“Endless Poetry,” Buddy Guy, Turkeyfest, Yung Gravy, and more events of note in Madison this week. | By Ian Adcock, Emili Earhart, Scott Gordon Edwanike Harbour, Chris Lay, John McCracken, Mike Noto, Grant Phipps, Joel Shanahan, and Henry Solotaroff-Webber
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THURSDAY OCTOBER 12
Twins Kenny and Keith Lucas perform stand-up that uses methodical, low-key delivery to slowly draw the audience into surreal mind games. Like the Sklar Brothers (yes, yes, I’ll try to keep these comparisons to a minimum), the Lucas Brothers often seem to speak in one voice that pans fluidly back and forth, but with more of an emphasis on slowness and pauses. The whole “stoner comedy” shorthand about the Lucases really doesn’t do justice to the range of the Lucas’ material. Their recent Netflix special On Drugs tackles the politics of the war on drugs (large cardboard cutouts of Richard Nixon bowling share the stage) and the legacy of mass incarceration, all while threading in material about bizarre pop-culture minutiae and the foibles of being twins. —Scott Gordon
This night of stand-up comedy benefiting relief efforts for victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico boasts a headlining set from veteran Milwaukee comedian Chastity Washington. Since getting her start in the mid-1990s, Washington has honed a brash and occasionally explosive style that seems suited to breaking open even the most on-the-fence crowd, and it’s really a shame we don’t get to see more of her here. She’ll be joined here by a group of comics from Madison and Milwaukee: Tyler Menz, Colin Bowden, Shawn Vasquez, Esteban Touma, Cynthia Marie, and Brittany Tilander. Proceeds from the show will be donated to the Puerto Rican Relief Fund of South Central Wisconsin. —Scott Gordon
The the Robinia Courtyard complex has been branching out lately with trivia nights, art shows, Magic: The Gathering drafts, and comedy showcases. It branches out still further with Indie Arcade, a night brimming with independently developed games, some created right here in Madison, that range from trivia to flight simulators. TumbleSeed is a frustratingly exciting game that has players roll, dodge, kill, and navigate a bright and deadly mountain. Jackbox Party Pack 3 is a wicked twist on trivia that includes guessing games, mind-racking, and deadly game-show hosts. Kissy Ghost is a multiplayer and co-op 2-bit game where players fight to avoid being kissed to death, by a ghost. Race The Sun is a flight simulator that tasks players with dodging a shifting and treacherous landscape. The developers will also be on hand for players to discuss and interact with the minds behind the bits and bytes, and Lauden Nute of TV Dinner DJs will be spinning at the end of the night. —John McCracken
The annual Turkeyfest punk blowout, booked by Bobby Hussy of The Hussy and Kind Turkey Records, has taken on a life of its own over the past eight years, gradually expanding from two nights to three and earning a reputation for a good balance of local bands and impressive touring gets, and a good mix of the straightforward and the weird. This year’s first night, at Mickey’s, features the first-ever band from overseas to play Turkeyfest, Bloodbags. The Auckland, New Zealand band plays with a grim sense of urgency, fueled by blown-out-sounding drums, melted-down rockabilly licks, and Andrew Tolley’s bellowing, unhinged vocals. Thursday will also include Oklahoma band Psychotic Reaction and Madison standouts Wood Chickens and Dumb Vision. Friday moves things over to the Crystal, with The Hussy and Bobby Hussy’s synth-driven project Cave Curse, fittingly paired with Memphis synth-punk outfit Sweet Knives. One of Madison’s newest but already most exciting punk bands, the father-and-sons trio Solid Freex, will also be playing Friday, and Bob Koch (of The Low Czars and many other local projects) will be spinning 45s from his deep collection between sets. The fest closes out Saturday at Mickey’s, with a bill that boasts a new project from Mike Blaha of the wonderfully propulsive and clangy Minneapolis band The Blind Shake, simply called Blaha. Milwaukee band Fox Face and Madison’s Fire Heads will both be playing that night too, both ahead of new full-lengths due out later this fall, as will Madison’s long-running, lovably eccentric power-pop outfit The German Art Students. The Thursday and Saturday shows are free, with an $8 cover for Friday. —Scott Gordon
FRIDAY OCTOBER 13
After the Madison Public Library Foundation’s big-ticket annual fundraiser, Ex Libris—which helps raise private funding for the library’s Media Lab, the Wisconsin Book Festival, and other programs—the festivities will branch out into a slightly more affordable ($25 per ticket) and dressed-down late-night thing featuring DJ Evan Woodward. Evan’s one of the most eclectic DJs in the city, usually spinning all-vinyl sets that reach from obscure corners of reggae and psych to more contemporary electronic music. For one possible cross-section of many, check out the guest mix he made for us a few years ago in the embed below. It’ll be worth it to see him in a slightly different element here, and in addition to the music, the event features a sampling of food and drink from local restaurants and breweries. —Scott Gordon
Yung Gravy,Trebino, Ra’Shaun, Shon Mil, 3rd Dimension, DJ FLO, Rico Savage, Wisco Keyz, MacK FadeD, Ayinde Starling. Lothlorien Co-op, 9 p.m.
Atop this teetering bill of Wisconsin hip-hop artists is a chance to catch one of Madison’s most perplexing and seasonally appropriate acts, the indelible Yung Gravy. The MC uses his molasses-consistency, meticulously nonchalant flow to make his bizarre and prurient imagery stick in the listener’s mind, possibly damaging whatever lobe deals with one’s perceptions of Thanksgiving food and other wholesome middle-American dishes. Lines like “Twelve thotties cooking for me, that’s a baker’s a dozen / Trying to show me ass putting cookies in the oven” basically sum up a persona that’s been consistent across all his tracks so far. At times a flexer and others a finesser, Gravy brands himself as a youthful Hugh Hefner-esque figure in constant search of culinary and/or sexual encounters with older women. How all of this will translate live, your correspondent truly could not hazard a guess. Regardless, though, with his relatively massive online following, it may not be long before the Gravy Train leaves the station. —Henry Solotaroff-Webber
SATURDAY OCTOBER 14
Chicago’s Matt Jencik (Implodes, Circuit des Yeux, Don Caballero) constructs cavernous soundscapes that consume your consciousness, inducing periods of deep listening and blanking the mental slate. Jenick’s 2017 Hands In The Dark Records release, Weird Times, consists of 10 ambient tracks made up of unused guitar riffs, deconstructed and reworked into boundless spheres of expansive, abysmal drone arrangements. Weird Times enfolds the listener, stripping one’s mind of unease and filling it with a nothingness disguised in smoldered guitar and rippling overtones. Chicago violist and sound explorer Whitney Johnson, under the name Matchess, makes music that invokes a flood of organic lushness—sometimes haunting, usually succulent. “Alite,” from her 2016 release The Rafter, initially sets up a series of drones before opening up into a cosmic interlude of synthy suppleness. Matchess definitely creates a certain coherent atmosphere, yet The Rafter is anything but static. Each track weaves through channels leisurely expanding and contracting, occasionally veering into stretches of open space. Madison’s own Auscultation opens this Tone Madison-presented night with rhythmic thoughtfulness and gauzy ambience. A ticket pre-sale is available now, and donors to our Patreon page receive discounted admission. —Emili Earhart
In the 2010s, a video essayist who goes by the handle “:: kogonada” has built a reputation on stunningly edited, literary analyses on the fathers of art house cinema like Robert Bresson and Ingmar Bergman as well as, maybe most notably, his touching take on the time-focused meditations of Richard Linklater for the Criterion Collection and Sight & Sound. Kogonada’s debut as a feature director, Columbus (2017), applies his familiar intellectual eye to the literal contours and interiors of a small titular Midwestern city (in Indiana) while balancing a narrative that is thoughtfully attuned to an intimate drama unfolding within it. As the camera glides through an unassuming hub of mid-late 20th century modernist architecture (by the likes of I.M. Pei and Richard Meier), Kogonada is careful not to let the imposing minimalism and reflective surfaces hide Columbus’ sense of lived-in character, infusing cinematic spaces with the warmth of budding greens and an enveloping spring color palette. With echoes of Eugène Green’s La Sapienza (a Wisconsin Film Festival 2015 selection) and Sofia Coppola’s Lost In Translation (2003), the film concerns the fateful meeting of two modest introverts with familial troubles and connections to the city’s local architectural reputation. Haley Lu Richardson stars as Casey, an astute high school graduate who diligently works at the Cleo Rogers Memorial Library while moving at her own pace. Due to the obligations of her mother’s recovering addiction, Casey has chosen to remain at home rather than pursue a career in design that would require her to move away. Her decision is tested when she encounters an older man, Jin (John Cho), who returns to Columbus from Korea to tend to the affairs of his comatose father. The dreamy, ambient soundtrack by Nashville guitar duo Hammock not only complements the film’s spacious cinematography but also helps to establish a tone that is at once cerebral and genuinely sentimental. —Grant Phipps
Kris Kristofferson once said that Graham Nash “knocked everybody out” with an impromptu rendition of “Marrakesh Express” at a 1969 party that included Kristofferson, Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan. On the other hand, Iggy Pop once said that “Marrakesh Express,” one of Nash’s staple songwriting contributions to Crosby, Stills, And Nash, “may be the worst song ever written.” That’s a good barometer of the kind of polarized response that Nash’s work can create. Nash first became famous for his work as a phenomenal harmony vocalist and emerging songwriter in The Hollies early on, and then joined one of the first superstar rock groups, CSN, when it was clear that his rapidly increasing interest in the psychedelic counterculture of the times ran in direct opposition to his Hollies bandmates’ tastes. Nash immediately fashioned an image for himself as the member who ran in the middle between the extremes of his often spaced-out bandmates—the one who could be counted on to most reliably adhere to concise pop songwriting that would impact the charts, even if he wasn’t as superficially cool as either Crosby or Stills, not to mention the last (and always half-committed at best) member of the group, Neil Young. And indeed, many of CSN’s most memorable singles were Nash compositions. In addition to “Marrakesh Express,” “Teach Your Children,” “Our House,” and “Just a Song Before I Go” were all significant hits that kept the group’s commercial fortunes going throughout the 1970s. But the catch was that Nash needed at least incrementally darker foils like David Crosby and Stephen Stills to balance out his lighter and sometimes cloying offerings over the course of a full album. Taking in a Graham Nash solo album at once can sometimes be like eating a box of Pixie Stix by yourself, and his political songwriting, while undoubtedly sincere, could also be self-righteous and soft-headed. A song about the disaster of the 1968 Democratic Convention was a good idea, but the chorus of “Chicago” literally blared “We can change the world / We can rearrange the world” without taking heed of death threats from any number of insulted rhyming dictionaries. Still, Nash was an essential part of what made CSN/Y so successful, and he released a new album, This Path Tonight, in 2016. —Mike Noto
Madison-based hip-hop project Fringe Character is a nine-piece band onstage, and in the studio it’s a more fluid entity centered around producer/multi-instrumentalist Ben Sholl. Given that format and Sholl’s self-coined “nuelectrosoulhop” genre descriptor, it’s no surprise that Fringe Character’s debut album, last year’s Mint, had a bit of kitchen-sink feel to it, cramming in collaborators, tricky song structures, and a range of sonic impulses—albeit with a sense of purpose and with plenty of deftly crafted verses from MCs Dudu Stinks and Daewong. But on Phases, the new album Fringe Character will celebrate at this show, it sounds as if the project wiped the slate clean and started with a foundation of gentle guitar and Rhodes chords, tender melodies, and tastefully reverbed open space. There’s plenty of collaboration on Phases too, but it rarely strays too far from the subdued, reflective mood on the album’s first single, “Star Washer” (which features frequent vocal collaborator GregB), even when channeling warped reggae rhythms on “Hydroplane” or crafting playfully odd funk with fellow Madisonians Mr. Jackson and DJ Phil Money on “Deep Field.” Rather than coming off as moody, this quieter and more restrained side of Fringe Character feels tinged with wonder and renewal. It also turns out to be as good a setting for Dudu Stinks and Daewong’s nimble exchanges as any, especially on “Pleiades.” —Scott Gordon
SUNDAY OCTOBER 15
After 60 years of being one of the most influential guitarists in the world, Buddy Guy doesn’t have much to prove. He pretty much invented overblown, high-octane shredding; played on countless legendary recordings; and has outlived his contemporaries in the 1960s Chicago blues scene. It’d be easy for him to rest back and phone in the rest of his career. Instead, he maintains a tour schedule that’d be grueling for someone half his age. Because he’s now the elder statesman of the blues, it’s easy to forget that Guy’s playing was initially dismissed by management of Chess Records as pure noise; it’s hard to imagine the blues today without the imprint of his raucous guitar work. Though he’s released tons of albums, Buddy Guy’s heart has always been in live performance. You can tell he loves being up on stage, flirting with the audience, playing with a live band and showing off what he can do to an electric guitar. His showmanship and virtuosity are still intact after all these years. If you can handle Overture Center ticket prices, this is your best chance to see an 81-year-old man play the guitar with his teeth. —Ian Adcock
It’s hard to believe that four wild years have passed since the clip of Cameron Esposito riffing with Jay Leno on The Late, Late Show With Craig Ferguson went viral. Esposito made the most of that momentum, though, eventually landing her own show on SeeSo, Take My Wife, which sitcom-ified her exploits with her real-life wife Rhea Butcher, as they navigate the world of comedy and their relationship. They’re a legitimate LA comedy power couple, and their weekly podcast Put Your Hands Together is required listening for comedy nerds. Often times the podcast’s episodes peak with the two comics loosely riffing through crowd work at the top of the show. Expect a bit of that, along with some finely honed prepared material, when the duo wraps up their cross-country co-headlining “Back To Back” comedy tour here. —Chris Lay
For better or worse, VNV Nation were in a crop of 1990s industrial artists who helped redefine the genre, throwing in modern electronic sounds and theoretically making the songwriting and overall style more accessible. However, sometimes the blending of trance supersaw synth lines, trip-hop vibes, and the militaristic post-punk feel of D.A.F. actually made the music less palatable or focused than power-electronics pioneers Whitehouse. That said, when VNV Nation’s shameless methods of polish and genre-splicing work, they really work. For instance, moody synth-pop cut “Arena” from 2005’s Matter+Form, with its lush synth arpeggios and Abacab-era-Phil Collins-style drum-pummeling, feels pretty undeniable. The Hamburg, Germany-based outfit haven’t dropped a proper album since 2015 detour Resonance: Music For Orchestra Vol. 1. On this tour, they’ll be playing two albums in their entirety, 1999’s Empires and 2011’s Automatic. —Joel Shanahan
WEDNESDAY OCTOBER 18
Boston has not yet exploded as a big city for up-and-coming rap artists, but Cousin Stizz, among others, is helping to put it on the map. The 25-year-old rapper has been honing his craft since he started freestyling in 2012 with local collectives and working towards his 2015 debut mixtape Suffolk County, which received over a million plays on SoundCloud, but his drive didn’t stop there. He released a second mixtape, MONDA, in 2016 and released another full-length record earlier this year after signing to RCA Records. His determination, mixed with his reminiscent writing that blends lyrical honesty with stripped-down trap beats and melodies, has led to his blooming success. He prides himself on his ability to write songs that draw on his own life experiences growing up in the suburbs of Boston. Now, his success has put himself and his hometown on the map. Another Boston-based artist, Big Leano, will open the night with dreamy and hypnotic tracks from his release Tales From The Mud, alongside melodic New York-based trap rapper and A$AP Mob affiliate Swoosh. —John McCracken
Fans of El Topo and The Holy Mountain would be remiss in not seeing Alejandro Jodorowsky’s latest masterpiece, Endless Poetry, making its Madison premiere here as part of MMOCA’s Spotlight Cinema series. In this autobiographical film, first released last year, Jodorowsky takes viewers back to his native Chile and applies his distinctive lens to his own youth. Jodorowsky was influenced by some of the premiere Chilean artists and thinkers of his day, who would go on to become giants in the Latin American literary field, and Endless Poetry channels these inspirations and the director’s youthful self-discovery into a characteristically surreal journey. He was heavily influenced by Nicanor Parra, a Cervantes-prize winning author who is known for his effortless blend of colloquialisms and more conventional prose. The mark of poet Enrique Lihn is quite salient here as well, in the film’s prevalent themes of death, religion and the fluid nature of time. Most Jodorowsky fare is not for the faint of heart, and this film helps to explain why, showing how a young Alejandro was able to break free from the chains of morality to express himself within the confines of the profane and sublime. Saturated in rich colors and textures, this screening is one of the highlights of the fall screening calendar in Madison. —Edwanike Harbour
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