“Point Blank,” JD McPherson, Profligate, JVN Day, and more events of note in Madison this week.
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THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 7
Nightmares On Wax, Nick Nice. Majestic, 8 p.m.
While it’s been about four years since Leeds, England’s Nightmares On Wax (real name George Evelyn) dropped his most recent full-length, Feelin’ Good, the woozy trip-hop producer and DJ will visit here to break off a cloudy set of deep soul and hip-hop cuts. Since stoney 1991 classic A Word Of Science: The First And Final Chapter, Evelyn’s production has gradually shifted away from incorporating ornate and sample-heavy dance cuts, instead zooming in on smooth, funky trip-hop—but keeping it slow, hazy, and choppy. As a DJ, Evelyn’s performances arc from deep soul tunes into faster and funkier dance climes. And while Evelyn tends to eschew the tackier, more time-stamped side of dance music, his razor focus on international funk, soul, and disco makes him an enduring force in his lane. —Joel Shanahan
Days Of Heaven. Central Library, 6:30 p.m. (free)
Terrence Malick’s second film, Days Of Heaven (1978), is an uncommon union of painterly aesthetic and poignant literary depth, the artistic culmination of similar facets of his first feature, Badlands (1973). Here, Malick tenderly returns to his emphasis on characters living on the margins, once again distinguished by another charmingly subjective narrator (Linda Manz). Cinematographer Néstor Almendros shoots the rural-set period piece with an ecstatic eye for the sparse elegance of neoclassical paintings of the early-mid twentieth century, specifically Hopper’s “House by the Railroad” (1925) and Wyeth’s “Christina’s World” (1948). Days Of Heaven also finds Malick actively falling in love with the magic hour in utilizing the setting sun’s heavenly burnt oranges and golden yellows to naturally emblazon the wheat fields of the Texas panhandle. At its core, the nostalgic film is a subdued and tragic working-class romance and a love triangle between Bill (Richard Gere), Abby (Brooke Adams), and an ill and heirless farm owner (Sam Shepard). As the reticent, nameless owner becomes infatuated with his seasonal worker Abby in the summer of 1916, Bill, pretending to be her brother, sets his sights on his employer’s vast estate, dreaming of the luxurious life that could be theirs. What separates the storytelling from its contemporaries is Malick’s focus on the periphery that personifies his landscape in time-lapsed shots of vegetation or close-ups of winged wildlife and agricultural machinery. Linda Manz’s laconically colloquial and inquisitive voiceover and sense of wonderment in her travels with Abby and Bill (first seen fleeing a crime scene at a Midwestern steel mill) also flesh out the human landscape. It’s the director’s particular intention to humbly subvert the stoic male protagonist with an affectionate and confessional soul in Bill. At this screening, the Cinesthesia series will present the film in its most recent restoration on Criterion Blu-ray. —Grant Phipps
Central Park Sessions: JD McPherson, The Modern Sounds, The Handphibians, Hometown Sweethearts. Central Park, 5 p.m. (free)
This year’s final installment of the Central Park Sessions series features a couple of artists who draw a lot of inspiration from the nascent days of rock ‘n’ roll. For Oklahoma-via-Chicago singer/guitarist JD McPherson and band, that means festive but gritty songs that bop and swing, but don’t get too wrapped up in nostalgia, like “It’s All Over But The Shouting,” from his 2015 album Let The Good Times Roll. He plays here ahead of the October release of a new album, Undivided Heart & Soul. The Modern Sounds, featuring Madison native Joel Paterson on guitar, work in a similar spirit but go one step further, pulling deliberately at the threads of blues, jazz, and rockabilly embedded within early rock music. There’s a dash of playful nostalgia to it all, but The Modern Sounds are also versatile, keen musicians, the kind who can help you refresh your fascination for well-worn influences. —Scott Gordon
FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 8
Maria Bamford. Barrymore, 7 p.m.
It seems to fascinate and astound people to no end that a comedian has helped raise awareness of mental illness, but that framing tends to do Maria Bamford a disservice in two crucial ways: She’s tremendously funny, and it’s always been a funny person’s “job” since the royal courts to make the masses think about things they wouldn’t or couldn’t otherwise. Furthermore, Bamford makes her material about invasive thoughts, frustrations with other people’s faked sincerity, bullshit careers, frustrating families, pop culture’s disposability, and hypocrisy as relatable as it is inventive and bizarre. In her stand-up sets, Bamford seeks to highlight at least an exaggeration of her own awkwardness, hovering in the same general orbit as Amy Sedaris and Tracey Ullman’s proclivity for doing about 60 or so characters a second (like, say, the devil and a country-club valley girl shooting the shit), and every now and then interjecting as herself either to provide a non-sequitur tangent or relating directly. This ratatat performing style works, honestly, because Bamford doesn’t attempt to make it all cohesive. Her act’s stream-of-consciousness feel has always been the point. Even if you’re not much for stand-up, chances are you’ve run into her work elsewhere, since Bamford has been a prolific voice actor with a wide vocal range since the 1990s, popping up in everything from CatDog and Home Movies and Hey Arnold! to Adventure Time and BoJack Horseman. She also was in Arrested Development‘s Netflix revival fourth season in 2013, playing DeBrie Bardeaux opposite David Cross’ equally quirky Tobias Fünke. That collaboration with show creator Mitch Hurwitz yielded last year’s Netflix series Lady Dynamite, which is equal parts an auto biographical and fictionalized version of her life after recovering from a breakdown, taking place simultaneously during three different time periods. That series might be the best point of entry for newcomers, but grab her classic 2009 stand-up album Unwanted Thoughts Syndrome for a deeper introduction. —David Wolinsky
Tatsuya Nakatani Gong Orchestra. Art In, 8 p.m.
Pennsylvania-based Tatsuya Nakatani needs only himself and a few percussion odds and ends to conjure up far-fetched but disciplined whirlwinds of sound, using all manner of unconventional techniques to wring unusual timbers from instruments that span from drumkits to singing bowls. He’s been here many times over the years to perform his bracing solo sets, but here he’ll be leading his Gong Orchestra project. He’ll work with 14 locally based musicians who’ve learned his technique of bowing gongs to produce a complex, beautiful, and massive array of harmonics. A 2012 album on Taiga Records, Nakatani Gong Orchestra, helps to capture how subtle and delicate this approach can sound, but there’s also no mistaking the formidable rumble that Nakatani’s techniques can create. This show is presented by Tone Madison. We have a ticket presale up now. —Scott Gordon
JVN Day: The Reverb. Multiple venues, through Sept. 10 (free)
The annual JVN Day event honors John “Vietnam” Nguyen, a hip-hop artist and a UW-Madison student who died in 2012. Nguyen was part of UW’s First Wave program, so naturally this event celebrates not only the lives he touched, but also the heady, multidisciplinary culture of hip-hop artistry on campus. Things kick off on Friday morning with an open mic at the UW-Madison Black Cultural Center, and conclude on Sunday night at the Memorial Union Terrace with a concert featuring several First Wave-connected artists including Myriha Burton, Lucien Parker, Jonnychang, CRASHprez, and Ru. In between are workshops, a dance event on the Sellery Hall basketball courts, and a surprise film showing. —Scott Gordon
Strollin’ Middleton. Downtown Middleton, 5 p.m. (free)
Launched in 2014 by the non-profit Greater Madison Jazz Consortium, the Strollin’ series has offered a promising model for exposing more listeners to the Midwest’s jazz community—which is more diverse and youthful than a lot of Madisonians seem to appreciate. A few times each year, the organizers pick a Madison-area neighborhood (past ones have included Schenk’s Corners on the near-east side, South Park Street, downtown Madison, and Verona) and set up a night of free jazz performances in a handful of businesses within walking distance of each other, and stagger the schedule so attendees can experience a diverse spectrum of jazz over the course of a few hours. The series has been a bit quieter this year, but makes its second foray into Middleton here, with highlights including a duo performance from vocalist Michelle DuVall and Rhodes-ripping treasure Paul Hastil; an inventive take on Caribbean music from the Panchromatic Steel Band; and a quartet led by saxophonist and recent UW-Madison graduate Rachel Heuer. —Scott Gordon
Killer Of Sheep. Vilas Hall, 7 p.m. (free)
While this fall’s UW Cinematheque schedule is filled with celluloid tricks and treats, particularly for fans of Almodóvar and George A. Romero, it also boasts a less flashy but no less important tribute to revered American filmmaker Charles Burnett, beginning with his 1978 feature debut, Killer Of Sheep. Shot in black and white, this touching portrait of black in life in late 1970s south-central L.A. might be one of the great American films of its time. Amid the post-riot desolation of the Watts district, working-class hero Stan (Henry G. Sanders) braves the horrors of working in a slaughterhouse in addition to navigating the pitfalls of street life in an urban landscape. While the situation seems hopeless, the hallmark of this beautiful film is that the characters do not fall into the despair that tends to mar more modern portrayals of urban life. Stan maintains a quiet dignity through it all even while the trappings of poverty and joblessness lay waste to those around him, and Burnett portrays his struggles through a lens of poignant lyricism. UW Cinematheque has managed to bring viewers a restored 4K print and this screening will certainly be a treat. The series continues on September 15 with Bless Their Little Hearts, and Burnett will be visiting in person for a September 22 screening of To Sleep With Anger. —Edwanike Harbour
SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 9
Snake On The Lake. Frequency, 8 p.m.
This year’s iteration of WSUM’s annual Snake On The Lake fest is helmed by Ducktails, the project led by former Real Estate member Matt Mondanile. Ahead of their forthcoming LP, Jersey Devil, Ducktails quietly released two singles, including the mesmerizing “Light A Candle.” Subtly danceable, the track blends layers of synth, slick guitar licks, and slightly syncopated drums to form perfumed stationery, on which Mondanile writes an introvert’s love song. “Burn this city,” he coos, “so that we’ll have no distractions.” They’ll be supported by a motley assortment of groups, including Madison band Greenhaus, who seem to be on the verge of having a moment. On their recent demo “Pop Song,” Greenhaus take a brief respite from their usual stripped-down approach. Halle Luksich’s vocals and lyrics still take center stage and are as intro- and extrospective as ever, but this time the instrumental parts joyfully enter the fray instead of playing their normal supportive roles. Essentially, the song is a throwaway not to be thrown away. —Henry Solotaroff-Webber
Point Blank. Vilas Hall, 7 p.m. (free)
A postscript to Cinematheque’s summer series of Donald Westlake adaptations, 1967’s Point Blank stars the stoic Lee Marvin as Walker, who, after being double-crossed and left for dead by his wife and best friend on Alcatraz, mysteriously reappears to get revenge and the $93,000 he’s owed. Is he an unstoppable mythic force of revenge? A pawn of a crime boss trying to consolidate his power? Or is he just a dying man trying to reclaim his dreams? Using a disorienting editing style borrowed from the French New Wave, director John Boorman drops Westlake’s beyond-hard-boiled noir plot into a surreal daytime LA nightmare landscape filled with flashbacks, fast-forwards, jump cuts and slow motion. Though not successful upon its initial release, Point Blank has gone on to become an art-house action landmark, with its taut dialogue, dazzling technical virtuosity, and Marvin’s ultimate-bad-ass performance influencing directors such as Walter Hill and John Woo to push the limits of genre filmmaking. UW Cinematheque has managed to acquire a rare 35mm print which should show off the film in its widescreen glory at this presentation. —Ian Adcock
MONDAY SEPTEMBER 11
Profligate, Colin Gorman Weiland, Ilana Bryne, Jared Perez. Art In, 8 p.m.
Philadelphia producer Profligate has racked up a discography of considerable weight and variety, boasting releases from labels including Not Not Fun and DKA records. While operating mostly in an industrial-influenced techno vein, Profligate pulls from a number of styles, creating music that’s both bleak and expressive. His 2015 release We’re All Waiting, while definitely a dance record in a broad sense, is a composite sculpted from a relatively small sample of sounds. The track “TRIL (Version One)” arranges snippets of harsh noise into a rhythmic linearity that extends in some form throughout the record. Only after a considerable amount of patience and stasis does a contorted yet simple synth line introduce itself. The synth melody twists and turns atop the rest of the track, as if to signal a surrounding disparity of characters who then join in, pushing and pulling or melting within the remainder of the record. Minneapolis’ Collin Gorman Weiland plays here as well, making convulsive dance music that churns deep within and lends a more personal element. Local deep techno producer Ilana Bryne opens the night, with DJs Jared Perez and Joel Shanahan spinning throughout the night. —Emili Earhart
TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 12
Jay Som, Stef Chura, Soccer Mommy. Memorial Union Terrace, 8 p.m. (free)
Jay Som, the stage name for Oakland’s Melina Duterte, has been described in a lot of indecipherable ways over the years, likely due to the fact that for a long time she let her music speak for itself online. Like Donald Glover’s Childish Gambino, the name “Jay Som” comes from the Wu-Tang Name Generator. Duterte has been posting her dreamy, intimate songs since MySpace and junior high, and as she’s grown, of course, her music has, too. She’s continued to tinker and write and record and release, all the way up to 2015, when a sequence of nine songs both finished and unfinished were uploaded to Bandcamp. Even though they were demos, their popularity swelled and garnered a release via Polyvinyl in 2016 as Turn Into. All of that has been a runway to her proper debut, this year’s Everybody Works. Although the album certainly continues her tradition of pairing kaleidoscopic melodies with slightly buried vocals, the real surprise is the way her childhood playing trumpet has paid off. No, there are no trumpets on the album, but Everybody Works benefits from an extensive knowledge of what makes songs and an album breathe. Live, this is even more undeniable. At this year’s SXSW, Jay Som teamed with a three-piece band and her songs are turned into jagged rock-pop gems with thick and honeyed riffs, her vocals unexpectedly being the undeniable and yet somehow still vulnerable linchpin. —David Wolinsky