IfIHadAHiFi, Spotlight Cinema, Buildings, Nasim Pedrad, “The Planets,” and more events of note in Madison this week. | By Scott Gordon, Joel Shanahan, Chris Lay, Emili Earhart, Grant Phipps
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THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 22
Greys, Buildings, Tyranny Is Tyranny. Frequency, 8 p.m.
Minneapolis noise-rock trio Buildings dig deep into Jesus Lizard territory on releases like 2011’s Melt Cry Sleep and a new split with Milwaukee band Volunteer. A lot of bands are still doing that, of course, but it’s still pretty great when a band executes it as capably as Buildings. In live sets, Buildings play with a brutal efficiency, which only heightens the impact of the recorded material. They play here with noise-blasted Toronto pop outfit Greys and bleak Madison post-rock outfit Tyranny Is Tyranny. —Scott Gordon
Sincere Life, Chas, Yung Saint, Lil Chief, Jalil Luckey, Jake Phlow. The Wisco, 9 p.m.
Hip-hop in Madison increasingly feels defined by young artists (i.e. the fresh-out-of-high-school Trapo and UW students like Lucien Parker), but don’t overlook folks like Sincere Life, an understated but versatile MC in his early 30s. He started the year with the release of the album King Poetic Volume 1, and plans to put out a second volume soon. Last month he put out a self-titled release that’s actually a compilation, featuring one new track (“Smoke To”) alongside tracks from earlier releases. The best come from 2013’s Write Of Passage EP, especially the introspective “Three Kings” and the swaggering, clever flows of “Golden Age.” —SG
FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 23
Madison Symphony Orchestra: The Planets. Overture Hall, through September 25, see link for all showtimes.
The Madison Symphony Orchestra is kicking off its 2016-17 season with a special visual enhancement of a sturdy orchestral standby. Gustav Holst’s The Planets (1916) is known as one of the most famous and agreeable suites for classical music aficionados and casual appreciators alike. The suite includes seven movements, each corresponding to a planet as well as its astrological personality, such as “Mars, Bringer Of War,” which cultivates a towering, massive brass and percussion sections that seem to march towards the listener with determination. To accompany the imagery many listeners naturally conjure up upon hearing The Planets, MSO will be adding high definition cinematics of the planets themselves, provided by producer Duncan Coop, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and NASA—something Holst (1874-1934) probably never imagined would exist. The program also includes George Enescu’s Romanian Rhapsody No. 1 (1901) and John Corigliano’s “Chaconne” from The Red Violin (1997), featuring violin soloist Naha Greenholtz. —Emili Earhart
Charles Monroe-Kane. Central Library, 7 p.m. (free)
Charles Monroe-Kane is best known around town as a producer and interviewer on Wisconsin Public Radio’s grappling-with-big-ideas show To The Best Of Our Knowledge, but before that his life was pretty chaotic, to say the least. At this event he shares his new memoir, Lithium Jesus, which details his upbringing in a nomadic, intensely religious family, his battles with schizophrenia, a slew of truly odd jobs, drugs, and ill-fated activism. Full disclosure: I work at WPR too, but not directly with Monroe-Kane. —SG
Mission: Impossible + The Untouchables. Vilas Hall, 7 p.m. (free)
It’s sad to see UW Cinematheque’s Brian De Palma partial retrospective go, but if you gotta go, this is a pretty great double feature to head out with. Mission: Impossible is the big-budget popcorn munching spy-centric blockbuster that launched the M:I franchise in 1996, and 1987’s The Untouchables is a bubbling procedural that follows Elliot Ness as he systematically takes down Al Capone. How long has it been since you saw either of these flicks? Too long! I can think of a half dozen other De Palma flicks I’d love to see on the big screen out at Vilas, so I’m crossing my fingers for a second helping down the line but won’t be holding my breath for The Bonfire Of The Vanities. —CL
Sara Goldrick-Rab. A Room Of One’s Own, 7 p.m. (free)
Sara Goldrick-Rab is at the forefront of research on the escalating crisis in higher-education affordability, and the insidious ways in which the cost of college cuts off opportunity for people who didn’t get a financial head-start in life. Goldrick-Rab until very recently conducted this work at UW-Madison, but this spring she left for Temple University, one of many Wisconsin academics driven away by a hostile political climate and the weakening of tenure protections in the UW System. In her time at UW she also had easily the most fiery Twitter game in town, what with the whole “Tweeting at incoming freshmen” fiasco and that weird fight about croissants. But it’s good to have that passion when it comes to an issue with such dire consequences, and Goldrick-Rab’s research also informs a lot of substantive policy suggestions. She visits here to share her new book Paying The Price, which draws on her extensive research on the experiences of public-university students in Wisconsin. —SG
Nasim Pedrad, Sara Schaefer. Union Theater, 8 p.m.
Between five seasons on Saturday Night Live and her work on the shows Scream Queens and New Girl, Nasim Pedrad has some pretty sterling credits under her belt. It will be exciting to see her out of that repertory structure when she performs at the Wisconsin Union Theater’s Shannon Hall. Pedrad’s opener on the other hand, Sara Schaefer (who you might remember from MTV’s sadly short-lived Nikki & Sara Live), has a comparatively more polished background in stand-up and her pleasantly frank material will start things off on an excellent footing. —CL
Going Underground. Cardinal Bar, 9 p.m.
Do you know what it is that binds together all the alt-pop and electronic music that blasted out of the UK in the 80s and 90s? Yeah, neither do I. Other than “fun stuff made by Brits a long time ago,” DJ Ellafine’s Going Underground dance night has a pretty loose, but admittedly fun, theme. For this installment, Ellafine will be joined by Ryan Bannen, a DJ and host of WORT-FM’s actually great Something Wonderful program. On Something Wonderful, Bannen takes an unpretentious but adventurous scan of industrial, techno, and the more experimental reaches of electronic music. While I still find the night’s theme to be kind of baffling and ridiculously broad, I’ll still be stoked to hear some KLF and Prodigy hammering out of The Cardinal Bar’s soundsystem. —Joel Shanahan
SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 24
Paprika. Vilas Hall, 7 p.m. (free)
All good things must come to an end, and so it goes with UW Cinematheque’s Heroines of Anime programming, which closes with a screening of Satoshi Kon’s Paprika in 35mm. Based on a 1993 novel of the same name, this psychological thriller follows a young female therapist, Atsuko Chiba, as she tries to find out who’s behind the theft of DC Mini, a crazy dream therapy device that allows her to enter her patients’ dreams. The film would be the fourth and final by heroine-friendly director Kon, whose first feature, 1997’s Perfect Blue, would have also easily fit in with this lineup. —CL
Bow & Spear, Ion, We Should Have Been DJs, Vein Rays. Mr. Robert’s, 9 p.m.
Chicago band Bow & Spear mix and match their way through a few charmingly slanted guitar-rock styles on their 2015 album Into. “The Swelter Season” combines the pleasant blur of My Bloody Valentine with tense, barbed phrasing that recalls the first couple Jawbox albums. “Blank Scene” and “Paper Tones” feel like a slightly more straightforward take on angsty indie-pop, with a bit of dreamy shoegaze vibrato-bar dips for good measure. Bow & Spear play here with Madison folk outfit Vein Reys, endearingly frantic Madison punk band We Should Have Been DJs, and Milwaukee/Madison psych voyagers Ion. —SG
Damsel Trash, Venus In Furs, IfIHadAHiFi. Crystal Corner Bar, 9:30 p.m.
I can’t think of a single Wisconsin band that has carried the torch for damaged noise-punk longer or with less compromise than Milwaukee’s IfIHadAHiFi. Bursting out of a Fox Valley music scene that was better known for pop-punk and goofy nu-metal than experimental rock weirdos, the warped guitar riffs, slanted rhythms, and transgressive yelps of 2001’s Ones And Zeroes set the playfully blistering template for the series of albums and EPs that would follow. Back in 2012, IfIHadAHiFi began a lengthy hiatus after releasing the Nada Surf EP (to take the piss out of the band Nada Surf, who’d named an album If I Had A Hi Fi) and this will be their first show in Madison since. They share this bill with two Madison bands: the crudely funny feminist punk duo Damsel Trash and surf-rock-infused post-punk outfit Venus In Furs. —JS
SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 25
The Bold And The Beautiful. Chazen Museum of Art, 2 p.m. (free)
TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 27
Electoral Dysfunction. Union South, 6 p.m. (free)
The 2012 documentary Electoral Dysfunction takes a look at the staggeringly complex factors that impact Americans’ ability to vote, from widely varying restrictions on voting (especially voter-ID laws and registration procedures) to ballot design. It’s done in a road-trip style, and your guide, for better or worse, is Mo Rocca, who brings along both his innocuous hijinks and an appreciation for the extremely hairy details of the issue. Of course, all this could use an update given the host of legal battles that have since taken place over many states’ voter ID laws. Here, the screening will be followed by a panel discussion with co-directors David Deschamps and Bennett Singer, a few UW-Madison political science professors, and representatives from the ACLU and League of Women Voters. —SG
Titus Andronicus, A Giant Dog. High Noon Saloon, 8 p.m.
I posted Titus Andronicus’ wackily ambitious triple LP, The Most Lamentable Tragedy, pretty high up on my list of favorite records from 2015. Their Merge labelmates, Austin’s A Giant Dog, are likely to land on my 2016 list for their immensely fun album Pile from earlier this year. Between the lo-fi bombast of Titus Andronicus and the jaunty garage pop of A Giant Dog, you really couldn’t ask for a more fun lineup. Both acts are well known for memorably explosive live shows, so come prepared for some insanity. —CL
Law$uits, Coordinated Suicides, Twitchard. Mickey’s Tavern, 10 p.m. (free)
With 2014’s Future Failure, Brooklyn-based outfit Law$uits offered a pummeling and head-on noise-punk record that, with the exception of warped epic “Monsanto Drive,” cruised along gracefully on angled rhythms, messy and jangled guitar riffs, and taunting vocal wails. As the foursome readies its aptly-titled follow-up Mature Moods, they’ve teased a couple of tunes that promise a headier, more warped, and personal approach this time around. For all its sonic discordance and the lopsided rhythm that ploughs along underneath, “Playing Dumb” is a hypnotic but aggressive earworm that speeds along recklessly before T-boning into a slow trudge. However, the real highlight is the atonal and ominous punk blast of “Old Men,” which is stuffed with venomous dissonance, a screeching guitar that sounds like it’s busted, and a growling bassline that glues it all together. —JS
WEDNESDAY SEPTEMBER 28
The Mountain Goats, Oh Pep. Majestic, 8:30 p.m. (sold out)
While contemporary folk-rock with nasally muppet vocals has never felt more tired and taxing, there’s still a special place in our hearts for The Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle. Whether he’s penning a tribute to WWF mid-card legend Greg “The Hammer” Valentine (“Song For Greg Valentine”), an ode to the struggles of an unknown death metal band (“The Best Ever Death Metal Band In Denton”), or the story of Mexican wrestling legend Chavo Guerrero (“The Legend Of Chavo Guerrero”), Darnielle’s clever songwriting and detailed lyrics can offer an affecting angle on pretty anything. With longtime bassist Peter Hughes and Superchunk drummer Jon Wurster in tow, Darnielle has progressively moved further and further away from the lo-fi charms epitomized on 1995 classic Sweden, but the polished production of 2015’s Beat The Champ doesn’t make his work any less endearing. —JS
Nerd Nite. High Noon Saloon, 8 p.m. (free)
This month’s Nerd Nite three talks comprise a native Georgian discussing the deep history of his country’s language, a philosopher discussing political polarization, and an infectious-disease expert exploring the wonderful world of intestinal parasites. —SG
Spotlight Cinema: Dheepan. Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, 7 p.m.
Curated by UW Cinematheque programmer Mike King, MMoCA’s annually autumnal Spotlight Cinema series returns with a dramatic bang in this year’s surprise Palme d’Or winner, Dheepan. Director Jacques Audiard’s narrative, in part inspired by Montesquieu’s classic epistolary Persian Letters, works as both a compassionate, contemporary drama and a taut, violent thriller. The disparate tones have predictably elicited an equally divisive critical reaction that A.O. Scott amusingly encapsulates this way: a prophetic Liam Neeson action-revenge movie [Taken] as directed by the Dardenne Brothers [Two Days, One Night]. Ultimately, though, the film’s loftier humanistic ambitions and assertive commentary on poverty, civil war, and global identity cut to the heart of the current refugee crisis in Sri Lanka. Dheepan follows its titular character (Antonythasan Jesuthasan) reeling from the loss of his wife and children. In order to rebuild his life, Dheepan joins a young woman and a nine-year-old orphan seeking asylum. After escaping the borders as a makeshift family, the three relocate to a tragically terrorized Parisian housing project where they face a new set of obstacles. We’re The Millers, this is definitely not. The history of lead actor Jesuthasan, who emigrated to France after serving as a soldier in the Tamil Tigers guerrilla organization, lends this film a rare authenticity. —Grant Phipps