Emily Heller, Merchandise, World Party, and more of the best stuff happening in Madison this week.
Like a lot of comedians in this day and age, Emily Heller is a renaissance woman. Between her
podcast, her web series, and a spot on the cast of TBS's The Ground Floor, she still manages to crush it on stage with buoyantly disarming charm and perfectly balanced whimsically observational bits. Heller recently joined the ever growing stable of comedians on Kill Rock Stars, so feel free to wear your Bratmobile shirt to the show. If there's anything you should take away from this calendar blurb (other than that she's very funny and you should go see her), it's that she's one half of the genius brain behind the Suck My Dick New Yorker Tumblr.
If you somehow missed
our deep(ish) dive on one of Madison's odd local legends, local comedian Frandu's story spans from South America to New York City's 1980s performance-art scene to just about every open mic in Madison, and now he's turned his standup act into something of a one-man show called Frandutopia Stories, which runs through this Saturday at Bartell Theatre.
The new EP Madison guitar duo Mal-O-Dua will celebrate at this show, Mahalo Dua, covers just one instrumental and Hawaiian slice of the music Chris Ruppenthal and Cedric Baetche make together. Actually Hawaiian music is the newest part of the repertoire, which also spans gypsy swing and French music, accentuated with Baetche's vocals and Ruppenthal's sprightly acoustic solos. But a friend of the bands needed some instrumental music for an in-the-works documentary about all those goddamn wild turkeys swarming Madison's east side, so they went ahead and threw down these seven tracks in the Hawaiian slack-key guitar tradition. They spoke with us this week about their ongoing Mickey's residency, which takes place on the second and fourth Thursday of each month at 5:30 p.m., and if the weather holds this show will mark the gig's move from inside to the Mickey's patio.
Over the last couple of years, Madison songwriter, singer, and multi-instrumentalist Stephanie Rearick has emphasized her playful side, releasing a bouncy jangly lo-fi pop record with her band Ladyscissors last year and embracing the chintzy wonders of a Casio keyboard's preprogrammed drumbeats and synth sounds on 2013's Dreamworld (released under the name Stephanie Rearick Jr.). A bit of that rubs off on Rearick's new solo album, Every Thing Everything, which she'll celebrate at this show. But this time Rearick is going for something a little more sparse, returning to the elements that have been key to her solo albums over the past 15 years: stately piano, clear high-register vocals that at times accompany mischievous turns of phrase, and some appearances from Rearick's trumpet. A few tracks (“Stolen Presents," “Paper Dolls" and “Blues—Suite For Microtonal Piano," the latter drawn from experimental composer Ben Johnson) are meditative instrumentals, and “Everyone Singing" layers Rearick's voice into a somber round over subtly dissonant drones. Somewhere in between are the flitting, strangely touching melodies and slightly volatile piano of “Make Believe," and a couple of covers from Rearick's Uvulittle Records labelmates Jenny Magnus and Maestro Subgum And The Whole, making for an efficient yet wide-ranging 11 tracks.
Madison film website LakeFrontRow (our friends and kindred spirits in independent/slightly warped local arts blogging, or whatever this is) occasionally presents screenings at the Central Library, and this time around they're focusing in on the UW-Madison filmmaker community. John Powers, a UW-Madison grad student and Wisconsin Film Festival programmer, will share two of his experimental short films. Filmmaker Nina Ham and First Wave-affiliated musician Sofia Snow will bring a collaborative music video titled “Difficult." Lastly, undergrad James Runde will offer a look from his in-the-works comedy White And Lazy. Several of the filmmakers will also be on hand to talk after the screenings.
FRIDAY MAY 29
Madison outfit Oedipus Tex's 2012 album Borracho Corazon is a solid, wandering collection of vulnerable singer-songwriter material from El Valiente guitarist Eric Caldera, but won't necessarily tell you all that much about what to expect from the band's live shows now, or the new studio material that's purportedly in the works. Over time Oedipus Tex has evolved from a shy one-man project to a full band that brings out the wry side of Caldera's songwriting with a raucous, playful indie-rock touch. At this show on the High Noon's patio, OT will share the bill with a new Madison band, Treemo.
SATURDAY MAY 30
The last few years have served Merchandise well, as they've not only seen the Tampa-based band evolve from the unabashed, but totally likable lo-fi Smiths-worship of 2012's
Children Of Desire, to the fully realized, retrofied polish of 2014's After The End, but they've also been boosted from legendary underground bizarro imprint Night People to the ranks of the mighty 4AD Records. After The End shows a more refined and structurally sound run of the 80s college-rock gamut, with vocalist Carson Cox's soulful crooning developing from its Morrissey channeling roots to a yearningly gorgeous and smoothed-out warble all his own.
St. Louis band Little Big Bangs play happily scruffy garage-rock with a fuzzy touch that recalls the proto-punk openness of T. Rex and New York Dolls. The band's self-titled 2013 album satisfies on a reptile-brain degenerate level, but it's that touch of warmth that keeps it engaging. Also playing here are Madison punk trio We Should Have Been DJs and the relatively new but pretty sharp and dynamic local garage-punk outfit The Minotaurs.
TUESDAY JUNE 2
Infectiously poppy, disarmingly bar-band-ish, and likely an eternal source of debt in the heart of New Radicals mastermind Gregg Alexander, World Party is the longtime solo endeavor of ex-Waterboys (think
A Girl Called Johnny-era, pre-Fisherman's Blues) keyboardist Karl Wallinger. While World Party's output of carefully constructed pop LPs—a run which includes 1990 highlight Goodbye Jumbo, an album that flips between gorgeously detailed retreads of '60s Britpop, soulfully waltzing ballads, and a hint of spacey Manchesterian guitar sonics—came to an end in 2000 with Dumbing Up, Wallinger resurfaced in 2012 with a sprawling five-disc box set of new tunes and assorted rarities called Arkeology. From the looks of recent live footage, Wallinger should have a full backing band in tow.
WEDNESDAY JUNE 3
Massachusetts' Kris Delmhorst is one of those quiet, persistent artists who make the world of relatively straightforward singer-songwriters worth keeping up with. That world can be a very rewarding one, after all, when an artist has the patient but resolute vocal melodies that Delmhorst brings to songs like “92nd St," on her 2014 album
Blood Test. While Delmhorst's 2008 album Shotgun Singer had a hushed, isolated (resulting from Delmhorst, also a multi-instrumentalist, recording a lot of the basic tracks on her own before bringing in collaborators to expand the arrangements), Blood Test is a bit more bright and open—but it says something that Delmhorst's songwriting holds up well under both approaches.