Theaster Gates, Melvins, Dead Rider, Andrew Cyrille & Bill McHenry, and more events of note in Madison this week.
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THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 21
Hausu. Union South Marquee Cinema, 9:30 p.m.
Nobuhiko Obayashi’s 1977 film Hausu (House) is generally regarded as one of the most batshit-crazy cult films of all time, and while it’s been screened in Madison quite a few times over the last few years, it’s always a fun movie to watch with a crowd. The food-and-drink-friendly Marquee Theater should be a perfect place for a screening, as its audiences are usually a bit more boisterous, and having access to alcohol is kind of necessary to get through a movie this bizarre. House follows teenage girl Gorgeous and her school friends, who take a vacation to her aunt’s big spooky house in the country, which of course starts killing them off one by one. While Hausu begins with a cheerful, lighthearted tone, the film veers quickly into bloody, psychedelic horror that uses pretty much every special effect available at the time. The plot doesn’t make whole lot of sense, but if you’re the kind of person who likes movies where someone gets eaten by a piano, Hausu is definitely the film for you. —Ian Adcock
Dead Rider. Axis:SOVA, Solid Freex. Frequency, 9 p.m.
Off-kilter Chicago outfit Dead Rider have created a peculiar personality and an extraordinarily original sound by drawing on a number of styles—noise, rock, electronic, dub, R&B. Ahead of their next full length, Crew Licks, due out on Drag City later this month, Dead Rider released a cover of Grateful Dead’s “Ramble On Rose.” The cover is as anomalous as anything else the band has ever done, but expands on the earnest R&B element of the band’s sound. Vocalist and guitarist Todd Rittmann sleazily croons under glitchy effects and a deep, silky bass line, before introducing a short guitar interlude that harkens back to his days in noise rock project U.S. Maple. The second single off Crew Licks, “The Ideal,” bends time in broken phrasing framed by Rittmann’s erratic voice. Twisted electronics and an almost-steady drum line are situated over cacophonous steel drums before opening up into a period of freaky freeform vocals. Psychedelic jammers and Dead Rider’s Drag City labelmates Axis:SOVA play here as well as local mutant punk outfit Solid Freex. —Emili Earhart
Bad Cinema: Cloak & Dagger. Central Library, 6:30 p.m. (free)
There’s no dispute that the 1980s and 90s were the optimal era for completely inept films about children getting in way over their heads with videogames and computers. Well, guess what? Director Richard Franklin’s 1984 box office fart-cloud Cloak & Dagger has it all. Henry Thomas (who played Elliott in E.T.) plays Davey Osborne—a troubled kid with an imaginary friend who’s obsessed with a video game called, you guessed it, Cloak & Dagger. After Osborne witnesses a murder, he’s intensely pursued by evil spies for a special video game cartridge that was handed to him by the victim before his death. This special film is perfect for folks who want to see a child shoot a gun and later bring a fucking bomb onto a plane (yeah, that’ll never happen again). —Joel Shanahan
FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 22
Queer Pressure. Frequency, 9 p.m.
The event organizers at Queer Pressure strive to bolster LGBTQ nightlife in Madison, throwing a number of events intended for LGBTQ-identifying people and (in the case of this event) straight allies. The group has been very active this past summer, with highlight events including their Hot Summer Gays series, which featured Milwaukee rapper Zed Kenzo in one installment, as well as taking part in the opening festivities for artist Rashaad Newsome’s exhibition at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. We recently talked with organizer and DJ Sarah Akawa about the mission and intentions of Queer Pressure, as well as her direction as a DJ. Akawa spins here along with DJ Boyfrrriend, DJ Sola, and Hitachimoji (the DJ alias of Madison-based musician Sylvia Johnson, who also performs and records under the name Midas Bison). Attendees are advised to hold a musically open mind and are reminded that this event is an accessible, inclusive, safe space to enjoy weird music. —Emili Earhart
Mike Birbiglia. Capitol Theater, 7 & 9:30 p.m.
If there’s one thing that has crystallized in comedian Mike Birbiglia’s approach over the years, it’s a love for the slow-burning reveal. From early on, Birbiglia has made no secret of his passion for working jokes into the context of bigger stories—a style that got him on the radar of and eventually collaborating with This American Life‘s Ira Glass on the Public Radio International-distributed program on a handful of segments, 2012’s film Sleepwalk With Me, and 2016’s Don’t Think Twice. His patient storytelling with an affable, self-deprecating point of view had probably its best moment so far in 2013’s My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend, in which Birbiglia willingly lays out all of his questionable and regrettable choices in his romantic life, going on tangents that always impressively bend their way back to serve the story as a whole. In this year’s Netflix special Thank God For Jokes, Birbiglia toys with this convention even more, by opening the set with a clip of Jimmy Kimmel introducing him from the 2012 Gotham Awards—something that isn’t explained or elaborated on, though it ultimately proves crucial both to a story Birbiglia eventually tells, and to the underlying theme of the entire set. Here at the Capitol Theater, Birbiglia appears on the intentionally covert and opaque “New One” tour, performing material he has workshopped and refused to speak publicly about all summer—something that mere speculation in an event preview can’t possibly provide more insights into. The man wants you to be surprised. Trust him. —David Wolinsky
To Sleep With Anger. Vilas Hall, 7 p.m. (free)
UW Cinematheque’s first in-person filmmaker visit this season is with Charles Burnett, who will give a Distinguished Lecture Series talk at the Union Theater on Thursday night, then introduce this Friday screening of his 1990 film To Sleep With Anger and hold a post-screening discussion. Burnett was born in Mississippi but mostly raised in the Watts section of Los Angeles, and his connections to both places have a profound impact on his films’ nuanced portrayals of African-American life. In To Sleep With Anger, a married couple in Watts (Paul Butler and Mary Alice) welcome an unexpected visit from their old friend Harry (Danny Glover). But Harry turns out to be an eccentric and menacing figure, and his presence stirs up discord and sickness. This one would be worth it for Glover’s performance alone—”Glover is an actor of considerable presence, and here he lets us know his character is from hell, and hardly has to raise his voice,” Roger Ebert once wrote—Burnett’s visit makes it a must-attend for Madison film fans. —Scott Gordon
Wizard World. Alliant Energy Center, through Sept. 24
Madison is not at a loss for geeky home-grown fun. Geek.Kon, Game Hole Con, and WisCon have been repping locally-sourced glasses-adjusting in annual instalments for a while now, but while those tackle cosplay, tabletop gaming, and science fiction respectively, none take dead aim at comic books. Enter Wizard World, the national chain of conventions that sprang forth from the fallout of Wizard Magazine. Past years have brought Bruce Campbell, William Shatner, and David Tennant, along with their overpriced photo-ops and autograph sessions. This year the headlining guest is Stan “The Man” Lee, who more or less created or co-created half of the Marvel Universe, but the $120 price tag to get a photo and/or autograph might be too steep for most true believers. Also in attendance: A grip of Joss Whedon-affiliated actors (Juliet Landau, Sean Maher, and Emma Caulfield, who might be emphasizing their non-Whedon experience these days), The Walking Dead‘s Lennie James, and WWE® Superstar Becky Lynch™ (intellectual property markings theirs). Check out the full-on article that we ran about the con earlier this week for more info and hot takes. —Chris Lay
SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 23
Sid Boyum Pop-Up Museum. Sid Boyum House (237 Waubesa St.), through Sept. 24
Madison outsider artist and champion liar Sid Boyum is best known for creating concrete statues that dot the east side (including the terrifying mushroom statue on Atwood Avenue, which will haunt my dreams forever), but he worked in all sorts of mediums during his long career. His house and yard, both filled to the brim with artwork, were going to be auctioned off by Dane County to pay back taxes in 2015, but thankfully the Friends of Sid Boyum nonprofit has raised money to buy the house and restore Boyum’s works. This pop-up event is the first showing of Boyum’s house as a museum, with tours of the property, a yard sale and other activities, so it’s a nice chance to see what progress they’ve made preserving Boyum’s legacy since Tone Madison spoke with Friends of Sid Boyum president Brian Standing back in April. —Ian Adcock
Stop Making Sense. Vilas Hall, 7 p.m. (free)
The boombox. The sparse stage. The big suit. It’s almost cliche at this point. It’s been parodied as recently (and expertly) as last year with Fred Armisen and Bill Hader’s Documentary Now series. I’m talking of course about Talking Heads’ 1984 concert film Stop Making Sense, which is screening this Saturday as part of the UW Cinematheque’s double post mortem of departed director Jonathan Demme. (Demme’s 1986 feature Something Wild follows on September 30.) This is college freshman dorm room 101 right here, with David Byrne going about as buck wild as his predilection for austere weirdness allowed, and a funky-as-fuck backing band that had started to stretch out on its own as The Tom Tom Club. In the big picture of the band’s history, it marks the beginning of the end, in some respects. Their early CBGB days were long behind them, as were their Brian Eno collaborations, and major mainstream fame was starting to take hold. It’s notable that the tour that they were on leading up to the filming of Stop Making Sense was their last. As an artifact though, especially one experienced in a theater with an audience, this thing has an undeniable power that is not to be missed. —Chris Lay
Lizzo, Sophia Eris. Union Theater, 8 p.m.
Lizzo will arrive at the Union Theater on the cusp of national stardom, after years of toiling in the greater Midwest hip-hop scene. Her rise to prominence is thoroughly well-deserved—one would be hard-pressed to name a rapper who stands for as much as Lizzo does while also managing to distill her messages into dazzling songs. Earlier tracks like “Ride” were sprawling, but thoroughly well-designed, amalgamations of rap, R&B and pop. As good a singer as she is a rapper, the Minneapolis native (and recent LA transplant) can switch between cadences at will, heightening the potency of her lyrics with a subtle shift in flow or a grandiose transition from spitting to belting. In her newer songs, like “Water Me,” all of these elements are still there but the music feels little, well, watered down. (Granted, you can’t say the same for her increasingly vocal, body-positive public persona.) Perhaps with a greater audience in mind, Lizzo has repurposed her old methods into a more radio-friendly format. There’s still plenty of quality here, and enough brash spirit to make her stand out from the top-40 heap. Still, for longtime fans who celebrate her ascent, it’s hard not to also mourn a little for what’s left behind. —Henry Solotaroff-Webber
Metz, Dasher, FACS. Majestic, 9 p.m.
Toronto noise-rock outfit METZ play an evolved post-hardcore style that both roars with sheer volume and creates considerably dense textures for a three-piece. While their first two albums seemed to focus on that thick wall of sound—something behind which is too easy to hide if you let yourself—some of the material from their third, Strange Peace, seems to open up a little more, showcasing the deft songwriting underneath the chaos. On the track “Cellophane,” METZ rely a little less on (but still use) angular guitar lines backed by thick distortion, and open up a space for fuzzed-out vocal harmonies, counter melodies, time changes, and lumbering but swinging drums. Dasher, a noisy post-hardcore project out of Bloomington, Indiana, play here as well as Chicago’s minimal post-punk trio FACS. —Emili Earhart
SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 24
Gear And Beer Fest Wisconsin #2. East Side Club, noon to 5 p.m. (free)
Madison musician/filmmaker/activist/recording engineer Wendy Schneider organized the first Gear And Beer Fest in January at Art In, and succeeded in creating a more welcoming and laid-back atmosphere than one usually finds at music gear-focused events. This time the event expands, with more vendors selling and swapping gear (which, at the first event, ranged from guitar pedals to a gnarly old sequencer I kind of regret not buying), but also DJs curated by the Half-Stack Sessions project, tables from local record labels including Kitschy Manitou and recent transplant Dirtnap, and workshops. Tone Madison is a sponsor of the event; we’ll have a table there throughout the day, where you can come talk with our editors and pick up some free goodies. —Scott Gordon
Andrew Cyrille + Bill McHenry. Arts + Literature Laboratory, 8 p.m.
Avant-jazz drummer Andrew Cyrille’s career has included a decade-long span of working with legendary pianist Cecil Taylor, as well as collaborations with a number of artists from Carla Bley to Oliver Lake. As an active member of the New York jazz and downtown scenes in the 1970s and 80s, Cyrille also led a number of groups and projects on the Italian Black Saint and Soul Note labels. Saxophonist Bill McHenry joined Cyrille in recording a mix of composed and improvised pieces on a full-length titled Proximity in 2016. Proximity is subtle yet powerful. The title track opens with a meandering saxophone melody. McHenry fully unmasks the instrument—the granular nature of the reed, the respiration involved—granting the listener an unmistakable awareness of the saxophone. As the melody picks up in tempo, it distances itself from the instrument and begins to float atop Cyrille’s placid snare brushing. The grainy brush-to-snare texture is almost reminiscent of the reedy color of the sax. The duo modestly yet meaningfully moves together, displaying considerable patience and awareness. The track closes with respiratory swells by McHenry and an equally cloudy, brush-to-cymbal texture by Cyrille. Both musicians’ willingness to both explore and dress down their instruments should make for an unpredictable and disarming performance here. —Emili Earhart
Wild Belle, Fred Thomas. High Noon Saloon, 8 p.m.
Fred Thomas’ work as the mastermind of Michigan pop outfit Saturday Looks Good To Me earned him a reputation as a crafty, wistful songwriter and a producer with an ear for warm pop textures and weird dubbed-out tricks. That band always came off as disarming and genuine, but given its rotating vocalists and layers of pop tropes, you could understandably feel like you weren’t hearing directly from Thomas himself. Maybe something got pent up behind SLGTM’s retro-pop artifice and the gentle experimentalism of his other collaborative and solo work, because Thomas’ latest album, 2017’s Changer, is an unloading. On songs like “Voiceover,” “Misremembered,” and “Brickwall,” Thomas pours out conflicted memories, self-doubt, and frustrations in cathartically crammed verses. It’s a lyrical approach that began to take shape on 2015’s All Are Saved (especially on “Cops Don’t Care Pt. II”), but Changer doubles down on that and channels it through some of the most raw, direct, guitar-centered work he’s ever done. There’s still plenty of melody and sweetness to be found here, but it’s also refreshing to hear Thomas just let this stuff out. He opens here for electro-pop outfit Wild Belle. —Scott Gordon
MONDAY SEPTEMBER 25
Theaster Gates. Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, 7:30 p.m. (free)
Chicago-based artist Theaster Gates has carved out his own compelling space at the intersection of urban planning, social justice, and installation art. His best-known project of late is the Stony Island Arts Bank, a building in Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood that his Rebuild Foundation rescued from demolition and turned into a combination art gallery and library. Its collections include about 5,000 vinyl records owned by late Chicago house music legend Frankie Knuckles. The Arts Bank is not far from (and perhaps a world away from) the University of Chicago, where Gates serves as director of arts and public life. But his work aims to bridge those divides between marginalized communities and established spaces of learning and art: His recent exhibition at the National Gallery of Art in DC, for instance, consisted of installation pieces made of discarded materials drawn from Chicago’s black neighborhoods, including gym flooring from a close high school and roof tiles from a demolished church. He visits here as part of the UW-Madison Center for the Humanities’ Humanities Without Boundaries lecture series. —Scott Gordon
Melvins, Spotlights. High Noon Saloon, 8 p.m.
Melvins have been consistently releasing records at a pretty regular pace for 30 years, and their early output (up until the mid-90s) is an influential list of various proto-somethings. Melvins’ 1987 full-length Gluey Porch Treatments not only left a mark on future sludge metal projects, but also holds up as one of the rawest and most adventurous examples of early grunge. Likewise, their 1991 release Bullhead also helped to paved the way for contemporary sludge metal and embraced a stonier side that reached back to Black Sabbath, while inspiring experimental metal groups like Boris (and giving that band its name). Lysol, from 1992, heralded the development of drone metal. Their major label debut, 1993’s Houdini, which brought out the band’s hookier side (and even includes a cover of Kiss song, “Goin’ Blind”), serves as not only an accessible hard rock throwback record and a comparative commercial success, but also an enduring document of the pure energy Melvins can muster up at their best. However, this energy is best experienced in person—Melvins throw down some of the best live performances I personally have ever witnessed. Guitarist and vocalist Buzz Osborne mostly turns off the lovable, naturally goofy demeanor he displays in interviews and shapes himself into a professional-yet-unrestrained figure, coming off a bit more natural than most other long-living rock figures active today. Original member and drummer Dale Crover plays relentlessly and just behind the beat to give Melvins that iconically sludgy character. Whether you have kept up with all the albums (and your milage may vary with the more recent ones) hardly matters: A live Melvins experience is not to be missed. —Emili Earhart
TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 26
Ghost Bath. High Noon Saloon, 8 p.m.
Ghost Bath has been chiseling its way into the dense black-metal genre since 2012, eventually earning a distinct place in that ever-expanding cloak of darkness. In addition to stirring up some interest with a problematic origin story (the band initially passed itself off as Chinese, despite being from North Dakota, and the members still do not like to volunteer their names), Ghost Bath got their foot in the door with their second full-length release, Moonlover. The band’s strength is in its atmospheric approach to the genre, although plenty of their contemporaries also produce dreamy-sounding albums that are also fueled by shrieking vocals and pounding blast beats. Ghost Bath’s 2017 release, Starmourner, cements the band’s sound and makes that blending of tendencies feel like second nature. “Elysian” is an especially triumphant track, combining elements of black-metal anthems with slamming post-rock slamming riffs that swirl into a hollow instrumental. The sheer release Ghost Bath achieves at moments like this help to make up for its oh-so-black-metal tendency to keep everything in the shadows. —John McCracken
WEDNESDAY SEPTEMBER 27
Mrs. Adam Schatz, Tony Barba, Matt Blair. Art In, 7 p.m.
Twin Cities jazz pianist Matt Blair has performed with several artists who might sound familiar to Madison audiences, including locally based bass player John Christensen and Milwaukee drummer Devin Drobka, in addition to his work in the bands Good Trouble and Slipstream. This fall he’ll be releasing a solo-piano album, Shadow Sets, produced by Dave King of The Bad Plus. The pieces he’s shared from the album so far cover a lot of ground, from the rapid-fire dissonance of “Better Go Find Your Lost Self” to the slow-building atmospherics of “Vacant Paradise.” On “Piece By Piece By Piece By Piece,” he creeps between gentle, almost flowing passages and outbursts in which notes seem to pile onto each other in a sort of controlled, deconstructed chaos. On his current tour, Blair is putting a twist on the Shadow Sets material by channeling it through Fender Rhodes and electronics. He shares the bill here with Adam Schatz of New York band Landlady and Madison-based sax/electronics artist Tony Barba. —Scott Gordon
Califone. Shitty Barn, 7 p.m.
On 2016’s Insect Courage EP, the latest entry from abstract Americana wizards Califone, the band strips its signature psychedelic vibe down to the bare essentials. While it’d be easy to describe the Califone’s sprawling and heady cover of Peter Gabriel’s “Mother Of Violence” as “outsider-folk,” it wouldn’t do justice to the band’s sonic agility. Weeping violin and moody banjo passages melt into crumbling, cicada-channeling percussion and a patchwork of buzzing drones and field recordings. As the instrumentation falls apart and regenerates, Tim Rutili’s scratchy crooning wavers beautifully over the top. Another serious highlight is cruising space-folk tune “easter82,” which is guided along by beautifully dissonant steel-string guitar lines, as sparse ambient textures creep in and out of the mix. In short, Califone has outlasted 20 years of boring indie-folk trends through several excellent full-lengths (including 2006’s Roots And Crowns and 2013’s Stitches) and frequent changes in its live format. Its refined and beautifully damaged approach remains urgent and effective. —Joel Shanahan
Antibalas, Black Market Brass. High Noon Saloon, 8 p.m.
Afrobeat is be a lush, funky brew of many influences, and New York City band Antibalas do it justice in a muscular and cutting fashion. Yes, the horn arrangements and multi-layered percussion create immense grooves, but “Beaten Metal,” which opens the excellent 2007 album Security, offers a distinctly tough and stern take on the legacy of Fela Kuti. This year’s Where The Gods Are In Peace has that same unmistakable backbone—and percussionist Duke Amayo’s alternately stately and raspy vocals—but also works in a touch of stark atmosphere. Especially on the three-song suite “Tombstone,” that sonic balance reflects an attempt to marry the band’s uncompromising political message with something more wide-eyed and hopeful. Not that this music ever puts you at ease—and if you’ve experienced Antibalas’ relentless live show, you know that’s a good thing. —Scott Gordon