Madison calendar, September 5 through 11
“My Life As A Dog,” Hadiza, and more events of note in Madison this week. | By Maxwell Courtright, Scott Gordon
Sponsor message: The weekly Tone Madison calendar is made possible with support from Union Cab of Madison, a worker-owned cooperative providing safe and professional taxi services.
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 7
Madison's day-long Ancient Future fest celebrates the long and varied interplay between heavy metal and the psychedelic side of music. Organizers Jason Hartman, guitarist for Madison band Vanishing Kids, and Jeff Bach, a frequent metal booker in the Madison and Milwaukee areas, have kept a consistent backbone of doom metal in each of Ancient Future's three editions so far, but have also kept their ears open to everything from death metal to electronic music to the gothic country of Those Poor Bastards, who played last year's installment. After a promising start at the Frequency in 2017 and at the High Noon in 2018, it now moves over to Crucible, which could be the ideal venue for something like this—it's gothy but welcoming, it sounds good, and its capacity of 325 seems like a nice happy medium, intimate but not too small. This year's 10-band lineup is maybe the most all-around, well, heavy one Ancient Future has presented yet.
Sabbath Assembly, whose members are split between NYC and Texas, plays a headlining set here behind the 2019 album A Letter Of Red, which blends slashing riffs with magisterial, eerie occult themes. Vocalist Jamie Myers brilliantly steers the song "Ascend And Descend" from sharp, lunging verses to passages of yearning reflection. And even in the chunkier moments of "Hymn Of The Pearl" and "Worthless," guitarist Ron Varod, bassist Johnny DeBlase, and drummer David Nuss (perhaps best known as a member of the avant-garde ensemble No-Neck Blues Band) leave plenty of space for something more graceful to develop, sometimes in the form of a synth line from guest player Toby Driver of Kayo Dot. Fun fact: Sabbath Assembly's founding vocalist was Jex Thoth, who is currently based in Madison and leads an excellent band under her own name.
As at previous Ancient Futures, Vanishing Kids anchor the lineup, bringing along plenty of other bands from Wisconsin and around the Midwest. VK's 2018 album Heavy Dreamer is a high point for a band that has explored varying combinations of post-punk, metal, and psych-rock since 2000. A lot of the band's previous work has a mix-and-match charm, but Heavy Dreamer is cohesive, descending into a sound-world of charismatic gloom where Nikki Drohomyreky's soaring vocal hooks and Jerry Sofran's sub-rumbling bass set the boundaries. The newer bands on the bill here include Milwaukee's Universe Machine, which sets the controls for Hawkwind territory on the recent single "Universe Machine," and Madison's Treatment (on first, at 4 p.m.), which melds punk aggression with sinister psych on the 2019 album Ladies And Gentlemen, We Are Burning In Hell. Other highlights include the at once scuzzy and folky Milwaukee band Lost Tribes Of The Moon and delightfully weird Madison doom duo Twichard. There will also be a record show from 3 to 4 p.m., before the bands get started. —Scott Gordon
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 8
A soothing sincerity permeates Lasse Hallström's exploration of pre-adolescent angst in his 1985 film, My Life As A Dog. Nominated for Academy Awards in both screenwriting and directing (very rare for a foreign-language film), the film is a delicate sort of cinematic hug for the viewer's inner child. Ingemar (Anton Glanzelius), the film's 12-year-old protagonist, narrates My Life As A Dog, his voiceover and an accompanying treacly piano score breaking up scenes from his life. Living with his brother and their considerably ill single mother, Ingemar ultimately is taken to live with his uncle in the small town of Småland when his mother has to go for a long-term stay at a hospital. When his mother eventually dies after a short return, Ingemar returns to the town to the loving embrace of the eccentrics he got to know during his original stint.
Among the odd characters that crowd My Life As A Dog, none may be more complicated than Ingemar himself. In film, explorations of sexual awakenings are often focused on older teenagers; The risky but ultimately rewarding gambit of My Life As A Dog, Scandinavian and liberated as it is, is to provide a frank focus on the nascent romantic longings of a pre-teen. We see the adult world of relationships through the eyes of an observer desperate to grow up but unsure how, especially considering his familial turmoil. Far from grafting adult desires onto a child (which would undoubtedly be creepy), the film understands the purity of children in a state of developmental flux. The film is at its best and most heartwarming when Ingemar's newfound community supports him regardless, providing an idyllic environment where he can heal and flourish. —Maxwell Courtright
Gary Alderman, who died this July at the age of 76, put in the kind of sustained, passionate effort that is crucial to making local and regional music communities function. Alderman spent 35 years hosting WORT's Journeys Into Jazz, a cornerstone of the station's strong jazz programming on weekday afternoons (alongside JoAnne Powers' Fire Worship, Dave Lorentzen's All Around Jazz, and Steve Braunginn and Jane Reynolds' Strictly Jazz Sounds). Journeys let listeners in on Alderman's deep command of jazz music and history, in playlists that stretched from the earlier days of jazz recording to the music's explosive harmonic evolutions in the '50s and '60s to contemporary vocal jazz to tracks by Madison-based artists. Alderman also collected and dealt in rare jazz records and other archival material, and even hosted programs of rare jazz films until very recently. As a recent piece in the Wisconsin State Journal illustrates, Alderman touched a lot of lives and also held a PhD in microbiology from UW-Madison.
Musicians and fellow jazz lovers will gather at this event to give Alderman a fitting send-off. The Mike Cammilleri Organ Trio will perform, which organizers explain is a nod to Alderman's particular love of the jazz organ. Cammilleri's own rich understanding of the jazz organ and the trio's wide repertoire of jazz, funk, and pop should also be a fitting tribute to Alderman's breadth of musical knowledge. After the trio plays, musicians are invited to perform in a jam session, and attendees are invited to offer remembrances of Alderman. —Scott Gordon
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 9
Kansas City-based pianist, songwriter, and vocalist Hadiza Sa-Aadu released her solo project Hadiza's debut EP, Gone, earlier this year. While it's a brief four songs, Gone makes it pretty clear that Sa-Aadu has spent the past six years cultivating both classical grandeur and an intimacy that asks audiences to hunker down and listen close. "God Is 7" and "Langue Maternelle" combine bluesy shuffles with harmonic complexity. Sa-Aadu's voice (also heard in a gorgeous electronic-pop duo called Callidescope) hops across octaves, investing her stately melodies with a visceral ache in a way that evokes Nina Simone and Antony And The Johnsons. When it comes to lyrics, she's just as interested in mixing and matching different approaches, or more accurately, letting them bleed together into an approach of her own. A song released in 2017, "A Tone Meant For," speaks pretty bluntly about police violence and the struggle for justice—"As the other one / Armed with a badge and gun / Suddenly declares open season"—but more often Sa-Aadu comes at it sideways, giving us fragments of scenes and images and letting us sit with the uncertainty of how our minds should put them together.
She explained in a recent interview with the Johnson County, Kansas Public Library that "Language Maternelle" grew out of the experience of "taking care of my grandmother after a mastectomy in Ghana," and its lyrics (which include a verse in French) zooms in on small details, and even play with the struggle to express oneself at all: "Synapses firing, an overstimulated mess / Words jump out scattered, meaningless." On Gone's closing track, "Source," she sings about facing "a sky made of sludge," a phrase that could open up any number of emotions or interpretations, but definitely helps listeners get absorbed in Hadiza's richly shaded world.
Opener Jimmy Sugarcane is a great fit for this show, even if he's miles away from the headliner's somber charisma. Currently a Madison resident, Sugarcane channels dancehall reggae into infectious electronic jams that also incorporate rhythms and melodies drawn from Nigeria, where he grew up after being born in London. In his live performances, Sugarcane is equal parts pop singer and massively amped-up master of ceremonies, given to high-pitched cackles and the rallying cry of "eehhhhhh!" In a recent performance for Wisconsin Public Television's 30 Minute Music Hour, he also got more of a chance than he usually does to slow down and talk about the emotions that drive his songs and how his perspectives have changed during a life lived across three continents. It's incredibly fun and varied music, and no one else in town is doing anything quite like it. —Scott Gordon
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 11
Portland, Oregon's Vern Avola has made experimental music under a variety of monikers, including EMS, Dirty Centaur, and simply Avola, and in collaborative settings, including the duo project Elrond. Her sonic language is often harsh, but it's versatile, and her latest release as Avola, Consensual Abduction, plays off the contrast between stark industrial sounds and frizzy synth pads. "Cosmic Situation" uses reverbed percussion to create both space and grit, pulling the listener into a stop-start groove around which Avola wraps quiet, unsettling textures. On "Area 52," she creates an at once fluid and scratchy layering of synths, swelling up and receding for the first half of the track before an aggressive beat kicks in. It's hard to miss the humor and mischief at work here (just see the album's cover art, for one thing), but at the same time Avola's hardware-driven music reflects a tenacious search for electronic expression. She'll headline this Tone Madison-presented show with a solo set, and will also perform with Ian Gorman Weiland in Elrond, behind the duo's new album Love Across Light Years.
Two Madison-based acts will share the bill. DJ and essential queer-nightlife promoter Sarah Akawa will perform under her DJ and production moniker Saint Saunter. As a DJ, Akawa has spun everything from ecstatic dance parties to throwback emo nights, and her original productions often explore bleak landscapes of restless hi-hats and slithering bass. She'll often mix the original stuff into her DJ sets, so expect something a little different from this already very adaptable musician here. The duo of Dan Woodman (Drunjus, Lens) and Emili Earhart (known for her work as a solo performer and in outfits including Cave Curse and And Illusion, and also a Tone Madison contributor) excels at playing brief but immersive improvised live sets that combine elements of noise, drone, and classical music. We have a no-fee online presale for this show, and there is a discount for Tone Madison Sustainers. —Scott Gordon