Madison calendar, May 14 through 20
George Clinton, Dan Deacon, the WORT Block Party, and more of the best stuff in Madison this week. | By Scott Gordon, Chris Lay, and Joel Shanahan
THURSDAY MAY 14
The very concept of a “clean" comedian has a certain stink to it in these cynical times we live in. We want edginess and cuss words and material that has to be excised when comedians do corporate gigs. You will find none of that in Ryan Hamilton's act. What you will find though, is a charming guy with deft sense of comic rhythm and surgically precise timing. Think Nate Bargatze, Brian Regan, or maybe even Seinfeld with a southern drawl and you'll be picking the general idea. And yes, you could take your mom to see this, and you'd be doing both yourself and Mom a favor.
Back in February, Scott praised Madison singer-songwriter Luke Arvid's second album, Day Of The Bu1lder, for its understated and absorbing take on folk-rooted songwriting and restrained but warm instrumentation. From ruminative tracks like “Eyes" and “Ever So Slightly" to wry and spirited ones like “Righteous" and “Pennies," it's holding up nicely on further listens, and at this show Arvid will finally get around to celebrating the release with the folks who backed him on it, including drummer Chris Sasman and guitarist Louka Patenaude. Arvid usually plays solo, so we're glad to have this chance to hear the new album's tasteful arrangements brought off live. Arvid's bandmates will also be throwing some of their own original songs into the show, and the night will start with sets from Blueheels and Little Legend member Robby Schiller and fellow Madison singer-songwriter Chris Plowman.
Thomas Miller and Kirk Marcolina's 2014 documentary Limited Partnership looks back to 1975 to chronicle a much earlier episode in the fight for marriage equality in America, when Richard Adams and Tony Sullivan were married in Boulder, Colorado. Sullivan, an Australian citizen, then filed for a green card, prompting the Immigration and Naturalization Service to issue an official letter denying the application and declaring that the couple “failed to establish that a bona fide marital relationship can exist between two faggots." The film follows Sullivan and Adams' ensuing fight to stay together and fight the government's effort to deport Sullivan—a story that's all the more powerful for taking place decades before we had the comfort of marriage-equality dominoes falling across the land. After the screening, the Central Library will host a discussion with a panel that includes immigration attorneys and LGBT activists.
On the This Is Temporary Podcast, local comedian Stefan Davis and his girlfriend Dana Sitar have profoundly yet pleasantly frank discussions about the sexual ups and downs of their relationship, among other things. The description of the most recent episode begins “We catch you up on the latest developments in the polyamory shit show," to give you a taste of what we're working with here. This event will be a live extension of the podcast's wonderfully messy honesty, with guest appearances from local comics Gena Gephart, Nick Hart, and Ken Barns.
FRIDAY MAY 15
For better or worse, few contemporary neofolk artists manage to push their sound much further than the waltzing, sword-swinging strum patterns, neo-classical tinges, and shaky vocal wailing of Death In June. Out of that crop, even fewer take it upon themselves to eschew the genre's typically conservative sonic palette and structure and push neofolk's aesthetic influence deep into their own personal netherspace, which is what makes Madison's Kinit Her such a rarity. This has as much to do with multi-instrumentalist Troy Schafer's lushly complex compositional flair, weeping string arrangements, and soaring baritone vocals as it does with production mastermind Nathaniel Ritter's gorgeously sculpted, leftfield approach to mixing and sound design. While we haven't heard from Kinit Her since 2014's The Needs Of Both 7-inch, which features an unusually poppy folk dirge in “She Of The Whirlwind" that somehow abstractly conjures the spirit of The Byrds with its darkly catchy 12-string guitar sections, the duo has been quietly working on new material, which hopefully will be previewed at this show. Leipzig, Germany-based neofolk veteran Darkwood and Madison's Black Light (who both have recently released tapes on Ritter's Brave Mysteries imprint) also play.
When Baltimore lynchpin Dan Deacon's cartoonishly urgent breakthrough LP Spiderman Of The Rings dropped in 2007, it was hard to not be swept up by Deacon's playfully personal and meandering compositions, usually sounding constructed with a simple wave generator, cheap keyboards, altered gadgetry, and a mess of pedals. Since then, Deacon—armed with a bigger budget—has been given the opportunity to dive deeper into his own wacky universe, employing a 12-piece band for 2009's massive Bromst, and creating a sprawling and heady concept record in 2012's America. This brings us to the freshly released Gliss Riffer, which, while highly polished, pulls back and conjures the stripped-down approach of SOTR, but combines it with Deacon's serious growth as a concise songwriter and arranger over the last eight years. Whether it's the entrancing vocals and tumbling synth sequence of electro-waltz “When I Was Done Dying," the ballpit-ready, wandering dance-pop of “Mind On Fire," or the stuttering and space-y “Meme Generator," Deacon successfully continues to find new ways to bring humor and quirk into his detailed tunes without becoming a novelty act.
NYC/New Hampshire duo Crushed Out's 2014 album Teeth finds a wistful, but also playful, unity between country songwriting and reverb-fetishizing surf rock. The best moments are on songs like “To Sing Of True Love" and “Summer Sunset," which work in just enough old-school rock-n-roll tropes but don't crowd out drummer/singer Moselle Spiller's sharp yet vulnerable vocal melodies. Also playing here are juiced-up Madison R&B jammers The Flavor That Kills and Paint singer Joe Darcy with his band The Wicker Crickets.
SATURDAY MAY 16
Recently it's been good to read that the 73-year-old George Clinton is apparently pulling himself together, sobering up, completing Funkadelic's 2014 triple album First Ya Gotta Shake The Gate, and releasing a memoir with the amazing title Brothas Be, Yo Like George, Ain't That Funkin' Kinda Hard on You? Recently, Parliament-Funkadelic shows are less about Clinton and more about the sprawling collective of musicians he's gathered over the years, but that means you'll likely get a good cross-section of Clinton's legacy, from relatively straight-ahead funk anthems like “Give Up The Funk" to selections from fractured Funkadelic psych-soul classics like "Maggot Brain."
SUNDAY MAY 17
The music lineup at community radio station WORT-FM's annual block party is usually varied but safely in, you know, block-party territory, which is why it's a pleasant surprise to see Madison new-music percussion ensemble Clocks In Motion kicking things off at 11:15 a.m. The group's repertoire spans from original avant-garde compositions to the works of contemporary-classical giants like Steve Reich, but no matter the material the group shows a fierce grasp of nimble, interlocking rhythms and an ear for dense yet engaging melody. Of course, that's nothing against the more straightforward acts at this year's block party, including Madison Latin-jazz veterans El Clan Destino (3 p.m.), Chicago blues outfit Cash Box Kings (4:15 p.m.), and P-Funk All Stars member Kim Manning (5:45 p.m.).
Mori Mente began as a collaboration between Madison singer and multi-instrumentalist Courtney Jarman—also the drummer and blazing falsetto voice of Myrmidons—and Eugene, Oregon guitarist Corey Dinkle, but expands to a five-piece band featuring bassist Eric Sheffield, drummer Shawn Piece, and multi-instrumentalist Brian Grimm on the new In There Somewhere EP, celebrated at this show. While drawing on subdued electronic acts like Portishead, songs like “Ghost House" and “Stone Circles" conjure atmosphere primarily through on acoustic instruments and Jarman's gracefully twisting, ominous vocals. Mori Mente will play here as a full band, sharing the bill with solid Tuscon psych-rock outfit Burning Palms and beloved Madison instrumental-rock trio El Valiente, who recently began recording some new material of their own.
The Late Late Breakfast bills itself as “America's Longest-Running Breakfast-Themed Comedy-Style Show Product™" and if there's anything we've learned it's not to question anything with that many qualifiers. What is this, you might be asking yourself? It kinda sounds like maybe a cross between the kind of open mic where hoboes occasionally take the stage, an episode of Whose Line Is It Anyway?, and Double Dare, as seen through of a brunchy full-bellied day-drunk. Their website makes only two promises: “chaos" and “free pancakes."
MONDAY MAY 18
Washington, DC band Gloom's self-titled 2014 EP harnesses the rhythmic pummeling of death metal and the tormented atmospherics of black metal into dynamic, deceptively straightforward songs. On highlight tracks like “Chromosomal," Gloom doesn't stray too far from it sturdy influences, but shows a lot of flexibility within them, pivoting from furious kick-hammering to more textural, turgid sludge. Here Gloom kicks off a tour with Madison metal outfit Bereft, whose expansive debut album, Lost Ages, was one of our favorite local records of 2014.
Minneapolis solo-saxophone artist Curt Oren contorts his instrument into taut, repetitive figures and the occasional abrasive outburst. Oren recently collaborated with NYC singer-songwriter Juan Wauters on Wauters' new album Who, Me?, and announced this week that he's working on his “first big-boy release"—apparently 2014's album I Love My Dog, which he sold with extras including cookies and “a shirt I made with my ass" (the latter sold out), doesn't count as grown-up enough?—so perhaps he'll break out some new material here.
WEDNESDAY MAY 20
Madison duo Mal-O-Dua's recently established happy-hour residency at Mickey's (during happy hour on the second and fourth Thursdays of the month) has been packing people in with Cedric Baetche and Chris Ruppenthal's goofy yet deep-reaching repertoire of country, gypsy swing, Hawaiian music and French pop. Baetche's raffishly charming vocals and Ruppenthal's prickly, masterful guitar leads work well in that rather chatty happy-hour setting, but it'll be nice to see them in a more attentive atmosphere at the Shitty Barn, sharing the bill with Madison gypsy-jazz institution Harmonious Wail.