Madison calendar, August 25 through 31

Skeletonwitch, Orton Park Fest, Lucien Parker, and more events of note in Madison this week. | By Scott Gordon, Joel Shanahan, Chris Lay

Skeletonwitch plays August 25 at the Frequency. Photo by Josh Sisk.

Skeletonwitch plays August 25 at the Frequency. Photo by Josh Sisk.

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THURSDAY AUGUST 25

Michael Che. Comedy Club on State, through August 27, see link for all showtimes.

So far as I am aware, Michael Che will be the first ever Saturday Night Live "Weekend Update" anchor, past or present, to play the Comedy Club on State. Unless Kevin Nealon randomly dropped by unannounced and I never caught wind of it, this is a fact. (Speaking of "Weekend Update" anchors, did you know that Horatio Sanz was technically a co-anchor for a whole season back in the middle aughts?) Fans of Che’s work behind the desk week in and week out on SNL will be happy that his takes on racial and political topics are still there, as well as his inclusively laid back spoonful-of-sugar delivery that helps the medicine go down. He went from unknown to performing on Letterman in under four years after all (before he had the Daily Show / SNL cachet, natch), so the guy has some serious chops that you shouldn’t underestimate. —Chris Lay

Orton Park Festival. Orton Park, through August 28, see link for full schedule. (free)

The annual Orton Park Festival boasts a few headliners Madison tends to see a lot of in Chicago garage-rockers Twin Peaks and Milwaukee's Ggoolldd, but the Madison-based groups dotting the lineup are the best reasons to turn out. On Saturday, that includes singer-songwriter Nick Brown and his band bringing a nice balance of sensitivity and stinging wit, with a rocking feel that contrasts with Brown's stripped-down 2013 album Slow Boat. He's got a full-band EP in the can, Contender, but hasn't set a release date it yet. On Sunday, before Missouri's amiable country-rockers Ha Ha Tonka close things out, Madison hip-hop ensemble Fringe Character play a live set that features MCs Dudu Stinks and Daewong trading rhymes in front of a full band complete with horn section. Thursday and Friday nights both feature Madison's Cycropia Aerial Dance company performing up in the park's big old trees. —Scott Gordon

Skeletonwitch, Zebras, No Hoax. Frequency, 8:30 p.m.

Athens, Ohio's Skeletonwitch has gradually become one of the most reliable bands in metal, fashioning a sound that's lean and no-nonsense, but stylistically diverse. Their latest full-length, 2013's Serpents Unleashed, is also their best so far, melding the rhythmic tension of death metal, the melodic tremolo picking of black metal, and concise yet dynamic songwriting while letting all the elements breathe. The four songs on their new EP, The Apothic Gloom, find the band in fierce shape and still capable of making something fresh and distinctive from a bunch of familiar elements. This show opens with a great one-two of Madison bands who meld metal with thrashing punk, Zebras and No Hoax. —SG

Queenager, Double Ewes, Knvte, Kleptix. High Noon Saloon, 8:30 p.m.

This bill offers a few angles into the oddball electronic music bubbling up in Madison right now, and a chance to hear it on a proper sound system. Queenager and Knvte are both playful projects that wriggle and scoot along to charmingly warped rhythms, piecing together melody through hazy synths and effected vocals. The solo project Kleptix takes a more driving but no less eccentric approach to synth-pop—on the new album Moon Child, it manages to come off as sugary and ominous all at once. On the more polished end of things, it's always worth catching Janesville/Madison trio Double Ewes, who make sculpted psych-pop infused with a bit of folk. —SG

Movie Hell. The Fountain, 8 p.m. (free)

Local comics Anthony Siraguse, Cynthia Marie, and Eric Olander will be joined by special guest Cody Lemke to assist as they roast the hell out of Hercules, a mythological shit show of a film from 1983. It starred Lou Ferrigno (of Pumping Iron fame!) as the titular Greek hero, and Sybil Danning (Malibu Express!) as the requisite Cannon Group T&A. —CL

Hyperbole. The Fountain, 10 p.m.

Here’s a solid-looking showcase-style show at The Fountain, with local comics Dan Bacula (whose grab-bag album we covered earlier this year), Allie Lindsay, Matt Lind, Lauren Cahillane, and Michael Daubs, as well as New York comics KC Arora and Dennis Rooney. —CL

FRIDAY AUGUST 26

Russian Circles, Cloakroom. High Noon Saloon, 9:30 p.m.

Chicago-based post-metal trio Russian Circles have been battering out dynamic instrumentals that waltz between uncontrived, cinematic beauty and crushingly textured pounding for over a decade now. However, no producer has been able to flesh out the growling warmth of bassist Brian Cook, the boxy pummeling of drummer Dave Turncrantz, or the sometimes fluttering and other times fried guitarwork of Mike Sullivan as effectively as Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou does on this year’s excellent Guidance. Album-opener “Asa” breaks the ground with droning, lush guitar passages before moody ripper “Vorel” takes over and flames start spewing wildly out of said ground. Some of the album’s finest moments take place when Sullivan keeps his foot off the fuzz pedal for a while, like when the gorgeously plucked, clean guitar patterns of “Mota” form polyrhythms as they flip over the rhythm section. Or, when a storm of growling bass guitar clouds up behind the lush chord progression of “Overboard.” —Joel Shanahan

Complex Complex, Nick Zoulek, Silas Ritchie. Bright Red Studios, 8 p.m.

On this year’s Rushing Past Willow, Bowling Green, Ohio-based reed-voyager Nick Zoulek pushes his sax playing to challenging, heady, and gorgeous reaches. Tunes like “Symmetry: In Memories” show off Zoulek’s ability to simultaneously ride on and expand upon a simple idea through bizarro timing, impeccable volume control, and strategic microphone placement. Notes rise and fall like 3D pistons, entrancing patterns stay fresh through resonance and tone dynamics, and it all encircles the listener’s skull through seemingly meticulous panning. While packed with fluttering beauty, the album still prods at the darker, grittier corners of the emotional spectrum with unsettling tunes likee “Clench/Numbing,” which still taps into Zoulek’s heavy dynamic range, but definitely shows a crunchier, screech-ier, and more unhinged take on it. The bass-powered, odd-time groove of “These Roots Grown Deep” is a definitely a serious highlight too, in all its hypnotically growling glory. —JS

Dressed To Kill + Blow Out. Vilas Hall, 7 p.m. (free)

UW Cinematheque launches its fall season and its tribute to Brian De Palma with a double-feature that points to the diversity and stylistic boldness of De Palma's thriller oeuvre. Dressed To Kill and Blow Out came out in 1980 and 1981, respectively, and both center around the predicament of witnesses to a murder. In Dressed To Kill, that witness is a prostitute (Nancy Allen) who happens upon a brutal slashing. In Blow Out, it's a sound-effects engineer (John Travolta) who happens to record a car crash that resulted from a political assassination plot. Both have great ensemble casts (and both films include Allen and Dennis Franz), but the standout role here would have to be John Lithgow's turn as one of Blow Out's cold-blooded villains. —SG

Geek.Kon. Madison Marriott West, through August 28, see link for full schedule

Madison’s annual anime / sci-fi / gaming nerdsplosion of radical inclusivity, Geek.Kon returns this weekend for its tenth year. Along with special guests (Babylon 5’s Jason Carter!) and panel discussions (Otaku Jeopardy!), there are film screenings (Star Wars: The Machete Order!), Cosplay Combat Chess (relatively self-explanatory!), and a Spooktacular Maze! Will there be a Boffer Room? You better believe there’s gonna be a Boffer Room! For anyone who thought Wizard World was too mainstream, this is your convention. —CL

SATURDAY AUGUST 27

JVN Day Hip Hop Festival. Multiple venues, through August 28, see link for full schedule. (free)

This two-day festival of performances, a film screening, and other gatherings honors the memory of poet and MC John Vietnam Nguyễn, who was about to begin his sophomore year in UW-Madison's First Wave hip-hop arts program when he drowned in Lake Mendota on August 30, 2012, while saving a friend who panicked in the water. Things get started early on Saturday morning with a "Sunrise Open Mic" on the Memorial Union Terrace; Saturday also includes a screening of a new documentary about Nguyễn, showin' out, at the Marquee in Union South. The event culminates with a Sunday night concert headlined by Chicago rapper Saba, and also featuring several artists with ties to the First Wave program: Me eN You, Rich Robbins, and Broadway. —SG

Gloss Coats, Dash Hounds, Christian Dior, Melkweed. High Noon Saloon, 9 p.m.

Madison band Dash Hounds (whose members have also played in local acts including Modern Mod and Post Social) play here to celebrate their debut EP Eft, a collection of decidedly morose songs with a lot of craft and melodic inspiration. On tracks like "Pudding" and "Dreamboy," co-writers and multi-instrumentalists Alivia Kleinfeldt and Brendan Manley build their moody atmospheres patiently, with meandering guitar parts and Kleinfeldt's low-reaching but fluid vocals. The two talked with us about the EP on the latest Tone Madison podcast. Gloss Coats, a shoegaze-y band that began in Chile and started a new chapter when a couple members moved to Madison, will be releasing a new tape here, Vibrant (US), which compiles their previously released recordings and some newer tracks. —SG

Weiner + Wiener-Dog. Vilas Hall, 6:30p.m. (free)

Former New York City Congressman Anthony Weiner has now gone down twice in a hail of dick pics, the first one costing him his seat in the House and the second destroying his attempt to redeem himself by running for mayor. Filmmakers Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg caught up with Weiner in spring 2013, when poll numbers suggested he could actually win NYC's Democratic mayoral primary, and before that second scandal blew up on him. This gave their ew documentary, Weiner an uncomfortably and at times hilariously intimate view of the campaign's deterioration. It screens here in a rather clever pairing with another funny but excruciating Madison premiere: Todd Solondz's new Wiener-Dog, which catches up with the protagonist of Solondz's 1996 film Welcome To The Dollhouse. —SG

SUNDAY AUGUST 28

Lucien Parker, Bien Bien, Son!, Bear In The Forest, DJay Mando. High Noon Saloon, 9 p.m.

Minneapolis native and current UW-Madison student Lucien Parker demonstrates his versatility as a rapper on his first full-length, Black Sheep, released earlier this summer. On "Sacrifice Part II," he lays down stark but melodic verses over an oozing, trap-leaning beat from Madison's DJ Pain 1. On the a capella "Interlude," he reflects on the recent spate of racist incidents at UW-Madison. For all the album's stylistic jumping around, though, Black Sheep has a coherent theme running through it, as Parker explores the relationship between his hopeful ambition and his feeling of being a societal outsider. Live, Parker's work takes on an extra urgency and a more gravelly vocal tone. He talked with us about the record in a recent interview. —SG

MONDAY AUGUST 29

TJ Miller. Barrymore, 8 p.m.

As funny as TJ Miller is in whatever it is that you saw him in—and he’s been in literally everything from Silicon Valley and Deadpool to Yogi Bear 3D—you get the sense watching his stand up that on stage and in person is the only place that you’re going to get the really good and unfiltered comedy shit from him. There, or on regional morning talk shows maybe. Miller can effortlessly spin gold from nothing so efficiently that you have no clue where his planned bits begin and where his insane free-association stream of consciousness ramble ends. He does have bits that are worked out ahead of time, like an instantly legendary two-part story about the greatest drivers license photo ever taken, but he’s best when he’s just chasing whatever it is that’s struck his fancy for the moment. Along for the ride this time we get TJ’s so-called “better half” Kate Miller and Nick Vatterott. The last time Miller was in town the Comedy Club On State had to add a show to meet the demand so get on these tickets while you can. —CL

TUESDAY AUGUST 30

Tippy, Iji, Jonesies, TS Foss. Mickey's Tavern, 10 p.m. (free)

Look, we’re enjoying this year’s Bubble, the latest from Seattle pop-rock outfit Iji. However, between the lingering preciousness of singer-guitarist Zach Burba’s voice, the catchy jangle of each smooth chord strike, and the horn arrangements that slide in and out of “Summer Of 2069," it’s awfully tough not to imagine a cast of Muppets recording this album. And no, that’s not a burn. Bubble's sonic tapestry sits somewhere between yacht-pop, 80s college rock, and the tastefully playful new wave of XTC. This actually makes for a solid backbone of well-constructed and sun-bleached pop tunes, which we already do have an awful lot of, but rewards can be found in the clever vocal hooks of “”Free Screening,” the wobbly sea-leg vibe of “What’s Real,” or the muted bass groove In “Candle Flame.” —JS

WEDNESDAY AUGUST 31

Cheeseheads. Central Library, 6:30 p.m. (free)

I mean this in the most complimentary way possible: John Mitchell's new documentary Cheeseheads looks like a feature-length personification of that one scene in Wayne's World when Alice Cooper said “Actually, it's pronounced ‘mill-e-wah-que’ which is Algonquin for ‘the good land.’” Who wants a homespun visual trek across this here state of ours? I sure do! Presented by Madison film website LakeFrontRow, the screening will include a panel discussion with LFR’s David Klein along with filmmaker John Mitchell, UW-Madison lexicographer Luanne von Schneidemesser, and Joseph Salmons from the UW-Madison Department of German. —CL

Nerd Nite Madison. High Noon Saloon, 8 p.m. (free)

Nerd Nite is a worldwide series in which grad students and other curious people explore their obsessions, academic or otherwise, in substantive but informal presentations. The Madison edition returns from a summer break here with talks about bee research, vintage pin-ups, and cooking shows. —SG