Dessa, Jon Dore, Yum Yum Fest and more of the best stuff in Madison this week. | By Scott Gordon, Chris Lay, and Joel Shanahan
THURSDAY AUGUST 20
There’s been a notable uptick of comedians recording albums at our very own Comedy Club on State as of late. Shane Mauss did it earlier this year, Sean Donnelly got an album in the can for Comedy Central just last week, and this week we have Jon Dore getting a set of his smarty-pants outside-of-the-box absurdity on tape there as well. Comedy nerds will recognize Dore from Showtime’s “Knock Knock It’s Tig Notaro” (as the person who is not Tig Notaro), but folks who’ve been around a hot minute will maybe remember his gleefully anarchic set (assisted by Rory Scovel) on Conan a couple of years back, which was easily one of the craziest bits to land on a late night since Andy Kauffman got belted by Jerry Lawler. We recommend that you not miss an opportunity to catch a full set from Dore, a master at multi-layered meta misdirection. Simon Zais features, and John Egan (Green Bay) hosts.
An early space-trash entry in the expansive career arc of late director Kinji Fukasaku (whom you may know for directing 2000’s Battle Royale, that batshit film about a bunch of “troubled” kids being deported to a weapon-filled island to kill each other), 1968’s The Green Slime tells the Mystery Science Theater 3K-baiting tale of astronauts going into space to blow up an asteroid that’s, of course, on a collision course with Earth. After successfully destroying the asteroid, the astronauts land at a space station, only to find that one of the scientists has accidentally brought some—wait for it—GREEN SLIME back with him. The slime turns into a monster, the monster turns into more monsters, and thus we are cast into a dazzling shitshow of low-grade special effects, goofus dialogue, and sci-fi clichés. Fukasaku would go on to deliver a number of celebrated Yakuza pictures, but this one will forever slather up his legacy. It screens here as part of the Madison Public Library’s Bad Cinema series, which you can read more about this week in our interview with curator Michael Knutsen.
FRIDAY AUGUST 21
The 2015 Rooftop Cinema series ends with six of the best-received animated shorts that the series has screened over the years. Rooftop has consistently had an incredible crop of avant-garde morsels to pull from, so expect a stellar evening of out-there animation and conceptually twisted toons. The night's program spans a 60-odd years of experimental film, starting with Norman McLaren’s 1952 work Neighbours, which skillfully incorporates live actors into its stop motion experimentations. Things sprawl out wildly from there, with George Griffin’s 1973 extremist anti-cartoon Trikfilm 3, Emily Breer’s introspective 1987 collage-manipulation Spiral, Helen Hill’s playful 1996 love story Tunnel of Love. The most recent works on offer are Chris Andreth’s Academy Award-winning animated documentary short Ryan from 2004 and The Lost Thing, a dystopian fairy tale from 2010 by Australia’s Andrew Ruhemann. Don’t forget to read our in-depth interview with Rooftop programmer Tom Yoshikami (who just moved to Vancouver) on his decade as a programmer in Madison.
New York City singer-songwriter Christopher Paul Stelling uses stately melodies and a crisp, raspy voice in songs that feel sparse on the surface but gradually prove narratively and harmonically rich. The new Labor Against Waste, Stelling’s first album for Anti, stands out for its urgency and for its occasional burst of delicately arranged dissonance, especially in the middle of “Dear Beast.” On top of that, Stelling’s acoustic guitar work isn’t flashy but is occasionally dense and startling, an asset that should only make him more compelling in a solo setting.
Rapper, singer, writer, and noted Twin Cities CEO Dessa sounds fierce on self-possessed on both collaborative tracks with her compatriots in the Doomtree hip-hop crew, but her solo work exists in a richly detailed, enveloping world of its own. Dessa’s epic 2010 album A Badly Broken Code and 2013’s more concise Parts Of Speech spiral deep into arrangements that meld versatile hip-hop production with ambitious art-pop, and lyrics that reflect on struggle and vulnerability but with a ton of artful, intriguing layers. Those records are an introvert’s dream to listen to, but as a performer Dessa’s also up to the task of rallying this Friday’s outdoor street-festival crown.
Keeping a weekly DJ residency alluringly fresh and sustainable is tough, but somehow Madisonian mainstay DJs Tim “Lovecraft” Thompson and Wyatt Agard show no signs of slowing down with their Cardinal Bar-based weekly House Of Love. With barely enough time to recover from UK legend Luke Solomon throwing down last week, HOL’s back this week with veteran Chicago DJ, and current Madisonian, Ben Silver. A member of the esteemed Orchard Lounge crew, Silver is known for shredding the decks at Chicago’s legendary dance music institution Smart Bar, with mixes that edge toward polished, cruising, and expertly sequenced cuts that definitely flirt with the highly divisive, but often likable tech-house realm. Silver’s immense perspective and curation help him to avoid the negative connotations of over-polished blandness that follow a term like “tech-house” around.
We’ve been waiting all too long for new recorded material from Madisonian prog-punk soldiers Control, whose 2013 self-titled full-length compiled the work of three previous EPs—Grabhorn C., Schulte, A., and Longino, K. Blending the busy, worldly, and dub-inspired polyrhythms of drummer Luke Bassuener (also of one-man band Asumaya) with the conversational riff chatter between guitarist Stephen Baraboo and tastefully busy bassist Matthew Rajala, tunes like “Middle Brother Watches Younger Brother While Older Brother Goes Out” and “Horn” dive into DC-harkening jaggedness, while the clean, stony groove of “Lapse” leads the listener through a looser, cleaner, and slower-burning approach before it erupts into a whirlwind of finger-tapped insanity. Here’s hoping the trio will have some fresh, entrancing jams to preview. But, if not? Hell, we’re just glad to see Control active again.
For folks who got super excited about big touring convention Wizard World earlier this year, the locally organized Geek.Kon offers less star power but more depth. While Geek.Kon might not boast marquee guests like George Wendt, Ernie Hudson, or Jason Mewes, it offers a diverse array of windows into geekdom, with panels concerning everything from the mid-’90s Gargoyles cartoon (series creator Greg Weisman in attendance!) and another on Zardoz (“nigh-incomprehensible"!), all the way to “How to run an anime club” and “Intro to Sword Combat on Stage.” The event also boasts dozens upon dozens of mainstream and anime screenings (including five different Captain America films, from the 1944 entry all the way to last year’s Winter Soldier), tabletop and video games galore, and something called a... “Boffer Room”(?)! If you thought that Wizard World pandered a bit much, or was just another monolithic big box con, Geek.Kon’s local roots and real depth of community are probably right up your alley.
SATURDAY AUGUST 22
Madison instrumental-rock trio El Valiente haven’t put out a new recording since 2012’s album White Comanche, but they’ve been working on new songs for a possible EP later this year. In any case, the live show is the best way to experience El Valiente’s expansive, twangy, and rhythmically asymmetrical songs, with guitarist Eric Caldera and bassist Kris Hansen laying out convoluted melodic structures and Joe Bernstein nimbly doubling up on drums and glockenspiel.
Those of you still mourning the demise of Madison counter-culture institution Club Inferno should be plenty stoked to see that a crew of its most crucial DJs have thrown together a night of dark club jams ranging from industrial to EBM to synth-pop. True to their Inferno roots, DJs Caustic (Matt Fanale), WhiteRabbit, Psychotron, Koob, and Siberia will be covering everything from Front 242 to Haujobb in a chronological gamut running from 1991 to 2015, with each hour dedicated to its own five-year range. Fanale says it’s “essentially like Leather & Lace, but without the fetish stuff.” This will be the first proper post-Inferno dance party from this crew, they’ll be bringing their own lighting, and while High Noon Saloon isn’t exactly known for hosting a ton of electronic parties, it’s tough to beat that sound system locally. Definitely recommended.
A craft fair with a feminist punk streak, Black Sheep Bazaar will feature more than a dozen local vendors selling handmade art, clothing, jewelry, publications and health and beauty products. The vendors, as well as the Tip Top itself, will be donating 10 percent of their profits from the event to Planned Parenthood.
SUNDAY AUGUST 23
It’s debatable how good of a deal Yum Yum Fest is, but the food event, now in its second year, goes a lot further than, say, Restaurant Week or Taste of Madison in actually highlighting Madison-area chefs and encouraging them to dream up creative one-off dishes. Even if it feels like Cartman rampaging Casa Bonita but with slicker branding, the music lineup this year boasts a return visit from last year’s headliner, the wonderfully brash Twin Cities rapper Lizzo. Madison DJ Lauren Franchi will be spinning her deft mix of disco and house, as frequently heard at Nattspil and Merchant, and Milwaukee dance-pop outfit GGOOLLDD will round out the bill.
MONDAY AUGUST 24
The activist duo The Yes Men tackle climate change and capitalism with elaborate media stunts that range from hysterically absurd pranks, like the introduction of Halliburton Survivaballs, to brutal strikes at the conscience, like the apology they issued on behalf of Dow Chemical Company for the 1984 gas leak that killed thousands of people in Bhopal, India. They'll be appearing in person at this celebration for the Mutual Aid Network, and will share some clips from their new film The Yes Men Are Revolting, which will also be screening for free on September 10 at the Central Library.
WEDNESDAY AUGUST 26
Back from a summer break, Nerd Nite Madison resumes here with talks about killer plants, alien languages, and insects. We at Tone Madison have been partnering up with Nerd Nite to create some videos and podcasts of the talks, so look out for more of those soon.
Madison-based jazz pianist and composer Johannes Wallmann, who has released two albums this year, will play here in a quintent featuring esteemed Bay Area jazz guitarist Mimi Fox—an example of the annual Jazz At Five series’ knack for snagging the occasional exciting yet underappreciated guest artist. Wallmann also directs several UW-Madison student jazz ensembles in his role as UW’s jazz studies director, and some of those student musicians will be sharing the bill at 5 p.m., in addition to a 4 p.m. set by students from Milwaukee’s West End Conservatory.