Martha White, and Sarah Akawa will offer a variety of perspectives on these issues, from experiences that include organizing safe dance nights for marginalized people and co-owning a popular downtown club. The conversation will also be recorded for an episode of the Tone Madison podcast. —SG
Dave Weigel. Sewell Social Sciences Building (1180 Observatory Drive), 11 a.m. and Pyle Center (702 Langdon St.), 4 p.m.
Through a mix of incisive analysis, deep reporting, an understanding of the significance of upstart political movements, and ruthless wit, Dave Weigel has become one of the finest political journalists of his generation. He has bounced around among a number of publications over the past decade, from USA Today to Reason to The Washington Post to Slate to Bloomberg Politics and back to the Post again. He’ll be visiting Madison to participate in two public events analyzing the impact of 2016’s bizarre and astonishing presidential election. The first will be a conversation with Capital Times political reporter Jessie Opoien, and the second will have Weigel in conversation with UW-Madison professors Kathy Cramer and Mike Wagner and conservative radio host/#NeverTrump-er Charlie Sykes. It’s worth catching either event for Weigel’s substantive assessment of both the races and the issues, and to pester him about his forthcoming book about progressive rock. —SG
The Fits. Madison Public Library, Pinney Branch (204 Cottage Grove Rd.), 6:30 p.m. (free)
Writer-director Anna Rose Holmer’s 2015 feature debut, The Fits, is one of the most electrifying experiences in recent cinema. With a dizzying union of meditative art cinema and spirited choreography, The Fits chronicles the training routines of 11-year-old tomboy Toni (Royalty Hightower), who initially bobs and weaves in the boxing ring with her brother Jermaine (Da’Sean Minor). However, after she glimpses the uninhibited interpretative dances of The Lionesses (Cincinnati’s own Q-Kidz Dance Team) down in the hall in the gymnasium, Toni pivots her energy to their rigorous practices as captains Legs (Makyla Burnam) and Karisma (Inayah Rodgers) stress the mindset of the team over the individual. This group ego contagiously produces a series of spasmodic “fits,” which the young women both fear and embrace as rites of passage. Through ecstatically liberating movements that elevate a brooding ambient-woodwind score, Holmer eloquently captures the intimate coming-of-age narrative, and uses the lens of a psychological thriller to explore themes of gender, conformity, and mass hysteria. This Pinney Library presentation of the film will be introduced by Wisconsin Film Festival Coordinator Ben Reiser. —GP
WEDNESDAY NOVEMBER 16
Spotlight Cinema: Don’t Call Me Son. Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, 7 p.m.
MMoCA’s autumn Spotlight Cinema calendar concludes with Anna Muylaert’s Don’t Call Me Son, a commanding censure of conservatism in the current Brazilian landscape, and the follow-up to her riveting debut, The Second Mother (which screened at the 2015 Wisconsin Film Festival). Here, Muylaert’s brisk neo-realist focus is squarely on androgynous 17-year-old Pierre (Naomi Nero), who is stunned at results of a DNA test that reveal he was taken from his wealthy biological parents by his current working-class mom Aracy (Dani Nefussi). From the arms of social workers, Pierre is then forced into the burdens of his “real” home. While he wrestles with issues of gender identity, his polite acquiescence evolves into full-on rebellion against a newfound father figure (Matheus Nachtergaele)’s transphobia and narrow definition of masculinity, which explains the assertion of the film’s English-translated title. Nefussi also plays Pierre’s birth mother Glória in a dazzling dual role, a device that meshes well with resonant themes of individuality as well as the haunting bonds of one’s childhood. Glória’s efforts to assist Pierre’s assimilation and recognize his sexuality are handled with heartbreaking nuance in this Berlinale Film Festival LGBT (Teddy) award-winner. —GP
Protomartyr, Fred Thomas, Melkbelly. High Noon Saloon, 8 p.m.
Michigan native Fred Thomas has spent more than 20 years making music in a variety of projects—the best known being Saturday Looks Good To Me—that channel his love for sounds ranging from sugary 1960s pop to dub. Last year’s album All Are Saved was Thomas’ eighth under his own name, though even he calls many of his previous solo releases “obscure.” All Are Saved and the follow-up Changer (coming out in January) both showcase a more raw and stream-of-consciousness tendency in Thomas’ songwriting. On Saved tracks like “Bad Blood” and “Expo 87” and Changer‘s punchy opener “Misremembered,” Thomas seems to be unpacking the dozens of ambivalent memories and small gripes that pile up over a lifetime, but in a way that invests it all with sharp humor and a long-term perspective. His production and arrangements are as scrappily resourceful as ever, incorporating barbed power-pop guitars, shiny horns and harmonies, and the occasional playfully warped synth. He plays solo here, opening up for engagingly bleak Detroit post-punk outfit Protomartyr. —SG
Correction: This article initially listed the incorrect date for Dave Weigel’s talks at UW-Madison. They take place on November 15, not November 14.