Department stores are starting to put the Christmas decorations out, so you know what that means: Fall’s here! And with it comes a whole new slate of live music, plus a brand new venue, The Sylvee, which will open on Sept. 27 with a show by Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats. I preview that one below as well as 49 more shows scheduled in Madison this season. Chances are you’ll find something you like, or something that at the very least sounds just dumb enough to try.
Car Seat Headrest
Majestic Theatre, Sept. 6
It’s not hard to draw a line from Guided By Voices to Car Seat Headrest. For one, both bands specialize in snarky, lo-fi indie rock. And at the rate Will Toledo — Car Seat Headrest’s driving creative force — is going, the prolific songwriter seems likely to eclipse Robert Pollard’s output. And GBV has 26 albums! 26! Car Seat Headrest’s latest, Twin Fantasy (Face to Face), is a reworking of one of Toledo’s earliest and best loved recordings, which success-wise is pretty much a sure thing. We’ll just go ahead and call that one Toledo’s no-hitter.
You might also like: They Might Be Giants, the equally prolific but far sillier Brooklyn indie rock legends, Oct. 23 at the Barrymore Theatre.
Live on King Street, Sept. 7
Beats Antique is possibly the only artist you’ll see this fall that has an onstage belly dancer. But that’s not the only strange and unusual aspect to the world music stars. Beats Antique has a sound rooted in electronic music, but it’s informed heavily by everything from hip-hop to afro-beat to old school jazz. And seeing as this is Live on King we’re talking about, “free” is a pretty decent price for such a musically inclusive experience. This is the #LOKS season finale.
You might also like: Moon Hooch, a sax-and-percussion duo that combines jazz fusion with dance rhythms, Sept. 29 at Majestic.
High Noon Saloon, Sept. 8
Though Meg Golz and Eve Wilczewski both originally hail from Freeport, Ill., Seasaw is very much a Madison band. The charming duo (and recent tracksuit aficionados) is releasing a new album, Big Dogs, and would very much like for you to come out and celebrate with them. And their bill is stacked, too. Joining them are Madison hip-hop hybrids Son! and Kenny Hoopla as well as Milwaukee soul singer Lex Allen.
You might also like: Queen Hilma, a pair of Green Bay native twins who play a folk-inflected take on alternative rock, Oct. 3 at The Shitty Barn in Spring Green.
Majestic Theatre, Sept. 16
Michelle Zauner, the musician behind the lo-fi dreampop of Japanese Breakfast, is having herself a pretty sweet 2018. In July, Vogue called her a “Festival Style Star to Watch,” and they know a thing or two about fashion. Last month she had a poignant essay on loss and belonging published in The New Yorker. And though it came out in 2017, it’s not like there’s ever really a bad time to talk about how great of an album Soft Sounds from Another Planet is. So a chance to see Zauner in such a watershed year shouldn’t be missed. Québécois post-punks Ought will open.
You might also like: The fizzy guitar-pop of Slothrust, a Los Angeles-via-Boston trio who sound like a mixtape of your favorite Dinosaur Jr. and The Breeders songs, Oct. 23 at High Noon.
High Noon Saloon, Sept. 16
While calling Red Fang “stoner metal” is entirely accurate, it kind of glosses over how deftly the Portland foursome plays the genre. Red Fang has an excellent sense of melody, never losing their immaculate songcraft in the swirl of hazy guitars and thundering drums. The band’s latest, Only Ghosts, was produced by Ross Robinson. He’s helmed classic records by At the Drive-In and Glassjaw in addition to pretty much every nu-metal album ever. And the show opener is pretty good, too: Big Business, a pair of Seattle-based Melvins acolytes with the volume of 10 men, not two.
Father John Misty
Orpheum Theater, Sept. 18
Take this however you will, but I’m something of a Father John Misty stan. I’ve seen him three times, which includes a road trip out to Colorado’s famed Red Rocks Amphitheatre last summer. I can’t get enough of his wry, self-effacing folk rock, which he inverted into his most probing, personal album yet on this year’s God’s Favorite Customer. And the man is a showman in a way few folk rockers are now, more Elton John than John Prine. Here’s hoping the fourth time is just as good. Support comes from spacey garage rocker King Tuff.
You might also like: The hazy guitar wizardry of Kurt Vile, who will appear with his band The Violators at The Sylvee on Dec. 20.
Breese Stevens Field, Sept. 19
Counting Crows’ debut album August and Everything After turning 25 this month is probably going to make a lot of people feel old. Such longevity qualifies the band for membership in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Though time will tell whether Adam Duritz and Co. get enshrined in Cleveland, their sonic legacy is undeniable. Their jangly folk rock can be heard in myriad contemporary bands, and I doubt there’s a single person out there who doesn’t know every word to “Mr. Jones.”
You might also like: Fellow ’90s icons and Madison legends Garbage, who will play their latest ersatz homecoming show at The Sylvee on Oct. 16.
Capitol Theater, Sept. 20
I’m not totally convinced Jeff Tweedy is human and not an otherworldly entity sent to Earth to gift humanking with years and years of incredible music. But the Belleville, Illinois native has been at this for more than 30 years: in Uncle Tupelo, with his son Spencer in Tweedy, and most prominently with Wilco. So it’s a bit strange he didn’t release his first proper solo album until last year. Together at Last sees Tweedy revisiting not just Wilco songs, but stuff he did with his Golden Smog and Loose Fur side projects, too.
You might also like: Carl Broemel, Nov. 7 at High Noon. The longtime My Morning Jacket guitarist is dropping his fifth solo album, Wished Out, later this month.
High Noon Saloon, Sept. 20
Comparing Natalie Prass to Jenny Lewis wouldn’t be much of a stretch. For one thing, Prass shares Lewis’ predilection for whip-smart indie pop. Plus, she began her career in Lewis’ band, as a touring keyboardist. So whether Prass’ talent was intrinsic or somehow wafted off of Lewis communicably, the result is clear. Prass’ solo work is impeccably arranged and performed, the work of someone decades deep into their career rather than a few years and just two albums.
You might also like: Ryley Walker, who mixes elements of jazz into his psychedelic folk stew, Oct. 5 at High Noon.
Prism Music & Arts Festival
Common Gardens (Dane), Sept. 21-22
Generally, festivals are a nice place to get sunburned and maybe buy a bag of crushed-up baby aspirin from a dude named Blaine (lookin’ at you Lolla!), but the Prism Music & Arts Festival is a welcome reprieve from the more corporate, bro-y aspects of the festival scene. The lineup for the Dane-based festival’s second year features a mix of national and local acts from an array of genres. Be sure to check out Chicago psych-rockers Post Animal on Saturday night, a critically acclaimed band that features a former Madison musician in guitarist Javi Reyes (Dolores). Other hometown heroes on the bill include The Hussy, Trapo, Proud Parents, Son!, Mr. Jackson, Disq, Coyote, and Exploration Team.
You might also like: The annual Halloween throwdown that is Freakfest, Oct. 27 on State Street, which this year features performances by MisterWives, Quinn XCII, Tank and the Bangas, and Big Freedia.
Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats
The Sylvee, Sept. 27
The new East Washington-adjacent venue will arrive itself in style with this opening night performance. Raised in a church and tempered by a combination of personal demons and tragedy, Nathaniel Rateliff seems to have been predisposed to soul music. As one of the leaders of the soul revival movement, he and The Night Sweats broke through with the 2015 banger “S.O.B.” and has been steadily gaining popularity since. The band released their second album, Tearing at the Seams, earlier this year.
The Sylvee, Sept. 28
Though I somehow hadn’t heard it until earlier this summer, driving home from a wedding with a licensed-to-kill hangover, I can’t stop listening to Shakey Graves’ 2014 song “Dearly Departed.” It avoids the faux-earnest cliches of stomp-and-holler folk, instead zeroing in on growing, caged animosity in a relationship — albeit in a very playful way. And Shakey Graves’ (born Alejandro Rose-Garcia) entire catalog follows suit, mastering genre traditions and then deconstructing them. His latest experiment, Can’t Wake Up, sees Rose-Garcia tinkering around with psychedelic flourishes. Perfect for your next rough morning (or any time, really).
You might also like: The good-natured folk pop of Philly’s Good Old War, a former pop punk band who long ago shedded their angst in exchange for laid-back melodies, Oct. 25 at High Noon.
The Sylvee, Oct. 2
Since their inception, the Portland-based baroque-folk-pop collective have specialized in albums that double as dense novels, all heavy concepts and strange characters. But in 2010, the band toned down their aesthete on The King is Dead, a surprisingly straightforward country rock album that featured members of R.E.M. Now, The Decemberists exist somewhere between those two eras — musically accessible while remaining as literate as ever. Their latest, I’ll Be Your Girl, was released in March.
Death Cab for Cutie
The Sylvee, Oct. 3
It’s still somewhat mind-blowing to me how ubiquitous Death Cab for Cutie ended up becoming. The bookish indie luminaries are approaching their third decade of existence, and where most groups their age settle begrudgingly into heritage act status, Death Cab has instead decided to keep pushing the limits of their sound. Their ninth LP, Thank You for Today, dropped last month, and it’s not only their first record without founding guitarist Chris Walla, it’s also probably the best one they’ve put out since 2008’s Narrow Stairs. For proof, check out the wistfully bitter “60 and Punk.” And opening things up is Brooklyn power-poppers Charly Bliss, who themselves would probably be headlining any other tour.
You might also like: Fellow MySpace-era band We Were Promised Jetpacks, Sept. 27 at Majestic. The Scottish post-punk group released an excellent new song titled “Repeating Patterns” earlier this year. Hopefully that means LP4 is just around the corner.
Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears
High Noon Saloon, Oct. 3
If you were to go see any of these artists on name alone, the spectacularly monikered Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears would probably be your best bet. The Austin, Texas-based six-piece caters in a combination of blues, soul and rock ’n roll that’s laced with an indie spirit evident in their strident eclecticness and years spent touring with other Austin indieheads like Spoon and Okkervil River. The group’s sixth full-length, The Difference Between Me & You, is set to release in October and was produced by Grammy winner Stuart Sikes (The White Stripes, Modest Mouse).
You might also like: The Record Company, a Los Angeles blues rock trio with roots here in Wisconsin, Sept. 26 at Majestic.
Barrymore Theatre, Oct. 4
Hailing from Johannesburg and based in Brooklyn, Jean-Philip Grobler is a synth pop master. As St. Lucia, Grobler makes music that’s straight out of the 1980s — fitting, given the heavy influence of hitmakers like Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie on his sound. His third album, Hyperion, is due out later this month.
You might also like: The exuberant indietronica of Joywave, who will co-headline Majestic with Sir Sly on Nov. 1.
Murder By Death
High Noon Saloon, Oct. 4
Over the summer, Murder By Death performed in a Tennessee cave 333 feet below the Earth’s surface, which makes perfect sense for a band like Murder By Death. For one thing, vocalist Adam Turla has an otherworldly baritone — basically, the kind of thing you’d expect to hear gurgle out a cave 333 feet underground. Luckily for you, however, Turla and Murder By Death aren’t full-time cave-dwellers; they’re a killer Americana band from Kentucky who tours almost constantly, including this return visit to Madison. Caving experience not required.
You might also like: Alabama-bred folk artisan Phosphorescent, who plays Majestic on Nov. 29 alongside psych-country trio Liz Cooper & The Stampede.
Crystal Corner / Mickey’s Tavern, Oct. 5-6
Thanksgiving isn’t until November, but it’s actually October that boasts the best turkey-related party: Turkeyfest, the two-day garage rock rager put on by Bobby Hussy’s record label, No Coast. (Formerly known as Kind Turkey, hence Turkeyfest.) This year marks the ninth year Hussy and Co. have put the festival on, and their lineup is pretty damn great. Friday will feature The Hussy, Head On Electric, Teenage Moods, and The Smells, while Saturday will feature the unpredictable Baltimore-native Nobunny (featuring Bobby and Heather Hussy on guitar and drums), Wash, Cave Curse, and Heather the Jerk. As always, “no dicks, no squares.”
Greta Van Fleet
The Sylvee, Oct. 11
If you haven’t heard Greta Van Fleet yourself yet, maybe your dad (or uncle, or older coworker) has told you about this group of Michigan post-millennials who sound exactly like Led Zeppelin. This is true; Greta Van Fleet does a superb job of mimicking Zep’s bluesy swagger, and there are times when frontman Josh Kiszka really does sound exactly like Robert Plant. Time will tell whether the band can escape the shadow of the classic rock gods, but songs like “Black Smoke Rising” show a whole hell of a lot of promise.
High Noon Saloon, Oct. 22
“And one day you will realize you’re nothing without her, you’re an asshole from a bar,” Barry Johnson sings on “Million Dollars to Kill Me,” the title track on Joyce Manor’s upcoming fifth album. This is a recurring theme in their songs, and it’s also what separates them from a lot of their contemporaries. The California quartet directs their anger inward rather than pointing the blame elsewhere. Joyce Manor is less about angst and more about self-responsibility. This is pop punk, all grown up. Rising Boston emo revivalists Vundabar will open.
You might also like: Chicago math rock experimentalists Maps and Atlases, who will gleefully shatter genre barriers Sept. 30 at High Noon.
The Sylvee, Oct. 24
It takes serious talent to out-grit Drive-By Truckers on one of their own songs, but Tyler Childers did just that on this breathtaking cover of “Goddamn Lonely Love.” At just 27, Childers is every bit as world-weary as those elder statesman and packs a huge amount of promise into his two albums. Plus, his 2017 breakout Purgatory was produced in part by Sturgill Simpson, a dude who knows a thing or two about rewriting country music’s rulebook. It’s no small wonder Childers (whose show was moved from Majestic to The Sylvee due to high demand) was recently tagged by Rolling Stone as “the 21st Century voice of Appalachia.”
You might also like: Canadian Americana transplant Colter Wall, whose self-titled 2017 was produced by alt-country wizard Dave Cobb, Dec. 1 at Majestic.
Majestic Theatre, Oct. 26
Tune-Yards is the live music equivalent of putting your library on shuffle. Merrill Garbus and her collaborator Nate Brenner frequently draw from a wide array of influences. On their most recent release, this year’s I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life, this is up to and including traditional Haitian and Kenyan music. Garbus and Brenner will be joined here by U.S. Girls, the experimental pop project of Canadian-American musician Meghan Remy.
You might also like: Virginia chillwave act Wild Nothing, who will bring their cascading wall of sound to Majestic on Nov. 8.
High Noon Saloon, Oct. 31
One of the best live local bands, Masked Intruder returns to the stage to celebrate Halloween, the perfect holiday for a band of four dudes in masks. The pop-punk quartet hasn’t released any new music since their 2016 EP Love and Other Crimes, but is a must-see for their soaring hooks, airtight melodies, and oft-shirtless chaperone Officer Bradford. Bring your heart-shaped guitar.
You might also like: Reel Big Fish, the ska-punk survivors best known for their 1997 hit “Sell Out,” Oct. 14 at Majestic.
The Sylvee, Nov. 2
If you know where to look, jazz is still thriving, albeit usually in its own smaller circles. Kamasi Washington, however, is working to bring it back to mainstream consciousness, thanks to his high-profile collabs with Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus and Run the Jewels. The spacey saxman has released two acclaimed studio albums, both filled with hours of heady jazz that shatters genre conventions, while still keeping it classic-sounding enough to please the oldheads.
You might also like: Thundercat, an irreverent bass virtuoso who has collaborated with Kamasi in the past and is opening for Mac Miller at The Sylvee on Dec. 2.
Deafheaven / DIIV
High Noon Saloon, Nov. 11
If you’re even tangentially familiar with indie music, you’ve probably heard about Deafheaven. The post-metal quartet is often the bane of whiny metalheads, resigned to crap all over anyone who dare step outside of the genre’s strict conventions. But for those of us with a more open musical palate, Deafheaven is one of the most exciting bands in indie rock, and their 2018 album Ordinary Corrupt Human Love cements it. Joining them is DIIV, a critically adored, dreamy indie rock band just getting their sea legs back after frontman Zachary Cole Smith took some time off for “long-haul inpatient treatment.”
High Noon Saloon, Nov. 16
IMHO, this is the best bill of the fall. For many, Cursive are a torch band, the soundtrack to both silent nights alone and power-drinking sessions from their adolescence on. Seriously, if they were to erect a Mt. Rushmore of Midwestern emo, frontman Tim Kasher’s face would likely be up there alongside Conor Oberst and the Kinsella brothers. Joining Cursive are the noisy Chicagoans of Meat Wave, whose latest album The Incessant was recorded by the ur noisy Chicagoan, Steve Albini. Rounding out the bill is another Chicago group, the melodic indie rockers Campdogzz.
You might also like: Manchester Orchestra, another technically gifted and critically lauded emo-adjacent group, Dec. 5 at The Sylvee co-headlining with The Front Bottoms.
Julien Baker & Phoebe Bridgers with Lucy Dacus
The Sylvee, Nov. 16
I’m not sure what The Sylvee’s policy on bringing your own tissues will be, but hopefully they allow it for this one. Baker, Bridgers and Dacus are emotional terrorists, capable of mining your deepest, most specifically personal memories and drawing them out with wavering, intimate indie rock. The trio will share headlining duties, and it’s not a stretch to guess they’ll also perform songs from their new project boygenius, which is a sort of sad girl Voltron that finds the three of them coming together to write even more devastating songs than previously thought possible.
High Noon Saloon, Nov. 17
Few bands are more sonically indicative of their surroundings than Low. Hailing from Duluth, the slowcore purveyors play as if their blood has been frozen, creating songs that unravel at a glacial pace despite their urgent emotionality. Perhaps it’s that singers Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker are married, and it’s their long-standing personal connection that drives their aching vocals.
High Noon Saloon, Nov. 29
In a perfect world, Ezra Furman would be one of the biggest stars on the planet. The flamboyant indie rocker is outspoken, charismatic, and hugely talented, and along with his band The Visions (formerly known as The Boy-Friends) proves to be one of the most reliable touring acts around. Furman released a solo album, Transangelic Exodus, in February.
You might also like: Saintseneca, an Ohio folk quintet that that uses atypical instrumentation, from dulcimer to Turkish bağlama, Oct. 14 at High Noon.