Trio Mokili, Dee Alexander, two ACLU benefits, and more events of note in Madison this week. | Emili Earhart, Scott Gordon, Chris Lay, Grant Phipps
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THURSDAY MARCH 2
ACLU + Planned Parenthood Benefit: Control, Louise Bock, Thomas Wincek/Rob Lundberg/Andrew Fitzpatrick, Lens. Art In, 7 p.m.
In a fundraising effort for ACLU and Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, several of Madison’s more adventurous musicians are coming together for a genre-bending evening. Each project distinctly stands out from the other, and perhaps the only possible similarity is the hopelessness of trying to pin down what each artist will do on a given night. Taralie Peterson of Spires That In The Sunset Rise performs here in her new solo outing, Louise Bock. While sometimes creating a warmth of slow-moving textures with saxophone, autoharp, cello, and voice, Peterson often devises an aggressive, angular construction of spooky sounds and spatial suspense. One-man electronic project Lens takes you down in the depths of eerie drone and noise, subtly dropping remnants of dub and twisted beats, creating a pleasingly unsettling, evocative atmosphere. A trio of multifaceted collaborators––Thomas Wincek, Rob Lundberg, and Andrew Fitzpatrick––will execute a purely improvised set that renders any expectations useless, allowing anticipation for only unforeseen yet exciting results both for the audience and performers. Local post-punk trio Control, while providing a structured narrative in through-composed form, is undoubtedly full of surprises as to where an idea will go, who will enter the story, in what way will the story conclude. ––Emili Earhart
Milcho Manchevski's drama Before The Rain (1994) is celebrated as the director's first feature as well as the first film to ever see a release in the newly established Republic of Macedonia after the country's liberation from Yugoslavia. This circuitously designed, intersecting triptych (in "Words, Faces, Pictures") mirrors the aspirations of its characters, including orthodox Christian monk Kiril (Grégoire Colin), who falls for a young Albanian woman (Labina Mitevska) fleeing the mob. Their spiritual and emotional revelations are paralleled with the strife involving a Macedonian war photographer Aleksander (Rade Serbedzija), who leaves war-torn Bosnia for the intended refuge of London where he reunites with a married photo agent Anne (Katrin Cartlidge). Manchevski's mini-epic navigates the personal and political to create a timeless coming-of-age tale about loss of innocence that perceptively and poetically speaks to the modern upheaval in his native land. While a clear anti-war proclamation, Before The Rain is most profoundly a human drama that's often seen as a companion to Mathieu Kassovitz's La Haine (1995), which depicts a similar tale of cultural instability in the banlieues of Paris. —Grant Phipps
Louis CK is known for populating his now-dormant FX show Louie with Comedy Cellar regulars, including Robert Kelly, who has played Louie’s little brother Bobby in a handful of episodes across all five seasons. The familial connection extends past the bounds of the show though, to cover the style of comedy that the two comics share. A veteran of the hardscrabble New York comedy scene, Kelly’s balances disarming self-deprecation and aggressively raw, over-the-top adult content that somehow never crosses over into the repellant. There’s a poetry in the rhythmic way that Kelly uses imagery, wringing all the possible energy from turns of a phrase that that aren’t even punchlines. If you’ve always wanted to feel what it’s like to sit in legendary NYC basement comedy clubs, then this is about a close as you’re likely to get in Madison this year. Herbie Gill features, and Madison's own Adam McShane hosts. —Chris Lay
At first blush, Takeshi Koike’s 2009 film Redline owes about as much to Hanna-Barbera’s Wacky Races cartoons as it does to over-the-top 1970s smash-em-ups like Death Race 2000. Despite a seemingly flat plot (“The most dangerous and exciting car race in the universe... anything is allowed!”), the visual style of the thing is undeniably exciting. But I mean, you’re not lining up for Redline to dig into the densely layered characters, right? Check out that trailer and tell me it doesn’t feel like a bonkers-ass Cowboy Bebop chase sequence stretched out to feature length. —CL
FRIDAY MARCH 3
Chicago's Trio Mokili pulls from multiple disparate styles of African musics, fashioning them into explorative, jazz-influenced interpretations. Guitarist Nathaniel Braddock (also of Occidental Brothers Dance Band International) is dedicated to the cultivation of the individual musical characteristics present in Nigerian Afrobeat, Ethiopian jazz, and Malian desert blues (to name just a few), understanding and teaching the techniques of these musics, as well as folk styles from Europe and North America. Two jazz-rooted musicians––drummer Makaya McCraven and bassist Junius Paul––join Braddock in creating an adventurous, versatile blend of energetic improvisation and structured interpretations of roots musics. Trio Mokili’s versatility and adherence to the history and traditions of these styles is evident in their demos, recorded at Electrical Audio. The bright, fingerpicked guitar featured in “Nyarai” closely resembles mbira music of Zimbabwe. But a stark contrast is heard in “Yekatit”, which highlights a fuzzy, desert-rock color paired with a driving backbone from the drums and bass, while still opening up an improvisatory space of energetic exploration. ––EE
João Pedro Rodrigues' fifth feature, The Ornithologist, is an eerie and adventurous art house riff on the life of 13th century Portuguese Catholic Saint Anthony of Padua. If this initial intrigue wasn't more than enough to secure a spot in the UW-Cinematheque's annual LACIS series, it's also been lavished with critical praise since its US premiere last November. Rodrigues irreverently re-imagines St. Anthony as a strapping young ornithologist, or bird expert, named Fernando (Paul Hamy), and sets his course along the Douro River in Northern Portugal. During an avifauna surveying trip, Fernando's kayak tragically capsizes. When he awakens in an enveloping, verdant forest, he is happened upon by Chinese pilgrims Fei (Han Wen) and Lin (Chan Suan), who are en route to Santiago de Compostela, a famous Catholic city in Northern Spain. However, the two women's supposedly dutiful intentions instantly become distorted once they begin to force Fernando to endure a series of strange ritualistic, or rather sadomasochistic, tests. Fluctuations between meditative and sinister tones recall the mesmerizing Polanskian machinations of Alain Guiraudie's Stranger By The Lake (2013) and shocking follow-up Staying Vertical (2016), while at once building the playful intrigue of Rodrigues' own bold explorations of gender and sexuality (as in To Die Like A Man, which screened at Cinematheque in 2011). —GP
If ever there was a show that was crying out for a portmanteau, whatever it is that living comedy legends Steve Martin & Martin Short have cooked up is that show. When they were putting this together, someone had to have suggested calling it “The Steve Martin Short Show,” right? The performance they’ve been touring around America for the past year or two, wryly subtitled “An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life,” will be a hodgepodge of standup, film clips, musical numbers, and shared recollections from two lives lived under the watchful eye of showbiz. Inexplicably, this is suggested “For Mature Audiences” which means, I presume, that only those who are old enough to remember Jiminy Glick will be admitted? Any which way, this is a pretty damn unique opportunity to see these two pals on stage together, so act accordingly. —CL
SATURDAY MARCH 4
The history of cinema is littered with bastardized versions of filmmakers’ visions. There’s even a name that directors can attribute their film to in the event that a studio’s meddling has compromised the integrity of the work: Alan Smithee. What’s rare, though, is the opportunity to view the least diluted versions of these works, and it’s rarer still if that work is animated. With Richard Williams’ The Thief And The Cobbler: A Moment In Time, which was heavily edited and released in the mid-1990s as Arabian Knight, we get just such an opportunity. The wildly innovative film, inspired by One Thousand And One Nights, is bursting at the seams with sequences that riff heavily on M.C. Escher and Rube Goldberg. Given the lavish attention to detail that Williams heaped on the production (as well as the fact that he had been working on the film since the mid-1960s) it’s understandable that the holders of the purse-strings got impatient, but what a treasure they would have unleashed if they’d cooled their heels just a little longer. —CL
Madison-based saxophonist and veteran improviser Hanah Jon Taylor has been planning and fundraising since last fall to open a much-needed new jazz venue in Madison. Café Coda actually started hosting shows a few weeks ago, and has announced a slate of weekly programming, but it gets its proper grand opening here with two shows from Chicago-based vocalist Dee Alexander. In her quartet, Alexander's wide-ranging voice leads a graceful but tempestuous conversation, reaching far beyond the innocuous territory people tend to associate with jazz vocalists. Her voice reaches richly across the octaves, but it also takes wit and guts to pull off a song like Nina Simone's "Four Women," which she recorded for her 2009 album Wild Is The Wind. —Scott Gordon
Philadelphia band Kississippi sets leader Zoe Reynolds' plaintive, wounded vocals against a backdrop of reverb and gentle guitar figures on its 2015 EP, We Have No Future, We're All Doomed. Reynolds can build an engaging song out of what at first seem like a few stray thoughts or a simple lovelorn daydream—on opening track "Unkempt Leather," she draws out a total of three sentences into three minutes that seem to imply a lot more, and on "Indigo," she ruminates on the simple pleasures of lazing in bed next to a partner, but works in a sharp twinge of sadness and loss. The band plays here as it works on a full-length to follow up the EP. —SG
SUNDAY MARCH 5
ACLU Benefit And Art Showcase: And Illusions, Mr. Martin & The Sensitive Guys, Matty Ann. Frequency, 6 p.m.
The second American Civil Liberties Union-benefitting event on our radar this week starts early with an art show featuring the work of eight local artists. The musical portion of the night begins at 8 p.m. and features three acts from around Wisconsin: Wistful bedroom-pop project Matty Ann, scraggly punk outfit Mr. Martin & The Sensitive Guys, and Madison avant-psych duo And Illusions. The organizers have pledged to donate $5 of the $8 cover to the ACLU. —SG
MONDAY MARCH 6
Philip Kaufman's 1979 film The Wanderers follows a group of teenagers growing up in the Bronx in the early 1960s and their adventures within the area's street gangs. Both a coming-of-age tale and a story of sporadic, tragic violence, the film manages a balance of innocence and realistic grit. That nuance, and its vivid cast of characters (most of them aligned to colorful street gangs like the titular Wanderers and the menacing Fordham baldies), have earned the drama a cult-favorite status over the years. —SG
WEDNESDAY MARCH 8
Jamala Rogers has worked as an activist and commentator along America's racial divide since the 1960s, and she currently lives in St. Louis. So when the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson exploded in unrest after a police officer shot unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in August 2014, Rogers was uniquely positioned to make sense of events there and the resurgent movement they catalyzed. Her 2015 book Ferguson Is America: Roots Of Rebellion offers context on the deep-seated issues that led to the uprising and why Ferguson of all places became an iconic flashpoint. The book lays out why, as Rogers has said, Ferguson could have been anywhere, namely the long history of issues like segregation, racial disparities in criminal justice, and institutional racism. She visits here to discuss and sign the book. —SG