Madison calendar, April 6 through 12
April 05, 2017 @ 1:01 am
"The Conversation," Dave Attell, Bonny Doon, and more events of note in Madison this week.
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THURSDAY APRIL 6
It's now a cliche practice to marvel despairingly at how Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove hasn't really become dated. Unfortunately, cliches are cliches for a reason: The film's icy satire of nuclear brinksmanship remains as savage and surgically precise as ever, and in our present political climate of aspiring authoritarianism hybridized with incredible incompetence, it may prove to be bracing, miraculous tonic for any filmgoers who decide to make it out. Then again, the finale (originally conceived as a pie fight that tipped into farce before Kubrick thought of the infamous "We'll Meet Again" mushroom-cloud montage) could be deeply disconcerting for anyone more nervous than usual about our currently increasing tensions with North Korea. Topicality aside, it's also possible to just watch the film for the acting alone, thanks to George C. Scott's inspired, idiotic bravado as General Turgidson, the perfectly unvarnished Slim Pickens as bomber pilot General Kong, and Sterling Hayden's stone-faced insanity as the "bodily fluids"-obsessed General Ripper—not to mention Peter Sellers turning in three astoundingly funny performances as the iconically sinister titular scientist, the comically bumbling President Merkin Muffley, and the stiff-upper-lip Englishman Captain Mandrake. —Mike Noto
Madison-based attorney Kellen O'Brien hosts A Rational Basis, a podcast and radio series that delves into thorny legal issues and tries to sort out their complexities for a lay audience. For instance, one recent episode succinctly unpacked the implications of a 4th Amendment case that came before the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The reports air on WORT and are co-produced by the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy, a progressive legal group. At this live happy-hour event, O'Brien will host a live podcast recording with two compelling guests: Chicago-based civil rights attorney Anand Swaminathan, who represented the family of police shooting victim Tony Robinson in a lawsuit against the city of Madison, and John Vaudreuil, who served as the United States Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin before the Trump administration called for most federal prosecutors' resignations in March. The conversation here will focus on criminal justice reform, and O'Brien says he's planning to launch a longform version of the podcast soon. —Scott Gordon
Jazz fusion shredder and Bela Fleck And The Flecktones bass overlord Victor Wooten occupies a space that appeals not only to the sort of listener who salivates over the virtuosity of Dream Theater or Paul Gilbert, but to twirling jam band followers who crave aimless noodling and crunchy grooves. This time around, Wooten is bringing his trio, which includes sax-man Bob Franceschini (whose list of prior collaborators includes Paul Simon and Celine fucking Dion) and drummer Dennis Chandler, whose monstrous CV includes drumming Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” and playing with the notoriously choosy Steely Dan. —Joel Shanahan
A masterclass in bleak surrealism, 1977 art-horror monolith Eraserhead shows director David Lynch at his most unsweetened. It’s for those who prefer Lynch’s morbid close-ups of rotting ears, eerie musical numbers, and visceral punishment, and want to see what it looks like when it isn’t distilled with watered-down, pop-cinema tropes. The crawling film features the late Jack Nance, a long time Lynch collaborator, who plays Henry Spencer, a caregiver for a deformed baby. —JS
John Jennings is a graphic novelist and a professor at the University of Buffalo, where he teaches graphic design and a course called "The Visual Culture of Hip-Hop," and researches how pop culture represents African Americans. His own work includes illustrating a recently published graphic novel adaptation of Octavia Butler's essential novel Kindred, in which a modern-day African-American woman is transported back in time to the slave-holding South. The adaptation is a huge task—Butler was one of the great American authors period, and Kindred portrays one harrowing ordeal after another—but Jennings and writer Damian Duffy do justice to the novel's complexity and wrenching emotion. In this talk, hosted by UW-Madison's First Wave program, Jennings will talk about the role of black artists in comics and how to elevate their voices. —SG
FRIDAY APRIL 7
We're living through an incredible era for instrumental guitar music, as a couple generations drawing inspiration from John Fahey collide with a wide array of impulses from electronic music and the avant-garde. This double bill finds two of the instrument's most refreshing and omnivorous practitioners playing solo sets. North Carolina's Sarah Louise has released two solo albums of instrumentals for 12-string guitar, which draw heavily on Appalachian folk but also shatter the constraints of so-called "American primitive" music through the use of unusual tunings and elaborate rhythms. In an interview with Tone Madison this week, she cited everything from Henry Cowell to gamelan music as influences upon her work. Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Nathaniel Braddock has drawn on a deep variety of jazz and African guitar styles in his best-known project, the rollicking Occidental Brothers Dance Band International and the more cerebral Trio Mokili (who just played an excellent show at Arts + Literature Laboratory a few weeks ago). His show here marks the release date of a new solo album, Quadrille & Collapse. The acoustic title track shows that, like Sarah Louise, Braddock can also draw on familiar traditions in American folk music while subtly escaping their cliches. —SG
After a week of Wisconsin Film Festival fare, it might be a big ask to get you back out of your house for another movie. But how the hell do you say no to a chance to see The Conversation, Francis Ford Coppola’s often overlooked Gene Hackman vehicle, on the big screen, from a rare IB Technicolor print (struck for the original release) no less? Yes, the Godfather films get all the glory, but there’s a growing contingent of good-take-havers who champion this 1974 film, a moody meditation on surveillance, morality, and paranoia, as Coppola’s true masterpiece. With so many people tossing Nixon’s name around as a comparison point to the current wire tapp (sic) obsessed administration, this film feels as potent as ever and will be well worth the energy it takes to get out to one more movie this week. —Chris Lay
Hot Chip emerged as one of the critical darlings of early 2000s electronic music, alongside similar bands like LCD Soundsystem and Simian Mobile Disco. They’ve been consistently putting out solid music since 2004 while jumping from label to label, and occasionally one of their many beat-heavy songs will jump out as being a really exceptional ear worm, such as "Over And Over" or their remix of William Onyeabor’s "Atomic Bomb." However, Hot Chip’s albums can be a tad overproduced, which is why it’s such a treat that they’re here to deliver a looser, less produced, and more colorful DJ set. Madison’s Nick Nice and TV Dinner DJs open. See you, if you’re ready for the floor. —Chali Pittman
Detroit band Bonny Doon seems to be a vehicle for members of typically energetic garage bands like Growwing Pains and Fake Surfers to let their hair down a bit. Tempos here are relaxed, guitars are wistful and jangly, and lyrical viewpoints are simultaneously introspective and sardonic. The vocals are delivered in the sort of charmingly half-sung, perfectly enunciated and deliberately inexpressive mumble that Silver Jews' David Berman patented on albums like American Water, and indeed there's a bit of a similarity to that band's work on display here, though not overwhelmingly so. For example, there's a comparable sense that the words are supposed to be as central to the overall experience as the music: Songs like "Relieved" and "Summertime Friends," from Bonny Doon's new self-titled album, pivot off of lyrics that almost act as occasionally rhyming monologues instead of verses and choruses. If the band was only meant to be support to the lyrics, things would quickly become tedious. But there's a submerged hookiness to the insistent guitar figures that surround the lyrics, however, as well as the refined, yet thin sound of the Hammond organ that pops up in the background of a few of Bonny Doon's songs. And some of the writing displays a sharpness that belies the laid-back surface: The punchline of "You Can't Hide" is "from my love," which can be taken any number of ways. Touches like that help elevate the music nicely. —Mike Noto
Dave Attell. Comedy Club on State, through April 8 (sold out, see link for showtimes and waitlist information)
Dave Attell is understandably though perhaps unfairly categorized for many as yet another nondescript boozy comic from Queens, but his only crime may have been the timing of his past work. His dreadfully titled but very funny 2003 album Skanks For The Memories and his early-aughts Comedy Central show Insomniac were both subversive and frequently surreal takes on fratboy humor, but came at a time when Jon Stewart had recently taken over The Daily Show and political comedy was already starting to become en vogue again. That said, Attell wasn't entirely out of step: Attell was a correspondent on The Daily Show, a writer for Saturday Night Live a decade prior, and even presciently tried to revive The Gong Show nearly a full decade before Drew Carey and Wayne Brady did similarly with The Price Is Right and Let's Make A Deal. It might be overstating things somewhat to imply Attell is some sort of mystical culture-vulture trailblazer, but the fact is he couldn't be framed as such if he wasn't today what he's always been: really fucking funny, devoted to stand-up, and hellbent on nearly Dadaist self-deprecating humor. Skanks might be nearly 15 years old, but it's on Spotify: Don't be put off by bit titles like "Condoms," "Shaved Pubes," and "Drinking Tips." There's something else entirely going on. —David Wolinsky
Viroqua-based saxophonist and flute player has put out six records as a bandleader since the late 1990s, the latest being 2014's Time It Is. He's also developed a series of music-focused mobile apps, and he's one of those folks who makes quiet but important contributions to jazz music in Madison, one highlight being his playing last fall with pianist Tim Whalen as part of the InDIGenous Jazz Series. Here he returns to that series to lead his own five-piece, with Whalen, trumpeter David Cooper, bassist Mark Urness and drummer Dane Maxim Richeson. His records feature a palatable but always conversational mix of original compositions and re-interpretations, and given the focus of the InDIGenous series, his set here will likely be heavy on the originals. —SG
SATURDAY APRIL 8
John Scalzi is one of the most popular science-fiction writers working today, beloved both for his Hugo-winning run of space epics and his abundant stream of good-humored, politically barbed Twitter commentary. He visits here to share his new novel The Collapsing Empire, which kicks off a new series of as-yet-undetermined length. The novel's universe centers around a far-flung interstellar trade partnership, which, as the title implies, might be falling apart amid a collision of futuristic physics and arcane political intrigue. Early reviews are promising: Ars Technica's Annalee Newitz praises it as a "conversational and hilarious" space opera. —SG
Dan Savage, former Four Star Video employee and host of our favorite sex advice podcast Savage Love, created the Hump Film Festival with the idea of subverting the typical problematics of mainstream pornography and turning it into an enjoyable, welcoming, and communal activity. The festival is curated from loads of short film submissions from that span the gamut of gender identities, sexual preferences, fetishes, and body types, and so the audiences at this traveling festival are—quite literally—exposed to different styles of sexuality and intimacy between different identities. In short, some films might make you uncomfortable, and other films will make others uncomfortable, but it’ll broaden the horizons of everyone in the room. Maybe you’ll even pick up something to try or fantasize about in the bedroom. First-timers might want to check out the list of films in order to mentally prepare. I’m personally looking forward to what has to be a Surrealist quality in the film Sock Puppet: “An adorable musical number featuring sock puppets, xylophones, and intergenerational fist fucking!” —CP
SUNDAY APRIL 9
If you asked random people off the street to name their top five Steven Spielberg films, I’ll bet dollars to donuts that the most recent one anyone mentions would be 1998’s Saving Private Ryan, and that’s a damn shame. He's put out some stinkers, sure, but for every nuclear-proof fridge there are a few gems that are just waiting to be rediscovered. Of those, the stylish 2002 caper flick Catch Me If You Can is probably most ripe for reappraisal and, thanks to the UW Cinematheque’s season-long jaunt through the works of film composer John Williams, we’ll all get a chance to take another shot at it. The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio as real-life con-man wunderkind Frank Abagnale, Jr. and Tom Hanks as the FBI agent hot on his trail. —CL
WEDNESDAY APRIL 12
Madison band The German Art Students have become something of a local treasure over the years, playing barbed power-pop and new wave with an affinity for twisted or just goofy lyrical subjects. (Sadly, I can't seem to find a decent-sounding version of one of my favorites, "Civil War Reenactor," to share here.) Over time they've stuck pretty closely to that recipe, but have also branched out into more serious territory, especially on the 2011 EP The Power And The Trust, inspired by that year's protests at the Capitol. This year marks GAS's 20th as a band, and they play this happy hour show to cap off a short Midwest tour. —SG
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last updated: April 08, 2017 @ 10:06 am
Thomas Wincek (Volcano Choir, Field Report) hosts a hands-on, collaborative learning session for electronic musicians. 2pm, free, all ages.
April 18 at Arts + Literature Laboratory. With Jason Kahn and Sheba.
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