Linda Mary Montano, Russian Circles, Bongzilla, Jafar Panahi’s Taxi, and more of the best stuff in Madison this week. | By Scott Gordon, Ben Munson, Mike Noto, and Joel Shanahan
THURSDAY OCTOBER 1
Since earning her MFA from UW-Madison in the late ’60s, sculptor and performance artist Linda Mary Montano has gained renown for innovative performance art interwoven with her personal life, her role in the evolution of video art, and her Chicken Woman character. (Not to be confused with the Kids In The Hall character.) Chicken Lady has a lot to do with Montano’s time at UW, when she put on an MFA show that involved putting caged chickens on the roof of the Humanities Building and has claimed she “spent more time with [chickens] on campus than I did in ‘school.’” She’s back this week for a series of appearances in Madison. On Friday, she’ll give a talk at MMOCA, which will feature a UW-Extension poultry specialist as a special guest, and attendees are encouraged to dress like chickens if they so desire. Montano will also be giving seven-hour performance on Friday at the Elvehjem building.
The title of David Cronenberg’s 2005 film A History of Violence, as Roger Ebert noted back when it came out, can refer to a person with a history of being violent, society’s use of violence to settle matters, and the inherent violence of a Darwinian world. Viewers can pick and choose which ethos they want to see translated on the screen, but there’s no escaping the focused immediacy (and occasional burst of horrific mutilation) Cronenberg brings to this story of a small-town diner owner (Viggo Mortensen) who finds himself pulled back into a long-hidden criminal past. At this screening in the Madison Central Library, you’ll get to enjoy the stellar performances from Viggo Mortensen, Maria Bello, Ed Harris and William Hurt while trying not to shriek and/or giggle uncontrollably at some over-the-top yet crisply, coldly rendered violence.
The High Noon has organized two events this week to raise money for a Madison woman who was brutally attacked and sexually assaulted on the Capital City Bike path earlier this summer, and for the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault. The first, on Thursday at the High Noon, will be a night of cover sets by Madison bands, including tributes to Hole, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Garbage, and The B-52s. Then on Saturday, the effort heads out to the bike path itself for Busk The Bike Path, where local musicians will play along the path to raise more money for the victim and WCASA.
FRIDAY OCTOBER 2
If there’s one thing that reluctant new-age hero, pianist, and neo-classical composer George Winston doesn’t get enough credit for, it’s that he made an extremely likeable holiday album. Seriously, while some may regard Winston’s work in the same way they’d regard elevator swill, a closer listen to a landmark album like 1982’s December can actually reveal an undeniable emotive subtlety, with Winston largely playing the roles of both composer and performer. We could probably go either way with Winston’s reimaginations of well-worn classical pieces from the likes of Bach or Pachelbel, but the, delicate, gorgeous, and minimally building piano pieces of the effortlessly melancholic “Thanksgiving” or the near-ominous and counter-melodic “Night (Snow)” find Winston utilizing little more than gimmick-free and unaffected craftsmanship to fling his sonic tentacles deep into the the listener’s skull and hit every tucked away trigger for nostalgia, longing, and introspection in a way that many of his Windham Hill “contemporaries” can’t reach. Trust us, we aren’t out here chucking praise at holiday albums too often, but in this case it revealed an artist in all his unpretentious glory.
Before Milwaukee’s Morta Skuld re-emerged in the early aughts from their 1998 break-up to reform as MS2 and try their hand at Slipknot-influenced angst-metal, the trio—fronted by growler and shred-smith Dave Gregor—were a tour de force in the Milwaukee death-metal community. The band’s first run, which reaches all the way back to 1990, included a notable stint on legendary English metal label Peaceville (who also worked with the likes of black-metal legends Darkthrone, seminal Swedish death outfit At The Gates, and Autopsy, to name a few), who released Morta Skuld’s punishingly progressive death-metal masterpiece For All Eternity in 1995. While Morta Skuld’s flirtations with nu-metal have been largely forgotten, their death metal work has aged beautifully, which is probably why they reunited to swan-dive back into their grim universe of blasting double kicks, sinister riffing, and guttural screams. The punishing trio have been hard at work on their first full-length in 18 years and they’ve assured Tone that they’re back to playing “full-on death metal.” If the Serving Two Masters EP they dropped in 2014 is any indicator of what’s to come, we couldn’t be more stoked.
Chicago-based fiction writer Joe Meno isn’t the first writer you’d expect to give a reading at the crime fiction-themed (though not exclusively so) Monroe Street bookstore Mystery To Me. But the novel he’ll be sharing here, Marvel And A Wonder, is a thriller in its way, drawing on Meno’s love of hard-boiled greats like Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler in a Midwestern tale of meth and horse-thievery. Meno also recently edited a Chicago-themed noir anthology.
Juan De Marcos Gonzalez, best known for his role in the Buena Vista Social Club project, visited Madison back in February to give some talks and jam with local musicians, and has returned for an ambitious fall residency at UW-Madison. His time here will include performances, workshops, and a diverse slate of lectures on subjects including hip-hop in Cuba and Africanism in Cuban music. One of the main events, though, is his performance here with his big, multi-generational Afro-Cuban All-Stars band, whose far-reaching blend of styles should constitute quite a lesson in itself.
The third annual Latino Art Fair, organized by the Latino Chamber of Commerce of Dane County, will feature Latino artists from across southern Wisconsin showing their work. The art on display will range from paintings to prints to ceramics, and the event also will feature a performance by Madison-based guitarist Jaime Guiscafré.
If you’re heading out for the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art-organized biennial Gallery Night, be sure to check out our preview, which narrows the overwhelming roster down to a few adventurous highlights. MMOCA will also host a Gallery Night afterparty, which starts at 9 and features Madison’s own DJ Vilas Park Sniper on the decks.
In Italian director Marco Bellocchio’s 1967 satire China Is Near, set amid the chaotic left-wing movements of the ’60s, a rich political science professor decides to run for his city council as a socialist, touching off a string of farcical political and sexual misadventures.
SATURDAY OCTOBER 3
If you're a fan of monolithically destructive riffs that sound like Rodan trying to play Master Of Reality and enough brazen marijuana references to make Cheech and Chong blush, Madison stoner metal legends Bongzilla have probably already taken up longtime residence in your iTunes. Formed in 1995, Bongzilla reunited this year with the lineup that produced what many consider their best record, 2002's Gateway, after what had seemed like a permanent breakup in 2009. The band hasn't performed in town since getting back together, but will make a fitting Madison return in the headlining slot at the Great Midwest Marijuana Harvest Festival. If you haven't had enough of their brutally swinging sludge after that performance, The Wisco is hosting a 9 p.m. afterparty with three newer bands featuring Bongzilla members—The Garza, Dos Males, and Grotto. Dosmales, guitarist/singer Michael Makela project with former Panther drummer Nick Stix, pits spacey, surprisingly melodic vocals against bone-crushing riffs, while drummer/singer Mike Henry’s project The Garza plays furiously intense, AmRep-esque noise rock. Guitarist Jeff Schulz and bassist Cooter Brown's swaggeringly heavy Grotto rounds it all out.
UW Cinematheque’s short series on French filmmaker Jean Grémillion concludes with his 1943 tragicomedy Lumiere D’ete.
SUNDAY OCTOBER 4
Dillinger Four is playing a very short set of dates to celebrate turning 21. It's a legal drinking age party from a band that's already a decade plus removed from writing one of the most perfectly bittersweet alcohol anthems ever, "DoubleWhiskeyCokeNoIce." Plenty of other punks have propelled themselves with booze as fuel but few bands have imbibed D4's ability to clearly convey melody and big ideas while keeping the music loud as fuck. The band hasn't put out a full length since 2008, but hearing live any material from its near-perfect Midwestern Songs Of The Americas and Versus God is more than enough reason to show up and let your ears get punched in the face. It’s also worth noting that Wisconsin punk trio Tenement, who’ve been getting some much-deserved attention for their epic new double album Predatory Headlights, have been added as openers. More about Tenement in our recent interview with members Amos Pitsch and Jesse Ponkamo.
MONDAY OCTOBER 5
Chicago trio Russian Circles doesn’t treat the heavy and the atmospheric as two separate dynamic phases—instead the band’s instrumentals often have one swirling uneasily about the other, in a subtle, indirect dance where the real payoff is in the textural nuances. (The occasional big chunky crescendo is nice too, of course.) The band has been together for 10 years now, debuting with 2006’s Enter, but their most recent albums, 2011’s Empros and 2013’s Memorial, are perhaps their richest yet, maintaining the raw immediacy of their early work while patiently exploring myriad shades of dark melody.
TUESDAY OCTOBER 6
Madison band Neens make dream pop that chimes and bends instead of fizzes and pops. On its latest EP, Factory Sounds, the trio scatters wavy guitars, bubbly bass and Korg tricks across processed drums to to make seductive zones like “Working on a Scheme.” Neens’ subtlety will play well off of Crunk Witch, a pair of 8-bit super-bass spazzes from Maine. On this year’s Heartbeats In Hyperspace, the band reaches for something in between Mr. Bungle and Atom and his Package and end up burning off everyone’s eyebrows in the ensuing chemical explosion, but it’s so much fun that we don’t mind.
Hurling perjoratives at Kevin Hart doesn’t do much good, since the little guy has modeled his career around deflecting jabs about being short with his outsized personality. It’s doubtful he would mind you calling his movies insipid and borderline racist. He probably wouldn’t be bothered by you saying that a comedy show like What Now? that sells out giant sports arenas—and is slated for a theatrical release in 2015—is far too overblown to play like traditional stand-up. It’s likely no amount of shit-talk could knock Hart off course. So your best bet might be to just respect his manic energy and showmanship, find relatable nuggets in his domestic humor, and marvel at the sound of 17,000 people laughing in unison as Hart refers to himself as a “midget.”
WEDNESDAY OCTOBER 7
Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi has brought a great deal of acclaim to his home country’s film community—his 1995 feature The White Balloon was the first by an Iranian director to win a major award at Cannes—but lately is best known for making films under the nose, and against the wishes, of his government. In recent years Panahi has variously been placed under house arrest, banned from filmmaking, sentenced to prison, and barred from traveling outside of Iran, so his films, including 2012’s This Is Not A Film, have become exercises in cheeky subterfuge. In his latest, Jafar Panahi’s Taxi, Panahi poses as a cab driver and surreptitiously films himself driving around Tehran and engaging with a wide spectrum of customers throughout the course of a single day, offering a complex window into Iranian society.