La Santa Cecilia, Snake On The Lake Fest, Group Of The Altos, and more of the best stuff in Madison this week. | By Scott Gordon, Chris Lay, and Joel Shanahan
THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 10
The second annual Central Park Sessions series—an extension of the music offerings at Madison’s east-side neighborhood festivals—closes out here with an LA-themed bill. East LA-based headliners La Santa Cecilia wield a rhythmically rich blend of Latin musical styles ranging from cumbia to bolero, but their songs cohere around a distinctly contemporary pop sensibility. Festive as it can be, La Santa Cecilia’s music is also laced with subjects ranging from folklore to politics—”La Negra,” from 2013’s La Noche Y Citas, draws on the tradition of Dia De Los Muertos, while the band’s best-known song, “Ice El Hielo,” expresses the plight of immigrants living in fear of deportation in the States. Eric Lindell, who is based in Louisiana but was born in Southern California, plays affable, swaying R&B with enough layers of tender guitar, shiny organ, and vocal harmonies to bring some depth to the songs’ laid-back grooves. Madison blues fixtures The Rousers get things started, and the UW Space Place will be hosting a stargazing session after dark.
It’s getting harder and harder to rail against The Man with any sense of humor, or really rail against The Man in any way where you can feel like you’re doing much of anything useful in the big picture. Sure, Banksy does his thing to great acclaim, but his works by their nature always have a built in commentary on the art world. The Yes Men have been taking on post-globalist political corporate entities with a sly grin for nearly two decades, and 2014’s documentary The Yes Men Are Revolting captures their most recent forays into corporate infiltration (including an attempt to pose as representatives of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce) and outrageous protests, as they take on climate change, big oil, and Occupy Wall Street.
FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 11
In the second of three shows benefitting Clyde Stubblefield Scholarship Fund, the Madison resident and drummer-who-should-be-given-all-the-some will play with a multi-generational all-star band featuring a whopping 30-plus Madison-area musicians. The insanely stacked lineup includes R&B singer and consummate showman Charlie Brooks (the frontman of Stubblefield’s much-missed Funky Mondays residency), Gomers keyboard player Dave Adler, jazz pianists Dave Stoler and Harris Lemberg, trombone player Darren Sterud, saxophonist Eric Koppa, and rapper/spoken-word dude Rob Dz, to name a few. There’s one more benefit show, featuring a bunch more exciting guests, on October 8 at the Overture Center; you can also give to the scholarship fund online.
We never would’ve expected such a molotov cocktail of acts to be curated for the annual Snake On The Lake festival, but this year the fuse is lit and the freak flag flies high with an all-Madison-artists lineup. With DJ Evan Woodward on the decks, tying all the acts together with his deep, worldly grooves, this year’s shockingly eclectic and all-local installment of the fest runs the gamut from tame to twisted. Madisonian stalwarts Proud Parents—a band that boasts members from The Hussy and Fire Retarded, as well as all of the other bands that boast members of The Hussy and Fire Retarded—will kick off the festivities with sugary, concise garage pop tunes. After that, Myrmidons will step in with their equal parts worldly and surfy prog-punk tunes. Synth-laced r’n’b crooner Mr. Jackson, who has a new, mindblowingly-titled album called Black Gandalf in the works, will pop in for a collection of sexed-up grooves that will hopefully feature some fresh jams from the new long-player. Under his Samantha Glass moniker, Beau Devereaux will continue to pull a mostly unsuspecting, Sett Sauce-devouring audience down a moodier, foggier path, with his powerful blend of commanding synth layers, minimal drum patterns, and hauntingly washed-out, Alan Vega-channeling vocals. And finally we arrive at Clay Ruby’s long-running Burial Hex project, which has evolved from ritualistic, horror-themed power electronics to progressive, industrial dirges loaded with gorgeous string arrangements, piano lines, broodingly melodic vocals, and careful rhythmic patterns in last year’s epic, long-form journey The Heirophant. Ruby tends to mix all eras of his work into his sprawling, ritualistic, and highly performative live sets, which cascade from careful and delicate electric piano passages to summoning explosive walls of noise and tortured screaming.
Say what you will about ex-Sonic Youth frontman Thurston Moore’s solo career—whether he’s strutting around like a swaggering peacock and abusing his guitar in his much-lauded live, improvised noise sets, attempting a more orchestrated, folk-tinged affair in 2011’s Demolished Thoughts, or refining his noise-pop charm to gloriously imperfect effect in this writer’s favorite Moore solo venture, 1995’s Psychic Hearts—you’ve got to applaud the guy for never resting too hard on his laurels and constantly remaining ambitious. 2014’s The Best Day, which sheds the Chelsea Light Moving moniker he’d been touring behind in favor of The Thurston Moore Band, slashes up the finer points of his solo career and carries over some shades of late-period Sonic Youth material. While Moore isn’t touring behind a new album currently, he is about to release a poetry book titled Stereo Sanctity on his own Ecstatic Peace imprint, which he will hopefully have in tow. Be sure to get there early enough to check out Mikal Cronin, whose humble beginnings in L.A.-based garage-punk outfit Epsilons (with Ty Segall) have helped him evolve into a seasoned songwriter making refined and dusty Americana-pop tunes. Cronin is currently touring behind this year’s MC III.
Madison’s Foshizzle crew is a tasteful and mostly pretty young bunch of DJs and producers, best known for solid house and techno selections and putting on parties at whimsical locations like train cars and tea shops. But their favorite venue is James Madison Park, and at this event they’ll celebrate three years of hosting DJ sets and the occasional live PA there. Foshizzle DJs will be spinning a continuous tag-team set of dance jams, hosting a communal art project, and even serving tea, in a nod to the now-closed Dobra Tea on State Street, where they put on some “Tea Time” events. The party at James Madison Park goes until 9, and then things shift over to the Cardinal Bar’s House Of Love night.
It’s perfectly fitting that Orson Welles follow-up to the headaches he went through on Touch Of Evil (a cut of that film to Welles’ specifications wouldn’t be assembled until long after his death) would be an adaptation of Kafka’s surreal tale of bureaucracy crossing the line into literal absurdity, The Trial. For anyone who opted for The Metamorphosis in high school English class, The Trial tells the sad and convoluted tale of Josef K. (a post-Psycho Anthony Perkins) who is being tried for… for… well, that’s the problem because just trying to find out what crime exactly he’s being charged with sends him further and further down the rabbit hole of forms to file, legal double-talk, and mounting paranoia. The themes have become increasingly less satirical and more apt ever since the Patriot Act and all, but that’s another freshman year poli-sci paper for another time. For now, just bask in Welles’ take on one of the bleakest of black comedies in all of literature.
This installment of the Madison Public Library’s monthly after-hours events for adults will celebrate the opening of Madison artist Victor Castro’s (aka Tetrapakman) newest show of sculptures and mixed-media works, Calculations, Abstractions, And Silence. Speaking of, check out our profile of Castro from earlier this week. The evening also features music from Madison percussion ensemble Clocks In Motion, who combine a modern-classical repertoire with a mesmerizing, harmonically dense performance style, sometimes incorporating microtonal instruments of their own making.
Currently wrapping up the follow up full-length to EDEN (currently slated for a release later this year) Tel-Aviv based songwriter, experimentalist, and filmmaker Mary Ocher uses her ground-shakingly gorgeous voice to belt out semi-deconstructed and (sometimes) politically-charged tunes that pivot between heady and tasteful folk numbers, which are at times jammed through a lo-fi garage-rock fuzz. EDEN showcased Ocher’s broad songwriting range, which is definitely exemplified in the contrast between two of the LP’s singles—hauntingly sprawling piano ballad “The Android Sea” and slanted, worldly rocker “Baby Indiana.” However, both tunes are tied together by Ocher’s belting and virtuous vocal lines, which quiver and wail with maximum dynamic control over both. Here’s hoping we get to hear some new, evolved tunes from her upcoming long-player.
SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 12
UW Cinematheque’s somewhat overwhelming fall calendar includes a five-film retrospective of a lesser-appreciated French director, Jean Grémillon, who worked from the silent-film era until his death in the late 1950s. The series begins with 1941’s Remorques, set in and made during the Nazi occupation of France. Jean Gabin stars as a tugboat captain in this love story, which reflects Grémillon’s efforts to push back against Nazi censorship.
The west side hasn’t had much by way of comedy for a hot minute since The Capital Comedy Show’s variety of Wisconsin and regional stand-ups took a brief break from Monroe Street’s Crescendo Espresso Bar + Music Cafe, but the show returns to its quaint little coffee house roots this week with a lineup that is pretty Milwaukee-heavy (Mike Berg, Andrea Guzzetta, Gary Zajackowski) but mixes in some folks from other Midwestern places as well, including Chicago (headliner Erik Niewiarowski), Iowa (AyJay Barbie-Que Grill, yes that’s his name), and even gives some shine to Madison (Ian Erickson). Ryan Mason, who splits his time between Madison and Milwaukee and puts the whole thing together, will also host.
Madison-based rapper Pooh G told a Milwaukee TV station that he made his song “Bucky Badger” after the UW mascot came to him in a dream, though that song’s verses about partying on campus aren’t completely indicative of the rest of his gritty repertoire. He’s headlining this bill of seven Wisconsin hip-hop artists: Also included are versatile Madison MC Sincere Life, who’s been at work on a new project to follow this spring’s Fallen Crowns EP, and Madison duo Worthless Righteous.
SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 13
George Cukor wasn’t as fetishized as John Ford or as emulated as Howard Hawks or as revered as Frank Capra, but Cukor was the man behind such pillars of Hollywood’s early sound and color years as The Wizard of Oz, Gone With The Wind, and A Star Is Born, to say nothing of the Katharine Hepburn comedy trifecta of Holiday, The Philadelphia Story, and 1949’s Adam’s Rib, screening here in a 35mm print. The film manages the tricky feat of milking timeless comedy from the romantic and professional strains put on a marriage when a lawyer husband and wife, played by real-life Hollywood couple Spencer Tracey and Katharine Hepburn, take up the respective prosecution and defense of a woman (Judy Holliday) accused of attempting to murder her husband (Tom Ewell). The end result is one of the pinnacles of screwball comedy, landing it at no 22 on AFI’s top comedies list and no. 7 on their sightly more specific “Romantic Comedies” list (but that list also put When Harry Met Sally… at no. 6 and Sleepless In Seattle at no. 10, if you’re looking for any reasons to toss that whole thing in the garbage).
The low-budget, indie-centric Micro-Wave Cinema Series’ fall calendar kicks off with God Bless The Child, the second feature from directing team Robert Machoian and Rodrigo Ojeda-Beck. The film follows a day in the life of a brood of brothers who have just been coldly and open-endedly left in the care of their older sister. The film offers very few clues as to why the mother abruptly bolted on these five kids, ranging from toddler to teenager, but what it does offer is a number of gorgeous scenes that manage to display the chaos and fragility, beauty and pettiness, cruelty and kindness of childhood for a number of ages. It’s a charming work that’s easy enough to take in, but has more than enough nooks and crannies to examine and deconstruct. Some of the films down the line in the Micro-Wave series are going to be a bit more difficult, so cherish the comfortable simplicity of this first film while you can. Machoian and Ojeda-Beck will be calling in via Skype for a post-screening Q&A.
TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 15
Dreamy and distant, Maplewood, New Jersey-based songwriter Solana Rowe—better known as SZA—pumps a big breath of fresh air into her crowded sea of contemporaries. Nothing against infectious, smooth jams with slow, 808-laced grooves, but SZA distinguishes herself via the clear influence of ’90s trip-hop, an arsenal of beautifully curated sonic backdrops, and Rowe’s drifting, understated vocals, pushing the singer even deeper into her own hazy universe on last year’s Z EP. Of course, the acrobatic flow of Kendrick Lamar’s guest verse in string-laden album highlight “Babylon” or the bubbling, warped synths in the Toro Y Moi-produced “Hijack” don’t hurt, but what really ties the effort together is Rowe’s ability to meander below the threshold and rarely jump to the easiest hook. SZA’s debut full-length—simply titled A—is finally due later this year.
WEDNESDAY SEPTEMBER 16
Wisconsin should really be just as well-known for strange, experimental, and at times sinister music as it is for accessible folk-rock. (Especially as plenty of the same people are involved in making both in our state.) One of the strongest cases for that is Milwaukee’s Group Of The Altos, a 15-member band crafting disjointed epics around visceral rhythms, clanging guitars, horns, strings, and eerily engaging group vocals. Between 2011’s Altos and this year’s R U Person Or Not, it’s hard to find two moments where the sonic and compositional mix shakes out the same, from the searing slow burn of Altos’ “Him Vs. Hymn” to the boisterous, swaying group chants of Person’s “On Wreck.” The effect should become even more intense and even more likely to keep you off-balance when the whole band crams into Spring Green’s Shitty Barn, with an opening set from Milwaukee experimental-music veterans Chris Rosenau and Jon Mueller (Pele, Collections Of Colonies Of Bees, etc.).