Jenny Zigrino, Black Poets Society, Nervosas, and more of the best stuff happening in Madison this week. | By Scott Gordon, Chris Lay, and Joel Shanahan
THURSDAY JUNE 25
Jenny Zigrino’s 20-something-centric comedy edges into some of the more explicit sexual frankness that might scare off your grandma, and Zigrino infuses it with enough undeniable and casual Midwestern charm to carry across the wonderful abundance of sex- and body-positivity nestled into so many of her punchlines. Anyone who connects to Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer’s Broad City should make it a point to catch one of Zigrino, who can at least be counted as a worthy kindred spirit, during her shows this weekend. Kevin Kinner features, and local comedian Anthony Siraguse hosts.
Charlotte Brontë’s novel about a young woman coming of age in 18th-century England gets a pretty sumptuous treatment in Robert Stevenson’s 1943 adaptation. Aldous Huxley shares partial credit for the screenplay, Joan Fontaine plays Jane, Orson Welles plays her master and conflicted love interest Mr. Rochester, Agnes Moorhead plays as Jane’s abusive aunt, Elizabeth Moore has an uncredited role, and Bernard Hermann scored the film.
FRIDAY JUNE 26
Anyone who caught our preview of the UW Cinematheque’s summer schedule knows that the programmers snuck a couple of exuberant ’60s musicals into the mix. Last week it was Bye Bye Birdie, and this week we get David Swift’s 1967 film adaptation of How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying. Despite not quite having the star power of Birdie, How To Succeed In Business still has a lot going for it, such as Bob Fosse being brought onboard from the Broadway run, . In any case it’s a fitting way to, however temporarily, fill the recently vacated Mad Men-sized spot in our collective tobacco- and dark liquor-strained hearts, as protagonist J. Pierpont Finch (Robert Morse, who later went on to play Bert Cooper) embarks on a satirical and blisteringly colorful career at the World Wide Wicket Company.
Experimental cinema has a long history of freezing, stretching, disassembling and some might even say torturing the fabric of time, a theme Rooftop Cinema celebrates in this program of four short films. In 1973’s Turning Over, American filmmaker Morgan Fisher centers in on a car’s odometer as it progresses from 999,999 miles to 100,000 (speaking of stretching time, this one’s 15 minutes long, and its selection fits well with Rooftop’s thoughtful yet playful spirit). UW-Madison’s own JJ Murphy contemplates a light-up Hamm’s Beer sign in 1972’s Sky Water Blue Light Sign. Bruce Conner’s 1966 film Breakaway experiments with the strangeness and stark beauty of dancing figures. In 1976’s The Girl Chewing Gum, British filmmaker John Smith narrates everyday street scenes to absurd and comic effect.
Columbus band Nervosas’ baritone vocal melodies and chorus-streaked guitar lines that seem designed to sink in a bit more slowly than the band’s straightforward punk execution would initially suggest. That tension makes for a memorable result, leaving something to nag at you after the initial gritty, gratifying blast of a song. The band’s second self-titled album is due on in July on Dirtnap. The two singles they’ve released from the album so far, “Night Room” and “Parallels,” bring added clarity and complexity to the band’s visceral, unnerving approach. Gentle and achey Madison indie-pop outfit Automatically Yours are playing their final show here, shortly after releasing their first album, The Trouble With The World Is Me—and it’s appropriate that they find themselves among louder, more raucous bands on this bill, which also includes solid Madison power-pop outfit Proud Parents. More about them in our interview this week.
It says something about the Cardinal’s house- and techno-themed House of Love residency that we’ve almost stopped being surprised when the bookers bring in Jesse Saunders, who made some of the foundational tracks of Chicago house as a DJ and fledgeling producer in the early 1980s. But the fact that Saunders has been getting up here pretty often over the last few years is a pretty fortunate problem for Madison to have, so don’t take it for granted.
Billowing, vulnerable pop with a heady dash of electronic-tinged arrangements and post-rock ambition—yes, that’s a pretty crowded ballpark, but Portland duo The Helio Sequence have been contributing to it since the late ’90s, and with a respectable amount of variety. It can seem like a world of difference between the band’s first couple albums (2000’s Com Plex and 2001’s Young Effectuals), which have a spirit of wiggy experimentation to them, and the four they’ve since put out on Sub Pop, which sometimes are a bit too mild for their own good. But even then, they’ve often found a nice balance of spaciously layered production and delicate, patient melody between the unremarkable stuff, especially on a new self-titled album that came out in May.
SATURDAY JUNE 27
Black Poets Society, a live hip-hop band that formed in Madison in the 1990s, are playing a reunion show on July 2 at the High Noon, but first musician and documentary filmmaker Wendy Schneider is putting on an evening at her “pop-up venue,” Maria’s, that takes a deeper look at the band’s story, proving once and for all that it is possible to have an extensive conversation about Madison music in the ’90s without bringing up Garbage and/or the time Billy Corgan pooped here. The evening will include a short Q&A session with some of BPS’ members, a performance from the members present, art and photos documenting the band, a spoken-word performance from Roberto Rivera, and works from multidisciplinary artist Christian Andrew Grooms. BPS will have some reissued music for sale at both events. Events at Maria’s also generally feature food and a local non-profit: In this case, those are the Jamerica food cart and the Alzheimer’s Association-South Central Wisconsin Chapter.
Every bit as pummeling as it is woozy, last year’s Lost Bees—the latest effort from Kansas City-based post-hardcore outfit The Life And Times—chops out choice cuts of influence from scattered ’90s avant-rock pioneers, while claiming an uneasy disconnect and sense of exploration all its own. The band channels the boxy rhythms, creeping space-rock guitar riffs, and druggish vocals of Failure on gorgeously blistering opener “Again” and the sleepy, stalking, and synth-laden “Eyes And Teeth,” and evokes the slanted aggression of Fugazi on “We Are.” But The Life And Times also pull the listener deep into their own domain with climbing and meticulous vocal harmonies on “Ice Cream Eyes” and the stuttering synth, jagged guitar, and time-bending rhythms of charged-up instrumental “Lost Bees.”
Madison’s annual Rhythm and Booms Independence Day celebration recently went bust after a long run of shooting off fireworks into North Side wetlands and maybe violating some environmental laws, so this year the Madison Mallards and a bunch of sponsors are filling the void with the new Shake the Lake. Before the 10 p.m. fireworks, there’s a free concert that culminates with a set from the grizzled, fiery R&B singer Charles Bradley and his impeccable band of Daptone ringers. That alone makes it worth the gauntlet of brands, branding and branded experiences on offer, because America.
SUNDAY JUNE 28
There’s only one Madison-based comic, Geoffrey Asmus, on the lineup for the “Capital Comedy Show: Madison's Premier Indie Comedy Show” as the event moves from Crescendo to the High Noon for the first time, which makes its title a little bit of a misnomer this time around. Semantics aside, it’s a great lineup of Midwestern comedians, with Ali Clayton in from Chicago, and Liz Ziner, Greg Bach, Phil Davidson will be repping Milwaukee. Host Ryan Mason, who is from Madison but cut his comedy teeth in Milwaukee, will play geographical mediator for this veritable comedy Mayflower washing up on the shores of Lake Mendota.
Jimmy Eat World spent the first eight years of their career in relative cult-status obscurity before the syrupy pop-punk of “The Middle” sent 2001’s Bleed American skyrocketing to platinum status, and perhaps that’s why the band continued trudging forward after fizzling out of mainstream consciousness. Unlike most one-hit wonder pop-punk bands that whack-a-moled throughout the early aughts, Jimmy Eat World didn’t hastily find success by reaching for it—the rest of the world organically caught up to them. Fast forward 14 years, and the band has continued to release a steady stream of albums and EPs, and most recently toured behind the 10th anniversary of 2004’s Futures, one of the band’s most tasteful and concise albums, which despite not coming close to matching the sales of Bleed American, sticks as an essential (and unintentional) entry to the third-wave emo takeover of the early 2000s. Vocalist-guitarist Jim Adkins recently announced that his solo tour will not only revisit Jimmy Eat World tunes, but also a collection of songs he’s written toward an upcoming solo debut, as well a handful of covers.
We’ve all stewed in enough think-piece vomit over Death Grips’ highly publicized spat with former label Epic Records, or the time they leaked their second album No Love Deep Web with a picture of drummer Zach Hill’s erect member on the cover, or the time they no-showed at Lollapalooza, or the time they broke up or the time they reunited, or really any time they did something naughty for press attention, that you could forgive anyone who just flat-out stopped giving a shit about this warped hip-hop outfit. And we would stop giving a shit but for the awesome, cerebral, and jarring combination of Zach White’s dizzying, scattershot grooves, Andy Morin’s visceral and jarring production, and MC Ride’s broodingly commanding rhymes—making for potent music that overshadows Death Grips’ clownish promotional antics. The band is currently touring behind The Powers That B, a double LP released in two haves—the first of which being last year’s Bjork collaboration Niggas On The Moon and the second half being this year’s Jenny Death.
TUESDAY JUNE 30
WEDNESDAY JULY 1
On the forthcoming album Human Salad, Chicagoan synth slayer Laura Callier, who performs as Gel Set, pushes away the obvious melodic comforts of traditional minimal wave and instead forges fresh, danceable earworms with meticulously eerie sound design, thoughtful rhythmic programming, and ominous, half-spoken vocals. Album opener “Phantom Ring” sneakily creeps below the threshold, as Callier’s reverberated vocals slither down dark hallways of pulsing basslines and an unraveling drum machine groove, while the bluntly infectious “Ether Or” is guided by its pounding industrial beat, as a nervously arpeggiating bassline thumps above. Look out for our interview with Callier later this week. Joining Gel Set at this show will be fellow Matchess, the alias of Chicago-based violinist, organist, and vocalist Whitney Johnson, whose gorgeous psychedelic pop dirges should be a perfect fit with Madison’s own Samantha Glass. Johnson will also have a brand new album called Somnaphoria in tow.
Dale Watson is a master at bending the tropes, cliches and familiar nuances of country music into something that’s both solidly his own and unmistakably of a piece with his honky-tonk and Bakersfield forebears. Watson’s latest album, this year’s Call Me Insane, finds the Austin-based artist’s weathered baritone flexing deftly between romantic crooning (“Forever Valentine,” “Call Me Insane”), bleak ballads (“Burden Of The Cross”) and lots of joyful country smart-assery (“Everybody’s Somebody In Luckenbach, Texas,” “Heaven’s Gonna Have A Honky Tonk,” “Mamas Don’t Let Your Cowboys Grow Up To Be Babies”).
Possibly the high point of Cinematheque’s short summer series of newly restored French films, 1938’s Port Of Shadows, screening here in a new digital restoration, is counted among director-screenwriter team Marcel Carné and Jacques Prévert’s masterpieces. Set in the French port city of Le Havre, the film follows an army deserter into a hard-bitten underworld rendered beautiful by Eugen Schüfftan’s cinematography.