Madison calendar, June 7 through 13
Math-rock adventures with Czarbles, two shows from Malian guitarist Vieux Farka Touré, a panel about Madison’s outdoor event glut, and more events of note in Madison this week. | By Ian Adcock, Scott Gordon, Reid Kurkerewicz, and Grant Phipps (Photo: Czarbles, by Connie Ward.)
Sponsor message: The weekly Tone Madison calendar is made possible with support from Union Cab of Madison, a worker-owned cooperative providing safe and professional taxi services.
THURSDAY JUNE 7
Wipe Me Down is an occasional dance party series thrown by DJ/producer knowsthetime and rapper CRASHprez (who is a Tone Madison contributor), and its first-ever outdoor edition looks pretty bonkers. Knowsthetime and DJ Tim For The Culture will be playing a collaborative DJ set. But the real star on the decks will be DJ Mirah, an 11-year-old Madisonian who's been honing her scratching skills at MC Audio and has performed at the Majestic and rubbed elbows with local DJ royalty like Nick Nice and Vilas Park Sniper. CRASHprez will be performing a set of Drake covers, something that was actually planned before all hell broke loose in Drake's ongoing beef with Pusha T. But the timing will likely just make this all the more absurdly fun. —Scott Gordon
Director Mira Nair's feature Monsoon Wedding (with a screenplay by Sabrina Dhawan) was one of the first major Indian films from outside of Bollywood to break through to American audiences back in 2001. This expertly crafted and internationally produced drama is a balancing act of five (count 'em) romances, an exuberantly planned wedding, and a sad but ultimately redemptive story of intra-family abuse, rightfully recognized with a Criterion Collection release in 2009.
The story follows the planning and execution of an arranged marriage, as family members pour in from across the world to meet each other for the first time. Nearly everyone has secrets that start to unravel, from the bride (Vasundhara Das) who still meets with her television celebrity ex-boyfriend, to the overly confident and hilarious wedding-planner (Vijay Raaz) who yearns for his own wife. As more and more family members arrive to celebrate, the parents of the bride (Naseeruddin Shah as Lalit Verma and Lillete Dubey as Pimmi Verma) and their adopted daughter (Shefali Shah) stand out as the flawed protagonists, as they confront family trauma that seeps into what would have been an already chaotic occasion. —Reid Kurkerewicz
Guitarist Vieux Farka Touré has been blending modern guitar styles with his Malian roots across a solo discography that began with a self-titled album in 2007. He's the son of Ali Farka Touré—a Malian guitar player who is often heralded as an influential bridge builder between American blues and traditional Mali music. But the younger Touré takes this innovation a step further by expanding on Latin jazz, American rock & roll, and broader influences from all over the world, a fusion he pulls off with an impressive dexterity on his instrument. Touré's songs also weave together traditional and modern percussion, often creating a booming classic-rock energy. His guitar playing is characterized by expertly precise noodling that falls into rhythmically hypnotic jams even as the notes scatter all over the place. "Bonheur," from his 2017 album, Samba ( a nickname for Vieux that means "second boy") is a great example of his sinuous grooves, and later on the album, a collaboration with singer Idan Raichal showcases Hebrew vocal traditions. —Reid Kurkerewicz
FRIDAY JUNE 8
Frequency 10-Year Birthday Bash: Dead Rider, Free Salamander Exhibit, Cheer-Accident, Faun Fables, Cribshitter. Frequency, 8 p.m.
In mid-April, Frequency co-founder Darwin Sampson announced plans to close the intimate venue and local music scene fixture off the Capitol Square at 121 W. Main St. While the space isn't set to suspend operations until June 30, they've booked a two-day send-off event a few weeks prior, which also doubles as the Frequency's 10th anniversary extravaganza. Friday night brings a substantial lineup of interrelated experimental and progressive rock, pop, and folk acts—Frequency favorites with longstanding roots in Chicago and Madison.
The most urgent addition is perhaps Free Salamander Exhibit, a project that includes Sleepytime Gorilla Museum core members Nils Frykdahl, Dan Rathbun, and David Shamrock, who revive the outré spirit and warped, theatrically metallic avant-prog of their now-defunct sister project on Undestroyed, released at the end of 2016. Cheer-Accident, long-established brainchild of multi-instrumentalist Thymme Jones, has been prolific as of late, with their compelling distillation of eclectic, poppy avant-prog on last year's critically acclaimed Cuneiform release, Putting Off Death. They're once again touring behind a new record, Fades, on Skin Graft. The teaser track, "Last But Not Lost," encapsulates and sustains their inspirations from the Rock In Opposition movement, and features the vocal talents of another ex-Sleepytime Gorilla Museum member, Carla Kihlstedt. At once compositionally dense and tonally accessible, the song is populated with bright and lively woodwinds (bassoon and saxophone) and an irregular, driving rhythm guitar.
Combining troubadour traditions with art songs and psychedelia, Faun Fables will perform as well, and then in all likelihood join Cheer-Accident on stage, as partners-collaborators Nils Frykdahl and Dawn McCarthy assume lead vocal duties on Fades songs "Art Land" and "Monsters," respectively. This stacked bill is bookended by avant-rock headliners Dead Rider (ex-US Maple), and local wild and witty avant-pop ensemble Cribshitter, who will open the show. The 10th anniversary festivities continue on Saturday night with a show headlined by Madison band Skintones. —Grant Phipps
This program of experimental short films— mostly using found footage and stop-motion photocollage animation—is a healthy mix of total abstraction and densely meaningful narrative. Kate Laine's She Collage and Kelly Gallagher's More Dangerous Than A Thousand Rioters both almost exclusively use photocollage cut-and paste techniques with craft materials and magazine cutouts. But while the former is an impressive exploration of the similar artistic techniques of Terry Braunstein, the latter tells the historical tale of anarchist feminist leader Lucy Parsons. These two pieces together showcase the diverse possibilities of the under-seen form. Karen Yasinsky's Marie and Caryn Cline's Notes From The Farm are the most unabashedly abstract of the pieces in this collection. Both use experimental and digital techniques to dissociate repeated images. Outer Darkness is one of a series of works in which artist Hannah Piper Burns re-cuts Bachelor contestants' scenes, surreally turning an (arguably) real person into a character with a narrative arc. Outer Darkness is a particularly harrowing rendition of this artistic gesture, which I refuse to spoil.
While each of the films collected here are impressive, Magic For Beginners stands out as one of the most thought-provoking experimental films I've seen in a long time. UW-Milwaukee film professor Jesse McLean's exploration of celebrity worship and image obsession is partially based on Andy Warhol's book Philosophy Of Andy Warhol, which, once the credits acknowledged this, sent me dashing out to find a copy (you can also read it online here). This film is so philosophically unsettling that I had to physically turn away during one particularly abrasive segment to remind myself that it was indeed only images on my computer screen that were making me feel this existential terror, and not some kind of digital demon. While I must acknowledge that, as someone who stares at a computer screen all day for his living, I may be particularly susceptible to this kind of critique, the film's use of personal narration makes it uniquely accessible, even as it utilizes nauseating image flashing. McLean juxtaposes these elements in such a way that the viewer is forced to confront the screen itself, and a creeping sense of emotional manipulation. —Reid Kurkerewicz
SATURDAY JUNE 9
The 19 artists assembled for this year's Watefront Fest stretch from the absurdist rock of Madison's Cribshitter to the electronic pop of fellow local Anna Wang, along with some nationally touring acts. The first day features locally based Latin-funk outfit Barbacoa opening the main stage, and the gritty Chicago-based folk musician Michael McDermott headlining. On the smaller Cottonwood stage, Madison musician Spencer Bible's electronic pop project Tippy headlines, with the great cover band Low Czars kicking off the day. During round two on Sunday, Philadelphia's neo-psychedelic Chris Forsyth And The Solar Motel Band and twee-pop band Gentle Brontosaurus headline the main and Cottonwood stages, respectively. (Full disclosure: Tone Madison editor Scott Gordon is part of the music-booking team for this year's festival.)
If you're into early morning exercise, the traditional Dandelion Dash (which is only for kids now) is back on the first day, followed up by the Fools' Flotilla on day two, supported by the freshwater-defending River Alliance. You can wake up early to meet at the Tenney Park boat launch, and then paddle your kayak to make a "grand entrance" into the festival, while doing something wacky with a bunch of other goofballs, making for a very east-side adventure. —Reid Kurkerewicz
Madison trio Czarbles have spent the past 15 years diligently hammering out some of the most brilliantly mind-scrambling instrumental rock I've ever heard. And by "hammering out," I mean working out convoluted math-metal compositions until they sound improbably catchy and smart-assed. For all the bizarre meters and abrupt shifts and strangely interwoven melodies in their songs, they never feel stiff or pretentious. Guitarist Mark Sauer, drummer Jeff Sauer (also of Cap Alan), and Matt Skemp (of Collections Of Colonies Of Bees and Volcano Choir) have put out just two releases—a self-titled album in 2006 and the 12-minute Nausea Trois in 2015—that condense their demented sensibilities into bracingly concise tracks.
At this show, the band will celebrate Mark Sauer's 40th birthday while also rolling out a new batch of material they're calling "Tsarbles." They've hinted that this music will be their first not to use any distortion (though their music already is very minimal in its use of effects) and might be a departure from what we've heard before. Dark electro-pop project Mori Mente, experimental musician Emili Earhart, and far-reaching DJ Evan Woodward will support. —Scott Gordon
The B-52s have always valued having fun over everything else, and the fact that they're touring in 2018 indicates they're still having a good time. Formed by five friends in Athens, Georgia in 1976, the B-52s created a blend of kitsch aesthetics, surrealist lyrics and infectiously silly songs that quickly made them a cult favorite. From the bizarro hit "Rock Lobster" to the omnipresent earworm that is "Love Shack," the B-52s managed to have long-term commercial success while remaining deeply weird and unequivocally queer. Though they've only released one studio album in the last 25 years (2008's Funplex), the band has continued to tour semi-regularly since their heyday. While most bands in the 1980s nostalgia circuit have maybe one or two original members, the B-52s impressively still feature all the founding members except Keith Strickland, who retired from touring in 2013, and the late Ricky Wilson. The self-proclaimed "World's Greatest Party Band" might not be breaking much new ground at this point, but it's admirable that the B-52s are still playing music on their own terms. —Ian Adcock
WEDNESDAY JUNE 13
Cap Times Talks: Madison's Outdoor Festivals: Too Many Or Not Enough? High Noon Saloon, 6:30 p.m. (free)
From open-air concerts to an assortment of obnoxious sporting events to whatever "Cars On State" is supposed to be, Madison does indeed love its outdoor events. A recent Capital Times story by reporter Abigail Becker made a pretty convincing case that the sheer number of these events has exploded over the past decade, and that they're actually throwing wrenches into the workings of the city (the bus detours alone can be maddening). At this event, Becker will moderate a panel about where all this outdoor fun and its attendant logistical and financial implications are headed. On the panel will be City of Madison community event coordinator Kelli Lamberty, Big Top Baseball president Vern Stenman (part of the team operating Breese Stevens Field), southwest side Alder Barbara Harrington-McKinney, Tenney-Lapham Neighborhood Association president patty Prime, and Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center executive director Gary Kallas. It's too bad local performers don't have a strong presence on this panel, but it should still be a worthwhile discussion of the different interests that collide in the season of outdoor fun. —Scott Gordon