Bassekou Kouyate, Luke Solomon, Andrew Santino and more of the best stuff in Madison this week. | By Scott Gordon, Chris Lay, and Joel Shanahan
THURSDAY AUGUST 13
At this benefit show, the Madison-based Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault marks 30 years of addressing the many societal forces that contribute to sexual violence. The $20 helps to support WCASA’s future efforts and gets you a diverse bill of Wisconsin artists, from the propulsive West African blues of Madison-based headliners Tani Diakite And The Afrofunkstars to the bright pop of Milwaukee’s Vic And Gab.
Brattleboro, Vermont bands The Lentils and Grape Room share a member and both meld playful melody with surreal lyrics and production touches that hint at something more warped under the surface. The Lentils’ new album Brattleboro Is Flooding layers in strings, horns, and vocal harmonies that make the songs feel more disjointed, not more polished, and Grape Room’s recent release Cartoon Land also has plenty of whimsical psych-pop touches, but they’re just a bit more subtle and gentle. This show also features the second-ever live performance from new Madison rock trio Pollinators, and a set from Madison’s Tippy, the solo project of Autographite and Christian Dior member Spencer Bible.
Aside from the odd remix, guest production spot, and an EP as part of all-percussionist electronic dance trio Calabash Boom, it’s been a pretty quiet couple of years for artisanally soulful future-bass producer Chants—the alias of Madison-based percussionist Jordan Cohen—since the 2013 full-length I Feel Like I Feel It. Heady and smooth with near-surgically programmed rhythms, IFLIFI is a batch of smooth, crawling tunes loaded with sculpted synth bits, drifting atmospheres, and gorgeously wandering, worldly melodies. The album’s big highlights were collaborations with vocalists—”Don’t Miss U” with soaring, Brooklyn-based vocalist Ramzi Awn and “City In A Bottle” featuring Madison’s own Brandon Beebe. To our relief, Cohen has a new full-length on the way in We Are All Underwater, which will be heavy on collaboration (including work from fellow Madisonians including woodwinds player Tony Barba and singer-songwriter Jentri Colello) and top-loaded with floor-ready club rhythms, as opposed to the down-tempo moods of his prior work. While we’re all suckers for the tried-and-true four-on-the-floor house bangers, we’re stoked to see how Cohen’s whip-smart rhythmic intellect pushes the old way forward on this next album. The album is slated for a fall release, but Cohen might have a limited run of tapes to share with locals at this show.
It takes a lot of hustle to be a professional comedian these days—with lots of opportunities for professional growth off the stage, you can sometimes end up making a name for yourself without being the best at the actual work of being a stand-up. But in Andrew Santino’s case, his experiences on jobs as diverse as indie films, working the red carpet at Comedy Central’s Justin Bieber Roast, and indie comedy venues like @midnight and Meltdown have actually strengthened his ability to hold court in a comedy club. Santino can be a little broad and crude in the way the funniest frat bro might come off to sorority sisters at the mixer, but on stage he has a self-awareness and charm that pulls you in and gets you to a place where you’re following along with him as he confidently pushes against the grain. Local comedian Ian Erickson hosts.
FRIDAY AUGUST 14
Now in its 12th year, the Sugar Maple Traditional Music Festival has always had a bit more ambition and scope than your average weekend of twangy music. That takes the form not of booking the biggest names or the most stuff, but of curating for varied and strains of folk music (and varied hybrids thereof) and mixing in interviews and instrumental workshops between performances. Highlights this year include Birmingham, Alabama’s Steel City Jug Slammers (Friday, 5 p.m.), who combine blues and the sounds of early-1900s jug bands; Louisiana duo Joel Savoy and Kelli Jones-Savoy (Friday, 5:45 p.m.), who explore a variety of Cajun and old-time music traditions; multi-instrumentalist Bryan Sutton (Friday, 9 p.m.), whose accomplished flatpicked acoustic guitar work spans from bluegrass to classical; and Muscle Shoals, Alabama singer-songwriter Hannah Aldridge (Saturday, 4 p.m.), whose sharp, raspy voice carries her comfortably across blues, country, and burly touches of rock.
On this year’s Dawn Rider EP, Idpyramid—the alias of Davenport, Iowa-based synth-whisperer Dennis Hockaday—offers lysergic, lushly melodic vignettes of ’80s B-movie synth-score worship. While the entire collection of tunes is edited together into two long-form tracks, there’s definitely a cruising dynamic range to be explored here, as Hockaday wanders from a meditative organ-patch trance to a stony, sweeping, and slow-burning abstract pop instrumental to an emotive, arpeggio-laden credit-sequence cruiser. Fittingly joining Hockaday on the bill is Madison’s Kleptix, the moniker of lo-fi gear-mangler, audio experimentalist, and performance artist Troy Peterson, who has been turning heads of late with his bonkers multimedia live show packed with Peterson’s own synthesized video collages, circuit-bent gadgets, rebuilt gear, and a totally nuked oxygen-mask vocoder.
The residential brainchild of Madison-based stalwart DJs Wyatt Agard and Tim “Lovecraft” Thompson, House Of Love is notable in that it’s one of the few running residencies in the city to actually take financial risks bringing in heroic underground DJs like Paul Johnson, Derrick Carter, and Gene Farris—just to name a few—into an intimate, but gorgeous-sounding room like the Cardinal. For the most part, HOL’s guests are often regional, lured in from places like Chicago, Milwaukee, and Minneapolis. However, this time they’re bringing in legendary London-based house producer and DJ Luke Solomon, who makes his first return to Madison since he played the Musique Electronique stage at La Fete De Marquette back in 2013. Probably best known for the body of playful, sample-laden house pounders he created as Freaks, his collaboration with Justin Harris (with whom he also ran longtime label Music For Freaks), who actually charted a sizable UK hit in bouncy pop burner “The Creeps (You’re Giving Me),” Solomon is also known for being an exquisite international DJ. We definitely recommend jamming his radio show Business As Usual for a taste of Solomon’s keen curatorial ear in advance.
SATURDAY AUGUST 15
Madison’s fledgling Harlem Renaissance Museum will celebrate the great and often misunderstood jazz pianist and composer Thelonious Monk at this event, through both the work of Madison-area painter Martel Chapman and a set of Monk compositions from Milwaukee/Madison/Racine jazz outfit Lesser Lakes Trio. Chapman’s often chooses jazz artists as subjects for his paintings—many of which have been on display at the museum in recent months—and employ a crisp Cubist style that also evokes the frequently complex, improvisatory nature of jazz. For more insight into the musical side of the evening, check out our interview this week with Lesser Lakes Trio drummer Devin Drobka.
Madison surf-punk outfit Venus In Furs is hoping to start an annual tradition with this potluck and locally focused rock-n-roll showcase in a rural setting north and west of town. In addition to a planned set at 6 p.m. from VIF, who are currently preparing to release a new album in September, the lineup includes the post-rock of Paper Wasp, the grimy and raw punk of Skizzwhores, the theatricality of Damsel Trash, and sets from four other bands.
This year’s Africa Fest boasts the first of two performances this weekend from Mali’s Bassekou Kouyate And Ngoni Ba, the second taking place at Saturday’s Central Park Sessions, in the same location. Kouyate uses the ngoni, a West African stringed instrument, to create nimble, prickly melodies—at times running it through effects pedals like a guitar, but not distracting too much from the instrument’s distinctive texture—and his band Ngoni Ba expands the ideas into big, pulsating songs. The band’s latest album, this year’s Ba Power, draws on both deeply rooted traditions and modern sounds, which you could say about a lot of successful albums by international artists marketed to Westerners, but there’s a confidence in the performances and a breathable immediacy here, making for uncommonly arresting results on songs from the slow-churning “Abé Sumaya” to the up-tempo and rhythmically complex “Waati.”
StorySlam is back at the Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center after a brief hiatus. With its open-door heart-on-the-sleeve tale-telling, sometimes hilarious, occasionally emotionally fraught, but always worthwhile even a its most long-winded, the “storyteller” show motif has been seeing a pretty steady rise in Madison (Madison Storytellers also took a chunk of the summer off), offering an outwardly warm stage to those who are maybe too intimidated by the expectations at Madison’s various comedy open mics. The theme for the StorySlam show this Saturday (as nominated and voted on by the previous show’s audience) is “Phobias” so expect tales of spiders or roller coasters or emotional commitment. As always it’s open to the public so sign up and tell your own story if you think you got a good one.
SUNDAY AUGUST 16
Madison residents Troy Schafer and Brian Grimm both combine classical training in stringed instruments with a host of far-flung experimental tendencies, so we’re definitely curious to see how they challenge the audience and themselves in this collaborative set. Schafer, a violinist, has conjured everything from gorgeous, multi-tracked string arrangements to abstract sound installations as a solo artist, and his collaborations include avant-garde outfits like Rain Drinkers, Kinit Her, Devotion and Burial Hex. Grimm, a cellist, also plays several Chinese stringed instruments, produces bizarro hip-hop instrumentals, and plays in adventurous jazz outfits Lovely Socialite and Brennan Connors And Stray Passage. (Full disclosure: Both have put out music through Tone Madison contributor Joel Shanahan’s Signal Dreams label.) Here they share the bill with solo bassist CJ Boyd and an improvisational trio set from Madison bassist Rob Lundberg, Chicago drummer Ryan Packard and Duluth guitarist Cyrus Pireh.
MONDAY AUGUST 17
The Hugo-winning science-fiction author visits to read from his new novel, The End Of All Things.
TUESDAY AUGUST 18
Hailing from Richmond, Virginia, synth-laden garage-punks Nervous Ticks summoned a screeching menace all their own in this year’s Skynet EP. The band pulls the bleakest shards out of ’50s pop, ’70s punk, and ’80s goth-rock, and speeds everything up about 50 percent. The sinister vocal interplay between disorienting back-up screamer Liza Jane and schizoid howler and guitarist Chaz Tick is unsettlingly and intoxicatingly slathered across backdrops of moody, jangling riffs, growling synthesizer, and and the pounding backbeat of drummer Kyle Flanagan. No moment on the four-track EP truly lives up to its Terminator-referencing title like the filthy, industrial-tinged “Die Like A Dog,” which is loaded with zappy synths, clanging metallic bashes, and a nasty, drum machine-powered, double-kick backbone.
Since the release of 1984 hardcore monument The Crew, Reno, Nevada-based Youth Crew Movement pioneers 7 Seconds have spent the last 30 years going from three records of batshit intensity to going new wave—see the endearing 1988 (debatable) misstep Ourselves before flipping back into a hardcore band and finally settling into a melodic, polished, and Warped Tour-ready pop-punk outfit via last year’s Leave A Light On. The band is down to two original members, bassist Steve Youth and vocalist Kevin Seconds. But hey, we may be becoming grumpy oldsters, but that doesn’t mean we we need to rag on 7Seconds for sonically tailoring themselves to today’s Rise Against fanbase. Admittedly, some of the album’s finer moments come from when they eschew the clean and speedy skate-punk leanings of tunes like “Simple Or Absolute” and “My Aim Is You” for the far more tempered and concisely written power-pop-tinged songs like “Standing By Myself’ and the anthemic “Slogan On A Shirt.”
WEDNESDAY AUGUST 19