Madison calendar, July 6 through 12

Jonah Parzen-Johnson, Dash Hounds, DJ Phil Money, Ben Silver, and more events of note in Madison this week. | By Scott Gordon, Grant Phipps, Chali Pittman, Joel Shanahan, David Wolinsky

Jonah Parzen-Johnson.

Jonah Parzen-Johnson.

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THURSDAY JULY 6

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

Paul Verhoeven's original RoboCop (1987) stands as one of the most recognizable titles in the cyberpunk canon. While the film's titular ironclad cyborg's iconic design made it popular, this seminal dystopian film has remained vital for 30 years because of its sharp barbs at the corporatocracy (in a then-near-future Detroit). Actually, this may now seem like a retroactive forewarning in the era of the Trump administration. Current populist revelations have perhaps had an impact on the renaissance of the whole science fiction subgenre (notably, with Denis Villenueve's upcoming Blade Runner 2049), but it's difficult to neatly box Verhoeven's vision into the ongoing trends of dark neo-noir. Rather, co-writers Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner assist the director's knack for hyper-violent satire in the construct of a crime drama. And it's further fortified with absurdist action sequences that mesh with the sleazy TV show catchphrase ("I'd buy that for a dollar!") on the periphery of the main story that all characterize its toxic culture. Even the police force is adjoined to the corporate machine of Dick Jones (Ronny Cox)'s Omni Consumer Products (OCP), who've essentially bought the resource-strapped police department and attempted to gentrify the entire city. One of the only honest cops, Murphy (Peter Weller), gets cornered and blown away by the brutal gang leader Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith). But the decimated policeman is reborn in the hands of OCP scientist Bob Morton (Miguel Ferrer, RIP), who fits what remains of his mortal body into a cybernetic suit while removing all memories of Murphy's former life. With this experiment, Morton and OCP hope to exert total control (a main theme) over the new class of officer that will serve the "public trust" but, really, the company's will. RoboCop is tenaciously entertaining, penetrating, and one of the best American films of the 1980s, providing Detroit with its own everlasting fictional hero, and transcending its slick surface-level aesthetics (including stop-motion puppetry) through an emotional examination of human identity. —Grant Phipps

FRIDAY JULY 7

The Tree Of Wooden Clogs. Vilas Hall, 7 p.m. (free)

At 182 minutes, The Tree Of Wooden Clogs (1978) may be UW Cinematheque's lengthiest presentation of the summer. But the film doesn't feel terribly long, thanks to the engrossing verisimilitude director Ermanno Olmi creates with his on-location shooting in the fertile Lombardy region of Italy. Set at the end of the 19th century, the Palme d'Or-winner's neo-realist narrative juxtaposes an enduring earthen beauty with the obstinance of ancestral and religious tradition in focusing on the agrarian lives of four peasant families. Using a cast of local non-professionals who learned the vernacular of the period, The Tree Of Wooden Clogs achieves a rare intimacy that seems at once literary and painterly in its meticulous framing. The tale begins with the clash between a Bergamo priest and a father's guidance for young Minec (Omar Brignoli). While the boy's family needs him to stay to work on the farm, the minister deems Minec's education the will of God. And so, despite the inconvenience (and perhaps legitimizing all those "when I was your age" tropes), the boy slogs four miles one way to the nearest school in awkward wooden clogs. It provides the foundation for the arduous journey ahead for all men, women and children exploited by a single landowner simply to earn a meager living. The rigorous branching depictions are sure to draw comparison to the repetitions of Chantal Akerman's Jeanne Dielman (1975). Yet in documenting the customs and planting-harvesting seasons, Olmi explores the human condition's innate bond with nature. The film screens here in a new digital restoration. —Grant Phipps

Palm, Palberta, Melkbelly. Frequency, 8 p.m.

Philadelphia band Palm build their songs on unfailingly off-center and elliptical rhythms, stacking Eve Alpert and Kasra Kurt's chirping back-and-forth guitar figures on top. Yet the recently released Shadow Expert EP turns this oblique songwriting approach into music that happily and resolutely charges forward, largely thanks to drummer Hugo Stanley and bassist Gerasimos Livitsanos, who interpret all that jagged rhythmic structure with a conversational and playfully swinging approach. Alpert and Kurt also both sing, usually in melodies that expand patiently across the busier aspects of the band, giving songs like "Walnut" and "Walkie Talkie" a strange but pleasant cohesion. Chicago band Melkbelly are also a standout on this bill, playing rock that's more burly and distorted, but with a wry charm that should pair well with Palm's twisty pop. —Scott Gordon

Paul Dietrich Quintet. Arts + Literature Laboratory, 8 p.m.

Madison-based jazz trumpeter Paul Dietrich's second album as a bandleader, Focus, has a great deal of complexity under its often placid surface. Working with a quintet of mostly Chicago-based collaborators, Dietrich has written a set of original compositions that emphasize unhurried, flowing exchanges among instruments, On several tracks, including "The Quick Turn" and "Rush," Katie Ernst's wordless vocals provide an ethereal double to Dietrich's trumpet lines and Dustin Laurenzi's tenor saxophone. The album has its brisk moments—especially pianist Paul Bedal's rippling, repetitive figure on the intro of "Look"—but it's hard to miss its ruminative bent as the quintet delves into the gentle harmonic blurring of "Puddles" and the reassuring spaciousness of "Settle." As he said in a recent Tone Madison interview, Dietrich is still finding his voice as a composer, but Focus' subtly eclectic approach to jazz and its never-showy interplay make it rewarding on repeat listens. Focus came out in May, and the quintet play here as a belated album-release celebration. —Scott Gordon

Mad City Soul Club: DJ Phil Money, EMC, BMONEY. Majestic, 8 p.m.

Sure, themed dance parties at the Majestic are a dime a dozen, but if you're going to have a funk-and-R&B dance night in Madison you'd be hard-pressed to find a better DJ than Philip Murray, aka DJ Phil Money. Murray has been DJing since the late 1980s, developing a broad ear and a gift for reading a room through his years spinning at parties and clubs in Long Island, New York City, and Atlanta. Left to his own devices, he can deftly skip across hip-hop, Afrobeat, dub, and anything else with a groove (as he did in a 2016 guest mix here on Tone Madison), but he's also more than capable of working within narrower guidelines and adapting in the moment. He does so at regular gigs around town, so think of his set at the new Mad City Soul Club night as a way to experience another facet of one of Madison's finest DJs. —Scott Gordon

SATURDAY JULY 8

Ben Silver. Memorial Union Terrace, 9 p.m. (free)

A veteran selector with about 17 years of experience, Madison-based house and techno DJ Ben Silver cut his teeth in Chicago, playing parties with the internationally renowned Orchard Lounge crew—whom he still plays with from time to time. Where Orchard Lounge’s selections are more suited for a big-room vibe, Silver’s solo sets dive deeper into the psychedelic and heady climes of dance music. Cruising, roomy dub-techno intersects with lush, cosmic house tracks (think Petar Dundov), with enveloping texture and space playing a key role throughout. Despite residing in Madison, Silver doesn’t play here too often, and an extended set at sundown on the Terrace seems pretty perfect for the headspace he creates. —Joel Shanahan

The Mountain Goats, The Lonelyhearts. Majestic, 8 p.m. (sold out)

It is perhaps one of the highest honors for a band to have its name become shorthand. For 26 years now, singer-songwriter John Darnielle’s primary outlet, The Mountain Goats, has come to be synonymous with melancholy story-songs that are nasally sing-sung, and overflowing with well-observed characters living out compelling vignettes. For every word in the previous sentence describing the group, it’s the band’s ability to pull of “melancholy” so effectively well that always impresses: To be clear, the band doesn’t make sigh-inducing Sebadoh or The Smiths-like fare, but short stories that impressively swirl the way life is with the way we’d like it to be and just happen to be set to catchy music. The band appears here in support of the recently released Goths, a tongue-in-cheek reference both to the band’s antecedents and Darnielle and his bandmates’ affinity for bands like The Cure, Joy Division, the Sisters Of Mercy, and the Cult’s earlier stuff. On Goths, the band is trying to reconcile its conflicting tendencies (brooding melodies made more bizarre by punchlines in the lyrics), but the album still hits the strong points that Mountain Goats records tend to. On songs like “Andrew Eldritch Is Moving Back To Leeds,” the band excels, as always, at highlighting the shared experiences of outcasts. —David Wolinsky

Madison Early Music Festival. Multiple locations, through July 15, see link for full schedule.

The Madison Early Music Festival, now in its 17th year, offers a schedule of academic workshops for visiting musicians and scholars at UW-Madison, paired with a bunch of medieval, Renaissance, and baroque concerts open to the general public. This year’s festival theme, "Quixotic Musical Treasures From The Golden Age of Spain,” seems decidedly more interesting than last year’s commemoration of Shakespeare and the Elizabethan period. This year’s programming, as the theme indicates, will focus on Cervantes’ Don Quixote and significant music from the Spanish Habsburg period.  There are a total of seven concerts during this year’s festival, which, of course, include the standard participant and all-festival concerts. Piffaro, a Renaissance wind ensemble based out of Philadelphia and a regular presence at MEMF, is a sure bet on Saturday, July 8, offering an overview of this year’s theme with a performance titled “The Musical World Of Don Quixote.” But I’m most excited for Sunday, July 9 and the string-plucking of Xavier Díaz-Latorre, who will perform a solo recital of Fantasías & Danzas del Siglo de Oro on the vihuela, an early Spanish guitar-shaped string instrument. This event has multiple showtimes and locations, so see the full schedule. —Chali Pittman

Hot Summer Gays. The Wisco, 5 p.m.

Two organizations focused on carving out better spaces in Madison nightlife for the LGBTQ community, Queer Pressure and Dyke Dive, are teaming up for an eclectic music series in Hot Summer Gays. Queer Pressure is best known for throwing dance parties, but this first installment of Hot Summer Gays is all over the map. Milwaukee MC Zed Kenzo makes pointed but eerily atmospheric songs, accentuated in the live set with an equally daring approach to dance and movement. Combine that with the jangly rock of Madison's Ladyscissors, the dance-pop of Milwaukee's Rio Turbo, folk from Imaginary Watermelon, punk from Sassy Come home, and a set from DJ Millbot and, well, you've got the kind of genre-colliding bill I'd like to see more of in Madison. While the event is LGBTQ-focused, it's open to people of all identities, and in any case, anyone trying to get their heads around the resurgence of hip-hop in Wisconsin should see Zed Kenzo, who also speaks with us in a brief interview this week. —Scott Gordon

SUNDAY JULY 9

The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou. Memorial Union Terrace, 9 p.m. (free)

Like him or lump him, there's no denying that writer-director Wes Anderson has cultivated his own distinctive and therefore frequently polarizing style. His movies tend to feature sizable ensembles consisting of far-flung characters that function as ad hoc dysfunctional families, biological or otherwise. Always present, too, and intended to somewhat offset the tension, is a sense of winking whimsy. The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou (2004) represents an apex of sorts for this Anderson formula. The Jacques Cousteau-teasing and -honoring film centers on an the titular eccentric oceanographer (Bill Murray), who sets out to exact revenge on the exotic shark that ate his partner. His crew play the role of a family poised to have its rivets come tumbling off. Seu Jorge plays a safety expert who often adjourns to the wings to sing covers of David Bowie songs in Portuguese, Owen Wilson is a self-effacing regional airline pilot who might be Zissou's illegitimate son, Cate Blanchett is a flinty journalist along for the journey, Willem Dafoe plays a high-strung first mate, and so on. It's a lot to take in, but Anderson pairs the film's surface quirks with a sturdy examination of loss (some of it sudden and wrenching) and the self-discovery that's sometimes set in motion when people's worlds are upended. —David Wolinsky

TUESDAY JULY 11

Jonah Parzen-Johnson, Brian Grimm. Arts + Literature Laboratory, 8 p.m.

New York City-based musician Jonah Parzen-Johnson's solo material combines baritone sax with a chain of synthesizer modules and effects pedals—a combination that offers all manner of textural possibilities, as explored on releases like 2015's Remember When Things Were Better Tomorrow. But Parzen-Johnson brings this configuration into thrilling focus on the new album I Try To Remember Where I Come From, out July 7. The sax is throaty and spacious, and modulated figures run tautly alongside the un-effected signal from the instrument. Parzen-Johnson is controlling all this in the moment without loops or overdubs, so all his limbs are pretty busy. Yet throughout the album, the sax and synth cohere in yearning and beautifully vulnerable melodies that sometimes reach into the blues, as on "These Shoulders, Those Shoulders" (the album's title is a reflection on the fact that Parzen-Johnson is a white musician drawing largely on black music) and sometimes elegantly slide around pulsating synth figures, as on "Too Many Dreams." This album is a tightly constructed set of seven songs, experimental in approach but full of compositional purpose. And whatever's going on with the electronics at any given moment, Parzen-Johnson's sax rumbles and trembles with conviction. —Scott Gordon

WEDNESDAY JULY 12

Made In USA. Vilas Hall, 7 p.m. (free)

As with the other summer screenings in the "Westlake On Film" series at UW Cinematheque, Made In U.S.A. (1966) is being presented here on a vivid 35mm print. This benefits Jean-Luc Godard's markedly fragmented and wacky take on Donald Westlake's crime-noir novel The Jugger, which mainly serves as a parting vehicle for the French auteur's then-soon-to-be ex-wife Anna Karina. She plays the dazzlingly dressed and wistfully photographed Paula Nelson, who investigates the disappearance of her husband Richard in Atlantic City (France, that is). To anyone who may be fond of Godard's liberal method of literary or theatrical adaptation as seen in Contempt (1963) or King Lear (1987), Made in U.S.A. will likely prove to be another darkly delirious jaunt. Once summarized as "a Looney Tunes rendition of The Big Sleep gone New Wave," Made In U.S.A. is more an inherently political statement in execution, as a rampage of historical and Marxist references persistently flood the screen, particularly in terms of character names and real-life Moroccan anti-colonialist Ben Barka. Godard himself magnifies these allusions by assuming the booming voice of Paula's husband Richard, who appears solely via tape recorder. As he rambles through notated socialist rhetoric, Paula's unraveling quest begins to turn deadly. Ultimately, the film's appeal lies not in the impenetrability of this plot, a prelude to JLG's even more radical Week End (1967), but in all the amusingly subversive visuals that envelop and lambaste Hollywood iconography in a patriotic and primary-color palette. —Grant Phipps

Twin Brother, Dash Hounds. Shitty Barn, 7 p.m.

Dash Hounds' 2016 debut EP, Eft, dwells in an alluring post-punk gloom. But the Madison band always gives the listener something well-constructed to latch onto, mostly Alivia Kleinfeldt and Brendan Manley's resourceful, winding guitar lines and the firm forward nudge of Kleinfeldt's vocals. "Dreamboy," "Weekend," and "Yes I Front" give all those melodic elements lots of space to unfold, showing a remarkably mature songwriting approach for a band whose members are mostly in their early 20s. The band's Shitty Barn debut (opening up for Milwaukee's Twin Brother) will be their last show until fall, as they finish writing and demoing new songs for their first full-length album. This will also be Dash Hounds' first show with a five-piece lineup featuring a new member, guitarist Isaac de Broux-Slone of Disq. —Scott Gordon

Hidden Histories. Central Library, 6 p.m. (free)

The recently assembled program Hidden Histories combines five short films that draw on the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Each film uses a narrative approach based on historical events, but the curators at Full Spectrum Features clearly put this program together with an eye toward examining the tragic and unjustified experience in a few distinct stages. In Erika Street's The Orange Story, it's the pain of being forced to leave home, with only a few belongings, in a country stricken with xenophobia and war fever. In Kazuko Golden and Phil Emerson's A Song For Manzanar and Bryan Yokomi's One Of Many, it's the wrenching decisions people faced during their time in the actual internment camps. Robin D'Oench's Tadaima tells a story about what Japanese Americans went through after they left the camps and began trying to put their lives back together. Finally, Daryn Wasaka's Seppuku focuses on those living with the legacy. Of course, Hidden Histories also serves as a warning about the rising nationalism, xenophobia, and anti-immigrant sentiment in our own times. This screening will be followed by a panel discussion. —Scott Gordon