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The Pursuit Of Happiness Session 2019 (free)

  • McPike Park 202 South Ingersoll Street Madison, WI, 53703 United States (map)

Marina Franklin and Tribu Baharú are among the highlights in a hefty lineup of music and comedy. Info

Marina Franklin.

Marina Franklin.

The free two-day Pursuit Of Happiness Session grew out of the Sessions at McPike Park series (formerly known as Central Park Sessions), and organizers initially planned to make Pursuit Of Happiness a full-on festival in its own right in 2018, but scaled it back a bit. This time around, it's part of the Sessions at McPike Park series, which will continue later throughout summer with several other separately branded events, each with their own distinct mix of music. And it's booked by folks who used to book some of the other east-side neighborhood festivals, but don't anymore, but still shares a lot of the vibe of those festivals, and anyway it's all very complicated and bound up in east-side neighborhood drama. But set all that aside for a bit, because said organizers have booked a very good weekend of music and comedy across two stages, all of it interspersed with performances from Madison's Kanopy Dance Company.

As it did last year, the Pursuit has partnered up with the ongoing Madison Comedy Week to present a couple of stand-up showcases on the smaller, tented stage. The headlining comics, Kyle Kinane (Saturday) and Marina Franklin (Sunday), are big gets, folks who would usually play the Comedy Club on State. Kinane has made an art of presenting himself as a bumbling oaf (he at one point summed up his shows as "coming to see Uncle Barbecue tell his dum-dum stories for a little while"), but he combines that with a gift for carefully paced storytelling and the occasional whirl of the fantastic. Franklin's style is a bit more concise and tightly wound, often starting with a premise that feels pedestrian (being single) and making a few quick leaps into something entirely more hairy, like the racial dynamics of dating. She performs here ahead of the July release of her debut stand-up special, Single Black Female.

The music lineup at this year's Pursuit comprises a couple of dozen sets, and Sunday might have the strongest lineup. The main-stage headliner that day is Tribu Baharú, a Colombian band that draws on various elements of Afro-Latin folk music, jazz, and prickly highlife guitar melodies. The band played another Sessions event last year and this is a welcome return. I'd also recommend hitting the tent stage early on Sunday for back-to-back sets from a couple of standout Madison jazz artists. Drummer Michael Brenneis will be kicking things off at 11:30 a.m. with the ensemble he showcased on his 2018 album Plutonium, a set of original compositions that experiment with dissonance and otherworldly texture while wrapping together a wealth of complex but tuneful horn parts. At 1 p.m., baritone sax specialist Anders Svanoe performs a set of his own original compositions with his "double trio," an ensemble that features two drummers, two bassists, sax, and trumpet, as showcased on the 2018 album 747 Queen Of The Skies. See the Facebook event for the full Pursuit Of Happiness Session lineup. —Scott Gordon