“White Sun,” Cherubs, Richard Thompson, “I Am Not Your Negro,” and more events of note in Madison this week.
Sponsor message: The weekly Tone Madison calendar is made possible with support from Union Cab of Madison, a worker-owned cooperative providing safe and professional taxi services.
THURSDAY NOVEMBER 9
The Majestic was scheduled to host Crystal Castles on Thursday night, until the electronic duo’s co-founder, Alice Glass, came forward with an account of years of sexual and emotional abuse at the hands of former bandmate Ethan Kath. The show was canceled within hours (along with just about every other Crystal Castles show on the books), and instead the venue will host this event benefitting the Dane County Rape Crisis Center. The event will feature a self-defense demonstration, DJ sets from Queer Pressure’s DJ Boyfrrriend and Sarah Akawa, and stories and performances aimed at raising awareness of sexual assault in continuation of the online #MeToo discussion. Granted, it’s troubling how #MeToo puts the onus on the victims to educate abusers and bystanders, but it’s important to listen to those who do choose to share their stories. In addition to raising money for RCC, the event is a good opportunity to connect with people who are doing important work to make the local music community a more safe and accountable place and learn how to better support those efforts. —Scott Gordon
It feels impossible to talk about I Am Not Your Negro without also critiquing 13th and O.J.: Made In America. All three films landed Academy Award nominations for best documentary feature (the later taking the trophy), and all three examined the intersectionality of race, class, identity and politics through a wide swath of American history. Though not the impassioned rallying cry of 13th or the meticulous autobiography of O.J., I Am Not Your Negro tackles many of the same problems through the lens of James Baldwin. While Baldwin’s novels and essays made him a giant of American letters, his relationship with the political movements of his time is remembered with far less clarity. Director Raoul Peck tries to unpack this latter part of Baldwin’s legacy in I Am Not Your Negro, drawing from Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript about the lives and assassinations of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Drawing from the very few pages of the manuscript Baldwin actually wrote before his death in 1987 and from television appearances, director Peck paints the picture of a black man who does not fit a mold. Baldwin, living in Paris during the beginnings of the Civil Rights movement, did not feel at home there or his native Harlem. He was not a member of the NAACP, the Black Panthers, or any religious institution, because his politics aligned with none. He did not see himself represented in the mass media’s portrayal of black men. The film jumps between Baldwin’s critiques of black activism and black media portrayals as well as the current and past conditions black Americans face, showing that little has changed. Though Samuel L. Jackson does a fantastic job narrating excerpts of Baldwin’s manuscript, the film shines brightest when Baldwin is on screen. Baldwin is effortlessly charming and expressive, wide eyed and smiled, confident and composed, his words just as vital as they were half a century ago. —Caleb Oakley
Tone Madison 3rd anniversary party: Tippy, 3rd Dimension, Exploration Team, Ilana Bryne, Glynis. Art In, 8 p.m.
To celebrate making it through our first three years of publishing here at Tone Madison, we’ve put together a music lineup that captures a bit of what we love about this town and its music. The full-band incarnation of Tippy put out a self-titled album last year that won me over with Spencer Bible’s witty, shaggy songwriting and Mike Pellino’s cuttingly melodic lead guitar work. Hip-hop outfit 3rd Dimension makes the best of its group dynamic, weaving together the voices of five MCs into taut and refreshing tunes. Melodic guitar-pop Exploration Team is a more recent addition to the Madison music community, featuring members of bands like Jonesies, Psychic Drag, and Automatically Yours. Two standout Madison DJs, Ilana Bryne and Glynis, will be spinning throughout the night, and illustrator Rachal Duggan, who frequently contributes to Tone Madison, will be doing custom portraits for $5 a pop at the show. Admission to this one is free for our Patreon donors. —Scott Gordon
FRIDAY NOVEMBER 10
Richard Thompson is one of those rare cult musicians who play the Madison area on seemingly every tour, and he’s now returning for two nights of solo-acoustic performances at the Stoughton Opera House. Thompson began his songwriting career as a founding member of legendary British folk-rock band Fairport Convention, but soon parted ways to pursue a formidable solo career. Between his pioneering work with Fairport, his string of 1970s albums with then-wife Linda Thompson, his reemergence as a songwriting force in the 1990s, and various collaborative and one-off projects, Thompson’s built up an impressive catalogue of work. He’s been a much loved figure in British folk and Americana scenes for decades, and much of the admiration comes from his live performances, where Thompson’s dry humor and good cheer are showcased alongside his masterful guitar playing and songwriting. These solo acoustic concerts are a great chance to see Thompson at work in an intimate setting, joking between songs and pulling out a few rarities for the hard-core fans. —Ian Adcock
Noise-rock band Cherubs have been blowing out speakers and playing buzzy riffs since before I was alive (no really that’s true), but they have yet to lose steam. Formed in 1991, the Austin group released two albums and a handful of splits and singles before breaking up in 1994. Their short initial run inspired many alternative and punk bands so much that a compilation cover album was released in their honor. This tribute led to the band’s regrouping in 2014. They released their newest album, 2 YNFYNYTY, in 2015. This new album blends their signature harsh and static sound with melodic-leaning choruses on tracks like “Sandy On The Beach” while “We Buy Gold” and “Crashing The Ride” are fast and turbulent tracks that sound like they crawled out of an early 90’s garage just to die in this decade. Cherubs are joined here by local punk and noise warhorses Pachinko, who recently released a reunion album of their own, and Madison noise outfit Coordinated Suicides for a ruthless night at the Frequency. —John McCracken
Billed as “the show where people tell true stories they never thought they’d dare to share in public,” Kevin Allison’s Risk! podcast has spent the better part of a decade carving out a pleasantly dirty place all its own in an overcrowded landscape of storytelling shows. Allison, who got his start on MTV’s 1990s sketch show The State, is all about exploring and embracing the deepest darkest nooks and crannies of human experience, from the pleasurable and profound to the occasional downer that resonates through its relatable sadness. Mostly, though, it’s just some lightly polished elaborate experiential admissions that are not fit for “polite” (i.e boring) company. Think of it as The Moth: After Dark, if you want. The theme for this live recording at the High Noon is “Huge,” so those with hair-trigger gag reflexes may want to sit it out. —Chris Lay
Madison black metal band Corridoré have the power of outsize ambition on their side. The group specializes in compulsively lengthy, post-rock influenced epics, interspersing bassist Eric Andraska’s tortured screams, Matt Allen’s relentlessly tremolo-picked guitar, and Drew Carlson’s unforgiving blast beats with sections of softer, effects-soaked and surprisingly well-crafted moodiness. It’s very easy to let delay and reverb do all the talking during a quiet and deliberately atmospheric passage, but the band seems to spend just as much time crafting these spacier parts as they do their riffs, and the contrast ends up highlighting both sides of the band. House Of Lud originally started as Madison guitarist/experimentalist Troy Peterson’s one-man solo project in late 2015, but he started making some infrequent live appearances soon after getting bassist Justin Taylor and drummer Chris Norris to flesh it out into a full-on band. The hammering, down-tuned punch of the band’s lumbering riffage slots right in line with well-done traditional doom metal, but the real attraction is Peterson’s voice. He’s a lot closer to the vicious wail of Today Is The Day’s Steve Austin than to any would-be clone of Ozzy Osbourne or Scott Weinrich (thankfully), and his strangled, unhinged sneer adds far more edge and tension to the songs than the listener might otherwise expect; Taylor also contributes vocals in the band’s live incarnation. Both locals open here for Iowa’s self-described psychedelic sludge band Druids at The Wisco; the jury is out on whether the venue’s newish, forcibly installed decibel meter will actually be put to use at this show, and we here at Tone Madison sincerely hope it is not. —Mike Noto
SATURDAY NOVEMBER 11
The Low Czars are a long-running Madison cover band who draw their set lists from across obscure and familiar corners of power-pop, British Invasion rock, R&B, and psychedelia. The band also boasts several very good singers, and enough instrumental finesse to treat the source material with care. At this show, they’ll be performing Love’s 1967 psych/folk classic Forever Changes in its entirety. The band only does this every so often, and it’s just as impressive and fun as their more regular grab-bag sets. A lot of talented local musicians have been in the band over the years, and this show will feature the addition of vocalist Chris Vance, whose recent projects have included doom-metal band Grotto. Vance is also a veteran of highly specific cover bands himself, having done respectable work in local Halloween-time tributes to Joy Division, Bad Brains, and Radio Birdman. —Scott Gordon
To make sense of Mr. Chair’s adventurous, genre-bending repertoire, it helps to understand the musical bridge-building of the four Madison-based performers involved. Percussionist Mike Koszewski (Lovely Socialite) contributes rock and jazz drumming styles as well as modern and contemporary sensibilities from performing in chamber and orchestral settings. His history playing with bassist Ben Ferris, who’s involved in a number of projects both as leader and player, is ever more connected through their time at UW-Madison’s School of Music, where trombonist Mark Hetzler performs and educates. Hetzler’s exploratory trombone-and-electronic antics can be heard in his project Sinister Resonance, as well as in his solo faculty performances, the programs of which span Baroque standards and contemporary works. Jason Kutz, one of the most playful yet intense pianists in town, plays in solo settings and in collaboration with several performers and ensembles including the Willy Street Chamber Players. For this performance, Mr. Chair will be performing originals, as well as a reimagination of Igor Stravinsky’s orchestral work, Pulcinella, which is in itself a reworking of various 18th-century Italian pieces. We dig into this lofty project more in our recent conversation with all four members of Mr. Chair. —Emili Earhart
Winnipeg’s Living Hour play stretched-out dream pop, washed in thick reverb and weighted with a hint of nostalgia. Airy vocal melodies sail over gazey guitar and shadowy synth pads, creating a shimmery warmth. Living Hour sink into a deep, immersive space on their 2016 self-titled release. The hooky opening guitar line in “Seagull” latches right onto the summery trends of current dream pop, but slowly builds into a heavily saturated texture that seems to widen in density as much as it progresses through time. Madison’s one-man shredder and stomper, Mad Max Elliot plays freaked-out rockabilly here, sharing the bill with spacey Madison-based singer-songwriter Meggie Shays. —Emili Earhart
SUNDAY NOVEMBER 12
Bad Education is no doubt a Pedro Almodóvar film: queer and campy, devious, provocative, and melodramatic, with themes encompassing the Catholic religion’s reign over Spain, the entanglement of gender, sexuality and identity, and the entertainment business—all in bright colors. When compared to the rest of Almodóvar’s work, especially its immediate predecessors and Academy Award winners Talk To Her and All About My Mother (both of which will also screen soon as part of UW Cinematheque’s current Almodóvar series), 2004’s Bad Education is a bit of a letdown. The film is set in 1980, when a young director, Enrique, is approached by an individual who claims to be a childhood friend named Ignacio who now goes by Angel, played by Gael García Bernal. Angel brings the director a short story based on the childhood experience of the two boys in Catholic school on the condition that he plays the lead, a trans woman seeking justice for her past by blackmailing a priest. The noir shifts back and forth between the present day, the story the film is based on, the making of the film, the new relationship between the old friends, and Enrique’s quest to find out about the truth about Angel. Almodóvar’s standard ambiguity, combined with so many interweaving story lines, makes Education quite the mental workout, but Bernal’s dual performance can be appreciated regardless of whether one is engaged by the story. For the most ardent fans of Spain’s most essential filmmaker, Bad Education could prove quite the treat; more casual viewers might understandably need more convincing. —Caleb Oakley
Detroit band Saajtak plays bizarro avant-rock epics that, for all their length and complexity (three of the four songs on their 2017 EP Spokes run past the eight-minute mark), feel bracingly efficient. Vocalist Alex Koi meanders between fragmented spoken-word and soaringly dramatic melodies that remind me of the New York band Barbez, while Simon Alexander-Adams’ electronics and keyboards supply rippling arpeggios and counter-melodies. Drummer Jon Taylor and bassist Ben Willis (a former Madisonian and a member of Lovely Socialite) create an undercurrent of martial rhythm and grim distortion, heightening the suspense in Koi’s voice and yielding ambitious music that often sounds like prog with the fat mercilessly stripped away. —Scott Gordon
WEDNESDAY NOVEMBER 15
What Deepak Rauniyar’s sophomore feature White Sun (his debut was 2012’s Highway) may lack in visual panache is redeemed in a richly layered drama that spans generations. Following the Nepalese Civil War (1996-2006) between the King’s government and anti-monarchical Communists (Maoists), families in the country’s most rural regions saw the starkest political division even under the UN’s Comprehensive Peace Accord. This couldn’t be more true for spirited partisan Chandra (Dayahang Rai), who is given a lukewarm reception after returning from the capital of Kathmandu to his native village in the Himalayas. Expecting to eulogize his departed father, Chandra instead must overcome the strange hurdles of tradition that complicate the burying of his body. Simultaneously, Chandra remains deadlocked in a rivalry with his brother Suraj (Rabindra Singh Baniya), who, like their dad, supported the monarchy. Further familial complications arise as Chandra’s ex-wife Durga (Asha Maya Magrati) insists that Chandra claim to be the father of their daughter Pooja (Sumi Malla) so she may receive an education. In microcosm, the native Nepalese director Rauniyar’s perceptive narrative navigates the literal and psychological terrain to find harmonious interpersonal resolve within a family torn apart by ideology, perhaps similar to Elite Zexer’s feminist comment on the tenuous state of Israel in Sand Storm (a highlight of last year’s Spotlight series). However, in broader terms, White Sun is framed by the country’s natural beauty and a poignant, yet hopeful tone in enduring loss and East Asia’s slowly but surely changing ethos. —Grant Phipps
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