Robbie Fulks, Dr. Strangelove, Waveless, Earth and more of the best stuff in Madison this week. | By Scott Gordon, Chris Lay, and Joel Shanahan
THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 3
The second-to-last Central Park Sessions show of the year is dubbed the Southern Fried Session, and is headlined by Royal Southern Brotherhood, a group that features venerable New Orleans vocalist/percussionist Cyril Neville (of The Neville Brothers, The Meters) and guitarist/vocalist Duane Allman (son of Gregg Allman). Despite the obvious skill on display, and that sense of history and pedigree that’s so important to American roots-music enthusiasts, it’s hard to get that excited about RSB’s burly blues-rock, particularly as Allman’s vocal parts can sound a bit like Scott Stapp trying to gargle his way through a blues number. But it’s still more than worth getting out to this. Also on the bill is Chicagoan Robbie Fulks, who plays country music with a seemingly inexhaustible store of both wrenching songcraft and surreal smart-assery. Fulks’ most recent album, 2013’s Gone Away Backwards, with its sparse acoustic arrangements and narratives that range from the bleak (“I’ll Trade You Money For Wine”) to the comic (“Sometimes The Grass Is Really Greener”), might be the most rewarding and emotionally affecting thing he’s ever done. Show up early for Madison’s own Evan Murdock And The Imperfect Strangers, whose sturdy, accordion-warmed songs on 2013’s album Feel Bad No More range from understated and comforting (“Downtown,” “That’s The Way”) to raucous and playful (“Sweet Potatoes”).
We’re not quite why Rosemary’s Baby, one of the greatest psychological thrillers ever made, is getting screened in early September, but here we are in the middle of a final muggy push before fall takes the wheel staring down the barrel of this moody creepfest of a film. Despite the fact that it seems slightly out of place, seasonally speaking (this time of year is usually better suited for campground slashers and cheerleader flicks), this is the movie that introduced Roman Polanski to an American audiences, split up Mia Farrow (the titular Rosemary) and Frank Sinatra, and was one of Robert Evans’ early triumphs as the head of production at Paramount, to say nothing of how sincerely creepy and affecting the finished product is, so we’ll happily accept any opportunity to be reminded of how crazy this movie is to watch with an audience. Hopefully they’ll crank the air conditioning up in there to make Polanski’s stylish 1968 New York nightmare of prepartum possession crackle all that much more.
FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 4
Ever since his radio and theater days Orson Welles, like every dramatist worth a damn, was obsessed with the works of William Shakespeare, adapting them to great acclaim in a number of mediums (check out Richard Linklater’s underrated Me and Orson Welles for an adaptation of Welles’ 1937 stage adaptation of Julius Caesar). The 1948 film adaptation of Macbeth was Welles’ first attempt to get The Bard’s words onto the screen, and indeed despite a little creative reshaping and expunging there’s not a word there that didn’t spring from Shakespeare’s quill. Maybe you watched this back in high school as a means of skating through English, in which case it’s definitely time to revisit it as an adult and get freaked out by Welles’ piercing thousand-yard-stare and generally expressionist take in this classic tragedy. The original version of the film, which restores the Scottish accents and, more importantly,16 minutes of footage excised for the American release, will be screening here in glorious 35mm.
L.A.-based musician Mike Krol’s third album, the new Turkey, has a lot of Madison-connected power-pop freakery packed into it. Krol used to play drums with Madison bands Time Since Western and Whatfor, and his band includes former members of Sleeping In The Aviary (who started in Madison, moved to the Twin Cities, then broke up). Turkey offers 20-odd minutes of playfully blown-out, scuffed-up sonics and Krol’s nasally snarl, and it all holds up nicely thanks to Krol’s sharp melodies and well-timed production touches like the occasional Oh Sees-like burst of reverb on “Neighborhood Watch” and “Cactuses.” Krol doesn’t have a proper club show booked for Madison right now, but plays an in-store here as a belated celebration of the album’s release on Merge Records.
The 13-piece Chicago Yestet forges its all-encompassing, boisterous take on jazz with help from at least a couple Wisconsinites—Madison-based MC/spoken-word artist Rob Dz and Milwaukee-based trumpeter Russ Johnson. Trombone player and band leader Joel Adams arranges the band’s horn section to create both big-band complexity and a celebratory but politically aware punch, and Dz’s rhythmic and at times playful delivery makes for a nice counterpoint with singer Charlene Bell's warm melodies, and both vocalists share in a rapid, ever-shifting exchange with the Yestet’s wide array of instrumental soloists. The band plays here behind its 2014 album Just Say Yes.
SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 5
Portland black metal destroyers Drouth released one hell of an EP earlier this year in Vast, Loathsome. The band is dynamic, entrancing, melodic, and punishing, incorporating elements of post-rock and doom. But Drouth also brilliantly cuts out the pretentious pitfalls of those influences, keeping their edges razor-sharp as they tug the listener through an abyssal wormhole of sonic movements in the opening title track. Clean guitars strum broodingly melodic progressions, giving way to the throat-shredding screams over a funereal trudge, which in turn leads to oppressively catchy thrash-inspired riffing and rapid-fire double-kick drum-work, before collapsing and rebuilding the tune in a less depressive, more furiously aggressive dimension. It’s also worth catching Tubal Cain, the new band from the veteran Madisonian metal-voyagers that brought us bands like The Antiprism and Sardonyx, as well as Dos Males, which features whiplash d-beat pummeler Nick Stix (formerly of Pyroklast) and guitarist Michael Makela (ex-Bongzilla).
Getting their start in Ijuí, Brazil in 1990, Krisiun are responsible for some of the rawest, most brutal and technically brain-busting blackened death-metal records of all time in 1995’s Black Force Domain and 1998’s Apocalyptic Revelation. But while the freshly released and heavily polished Forged In Fury may not capture the unsettling, sinister filthiness of tunes like “Black Force Domain” and “Hunter Of Souls,” there’s something to be said for the quantized, battering-ram blasts in “Dogma Of Submission” and the screeching guitar solo of “Burning Of The Heretic”—the band’s relentless technical skill and meticulous riffing work just as well in crystal clarity as they did in the dirtier days. Also, it’s definitely worth noting that Topeka, Kansas tech-metal legends Origin will be co-headlining this event with a flurry of inhumanely fast blast-beats, dizzying guitar shred, and break-neck meter-changes. Origin will be touring behind 2014’s Omnipresent.
The very notion of a final film rolling off the line from Japan’s animation juggernaut Studio Ghibli is enough to break the heart of anyone who’s taken even more than a passing glance at the works of directors Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata. And yet, two years after the admitted final films from those two, here we are, left with Ghibli’s very likely swan song: Hiromasa Yonebayashi’s dreamy-sounding fantastical mystery of loneliness and youthful enui When Marnie Was There. The UW Cinematheque has spent vast swaths of the past few years screening films from the Ghibli canon, so we’re sure this is going to be a bittersweet day for them, as much as it will the Ghibli faithful. Also, if the subs-versus-dubs debate gets you all hot and bothered, have no fear because a kid-friendly English-dubbed version will screen at 2 p.m. (featuring the voices of John C. Reilly, Kathy Bates, and Geena Davis!) while the subtitled version will screen at 7 p.m.. Fair warning: Based on early reviews, it is advised to pack a couple of hankies.
SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 6
The UW Cinematheque has always prided itself on screening 35mm prints of films whenever available, but this fall sees them using a whole series at the Chazen to highlight films presented expressly in that format, as well as put a spotlight on the heroic work that goes into preserving the medium. First on the docket will be Stanley Kubrick’s black-and-white (and also quite black) Cold War satire,1964’s Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb. Peter Sellers gets a lot of the comedy credit here, playing three different roles (Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake, President Merkin Muffley, and Dr. Strangelove). But the real (anti-)heroes of the thing are George C. Scott as Gen. “Buck'” Turgidson who heroically goes wonderfully over the top in every take, stealing his scenes with as little as the raising of an eyebrow, and of course Sterling Hayden as Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper, whose obsession with “our precious bodily fluids” turns from silly to grim as he sets the world on a path toward nuclear destruction. Sure, there are political parallels to be made between then and now, but the most important thing you could take away from this screening is a certain perfectly unique comedic Purity Of Essence. And peep that uniquely insane trailer.
TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 8
Two filthy Minneapolis garage-rock (we use the term loosely here) bands that occupy opposite sides of the emotional spectrum will be squeezing into Mickey’s Tavern at this show. The self-titled EP Waveless dropped last year is a messy, bleak, and wonderfully toxic take on the well-treaded shoegaze realm. Laying off a bit on the gear-headed, tone-sculpting approach of My Bloody Valentine or the dreamy, oceanic guitar-wash of Ride, Waveless take the heady, noise-battered genre and dunk in a vat of crude oil. This is especially present in the delay-soaked crooning that soars across the scorched landscape of highlight “Lucid Nightmare,” as clunky rhythms trudge below and buzzing, moody guitarwork slathers along. Fellow Minnesotans Solid Attitude (formerly a snotty, garage-punk institution in Iowa City) have been working on a new full-length. The foursome posted a couple tunes up on Bandcamp earlier this year (the files are currently priced at $700) to tease the follow-up to 2012’s BB Gun Picnic. Both tunes, thus far titled “#1” and “#2,” find the band in a place of busted refinement, defiantly straddling an intersection between jangled cow-punk and Flying Nun-harkening punk-pop. We’re also excited to see Madisonian sass-punk duo A Haircut back in action for this one.
The sea of doom bands rehashing the same Wagnerian Black Sabbath riffing through an approximation of Electric Wizard’s ear-shattering distortion palette is getting tougher and tougher to wade through these days, but experimental axe-lord Dylan Carlson’s dynamic, singular vision and incredibly tasteful songwriting has kept his band Earth plowing forward into fresh territories for a whopping 26 years since its formation in Seattle. This is why last year’s sprawling and heady, band-backed effort Primitive And Deadly, while still a bit fuzzy and brooding in parts, is worlds away from the enveloping, guttural drone pieces of 1993 doom drone landmark Earth 2: Special Low Frequency Edition. Perhaps what makes Carlson such an exciting player (besides his mastery over feedback and natural tone manipulation—bending, contorting, and squealing his notes with ease and control) is the way there’s almost something out of step going on in his melodies and chord progressions, whether he’s sitting on a chord a few extra beats longer than you expect him to, sliding into an off-kilter note, or bringing notes into a chord that catch the listener off guard. With Earth, once the skeleton of the tune is installed, it’s all about the subtle details and variations that dance around a single idea. It’s for this reason also that an Earth live show is something of an endurance test, but one that can leave you feeling both challenged and refreshed.