Need motivation to get through another dreaded week at your soul-sucking job? There’s no shortage of cool stuff to do in Madison… it’s just figuring out which cool stuff best suits you. Here’s what Madison is doing this week.
The Moth: Family
Monday, Dec. 9, High Noon Saloon (info)
With Thanksgiving now in the collective rearview, there’s no doubt a whole bunch of new family anecdotes out there just waiting to be shared. This StorySLAM will focus on familial relations — both the ones we’re born into and the ones we choose. It is sure to be a hilarious, infuriating, and heartwarming night of stories. As always, acclaimed local comedian and raconteur Esteban Touma will host.
Tuesday, Dec. 10, High Noon Saloon (info)
Raine Stern is from Madison and has played dozens of shows around the area this year, including a prime gig at Summerfest. She seems poised to breakthrough beyond Wisconsin soon, so now would be a good chance to see her before she blows up. The 21-year-old guitarist isn’t unlike Prince in the way she navigates thrilling guitar runs with showstopper vocals. This show was meant to serve as a release party for Stern’s new EP, but she pushed back the release date to tweak it to “what (fans) deserve to hear.”
Wednesday, Dec. 11, Majestic Theatre (info)
Is there anything director Jon Favreau can’t do? He provided a shot of life to the Star Wars franchise with the new Disney+ show The Mandalorian and practically built the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it thanks to his work on the Iron Man films. But did you know he also helmed the best Christmas movie of the past 20 years? Elf stars Will Ferrell as Buddy, a human raised by Santa’s elves who heads to New York City to meet his biological father. It’s an earnest, endlessly likable fairy tale that also stars James Caan, Mary Steenburgen and a blonde Zooey Deschanel.
Wednesday, Dec. 11, Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (info)
This recent Tibetan film is a story of coincidence. It’s about two men who share the titular name, one a long haul trucker and the other a young hitchhiker on a revenge quest. The setting couldn’t be more dynamic — Jinpa takes place across the Kekexili Plateau, the highest plain in the world. And for a little added bit of extra street cred, it’s produced by Wong Kar-wai, the Chinese filmmaker who helmed one of the greatest films of the 20th century, Chungking Express.
Black Belt Eagle Scout
Thursday, Dec. 12, High Noon Saloon (info)
As Black Belt Eagle Scout, Katherine Paul makes cascading guitar rock very much in line with her Pacific Northwest home. But the identity is something totally fresh — Paul is a queer, Indigenous feminist who strives for representation within the often homogenized world of indie rock. Her songs are concrete mission statements, as inspiring as they are empathetic. At the Party With My Brown Friends, her second full-length and first for the iconic label Saddle Creek, searches for love in a world that often won’t love you back. Support comes from the wry and literate Madison band Labrador.
Winter Clothing Drive “Dance Party”
Thursday, Dec. 12, The Winnebago (info)
There’s not a bad time to be charitable, but there’s no better time than around the holidays. So though this event is free, guests are encouraged to bring clothing items that will be donated to St. Vincent DePaul. And for your troubles, there’s a pretty impressive lineup of local musicians. Local production duo Brightviolet will headline, with cryptic experimental project Bongo Frontier, art pop band Neens, and a DJ set from “Hawaii-Fi” trailblazer Kainalu.
When Andrew McMahon sang that he’d “been around the world with a punk rock band” on 2014’s “Cecilia and the Satellite,” he wasn’t kidding. Before going solo, McMahon fronted piano-driven Warped Tour vets Something Corporate. But McMahon’s lyrics quickly matured past the mall punk set, and after SoCo disbanded he poured his talents into the more subdued Jack’s Mannequin. Now as Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, his tender and exploratory songs take on a slicker pop sheen. Pop ingenue Ivory Layne will open both nights.
Thursday through Saturday, Dec. 12-14, Comedy on State (info)
Pat McGann is an extremely funny dude, which I can tell you firsthand. I once performed as part of a showcase with him when I was a wildly mediocre stand-up, and unsurprisingly he wiped the stage with me. McGann is a Chicago original, all nasal tangents on modern minutiae. In addition to the honor of sharing a bill with yours truly, McGann has appeared on both Letterman’s and Colbert’s Late Show and hosts the Emmy-nominated Chicago Stand-Up Project.
Friday, Dec. 13, Art In (info)
The group hails from Madison, but Rocket Bureau calls to mind California and England in equal part. Take The Beach Boys’ sunny vocal melodies mixed with the fuzzy guitar wash of Oasis, and the result would likely sound a lot like this. However you categorize it, Kyle Motor is writing some of the catchiest tunes around. With the surreal indie pop of Cribshitter and Green Bay power pop throwback Beach Patrol.
‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch’
Friday and Saturday, Dec. 13-14, Crucible (info)
John Cameron Mitchell’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch is one of the best known queer stories to crossover to the mainstream. The rock musical — and subsequent film — is about the wild life and times of Hedwig Robinson, a (fictional) East German non-binary singer. And the soundtrack, which was heavily inspired by David Bowie’s glammiest works, is killer. Hedwig and the Angry Inch will be performed here by the Madison Performance Collective, with a portion of the ticket sales going to DAIS.
Saturday, Dec. 14, 200 N. First St. (info)
The Madison Public Market won’t open until 2021, but this is a chance to check out its location. The Holiday Market is a one-stop shop to eat, drink and glimpse into the future of buying local. More than two dozen vendors will offer everything from food and drinks to art and apparel, making this a perfect opportunity to finish your holiday shopping early (and avoid having to go to the dreaded mall).
Mad Men Holiday Soiree
Saturday, Dec. 14, Majestic Theatre (info)
For the ninth year, Madisonians will have a chance to channel their inner Don Drapers and Joan Holloways. Dress your finest and come out for a night of vintage cocktails and era-specific holiday music. The Ben Ferris Octet and Don’t Mess With Cupid will deliver big band standards and Motown classics, respectively, while DJ Phil Money will spin other Mad Men-era hits. Granted, no one will ever be as cool as Jon Hamm, but this is the one night of the year where you can pretend.
Saturday, Dec. 14, Crystal Corner Bar (info)
Milwaukee’s IfIHadaHiFi has been around the block a few times. Formed in 2000, the group has long had a reputation as one of the noisiest, wildest acts in the state. And their absurdist sensibilities have hardly been dulled over the years. Their 2019 album We’re Never Going Home touches on everything from cryptozoology to conspiracy theories. With support from a pair of Madison bands, slowcore outfit Daughters of St. Crispin and gloomy synth punks Cave Curse.
The Flavor That Kills
Saturday, Dec. 14, Mickey’s Tavern (info)
This is a rock show in the most classic sense. Madison favorites The Flavor That Kills will take point, delivering their funky take on alternative rock. (Imagine Talking Heads and Queens of the Stone Age thrown together in a blender.) Local anglophiles The Periodicals will also be there playing their blend of northern soul and pub rock. Rounding things out are rock lifers Negative Example, featuring Bucky Pope of Tar Babies.
Merry Madness Indie Art Show
Sunday, Dec. 15, The Winnebago (info)
“Madness” is an apt word for the Merry Madness Indie Art Show. The sheer amount of different things planned borders on chaos (the good kind, FYI). In addition to showcasing local artists, there will be food courtesy of Slide Gourmet Potato Chips, plus bloody marys and mimosas. And don’t worry, sports fans: the Bears-Packers game will be on. There’s a lot going on here, and none of it sounds bad.
Sunday, Dec. 15, Cinematheque (info)
It’s an argument as old as time itself: Is Die Hard a Christmas movie? I say yes, but regardless of where you stand on the argument, it’s still one of cinema’s greatest action blockbusters. Join New York cop John McClane (Bruce Willis) as he crawls and shimmies his way through Nakatomi Plaza, an L.A. skyscraper that’s been overrun with a monologue-prone terrorist cell headed by the diabolical Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman). Yippee-ki-yay, motherfuckers. It will also screen Dec. 19 at Majestic.
Wicca Phase Springs Eternal
Sunday, Dec. 15, High Noon Saloon (info)
As a founding member of Tigers Jaw, Adam McIlwee has his roots firmly planted in emo. But in the time since, McIlwee made a curious pivot. Under the name Wicca Phase Springs Eternal, he now makes eerie trap music that led to a high-profile collab with the late Lil Peep. Now, McIlwee is at the forefront of rap’s emo era, designing vibes for the punks and Tumblr kids alike. Suffer On, Wicca Phase Springs Eternal’s second full-length album of lo-fi beats to study and relax to, was released last February. Also on the bill are two other emo expats in Glitterer (Ned Russin, ex-Title Fight) and Creeks (Jon Simmons, ex-Balance and Composure). Post-hardcore upstarts Anxious round things out.
Sunday, Dec. 15, The Winnebago (info)
Minneapolis’ Little Fevers is like a great playlist. They cram multiple facets of indie rock into a sound that Noisey said is like a mashup of Mates of State, Pavement and Vampire Weekend. And their recently-released second album Strangers expands on the whip-smart and infectious brand of indie rock. With is Hannah Luree, the former singer of Oh My Love who’s folkier solo.