Madison calendar, July 25 through 31
John Carpenter’s “The Fog,” Crucible’s new “low-sensory” dance night, and more events of note in Madison this week. | By Ian Adcock, Maxwell Courtright, and Scott Gordon
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THURSDAY, JULY 25
Electronic music often goes hand-in-hand with a glorious excess of stimuli: pummeling subwoofers, hyper-vivid lights and lazers, the wild crush of sweaty bodies, and assorted substances. The east-side venue Crucible, which opened in late 2018, has proven itself a great place for the adrenal wallop of a good dance night, but also wanted to make its offerings more welcoming to people with various disabilities and medical conditions. The new dance night Hush aims to address that need with "no strobes, lasers, or fog, a lower sound volume, and chill atmosphere," with Madison-based DJs Ellafine and Umi stretching into more downtempo material.
"This idea came up periodically, as a number of folks want to come out, but can't cope with some parts of a more traditional nightclub experience," says Crucible co-owner Greg Kveberg. "My own wife can't attend some club events (strobes trigger migraines for her), so the idea resonated. We'd like to be as open and welcoming to all sorts of people as possible, and this seemed like it would be an experiment worth trying. I guess the short answer here, really, is that we're trying to be responsive to the needs of our community." In other words, filling a void for often-neglected scenes and genres goes hand in hand with making spaces and events accessible for as wide a range of folks as possible. Kveberg adds that Hush might become a monthly occurrence if there's enough entrance.
DJ Ellafine, real name Elly Fine has a penchant for darkwave and synth-pop and DJ Umi, aka Jordan Ellerman, wields a commanding grasp of house and techno as a member of Madison's Foshizzle collective. But they both know that a good DJ needs to be versatile, and Hush will challenge both to stretch out. Ellerman says he'll be reaching into '60s and '70s R&B as well as some beat-less (which doesn't necessarily mean ambient, he points out) electronic tracks he's been collecting over the years. Fine will be reaching across a mix of genres as well, emphasizing "songs that don't always make the cut on more intense nights." Fine sums up Hush as an important step toward inclusivity and a welcome artistic challenge: "I like to think of it as an accessibility effort as well as just an opportunity to showcase that there are other ways to enjoy music and dancing that people may appreciate even if they don't have disabilities or sensory issues." —Scott Gordon
FRIDAY JULY 26
An atmospheric exercise in visual storytelling, The Fog (1980) is director John Carpenter’s attempt to adapt the old-fashioned ghost story to the era of the ultra-violent slasher. Carpenter and producer/co-writer Debra Hill followed up the success of their low-budget independent blockbuster Halloween with a stylistically different kind of horror film that echoed the films Carpenter loved as a child. As the town of Antonio Bay, California prepares for its centennial anniversary, a strange fog rolling in off the coast begins to cause strange disturbances and gruesome murders. The ghosts of a shipwrecked crew from a hundred years prior are enacting their revenge on the town, and a group of strangers have to band together to stop the undead killers. Carpenter builds tension by weaving together separate storylines using an ensemble cast that includes regulars Adrienne Barbeau, Jaimie Lee Curtis and Tom Atkins along with film icons Janet Leigh and Hal Holbrook.
With its lack of gore and old-fashioned narrative, The Fog was somewhat of a letdown for horror fans at the time, but has aged remarkably well thanks to its timeless creepiness. Packed with allusions to Hitchcock, EC Comics, Edgar Allen Poe, British horror and H.P. Lovecraft, The Fog is steeped in the gothic horror/suspense tradition. Working in widescreen Panavision for the first time, Carpenter and cinematographer Dean Cundey made full use of the format, making The Fog look like a much bigger budget film than it actually was. Filled with lush, foggy California landscapes and brilliant widescreen compositions, it’s truly a John Carpenter film that deserves to be seen in a theater. —Ian Adcock
Wisconsin and the Midwest have a history of birthing post-punk and noise-rock bands that give the music a menacingly playful twist, from Madison's Killdozer and Appliances-SFB to Dayton, Ohio's Brainiac. To follow that legacy into the present, it's probably a good idea to start with Milwaukee band IfIHadAHiFi, which formed in 2000 and combines its love of hyper-vivid melody with spirals of dissonance. You'll be able see this four-piece's banners of nerdiness and smart-assery a-flutter before the van hits Johnson Creek, what with song titles like "Doubting Thomas Telescope," "Paradise By The Paulding Light," and "My Very Eager Memory Just Seems Useless Now," and the fact that all the band members have palindrome stage names (YaleDelay on guitar and vocals, RevEver on guitar and synth, DrAwkward on drums and vocals, and MrAlarm on bass, synth, and vocals). But along with that comes a compelling ability to warp the dynamics of rock music and chop up its rhythmic conventions into giddily suspenseful structures.
This year's We're Never Going Home, HiFi's first full-length in seven years, finds the band stirring up just as much chaos as ever, but expanding on its perverse catchiness. It also finds the times coming into unfortunate/opportune sync with the band’s approach to lyrics. "Space Is Fake" finds IfIHadAHiFi tapping the vein of gruesome unreality that runs through the American psyche, not just riffing on the rise of conspiracy theorists but inhabiting their worldview with the abandon of the best satire: “Equal time for the Young Earth point of view / You know it's true! You know it's true!” The fuzzy whir of a synth and the straightforward drive of the drums combine to evoke a mental state of both madness and resolute determination. Elsewhere, "My Very Eager Memory Just Seems Useless Now" plays the brightness of its verses (they're almost like something Bob Mould would write—actually they're very much like something Bob Mould would write and that's always fine with me) off the hoarse shouting of its chorus. "The Wrist" leads off with a guitar figure that shows off YaleDelay's ability to wring an engaging tension from what on the surface might seem like just a few notes plucked in a choppy pattern. Like all the other misshapen components that make up any IfIHadAHiFi song, it clicks right into a formation, finding its place in a collective mutant momentum. That's why this band holds up: Everything is jaggedy and messed-up, and everything is wonderfully in sync.
Telechrome is the recently formed duo of Madison-based musicians Terrance Barrett and Tarek Sabbar. The two share a fascination with both guitars and electronics. Barrett's solo project Terran combines psych-rock shredding with layered synth arpeggios and song structures that feel at once carefully programmed and completely volatile. Sabbar's own solo efforts have focused recently on atmospheric modular synths, with the occasional dash of harsh techno. The two previously collaborated in the bleak Milwaukee post-punk band Heat Death before finding their respective ways to Madison. The other local support band here, Momotaros, is one of several projects from Madison musician Chris Joutras, who is also heading up the newly revived booking efforts at the Tip Top. —Scott Gordon
SUNDAY, JULY 28
Pleasure Leftists, true to the name, is a band whose sonics balance the sublime with a rigid utilitarianism. The Cleveland quartet's members come from disparate musical backgrounds, ranging from hardcore bands to more experimental projects. Perhaps as a result, Pleasure Leftists works with a slightly different sonic toolkit than that of other post-punk revivalists working today, creating a sound that uses straight-laced riffing to undergird Haley Morris' aching, bellowing vocals. The band has never been shy about its debts to influences (most bands on Factory Records come to mind), but its new album The Gate is the best evidence yet that Pleasure Leftists also have a clear vision of their own.
The band’s winning alchemy comes through most successfully on The Gate’s title track. The itchy, propulsive playing of guitarist Kevin Jaworski, drummer Mark TerVeen, and bassist Steve Peffer provides a running start for Morris to soar into her upper register in an anthemic and moving hook. "Try The Door" and "Dancing In The Dark" also find the band wringing plenty of dynamic tension from its spartan foundations, all while showcasing the range and passion of Morris’ delivery. If you've been following Pleasure Leftists thus far, you more or less know what you're getting, but along with that comes a level of performance that can only be born of raw feeling and sharply honed musicianship. —Maxwell Courtright