Madison calendar, April 18 through 24
“Resin” at the Italian Film Festival, an Earth Day talk from Kim Stanley Robinson, Black Belt Eagle Scout, and more events of note in Madison this week. | By Scott Gordon, Chris Lay, Grant Phipps, and Shaun Soman
Sponsor message: The weekly Tone Madison calendar is made possible with support from Union Cab of Madison, a worker-owned cooperative providing safe and professional taxi services.
THURSDAY APRIL 18
Comedian Morgan Murphy knows how to keep good company. In 2006 she was part of Patton Oswalt's Comedians Of Comedy tour along with Oswalt, Brian Posehn, and Eugene Mirman, who remain some of the brightest stars of indie comedy. And then a decade after that, Murphy was included in Doug Stanhope's Comedians' Comedian's Comedians tour with Stanhope, Brendon Walsh and Glenn Wool. Not to pit these lineups against each other, but it's to Murphy's credit that her material and craft—smart, surprising, and self-deprecatingly smutty—can work equally well in either camp. Her jokes are tightly constructed and delivered with an energy level somewhere on the spectrum slightly above Mitch Hedberg. The topics explored on her 2014 Netflix special, Morgan Murphy: Irish Goodbye (blow jobs, Planned Parenthood, and her hypothetical reactions to pictures of her breasts ending up online), might not qualify as "safe for work," but she manages to wring truly sharp unexpected takes from them. —Chris Lay
Ostensibly, perhaps just because it's from St. Louis, Foxing is an emo band. But one could be forgiven for mistaking 2018's Nearer My God for something else. On its third full-length release, the group more often recalls heavier versions of Vampire Weekend and Neon Trees than they do, say, Joyce Manor. Even album-opener "Grand Paradise," the LP's grittiest track, opens with a simple clapping beat and muted synths before Conor Murphy and Eric Hudson's vocals erupt, launching Foxing into a liminal space between towering '90s alternative rock, piano-driven R&B, and The Suburbs-era Arcade Fire. It's weird, but refreshingly ambitious. More importantly, the track actually sticks its landing and probably rips live. Unfortunately, this is about as good as Foxing gets here. Follow-up track and lead single "Slapstick" dials back the cathartic vocals, gets fairly cheesy, and largely stays past its welcome. Elsewhere, "Five Cups" offers no emotional or structural arc to warrant its nine-minute length, while both the sparkling "Heartbeats" and "Bastardizer" see Foxing's distortion wash out potentially interesting musical textures as they lean hard into their apparent crossover potential.
Ultimately, Foxing sound like a group trying too hard to maintain one's attention by playing down whatever could them genuinely interesting. In contrast, support acts Now, Now (who actually play last) and Daddy Issues alone make this show worth seeing. Whereas the former touches upon CHVRCHES-esque electronics on "Edna," their latest single, and occupies heady spaces on 2018's Saved, the latter's fuzzy guitars and sardonic lyrics produce "a throwback vibe (think late-'90s/early-'00s teenage dram-edy film soundtrack)" sure to stand out among similar acts. —Shaun Soman
FRIDAY APRIL 19
On Mother Of My Children, her proper debut LP as Black Belt Eagle Scout, Portland-based multi-instrumentalist Katherine Paul ostensibly plays a familiar brand of indie-rock, but she also touches upon various textures that subvert the genre. Glimmering synths appear beside standard chugging guitar licks on "Soft Stud," while the droning opening and infectious bass line on "Just Lie Down" make for a track that at once recalls disbanded queercore act G.L.O.S.S. and Lateralus-era Tool. While a doom metal song lurks beneath (but does not quite emerge on) "Keyboard," the melodic song gestures toward yet another direction toward which Black Belt Eagle Scout could grow. This show, BBES' first in Madison, is among a handful of headlining appearances before the project embarks on a national tour with Julia Jacklin in late April. That tour won't stop in Madison, so this is a special opportunity to see Black Belt Eagle Scout with a supporting band in an intimate setting as she continues to rise. Speaking of rising artists, Madison's own Disq will be playing here behind a recent Saddle Creek 7-inch that brings its psych-tinged power-pop into powerful focus. —Shaun Soman
SATURDAY APRIL 20
For all of the eccentricity that runs through its albums, Deerhoof has also endured as a furiously fun live rock 'n' roll band. The San Francisco outfit has always given itself room to experiment over the past 25 years, from the maniacal waltz of "Giga Dance" on 2004's Milk Man to the tender acoustics of "No One Asked To Dance" from 2011's Deerhoof Vs. Evil to the multiple vocal collaborations of 2017's Mountain Moves to last year's Deerhoof Plays Music Of The Shining. And your typical Deerhoof show isn't necessarily at odds with all that depth. It's just that few things are more joyous in the moment than watching Greg Saunier play drums, as John Dieterich and Ed Rodriguez fit together bright shards of guitar and Satomi Matsuzaki brings it all into delirious melodic cohesion. While it's still all quite whimsical, it hits too hard to ever come off as precious. I've heard a few Deerhoof records over the years that didn't connect, but I've yet to see a less-than-memorable Deerhoof live set. At this free campus show, Deerhoof is nicely matched with the exuberantly math-y Philadelphia band Palm and Madison bassist Rob Lundberg, who has been recording new solo pieces with Dieterich producing. —Scott Gordon
MONDAY APRIL 22
In addition to Tuesday's 72-minute shorts program, which that collects seven live-action and animated comedies and dramas alike (all eligible for a coveted audience favorite award), the three-day local edition of the Italian Film Festival USA will also premiere four new feature films by burgeoning talents native to Italy. Perhaps most notable among them is opening night selection Resin (2017) by writer-director Renzo Carbonera, who will be on hand for a post-screening Q&A.
A tribute to the rich musical heritage and mountain songs of the Alps, Resin follows a young virtuosic cellist (Maria Roveran) who's exhausted from the competitive rigor of industry performances in Europe, as she returns to her rural home to care for ailing family members. During the course of her stay, she happens upon the bohemian members of the local male choir, and finds personal resolve in helping them sustain their tradition while embracing the tenets and lessons of her prior career. An initial glimpse of this intimate drama suggests a more veritable, relatable narrative outline of something like Paolo Sorrentino's Youth (2015).
The festival's other features are Edoardo De Angelis' The Vice Of Hope (2018), which premiered at TIFF last fall, about the lawlessness of the Castel Volturno region outside Naples; Francesco Falaschi's culinary comedy, As Needed (2018), about the friendship between a contentious cooking instructor (Vinicio Marchioni) and his star apprentice (Luigi Fedele); and Roberto Andò's winding thriller The Stolen Caravaggio (2018), about a screenwriter (Micaela Ramazzotti) stumped with writer's block who's mysteriously gifted a thread of the true story involving "The Nativity" from the titular 17th century painter. —Grant Phipps
The annual Earth Day conference UW-Madison's Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies puts on isn't the most convenient thing to get to for people who don't work in academia or environmental advocacy, given that it takes place during weekday working hours. But it's got broader appeal, in large part thanks to the exciting authors and activists the Nelson Institute tends to land for the conference's panels and headline speeches. The best reason by far to take the afternoon off and fork over the hefty registration fee is the eminent science fiction writer Kim Stanley Robinson, who will be giving a talk titled "Imagining the Possibilities: Climate, Technology, and Society" at 3:45 p.m. and signing books afterward.
Robinson is uniquely qualified to speak at an event like this: His novels are not only novels of ideas in the grandest sci-fi tradition, but they're also works that get their hands dirty with the problems of politics, economies, and environments, whether he's outlining a dramatic process of terraforming in his Mars Trilogy or envisioning a solar-system-wide, computer-administered command economy in 2312. Robinson speaks openly about his embrace of democratic socialism. His politics infuse his novels with both bold ideas and a cheerfully plainspoken prose style, and there's an optimism that shines through in even his most cataclysmic plot twists. The conference schedule as a whole tackles environmental problems through the lenses of both hard science and creative pursuits, with panels that touch on everything from wildlife adaptation to gaming to food systems. —Scott Gordon
WEDNESDAY APRIL 24
Tony Barba plays an indispensable role in most corners of Madison music where someone might need a saxophone or bass clarinet player, from the Afro-Peruvian jazz quartet Golpe Tierra to the boisterous Youngblood Brass Band, on top of the work he's done with artists ranging from Makaya McCraven to Bon Iver. Although he's never been strictly a jazz musician, Barba took a markedly experimental turn about five years ago, pairing saxophone with electronic processing and loops, first in the form of effects pedals and lately in a more software-based setup. For Barba, the electronics are of a piece with the harmonic and textural possibilities of jazz improvisation, not a mere novelty or production flourish. The heavily processed signals meld with the acoustic ones, and the loops allow Barba to build up more dense, layered, and episodic pieces than one might ordinarily get with the sax alone. Barba's 2016 album Winter's Arms sculpted warm tenor sax phrases into five long-form ambient pieces.
He plays here to celebrate the release of his second solo album, Ether. This time around, the sax and electronics sound much more fluidly integrated, and the layers build up in a much more complex way, across a total of three tracks, two of which are about a half-hour long. Winter’s Arms began with an unadorned sax phrase and gradually looped and altered it, but the acoustic and electronic elements are intertwined right from the start on Ether. The opening/title track immediately pairs the sounds of reed and breath with harmony lines and warbly modulation. “Time Will Take Its Toll” begins with a percussive flutter, letting an uncertain atmosphere accrete before giving us a droning swell of notes to latch onto. There's a sense across this record that Barba has grown more and more at home with this approach, combining an improviser's restless curiosity with the glacial patience of an ambient producer. He shares the bill here with percussion duo Filament, who will be performing their take on experimental musician Alvin Lucier's piece "Music On A Long Thin Wire." —Scott Gordon