Al Madrigal, Cribshitter, Loop Retard, and more of the best stuff in Madison this week. | By Scott Gordon, Chris Lay, Ben Munson, Mike Noto, and Joel Shanahan
THURSDAY OCTOBER 8
It took them a while to tip into the mainstream and generally find their collective feet as a medium, but podcasts have become a major force to be reckoned with in the modern media landscape. In the same way that the early years of television looked a lot like filmed stage productions, there were a lot of podcasts that looked over their shoulders and replicated old-timey radio. One such show, and one of the most popular podcasts, is Welcome To Night Vale, which has been lovingly described as "the news from Lake Wobegon as seen through the eyes of Stephen King.” Like A Prairie Home Companion, the show tells the tale of a fictional setting, but the happenings here are much weirder and more pulpy than anything Garrison Keillor could come up with. While Nightvale the podcast is fairly production-heavy, it lends itself well to the live venue, which is good news for the sold out crowd headed to the Barrymore for this show, which will feature Twin Cities rapper, singer, writer, and spoken-word artist Dessa, as well as the usual cast of creepy characters.
This fall’s series of three concerts honoring legendary drummer Clyde Stubblefield, and benefitting a new scholarship established in Stubblefield’s name, closes out with a pretty big treat. At this free Overture event, longtime Madisonian Stubblefield will take the stage again with three of his compatriots from James Brown’s band: trombonist Fred Wesley, bassist Fred Thomas, and fellow drummer Jabo Starks. (If you haven’t heard Stubblefield and Starks’ joint NPR interview from earlier this year, it’s just about as sweet a bit of musical camaraderie as you could ask for.) Here, those four foundational funk musicians will play a set with Madison band The Big Payback. The evening will also feature a set from Madison’s Black Star Drum Line. Again, these days it’s pretty rare to get to see Stubblefield play at all, so you really should catch this.
The student-run WUD Film committee has an experimental-leaning series called Starlight Cinema that sometimes thrives and sometimes seems to nearly vanish for a semester or two at a time, just popping up intermittently. However sporadic they get, these screenings fill a void in Madison’s film offerings, and this program is no different, showcasing four short works from women avant-garde filmmakers. Karen Yasinsky’s 2012 short Life Is An Opinion, Fire A Fact, which screened at this year’s Wisconsin Film Festival, offers a grindingly intense meditation on portrayals of violence in the media. Kelly Gallagher’s The Herstory Of The Female Filmmaker uses experimental animation to document the history of women in film. Miranda July’s 1998 short The Amateurist centers around one woman just watching another on a surveillance camera, and Basma Alsharif’s Everywhere Was The Same is a bleak reaction to violence against Palestinians in Gaza.
Debra Granik’s 2010 film Winter’s Bone earned wide acclaim for its tense and stark portrayal of meth-scarred rural poverty, and pretty much gave the world the gift of Jennifer Lawrence’s acting/humor/general celebrity. Granik followed up with the 2014 documentary Stray Dog, which takes a deeper look at Ronnie Hall, one of the actors who was on the fringes of Winter’s Bone. As documentary subjects go, you couldn’t ask for better than Ronnie, a Vietnam Vet and biker whose tattoos belie his tender side. Karl Gutknecht, Vietnam War veteran and president of Culture Ventures International will be on hand for a post-film discussion.
FRIDAY OCTOBER 9
There’s been a big shakeup over at The Daily Show as of late, with Jon Stewart being replaced by Trevor Noah, but pretty much all of the correspondents stayed on as reliable pillars of strength while the new host finds his sea-legs. That includes Al Madrigal, who’s been appearing on the show since 2011, and will make a stop at the Comedy Club On State for four shows this weekend. Madrigal had been performing unpretentious Latino-leaning standup material for over a decade before getting picked up by The Daily Show, and you might’ve even spotted him on a handful of short-lived sitcoms. Madrigal’s been through Madison in the past, having brought his punched up storytelling style to sold out crowds at the club a couple of years ago.
Madison band Transformer Lootbag formed in the late 1990s and in 2003 released a self-titled album that combined the gleefully nuked noise-pop of Brainiac with a measure of math-rock complexity. For many years they didn’t play live at all, but in 2013 they reunited and have since played the occasional show. Despite the long absence and lack of new recordings, the recent sets we’ve seen are strong, tightly pinning together Steve Riches’ damn-near-inscrutable bass lines, Ricky Riemer’s warped guitar and vocal melodies, and Matt Abplanalp’s fierce but strangely playful drums. Here, they’ll be joined by Minneapolis’ Hyperslob and Madison’s Novagolde, which both feature members of Madison/Minneapolis noise-rock outfit Kitty Rhombus.
UW Cinematheque kicks off a deep dive into the films of noir pioneer Cy Endfield with a bang of a double feature. The whole series ties into the University of Wisconsin Press’ publication of The Many Lives Of Cy Endfield: Film Noir, The Blacklist, And Zulu, by Brian Neve. First up in Friday’s two-fer, 1950’s The Underworld Story is about a shady muckraker of a journalist (Dan Duryea) who’s moved in on a small New England newspaper and is working all the angles on a murder story. The second, Try And Get Me! (how can you not go see a movie called Try And Get Me!?!) casts Lloyd Bridges, likely unrecognizable here to anyone who only knows him from his comedy work of the ’80s and ’90s, as the devil’s advocate to Frank Lovejoy’s down-on-his-luck everyman who gets wrapped too far up into Bridges’ schemes before he can safely turn back. These are monumental works in the genre of noir, and a great first step into this series. Both films will be brand new 35mm prints from the Film Noir Foundation Collection at the UCLA Film & Television Archive.
The Greater Madison Jazz Consortium launched its Indigenous series last year as a showcase for Midwestern jazz artists playing original compositions, and this fall the series moves from the Central Library for the Memorial Union’s Play Circle Theater. This round of Indigenous kicks off with trumpeter and UW-Platteville professor David Cooper, who released his second album as a bandleader, The Journey, earlier this year. Here, he’ll play some compositions from that album, which he recorded while undergoing treatment for throat cancer. He’ll be playing in a quartet with pianist Johannes Wallmann, bassist Nick Moran, and drummer Ernie Adams, with saxophone player Tom Gullion jumping in for a bit during the second set.
SATURDAY OCTOBER 10
For all the years that Madison band Cribshitter has been around, we’ve never quite decided what’s more disturbing: the insanely gross lyrics of songs like “I Got Hot Sauce In My Pussy” and “Boom Goes The Vaginamite,” or the level of detail and legitimate pop-craft that goes into this stuff. At this show, Cribshitter celebrates its third full-length album, Acapulco, which boasts a conceptual narrative about a time-share pitch in Mexico but also delivers some new unsettling-yet-irresistible gems, including the country waltz “Where You Going With That Hard On?”, the wisftul IPA anthem “Fantasy Factory,” and the demented Kendrick-channeling raps of “Sunshine.” Read more about this week in our interview with the band.
The six members of Lovely Socialite have spread out between Madison, Milwaukee, and Ann Arbor since releasing their 2012 debut album, Registers Her Delight. That might have slowed down the completion of the new album they’re releasing at this show, Toxic Consonance, but didn’t shake the ambition and skill the band brings to its genre-melding jazz instrumentals and its unconventional lineup of cello, vibraphone, bass, drums, trombone, and multiple Chinese stringed instruments. “Joy Abundance” stretches the band’s harmonic complexity over a lumbering, ominous funk groove, while “Humus” is a seven-minute journey of deftly maintained tension. Even while working in a lot of drawing on modern classical and experimental music, Lovely Socialite also brings humor and playfulness to this album, taking an eccentric spin through the national anthem on opening track “Star Spangled” and conjuring a drunken swirl of rhythm on the face-palmingly titled “The Night Hasn’t Been Stiller.”
The story David Grabias tells in his new documentary Operation Popcorn has its roots in the CIA’s “secret war” against communist forces in Laos during the Vietnam War, and ongoing repression of the Hmong population in southeast Asia. And it gets even more complex with the 2007 arrest of several Hmong leaders accused of plotting a coup against the Laotian government—plus, one of the people involved, Lo Cha Thao, has a weird history in Wisconsin politics. Grabias will be attending this screening in person and giving a post-screening discussion.
Directing her first full-length film since 2008, Jennifer Phang assembles a thoughtful, measured science-fiction story with the new Advantageous. The movie frames a recognizable future landscape but zooms in on Gwen (Jacqueline Kim), a spokeswoman for a cosmetic surgery firm who faces unemployment when her company deems her to be too old. In order to retain her life and her daughter Jules’ spot at a private school, Gwen elects to undergo a radical procedure. By borrowing sci-fi tropes from titles like Ghost In The Shell and Children Of Men but grounding its story in relatable struggles like parenthood and aging gracefully, Advantageous creates an alarmingly plausible, yet awfully sterile, future that presents humans with some scary choices to make about maintaining one’s sense of self. Plus it comes with a rare dramatic turn from Ken Jeong.
While the hefty cost of completing a two-year audio program at Madison Media Institute may not fit every aspiring producer’s budget, it’s pretty tough to argue with the $3 price-tag on this year’s Level Up Music Conference at MMI, which features workshops and lectures from not only ex-Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson drummer Chris Vrenna (currently an instructor at MMI), but two platinum hip-hop producers in Focus (who recently worked with Dr. Dre on Compton) and Madison’s own DJ Pain 1—who caught a serious break providing the backbone for Young Jeezy’s “Don’t Do It” back in 2008 and has since went on to work with everyone from Project Pat to Joe Budden to Public Enemy. In the event’s six-hour duration, artists and “industry-types” alike will wax on both the business and creative fringes of production. We’re particularly stoked to see that Focus is heading-up a beat-making seminar and DJ Pain 1 will be lecturing on social media. If you’ve had the pleasure of following Pain 1’s artist page on Facebook, it’s not only a killer resource in terms of offering tons of creative insights, free samples, and general advice, but it also sometimes offers a fascinatingly bleak window into the headaches and entitlement issues one’s bound to crash into after reaching any level of industry success as a hip-hop beatsmith. Ex-Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson drummer, engineer, and current MMI instructor Chris Vrenna is involved too. On the less exciting end of things, Level Up has also wrangled Roy Elkins, the controversial founder of Broadjam, the site that encourages artists to pay the likes of A&R folks, established musicians, and entertainment journos to critique their work. Either way, Level Up seems to be an extremely promising resource, and it’s cool to see Pain 1 bringing something like this back to his homebase.
You remember Whose Line Is It Anyway?, right? Maybe you saw the British version that Comedy Central imported way back in that station’s infancy, or perhaps you jumped onboard with the US version that was hosted by Drew Carey in the late ’90s, or maybe still, you’re a shockingly young person to be reading this website and discovered the latest incarnation hosted by Aisha Tyler? Any which way, Whose Line, with its rotating collection of comicy- improv slapstickers, has made a lasting impression multiple generations of American class-clowns and class-clown wannabees alike. It’s bulletproof short-form improv from some masters of the genre (the show tonight will feature the profoundly talented lineup of Ryan Stiles, Greg Proops, Jeff B. Davis, and Joel Murray), and it’s a guaranteed entertaining evening, though likely toothless enough that you could take your mom and dad (or even even grandma and grampa).
SUNDAY OCTOBER 11
This bonkers Sunday night line-up of gutter sonics will bulldoze a crossroad between performative prankster noise and textural tape-manglers. Topping the bill will be cacophonic, Minneapolis-based performance artists Cock ESP, who are known for putting on 30-second to three-minute (total) performances in which they jump on tables, scream, break shit, and throw garbage at each other, as hissing feedback fills the room. They’ve been at this for well over two decades. As fun as that sounds, we’re probably most intrigued to hear Milton, a collaboration between veteran Philadelphia sound artist Newton and Milwaukee-based cassette manipulators Mildew. The local end will feature Madisonian comedy-noise fixture Loop Retard—the longtime alias of Steven Bolan, who, if this performance is anything akin to those prior, will test the sonic threshold and overall patience of uninitiated Wisco regulars as he attempts to lead bystanders in some kind of druggish workout routine, while a fucked-up homemade tape loop blares in the background. The ever-prolific Kleptix plays too, and for more on his gear-mangling beat-music, be sure to check out our recent interview with him.
Whitney Horn and Lev Kalman’s 2014 film L For Leisure follows a group of grad students through a series of 10 comic and occasionally depraved vacation adventures. Horn and Kalman will be giving a post-screening Q&A via Skype. Read and hear more about it in our preview of this fall’s Micro-Wave Cinema series.
Several screenings in town this week, including Operation Popcorn and Advantageous, covered above, are part of a small but very ambitious Asian American Media Spotlight, a program examining the history and present of Asian Americans in film. It wraps up Sunday with three screenings. First, at the Chazen, the series dovetails with UW Cinematheque’s ongoing Sunday showcase of 35mm prints, with a double feature of late-’30s B-movie thrillers Daughter Of Shanghai and Dangerous To Know—both starring Anna May Wong, the only Asian-American female movie star of her era. The Asian American Media Spotlight concludes Sunday evening at the Marquee with a screening of Tested, a new documentary that follows a diverse group of public-school students through the travails of standardized testing.
Chicago band Fake Limbs plays stark, staggering, dissonant post-punk that can’t help but evoke Shellac and The Jesus Lizard, but still stands out for its sharp execution and wry self-awareness. The band’s two albums, 2013’s The Power Of Patrician Upbringing and 2012’s Man Feelings, also bring a respectable amount of variety to this bleak and clanging space, from the lusty groove of “Your Comments Are Atrocious” to the feedback-smeared barbs of “Nosebleed At The Oxbow.” They open here for Nashville’s Bully, whose guitar-pop strikes a respectable balance of sweet and snarly on this year’s debut album Feels Like.
MONDAY OCTOBER 12
From guitarist-vocalist Sonny Vincent’s early days sharing the stage with the likes of Dead Boys and Suicide in his old band The Testors to his seemingly endless trudge through the past few decades that found him blasting out dusty garage-punk tunes with a rotating cast of backing musicians—featuring everyone from The Stooges’ drummer Scott Asheton to Replacements guitarist Bob Stinson to Half Japanese’s John Sluggett—it’s kind of astonishing that Vincent is still ripping out such an intense body of work and touring actively at 63 (especially when considering the fates of so many of his early and better-known contemporaries). In fact, Vincent released a hell of a record last year in the crusty, sax-powered long-player Spiteful, which featured accompaniment from The Damned drummer Rat Scabies, Sex Pistols bassist Glen Matlock, and Stooges sax-shredder Steve Mackay. While Spiteful generally sticks to swaggering, up-tempo garage rippers, it occasionally takes a breather, diving into power-pop sweetness with “Now That I Have You” and collapsing into an ugly blues-shuffle for “Silver.”
WEDNESDAY OCTOBER 14
Punk rock would be a lot cooler if it wasn’t for all the drumming, is a statement that typically nobody ever makes. But a rare hatred for drums and the semi-coordinated dancing they can sometimes inspire isn’t a requirement for getting into Girlpool, the Los Angeles duo consisting of Cleo Tucker on guitar and Harmony Tividad on bass. On 2015’s Before The World Was Big, Girlpool plots out spare, rhythmic structures on which to stand and sing, in harmony or just together, incantations that summon vivid little pictures. On “Dear Nora,” Tucker and Tividad address each other—”Cleo was tired / Harmony was hyper”—in the middle of a story about a roadtrip. On “Before The World Was Big,” they talk about the color of the garbage cans that dot the walk home from school. All of these lyrical details combine with stinging confessions to punctuate Tucker and Tividad’s melodies, giving the songs more punch than drums could likely provide.
Scott Christopherson and Brad Barber’s new documentary Peace Officer takes a timely look at the militarization of American police and the shocking rate at which police officers shoot people. To accentuate just how much American law enforcement has changed over the past 50 or so years, Christopherson and Barber frame the story around a veteran cop, Dub Lawrence, who trained SWAT teams in his time as a sheriff in Utah in the 1970s, only to have a SWAT team kill his son-in-law in 2008. While police militarization and police shootings have both become major topics in political debate and media coverage, Peace Officer is perhaps the first documentary to tackle these subjects in a substantive way. It gets its Madison premiere here, in a testament to the curatorial value of the Spotlight Cinema series.
When Disclosure dropped Settle back in 2013, it was pretty tough not to get sucked into Howard and Guy Lawrence’s hyper-sculpted future-pop tunes. After all, this was wasn’t just another throbbing, over-compressed EDM record, this was essentially an insanely polished pop-house record that was lovingly and slowly crafted by two young dudes who actually listen to music. Besides the admittedly exquisite cameo appearance from then-unknown R’n’B vocalist Sam Smith on pop-smash “Latch,” the most crucial aspect of Settle was how it didn’t try to rip pages directly from the long history of dance music, but instead build-upon and reprocess slivers from swingin’ UK Garage and lush deep house to forge something incredibly detailed, cohesive, and infectious. That said, there’s nothing particularly offensive about this year’s Caracal, it’s just so brutally inoffensive that it’s passive. This time around, pretty much all of the tunes feature guest vocalists, including a very sleepy cameo from Lorde on “Magnets” and, perhaps in an attempt to recreate the breakout success of “Latch,” Caracal features a good deal of mid-tempo to down-tempo, radio-ready R’n’B-flavored tunes. The sound palette is similar—lots of stacked-up synth stabs, tastefully programmed and polished rhythmic production, and smooth bass lines—but structurally the tunes just don’t pack that hypnotic edge that Settle’s did. “Latch’s” rhythmic quirks and evolving synths and the sample-powered thump of “When A Fire Starts To Burn” are now replaced with walk-in-place pop tunes like “Superego” or the side-chained swell of “Willing & Able.”
Austin band The Sword released its debut Age Of Winters in 2006, and have since translated their traditionalist doom-metal style into a surprising amount of mid-level success. "Traditionalist" should be emphasized: from the start, The Sword have been content not to reinvent the wheel. Frontman John D. Cronise has always sung like a serviceable hybrid of Ozzy Osbourne at his lowest-pitched and Holy Mountain-era Sleep, the band's riffs have always sounded like they descended from Black Sabbath, Sleep and Pentagram, and the D&D/fantasy preoccupations of many of the lyrics could have come straight out of the same pocket novels Uriah Heep were binging on in the early '70s. The difference is that The Sword seems to regard all of these stylistic trappings as things that they're supposed to do with their chosen genre, instead of something that they really, truly believe in. For all the sometimes inspired riffage they churn out, genre-worshiping competence takes over most of the time. High Country, released in August, moves the band into lighter pastures stylistically, with Thin Lizzy-esque dual guitar leads, subtle synthesizer shadings, and decidedly more hard-rock-inspired tunes this time.