Kate Tempest, Lily Tomlin, Waterfront Fest, and more of the best stuff in Madison this week. | By Scott Gordon, Chris Lay, and Joel Shanahan
THURSDAY JUNE 11
Genna’s has been stepping it up with DJ nights and other music events lately in its upstairs lounge, including a Wednesday open-mic hosted by Rob Dz, and this week it launches a new Thursday dance night, Down Home, with frequent Natt Spil, Mickey’s and Maduro DJ and Strictly Discs manager Evan Woodward. While Woodward’s reach as a DJ is pretty all over the place, ranging from mellow grooves to spaced-out ambient stuff, this night will focus on getting people to dance, with a set, he says, focused on “Afro disco, disco-dub, streetdance type stuff.”
FRIDAY JUNE 12
Is there anyone for whom the title “American Treasure” fits more aptly than Lily Tomlin? It’s been 50 years since her first television appearance on The Merv Griffin Show, and she’s squeezed the maximum amount of accomplishment into those five decades, getting almost the full EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony) but she was robbed of that by Shampoo’s Lee Grant in 1975. Robbed, we say! It’s probably safe to assume that long-running Tomlin characters like Edith Ann and Ernestine will make an appearance during this solo stand-up show, but Tomlin’s always proven more versatile and deep than just a few trademark gimmicks, so expect a lot of new and evolving material as well.
The second installment of Rooftop Cinema’s 10th-anniversary season comprises four avant-garde shorts that span from playful to the meditative. Norman McLaren’s 1968 film Pas De Deux captures two dancers in stark, somber beauty, reveling in the fluid movement of two figures against a black background and an eerie, yearning soundtrack. Larry Gotheim’s Blues, from 1970, finds the filmmaker fixated on a bowl of blueberries. In John Smith’s 1987 film The Black Tower, a man believes a black tower is following him around London. Finally, in 1977’s Powers Of Ten, the powerhouse design duo Charles and Ray Eames indulge in fanciful experiments with the relative size of things in the universe.
Minneapolis-based math-punks Hardcore Crayons dropped a foggy cocktail of meter-shattering rhythms, fuzzily conversational freakouts between guitar and bass, prodding alto sax, and a bit of ominously sprawling noise for good measure in this year’s album Zozzled. While our own beloved brain-twisting fuzz-rockers Czarbles slam an impossible amount of warped riffing into their short tunes with little repetition, Hardcore Crayons trudge toward the long-form, not shying away from hypnotically repeating measures and breaking their tunes down to minimal guitar swells and whispering white noise. The tune “More Sugar” provides a great example of the band’s massive dynamic range.
Kyle Dunnigan practices an energetically whimsical style of stand-up comedy that manages to have a lot of teeth as well. While Dunnigan has cultivated a pretty sterling resume writing and performing on Inside Amy Schumer, co-hosting the Professor Blastoff podcast with Tig Notaro and David Huntsberger, most folks in a college town such as this will remember him as 'Craig' a.k.a The Truckee River Killer from Reno 911. Local comedian David Freeburg hosts.
So the Majestic is billing this screening of Jonathan Demme’s 1984 Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense as a dance party, which could go either way depending on the crowd. Regardless, it’s still a tremendous concert film, capturing a stage show that’s true to both the band’s elaborate weirdness and the euphoric embrace of its greatest songs—and bringing the film audience into the performance in a way that’s subtly but profoundly different from a lot of other live documents. It’s also an early high point in Demme’s brilliantly all-over-the-place career (Something Wild, Silence Of The Lambs, and another solid concert film, 2006’s Neil Young: Heart Of Gold).
SATURDAY JUNE 13
For the past 24 years, New York City’s Jon Spencer Blues Explosion have reconstructed the idea of blues-rock with damaged and frantic No-Wave urgency, which makes the title of this year’s Freedom Tower: No Wave Dance Party 2015—the filthy trio’s seventh proper album and first in about three years—all the more appropriate. Drummer Russell Simins pivots between mimicking breakbeats and pummeling out explosive dance-punk rhythms, as the gritty chromatic interplay between bassist Judah Bauer and guitarist-vocalist Jon Spencer thuds and screeches above. Best of all, Spencer’s swaggering vocal-delivery has remained hair-raisingly energized, as he swaps between his whimsical rapping staccato and howling garage-sass. Come watch the band that properly helped lay waste to '80s blues-rock conventions and erected a framework for modern jangling rockers like Death From Above 1979 and yes, even the Black Keys, to build upon.
The east side’s summer tradition of free music kicks off once again with Waterfront Fest, with a characteristically odd-yet-lovable assortment of artists spanning from straightforward Midwestern folk to Latin jazz to Middle Eastern music. The latter gets a compelling, sultry treatment in Milwaukee band Painted Caves (Saturday, 1:30 p.m.), who channel an assortment of Arabic and North African influences through hazy, gritty rock. Other highlights include Quebec folk outfit Le Vent du Nord (Saturday, 7:15 p.m.), Madison singer-songwriter Whitney Mann (Saturday, 2 p.m.), young Mississippi blues artist Jarekus Singleton (Sunday, 3:30 p.m.), and a fest-closing set from The Bottle Rockets (Sunday, 7:15 p.m.).
On his newly released album Remember When Things Were Better Tomorrow, NYC-based composer Jonah Parzen-Johnson combines his saxophone and analog synthesizer into sparse yet spacious instrumentals, often with the sax providing a strong melodic theme and the synths playing off it with everything from reassuring pulses to grating, unsettling (and at times wittily reed-like) textures. This show also features Tar Pet, the cello- and vocals-driven solo project of Spires That In The Sunset Rise member Taralie Peterson, and a rare set from Madison-formed experimental jazz ensemble Lovely Socialite.
MONDAY JUNE 15
London-based writer and performer Kate Temest has authored plays and epic poems in addition to writing hip-hop songs, and her 2014 debut album, Everybody Down, balances incisive storytelling with Tempest’s cocky, pulsing, but still empathetic flow. On a lot of Everybody Down’s songs, Tempest tells the stories of young people struggling for a foothold—and a sense of self—even as social, economic, and familial problems threaten to crush them. It could be depressing, as she tunnels through stories of young people searching for love amid drab existences (“Lonely Daze,” “Marshall Law”) and enduring stepdad-induced existential crises (“Chicken”), but Tempest gives these tales humanity and grit. Opening up here is Madison MC/songwriter Lord Of The Fly, who will be performing some new material he’s been working on since dropping last year’s Not Safe For Work album.
TUESDAY JUNE 16
WEDNESDAY JUNE 17
Upon first listening to Oakland band Porch, the trudging, Shellac-channeling post-rock backdrop might make it surprising that that guitarist Todd Huth has a lengthy history of collaborating with Les Claypool—first as a founding member of Primus, but later on as a member of the short-lived Sausage project and a touring member of Claypool’s shamelessly jam-happy Flying Frog Brigade. Aside from Huth’s sporadically playful vocal yips, the broodingly fractured anti-prog tunes on 2013’s Walking Boss conjure a different headspace altogether. From the calculatedly sloppy jazz freakouts of “Spider Attack” to the soothingly restrained guitar-work and crooning of “Dark Corner” to the buzzing crawl of the Slint-like “Dickhead,” Walking Boss explores the moodier, brainier, and more damaged end of ’90s indie-rock (when that term hadn’t yet become a catch-all). At any rate, this show should provide your one and only chance to see a former member of Primus jamming at the fucking Wisco—just don’t come expecting anything that sounds like Primus.
There’s a lot of teamwork in Star Wars. Han getting Luke’s back during the Battle of Yavin, everyone teaming up in the trash compactor, Leia and Lando getting into costume to spring Han from his carbonite prison—the list goes on and on. Performer Charles Ross, though, prefers to emulate the one-man bounty hunter, be he Bossk or IG-88, as he tackles Episodes IV through VI in a solo stage show. Ross has been touring One Man Star Wars around the world for the past 13 years, so at the very least the kinks should be worked out by now, and there’s no way this strangely charming oddball of a performance could let you down any more than the Prequels.
UW Cinematheque’s summer season, and its series of newly restored French classics on digital and 35mm, begins with Jacques Becker’s 1947 film Antoine Et Antoinette. Set completely within one Paris neighborhood, the film follows its titular poor-but-happy couple in a comic scramble to find a missing lottery ticket.