Lil Durk, Bereft, Pussy Riot, Alejandro Escovedo, and more events of note in Madison this week. | By Emil Earhart, Scott Gordon, Chris Lay, Mike Noto, Grant Phipps, Chali Pittman, Joel Shanahan
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THURSDAY NOVEMBER 17
Jon Dore. Comedy Club on State, through Nov. 19, see link for all showtimes.
You might recognize Jon Dore as the guy who opened for Tig Notaro in last year’s pleasantly uncomfortable Showtime special Knock Knock, It’s Tig Notaro. Even though Notaro got top billing, the film featured about as much actual stand-up from Dore as it did from Notaro, and drew much of its charm from Dore’s ability to push Notaro’s already established level of ridiculousness to new heights. It’s been a rough week or so for lots of folks in his native Canada and elsewhere on this continent, and Dore’s twisted take on joke structure, playful approach to the profane, and comforting Canuckisms are perhaps just what some folks might need of. Anchoring the evening will be Antonio Aguilar and David Freeburg, both of whom got their start right here in Madison. —Chris Lay
Alejandro Escovedo, Jesse Malin. High Noon Saloon, 8 p.m.
Texan singer-songwriter Alejandro Escovedo launched his solo career with 1992’s album Gravity, after years of playing in bands like punk outfit The Nuns and roots-rockers True Believers. Escovedo’s work has rugged foundations in country, rock ‘n’ roll, and Mexican folk music, and though it’s sometimes gut-wrenching, it also tends to have a stubborn hopefulness that shines through. It’s hard not to see his solo discography as having two distinct periods, separated by his near-fatal bout with hepatitis in the early 2000s. His first album after recovering, 2006’s The Boxing Mirror, journeys through weeping, sorrowful dirges and bursts of punk-fueled anxiety, which Escovedo and producer John Cale thread into a cohesive and emotionally complex whole—and probably still the best thing he’s done. The next, 2008’s Real Animal, unpacks Escovedo’s punk-rock days with an also-excellent balance of fondness, humor, and tragedy. His three albums since then, including the new Burn Something Beautiful, have been a bit spottier, but still have their charms, especially on “San Antonio Rain,” from 2012’s Big Station. Escovedo plays here in a full-band setting, so expect a punchy set that reaches deep into his discography. —SG
Pussy Riot. Wisconsin Union Theater, 8 p.m.
Rather than perform one of their confrontational sets, Russian dissident artists Pussy Riot come the Union Theater this week for a more restrained Q&A session. The main attraction of this artist collective is their history of confrontational protest of oppressive rule, with an approach that mixes performance art, hardcore punk, and radical politics. Most of us know them as an international cause célèbre that erupted in 2012, when three members were imprisoned under the charge of “hooliganism” after singing their protest song—i.e. a “punk prayer”—“Virgin Mary, Put Putin Away” in Moscow’s main cathedral, which prompted a religious insult ban in Russia. In the wake of the destruction that this election season has left, we might appreciate the fact that these neon-balaclava-clad artists dedicate their lives to relentless protest against all breeds of strongmen and all manners of systemic oppression. A topical case in point—their satire of Donald Trump’s petrifying slogan in their recent music video “Make America Great Again.” (Trigger warning: graphic imagery and assault.) Hardcore/ feminist-punk nerds might also enjoy diving deeper into Pussy Riot’s discography, starting with “Kropotkin Vodka.” Tickets are $20 for the general public and free but ticketed for UW students. —Chali Pittman
Bad Cinema: Prophecy. Central Library, 6:30 p.m.
Released in 1979 at the dawn of Vancouver’s massive film industry, Prophecy is John Frankenheimer’s notoriously inept, enviro-horror shitshow. Stone-serious and irony-free, it’s also probably the only film in which a giant salmon eats a fucking duck. Robert Foxworth offers a riveting portrayal of Dr. Robert Verne, an EPA agent who works with his wife Maggie Verne (Talia Shire) to investigate a paper mill that’s morphing woodland creatures into mutants with its waste. Come early for the chainsaws, stay late for the mutant raccoons. —Joel Shanahan
Strange Brew. Chazen Museum of Art, 7 p.m. (free)
Originally created for SCTV to take a piss on the Canadian Radio-Television And Telecommunications Commission’s “Canadian content” requirements, Bob and Doug McKenzie were two goonish brothers played by Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas for a recurring sketch called The Great White North. The characters play on the dumbest Canadian-hick stereotypes imaginable—namely drunkenness and saying “hoser” a lot. Only a couple of comedy wizards like Moranis and Thomas could successfully flesh this out into 1983’s Strange Brew, a full-length film and, uh, also a loose adaption of Hamlet. After being offered jobs at the Elsinore Brewing Company (after trying to weasel their way into free beer by presenting the brewery with a mouse in a beer bottle), the brothers discover that sinister Brewmeister Smith (Max von Sydow) is preparing to take over the world by spiking the brew with mind-control drugs. This screening is cheekily paired with UW Cinematheque’s screening last week of Laurence Olivier’s more traditional film adaptation of Hamlet. —JS
FRIDAY NOVEMBER 18
Ultimate Bedtime. Art In, 6 p.m.
Art In on East Wash has proven to be a handy all-ages venue, and because it’s a large-ish space, it’s also a good place to combine music with art shows. The Ultimate Bedtime event is a group show featuring work from about two dozen artists, many of whom are rooted in punk, skateboard culture, tattooing, and other persuasions of mischievous outsider art. Live music at the event features a slow-burning Chicago psych-rockers Dead Feathers, in addition to Madison bands Lurk Hards, Clean Room, and No Hoax. —SG
Pollinators, Sat. Nite Duets, Pink Beam. Williamson Magnetic Recording Company, 8 p.m.
I wonder if, after the success of their latest album, Milwaukee slacker-rockers Sat. Nite Duets are going to lose any of that unconcerned, effortless charm for which they are so admired. Released this past September, Air Guitar draws on countless styles from track to track. But connects all that variety with a delightful sense of foolishness that carries you to the end of the of the last organ-jam of the album—offering a tongue-in-cheek, all-together-now vision of sloppy camaraderie. Flirting with a sort of caricature along the lines of The Fugs First Album, Sat. Nite Duets has something for everyone to ridicule, from a melodramatic ballad embellished by hyperbolic vibrato (“Annie’s X”) to a cheesy power-pop anthem that almost fools you into thinking this is just another garage band (“Attached to the Lamp”). Also playing behind a 2016 release are local sad-boy indie rockers Pollinators, with material released this past April on Rare Plant. Rockford’s Pink Beam also have something new to offer: Their latest full-length, Big Vacation, channels angsty power-pop filled with nostalgic, extravagant vocal harmonies. —Emili Earhart
Lil Durk, Famous Dex, Wintr, DJay Flo. Overture Hall, 8 p.m.
It’s fairly safe to say the last artist most people would expect to see at the Overture Center is Lil Durk, who’s made a name for himself as one of the best and most well-loved rappers to surface from the Chicago drill movement. But here he is on some misbegotten corporate money-grab called the Twisted Wasteland College Tour 2016, with stylistically dissimilar Chicago rapper Famous Dex and others. The strangeness of the situation aside, Durk is worth catching. To begin with, he’s always been one of the most agile MC’s in drill. Fellow drill rappers like Fredo Santana and Lil Reese usually prefer to make their points through minimal and hugely effective blunt force, but Durk has managed to be as menacingly charismatic as anyone else while rapping rings around all but a few of his contemporaries. Just as importantly, he’s also mastered writing and singing memorably melodic hooks: his chilling underground smash “Dis Ain’t What U Want” is as effective as it is because of the robotic and intimidating chorus he emotionlessly sings throughout. His second studio album, Lil Durk 2X, arrived in July, and was a definite improvement from his somewhat confused debut Remember My Name; here’s hoping that Durk manages to crack the charts in the future with an anthem that gets proper promotion. —Mike Noto
InDIGenous: Tim Whalen Nonet. Memorial Union Play Circle Theater, 7:30 p.m.
Pianist Tim Whalen moved from Madison to DC in 2010, but has kept up connections with his bands here, including a nine-piece that features excellent Madison-area jazz players like bassist Nick Moran, saxophonist Anders Svanoe, trombone player Darren Sterud, and trumpeter Dave Cooper. On the 2008 album Magnus (recorded live at defunct jazz venue Restaurant Magnus), the nonet focuses on Whalen’s original compositions with, balancing detailed harmonic layering with the kind of brisk interplay one might expect from a smaller group. On “Long Walk,” the approach is a bit more meditative, but the piece still has an exciting way of jumping around and not letting the listener get too settled in. Songs like “Cafe Gitmo,” on the other hand, favor funky, expansive grooves, while “Alabama” balances slinky swing with almost avant-garde side trips intro droning bass and fractured rhythm. Whalen has some new material prepared for this show; if it’s anything like the nonet’s previous efforts, it’ll be a lively and wide-ranging night of jazz. —SG
Robyn Hitchcock, Emma Swift. Stoughton Opera House, 7:30 p.m.
While contemporary “indie-folk” vocalists like Destroyer’s Dan Bejar and Decemberists’ Colin Meloy aped the living shit out of Robyn Hitchcock’s vocal tone, this doesn’t change the fact that the ex-Soft Boy, psychedelic wizard, and sonic auteur casts a massive shadow when it comes to warped pop comforts and overall taste. Whether it’s the disaffected wail of Soft Boys’ “I Wanna Destroy You,” the hypnotic power-pop leanings of “Madonna Of The Wasps” from 1989’s Queen Elvis, or waltzing psych-pop classic “I Often Dream Of Trains,” Hitchcock’s legacy of lush guitar interplay, meticulous songcraft, and cockney rasp always feel pretty singular. Sure, Hitchcock hasn’t dropped a new proper album since 2014’s The Man Upstairs, but hell, he’s got well over three decades of work under his belt to pull from. —JS
The Blind Shake, Fire Retarded, Cap Alan. Mickey’s Tavern, 10:30 p.m. (free)
There are a few bands out there that are invariably at their best live, and Minneapolis trio The Blind Shake are one of those bands. Their records are solid, but to really grasp what makes this band special, you’ve got to witness the phenomenal amount of energy they exert onstage. From their amusingly memorable appearance—three bald guys who often look practically identical, two of whom are brothers—to the constant group vocals, kinetic tempos and stomping garage riffs that distinguish their sound, their music presents itself as a relentless and seamless whole in the live setting. But there are other things besides their sheer drive and ensemble chemistry that make them special. The Blind Shake also have a somewhat nonstandard instrumental lineup of guitar, drums and, baritone guitar. The baritone guitar is a fascinating instrument that’s essentially in between a standard guitar and a standard bass, and one of the best things about the group’s music is the semi-chordal, unorthodox low end that it provides. There’s a lot to enjoy in just hearing the dry grind of the baritone continually unify with or rebound against the wiry treble of the guitar sound, and The Blind Shake do a fantastic job of incorporating that inherent tonal battle into the tremendously fun, incessant tension and release of their songs. —MN
SATURDAY NOVEMBER 19
Look: A Presentation Of 78 RPM Records. Mother Fool’s, 8 p.m.
Madison-based musician Taylor Rushing will draw on his time as a fan and student of American vernacular music in this presentation, where he’ll be playing and discussing a collection of old 78s. Rushing says the first half of the talk will focus on early country music and how Southern vernacular music first came to be recorded. Next, he’ll move on to talking about what he calls “some very unique, outsider recordings of the era that really define the ambiguous nature of American music.” Rushing says attendees should “plan to hear The Carter Family, some old timey fiddling, some down home blues and some sad harmonica.” —SG
Michael Witwer. Central Library, 4 p.m. (free)
Wisconsin’s proudest and deepest connection to gaming and nerd culture is probably Lake Geneva native Gary Gygax, co-creator of the immortal role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons, who died in 2008. Chicago-based author Michael Witwer visits here to share his 2015 Book Empire Of Imagination: Gary Gygax And The Birth Of Dungeons & Dragons. The book goes beyond the game itself and its impact to give a bigger-picture overview of Gygax’s career. Witer’s talk here is part of the Madison Public Library’s celebration of International Games Day. —SG
SUNDAY NOVEMBER 20
Polish Film Festival. Union South Marquee, 1 & 3 p.m.; continues Dec. 4.
The 26th annual Polish Film Festival, co-presented by WUD Film and the UW-Madison Polish Student Association, is uniquely split across two Sunday afternoons in two separate months this fall (Nov. 20 and Dec. 4) in the Union South Marquee Theater. Showcasing the wide range of Polish cinema, this first pairing includes Lukasz Grzegorzek’s hip relationship comedy Kamper, at 1 p.m. followed by Krzysztof Łukaszewicz’s rousing Iraqi War survival narrative Karbala at 3 p.m. While tapping into a couple’s mutual fears of commitment and impending parenthood, the lighter, casual approach to the subject matter of Kamper recalls the simultaneous glorification and condemnation of men’s everlasting adolescence in Judd Apatow films. In the face of his wife Mania (Marta Nieradkiewicz)’s infidelity, the titular character (Piotr Zurawski), a video game developer, royally embarrasses himself when trying to size up Mania’s mentor/fling. Karbala, on the other hand, is a near-180-degree switch from the shenanigans in Grzegorzek’s feature. It chronicles the harrowing true tale of collective heroism during Operation Iraqi Freedom and the Shiite rebellion in 2004. When Karbala’s City Hall falls under the siege of militants, base lines of communication are severed for a total of 40 Polish and 40 Bulgarian soldiers. As the troupe is stranded without adequate rations and ammunition, Łukaszewicz’s immersive handheld lens instills their ordeals with a marked urgency. —Grant Phipps
MONDAY NOVEMBER 21
Madison Stands With Standing Rock: The Flavor That Kills, Ballet Folklorico De Carlos Y Sonia Avila, Cris Plata With Extra Hot. High Noon Saloon, 8:30 p.m.
This show, organized by Madison musician and filmmaker Wendy Schneider (Bugatti Type 35, The Smart Studios Story), will raise money to support activists trying to block construction of an oil pipeline across tribal lands on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota. The protests have implications for drinking water quality and the sovereignty of tribal nations, and peaceful demonstrators have been attacked with dogs, tear gas, and rubber bullets. The show will feature sets from Madison R&B-rockers The Flavor That Kills, traditional dance group Ballet Folklorico De Carlos Y Sonia Avila, and country/Mexican-folk hybridizer Cris Plata and his band Extra Hot. —SG
Distinguished Lecture Series: Manu Prakash. Wisconsin Union Theater, 7 p.m. (free)
Stanford professor Manu Prakash works at the intersection of physics, biology, and extremely resourceful engineering. The recent MacArthur Grant recipient’s most famous invention is the foldscope, a microscope that is made mostly of paper. It’s meant to perform decently as a field microscope, and to cost less than a dollar. It’s part of Prakaash’s broader efforts to make science education more accessible across economic boundaries, a subject he’ll hopefully address in this Distinguished Lecture Series talk. —SG
Layzie Bone, Yung Saint, Landon Devon, Hanks. Frequency, 8 p.m.
Ever since Cleveland rap legends Bone Thugs-N-Harmony dropped 1994’s Creepin On Ah Come Up, the synergy between all their voices—whether singing deceptively poppy hooks or dropping fierce bars—has been both refreshing and game-changing. Even when collaborating with Notorious B.I.G. on “Notorious Thugs” or Phil Collins on the very real “Take Me Home,” all five voices feel totally essential, like you shouldn’t hear Flesh-N-Bone without the other four emcees. Somewhere in between Krayzie Bone’s deep, reclined flow and Bizzy Bone’s wildly anxious bars rests the singular delivery of Layzie Bone—in all its aggressive, collected, and agile glory. This also means that when Bone members go solo, the absence of the other voices (and longtime Bone collaborator DJ U-Neek’s cleverly eerie production) tends to be felt, especially on Layzie’s 2012 mixtape Law Of Attraction. Make no mistake, in tunes like Drake-sampling “On The Rise” and the playful, 8-bit synth-laden “Where You Been Layzie,” the veteran rapper’s twisting flow is as rapidfire and sharp as ever. But the modernized Dirty South-channeling production and lack of accompaniment make them pale in comparison to ominous, piano-powered “Down ‘71 (The Getaway)” from 1995’s E 1999 Eternal or the creepy, shotgun-punctuated “Thug Luv” from 1997’s The Art Of War. —JS
TUESDAY NOVEMBER 22
Bongzilla, Bereft, Powerwagon. High Noon Saloon, 8 p.m.
This is show is sludge institution Bongzilla’s second hometown show (not counting that one at the marijuana festival) since reuniting in 2015. But there’s another reason why this is an exciting moment for heavy music in Madison—it’s the first hometown show in about a year for locally based outfit Bereft, and the first time local audiences will hear songs from the sophomore album it recorded earlier this year, after signing to Prosthetic Records. Bereft’s 2014 debut album, Lost Ages, drew on black metal, doom, and post-rock to create a sequence of bruising but emotionally rich songs about grief and alienation. Both on that record and in early live shows, Bereft brought those songs across with a wealth of dimension and nuance. If that’s what they had out of the gate, then it’s worth being at this show to hear what’s next. —SG
WEDNESDAY NOVEMBER 23
Latin Music Fest. Majestic, 8 p.m.
One of the less-appreciated things about music in Madison is that jazz and dance music from Latin America have a strong presence here, with local bands playing styles ranging from Afro-Cuban jazz to salsa to samba and to Afro-Peruvian jazz. It’s always there if you’re looking for it, but all the same it’s nice to have an annual Latin Jazz Fest, presented at the Majestic with help from the Cardinal Bar (generally the easiest place to find this music in town) and local nonprofit Centro Hispano. This year will be heavy on salsa dancing, thanks to sets from Orquestra Salsoul and Edi Rey Y Su Salsera—but expect to hear plenty of other styles mixed in there, including R&B and bachata—along with sets from Grupo Atlantico and DJ Rumba. —SG
Gothsicles, Rain Within, Null Device, Caustic. Frequency, 9 p.m.
We’ve always dug how Madison synth-pop stalwarts Null Device operate with an absence nostalgia, kitsch, or easy hooks. On this year’s While You Were Otherwise Engaged, the foursome continues to shove synth-pop through fresh lenses. The marriage of dub techno and shuffling, nocturnal pop on “Freefall” is an immediate highlight, as vocalist Eric Oehler croons over subtle beds of synthesizer that crackle and soar gracefully beneath him. We were also struck by endearingly sincere, string-laden dance cut “The Desire,” which finds Oehler’s breathy vocals explaining why he keeps releasing music, even when things feel bleak. Moody goth-rocker “We Reach Tonight” boasts a velvet curtain textured synth pads and washed out strings, as Jill Sheridan’s gliding vocals take the lead. This is Null Device’s first show since the While You Were Otherwise Engaged was released in September, so it should be awesome to see how it gets reinterpreted live. Don’t forget to catch up on our interview with the band from September. —JS