Madison calendar, September 29 through October 5

Russ Johnson, Ryley Walker, “Sand Storm,” and more events of note in Madison this week.

Russ Johnson, Ryley Walker, “Sand Storm,” and more events of note in Madison this week.

“Sand Storm” screens October 5 at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art.

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Ryley Walker, Circuit Des Yeux. Frequency, 9 p.m.

Chicago guitarist and singer Ryley Walker’s music sits on a quickly shifting spectrum—one exploring sturdy American folk roots while swaying into psychedelia, jazz, and timeless experimentalism. But Walker ventures into left field in a seamless, smooth way. The surprises in his music arise through slow evolution, patiently bending complex, fingerpicked guitar lines and wailed vocals into something richer and subtler. Walker plays here behind his newest album, Golden Sings That Have Been Sung, released this past August on Dead Oceans. Sharing the bill is another Chicago artist, Circuit Des Yeux, the longtime project of musician Haley Fohr. The textures in Fohr’s music span an incredibly vast body of instrumentation and density, while tying everything together with a powerful, bellowing voice. While resting on an underlying folk framework, Circuit Des Yeux’s 2015 album In Plain Speech incorporates strings, woodwinds, programmatic multi-percussion, and electronics. Fohr plays solo-acoustic here—read more about that in our recent interview. —Emili Earhart

Ben Folds, Majestic, 9 p.m. (sold out, also Sept. 30)

One of the foremost pop-alternative, piano-shredding muffin-men of the last couple decades, Ben Folds has continued writing animated, confessional tunes over stupidly catchy backdrops that sound like they were written for failed 1970s TV pilots. Still best known for his work with the Ben Folds Five, which spawned an unlikely hit in the restrained, heart-wrenching ballad “Brick” from 1997’s Whatever And Amen, Folds has continued to trudge onwards and most recently dropped 2015’s So There. The long-player is split into collaborations with a couple different classical units—NYC-based pop-classical sextet yMusic and the Nashville Symphony Orchestra. It’s a vast dichotomy, as the infectious “Phone In A Pool” sounds like an ancient, Ben Folds Five-era demo that’s been unfrozen and topped with playful strings, but the three-movement “Concerto For Piano And Orchestra” section with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra is a batshit instrumental epic. Also, whether or not you herald Folds as a sensitive genius or unbearably precious, his live show is pretty bonkers—the dude is a legit piano shredder and will sometimes organize the audience into his personal choir. —Joel Shanahan

Bill Burr. Orpheum, 7 p.m.

You might be surprised how much time I just spent trying to find a relatively recent clip of Bill Burr actually performing comedy. I would’ve settled for clips of him chilling on Conan’s couch, but even those were almost a year old. What I did find, though, was a whole passel of excerpts from his wildly popular series of podcasts, so there you go. Burr, a hard-nosed old school comic who came up in Boston and New York, is one of the more distinctive voices in comedy (despite occasionally veering a bit too close to outright misogyny for my tastes). It’s been a couple of years since he put out his last album, 2014’s I’m Sorry You Feel That Way, so expect a grip of new material that might sometimes court controversy but will be loaded with unexpected twists. —Chris Lay

Hunt For The Wilderpeople. Union South Marquee, 9:30 p.m. (free)

Directed by Flight Of The Conchords veteran Taika Waititi, this year’s Hunt For The Wilderpeople is a pleasantly ramshackle coming-of-age story about an unruly hip-hop loving kid on the run from child protective services, played with defiant charm by Julian Dennison. The youngster is forced to team up with his surly uncle (Sam Neill) in order to survive a few months in the outback. Is it a little bit twee? Sure, but it’s a ton of colorful fun if you can sucker for having your heartstrings tugged at. This was one of the more in-demand films at this year’s Wisconsin Film Festival, so if you missed it then, catch it for free here. —CL


Indigenous: Russ Johnson. Memorial Union Play Circle, 7:30 p.m. (free)

Trumpeter Russ Johnson lives in Milwaukee and teaches at UW-Parkside in Kenosha, but functionally is more of a Chicago musician—his last album of original material, Meeting Point, was recorded with three Chicago-based collaborators, and three other musicians from there make up Headlands, the band that will join him at this show. Johnson has collaborated with musicians including Lee Konitz and Bill Frisell, and his original work blends elements of traditional compositional structure and melody with the occasional burst of dissonance and experimentation. This show will feature Johnson playing new original compositions with pianist Rob Clearfield, bassist Matt Ulery, and drummer Jon Deitmeyer. Johnson says show will be divided up into two sets, each a continuous suite with no breaks between songs. The first set will comprise music he composed for last year’s Hyde Park Jazz Festival, while the second will combine brand-new compositions with a few earlier pieces. The quartet will be fresh off a live recording set for Thursday night in Milwaukee. —Scott Gordon

Daikaiju, Knuckel Drager. Wisco, 8 p.m.

When developers tore down that big shitty old brown house at the corner of Willy Street and Paterson and started building upscale apartments, I couldn’t help but look forward to the day when the new residents would have to deal with punk, metal, and noise shows blasting over from the Willy Street Pub & Grill, aka The Wisco. Relations between the dive bar and its new neighbors should get an amusing test on Friday, when two supercharged surf-rock bands—Alabama’s Daikaiju and Madison’s Knuckel Drager—bring their already loud, rowdy live sets to the Wisco’s outdoor sand volleyball court. Yes, The Wisco has apparently put out a considerate note to its neighbors and plans to wind things up by 11, but this is infinitely more fun and hilarious than a hastily done “CONDOS KILL WILLY” tag. —SG

The Childhood Of A Leader. Vilas Hall, 7 p.m (free)

When director Brady Corbet made 2015’s The Childhood Of A Leader, he likely had no idea that its story about a young psychopath coming of age in the wake of the World War I would end up parallelling the rise of Donald Trump’s demagoguery in America. But man, it’s hard to separate the tensely fascist nightmare of this film (soundtracked by Scott “not that Scott” Walker) from the reality we’re living in even if (when?!) The Donald gets trounced in November. Childhood Of A Leader has already racked up a ton of festival awards and establishes Corbet as a vibrant new voice in cinema—who has perhaps unexpectedly gone backwards in time to hold a warped mirror up to the present. —CL

Anderson East, Brent Cobb. High Noon Saloon, 9 p.m.

Of all the “I’m into REAL country” bros underneath Nashville-based producer Dave Cobb’s wing (shout out Sturgill, and Shooter, and Chris Stapleton, and Jason Isbell), Anderson East is the only one who hasn’t been written about on indie-rock blogs as a person who is here to “save” country. (Not that the people who write indie-rock blogs are even actually listening to Eric Church or Florida Georgia Line.) East’s lesser-than-those-others status makes sense since East’s music is less dog-whistle “this means something, man” than those other dudes’. He’s an Alabama boy who makes soul-country music that sounds like it was recorded at Muscle Shoals with an ace horn section behind him. His most recent album, Delilah, was one of 2015’s most underrated releases. —Andrew Winistorfer

CRASHprez, Trophy Dad, Zhalarina. Memorial Union Terrace, 9 p.m. (free)

It’s a little tough for me to write about Maryland-raised rapper CRASHprez, aka Michael Penn II, because over time he’s become a Tone Madison contributor and a friend. Still, it’s worth noting his first headlining show in town in a good while. It’s been even longer since his last album, More Perfect, though recently he’s put out a couple of fiery singles—”Illegal” and the new “DMC Jr”—and contributed a solid feature on fellow UW-Madison alum Rich Robbins’ new album. Penn recently moved to Minneapolis, and returns here to share a bill with his friends in Madison power-pop outfit Trophy Dad and Madison-based rapper Zhalarina. —SG

Ken Vandermark. Arts + Literature Laboratory, 8 p.m.

Multi-wind-instrumentalist Ken Vandermark seems to have traveled to every corner of the jazz world over the past 30 years. And each time he ventures into a different sub-genre, Vandermark twists it into something undeniably his own. From brutal brass bands to almost jazz-pop ensembles to free drum-and-sax duos to solo extended technique work, Vandermark’s built a career on tireless versatility and adaptability. But his work doesn’t just differ from record to record: Vandermark can incorporate vastly different techniques and forms into a single track. A piece innocently exploring free alto-sax and jazz drums and bass could swerve right into a tumultuous hash of processed electronics, only to swerve back into something more rhythmically coherent that treats the electronics as part of the ensemble. While Vandermark has worked with countless free jazz musicians such as Ab Baars and Paal Nilssen-Love (as well as serving as a member of brutal prog outfit The Flying Luttenbachers), Vandermark will be performing solo, at this show, presenting two improvised sets. Read more about it this week in our interview with Vandermark. —EE

Cribshitter, IE. Mickey’s Tavern, 10 p.m. (free)

Minneapolis band IE’s debut release, Live 7/21/2016, begins with Michael Gallope and Travis Workman’s synths arpeggiating and oscillating around each other, creating a dense, warm weave that isn’t quite a drone but isn’t in a particular hurry to charge forward with a melody. As the track, “AAOA,” continues, the band finds plenty of nuance and dynamism in that in-between zone—it’s a primordial but still quite welcoming take on electronic minimalism. The second half of the release, “OOAO,” has a bit more overt momentum, as bassist John Vitale and percussionist Meredith Gill set a sparse 3/4 rhythm and the synths meander off into conversational melodies between passages of shimmering chords. These two 10-minute tracks suggest that IE has a lot of ideas and compositional mettle to unfold in a live setting, and to make things weirder they’ll be opening for stupendous Madison pop miscreants Cribshitter. —SG

Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey. Madison Public Library Hawthorne Branch (2707 E. Washington Ave.), 7 p.m. (free)

Steven M. Martin’s 1993 documentary Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey tells the story of Russian-born inventor Léon Theremin and the groundbreaking electronic instrument who bears his name. Born in 1896 in St. Petersburg, Theremin achieved early fame for his instrument, even demonstrating it to a delighted Lenin in 1922, and lived to see it used in everything from sci-fi sound effects to tender classical performances. Under Stalin, Theremin was imprisoned and pressed into developing spy devices for the KGB. After the screening, there will be a theremin demonstration and discussion from Madison musician Geoff Brady. He is best known as a percussionist (in bands including Yid Vicious and Brennan Connors And Stray Passage), but is also a gifted theremin player, and occasionally plays the instrument in a Ramones cover band called (not making this up) The Theramones. —SG


Fermentation Fest. Reedsburg and surrounding areas, through October 9, see link for full schedule

The Reedsburg-based Wormfarm Institute’s annual Fermentation Fest offers a slew of classes, tastings, and performances revolving around food, agriculture, and anything that ferments—from pickles to kefir to beer to sourdough bread. It’s also a formidable example of how arts and culture can and should draw Madisonians into the surrounding country a bit more often. But perhaps the best reason to make the trip is Fermentation Fest’s Farm Art DTour, a series of bold art installations occupying towns and farmland along a 50-mile loop of road. There are also food carts and performances along the route, making for one of the most wonderfully strange and enjoyable drives you can take in the Driftless region. Look for a more extensive Tone Madison story on the DTour as the festival gets underway. —SG

Tenement, Dusk, The Momotaros, The Central. Art In (1444 E. Washington Ave.), 8 p.m.

So much gets swept up in the confident, mercurial charge of Wisconsin punk band Tenement—masterful soul- and country-informed songcraft, splatters of dissonance, heady bizarro sound collage, a balance of snarl and tenderness. And however you define them or whatever you want them to be…they’re both too down-to-earth and too staunchly rooted in their own way of doing things to care. Case in point: after last year’s double album Predatory Headlights brought Tenement some extra notoriety, the band kept ripping it up on a circuit of clubs and DIY venues, and followed up by unceremoniously dropping a seven-track, self-titled album. Appleton-based leader Amos Pitsch also has been concentrating on a new band, the more country-leaning Dusk, which has released a few excellent singles over the past year. Recently the two acts have been on a joint tour, with Tenement playing in a six-piece lineup augmenting the usual trio with Dusk members on keys, vocals, and percussion. —SG

Lewis Black. Orpheum, 8 p.m.

In the 20 or so years since Lewis Black made his debut on The Daily Show, he has elevated curmudgeonry to such a high art that casting him as the voice of the literal emotion Anger in Inside Out wasn’t just a natural choice decision but arguably the only one. Even after 11 stand-up albums, three books, and countless “Back In Black” segments on The Daily Show, Black still finds the energy to get riled up and focus that rage into comedy. This time out, he’s touring a show called “The Emperor’s New Clothes: The Naked Truth,” so we can expect the topics to vacillate between “politics!” to “even more politics!” but maybe he’ll get some weird Jill Stein or Gary Johnson curveballs in there too. If you’re lucky, the merch table will still have some of his branded candy corn stash tins that the kids cannot seem to get enough of. —CL

Out Of The Blue. Vilas Hall, 7 p.m. (free)


To Each His Own. Chazen Museum of Art, 2 p.m. (free)


Every Time I Die, Old Wounds, No Hoax, Audacity. Majestic, 7 p.m.

Buffalo, New York band Every Time I Die have shown a firm determination to evolve over the years, and that’s why they’ve survived the great capitalization and bastardization of metalcore that saturated the 2000s. While the band’s penchant for complex, pummeling, Botch-inspired rhythms has remained intact over the years, they’ve spent the last decade refining and stripping away all of the predictable hardcore-caricature breakdowns littered across 2001’s Last Night In Town and 2003’s Hot Damn. ETID have also built up their slow-burning side. On the new full-length Low Teens, the hyper-polished production that’s been present since 2005’s Gutter Phenomenon is still pretty overbearing, but Keith Buckley’s bleakly playful lyrics and frantic screams still sound as urgent as ever. New drummer Daniel Davison (formerly of Norma Jean) hammers out a brain-twisting groove on “The Coin Has A Say” below discordant riffing and scorched vocals, before giving way to more straight-ahead rock comforts. Despite Every Time I Die’s Warped Tour-ready sheen, the thrash-heavy “Glitches” and poppy punisher “Love Will Get You Killed” capture a band that still stands out in a sea of forgettable contemporaries. —JS

Destroyer Of Light, Dosmalés, Max Carl. The Wisco, 8 p.m.

Dosmalés consists of two people who’ve already created a lot of heavy, grimey music in Madison—Bongzilla guitarist Michael Makela and former Panther and Pyroklast drummer Nick Stix. The duo’s self-titled EP, released in January, offers a sparse and gritty take on doom metal. Makela splits his guitar signal between two imposing amp stacks, one fairly bright and clean and the other leaking filthy low-end. Nick Stix, whose previous bands were fast and thrash-y, adapts to plodding doom tempos but finds a lot of ways to work in added dynamics and catchy fills. Dosmalés are working on a full-length, and play here in support of Austin doom-metal band Destroyer Of Light. —SG


Spotlight Cinema: Sand Storm. Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, 7 p.m.

Writer-director Elite Zexer’s debut drama Sand Storm recently became the first film entirely in the Arabic language to win Best Picture and Best Director at the Israeli Oscars, the Ophir Awards. Set in a Southern Bedouin community, Sand Storm explores and condemns cultural misogyny: The protagonist, Jalila (Ruba Blal-Asfour), has to play host as her former husband Suliman (Haitham Omari) celebrates his second wedding, to a younger woman. The resulting tensions are juxtaposed with the affairs of Jalila’s rebellious teen daughter Layla (Lamis Ammar), who is having a secret relationship with a boy from her university. Although the title literally suggests tempestuous imagery and sound, the film’s steady thematic pacing is rather subdued and psychological, akin to the films of Asghar Farhadi (A Separation, Fireworks Wednesday). Sand Storm is part of a new wave of feminist cinema to emerge from the Middle East, which also includes Yaelle Kayem’s Mountain (a Wisconsin Film Festival 2016 selection). —Grant Phipps

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