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.
Monday, Jan. 13 and Wednesday, Jan. 15, Marcus Palace and Point Cinemas (info)
Start the week with (arguably; I’m partial to Inglourious Basterds myself) Quentin Tarantino’s best movie. 1994’s Pulp Fiction is a druggy, bloody, motor-mouthed opus that winds through the Los Angeles underworld. It also boasts an all-star cast, including John Travolta, Bruce Willis, and frequent QT collaborators Uma Thurman and Samuel L. Jackson. It’s like an adrenaline needle straight to the heart, something that Thurman’s character Mia Wallace would be able to tell you all about.
You Oughta Know Music Trivia: Folk Yeah!
Tuesday, Jan. 14, High Noon Saloon (info)
Come gather ’round people, wherever you roam. This month’s You Oughta Know will tackle a genre with more than a century of work to draw from: folk. From Woody Guthrie to Fleet Foxes, this is a chance to demonstrate your knowledge of one of the quintessentially American forms of music. Hopefully they cover my favorite folk singer, a little-known cat enthusiast from the ’60s by the name of Llewyn Davis.
Madison’s Gentrifying Neighborhoods: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Wednesday, Jan. 15, High Noon Saloon (info)
Everywhere you turn in Madison, it seems like a new high-rise apartment is being built. On one hand, it’s a good thing; it means the city is growing and prospering. But at the same time property values are rising, making it harder for lower income Madisonians to find affordable housing. This “Cap Times Talk” will address that growing gap in a discussion moderated by Abby Becker, the newspaper’s city and county government reporter.
Thursday, Jan. 16, Overture Hall (info)
Dwight Yoakam is one of country music’s coolest stars. He’s spent his entire career bucking genre trends, opting instead to sharpen his signature brand of honky-tonk rock ‘n’ roll. The 63-year-old has sold millions of records, but it’s his freewheeling eclecticness that really sets him apart. How many other country stars could take iconic tunes by The Clash and the Grateful Dead and make them sound like their own? I may be a little biased, though; Yoakam is also an actor and appeared in one of my favorite films, Steven Soderbergh’s hillbilly heist comedy Logan Lucky.
Thursday, Jan. 16, Majestic Theatre (info)
I’m going to be honest: When I first read the name “Black Pumas,” I immediately confused them with “black midi,” another buzzed-about band from last year. But whereas the latter is an English post-punk quartet, Black Pumas are quite different — a funk and soul throwback from Texas with strong Latin influences. Singer Eric Burton’s voice recalls the funkadelic showmen of the 1970s, all neon-hued sex appeal and explosive emotion. There’s a reason they were just nominated for Best New Artist at the Grammys. Their self-titled debut was released in 2019 via roots tastemaker ATO Records. Also playing is soulful Louisiana band Seratones.
Thursday, Jan. 16, Mickey’s Tavern (info)
New Primals are not for the faint of heart. The Minneapolis band’s hardcore art-punk is crunchy and chaotic, like a guided missile locked on to your eardrums. Fans of established spazzes like The Blood Brothers or At the Drive-In will want to check this out. With local support from the socially conscious screamers of Black Cat and indie punk trio We Should Have Been DJs.
Taking Back Thursday: A Live Emo Nite
Thursday, Jan. 16, High Noon Saloon (info)
Tell all your friends: the super-slick emo-punk of the mid-aughts will get a proper tribute at this showcase. Saint Saunter will kick things off with a DJ set of favorites and requests, followed by three cover sets of the genre’s biggest bands. Red Forest Black Umbrella will get in the business of misery as Paramore. Common Threads spend a decade under the influence as Taking Back Sunday. And Star 67 will close things out by taking attendees into the city to see a marching band as the recently reunited My Chemical Romance. (Stick around after for a special “Emo Goes Acoustic” set.)
Thursday through Saturday, Jan. 16-18, Comedy on State (info)
Everybody has that one friend who seems to have a story for everything. Joe List is that friend. Both as a stand-up and as host of the Tuesdays with Stories podcast, he has an innate ability to spin impressive yarns about all sorts of things. For example, which department store is the best to take a shit at? I’ll tell you up front that List’s answer is Bloomingdale’s, but the real joy is hearing him work his way to it.
North Mississippi All-Stars
Friday, Jan. 17, Majestic Theatre (info)
Maybe it has something to do with growing up around a father who loved Skynyrd, but there’s always been a place in my heart for southern rock. And few artists do the genre as much creative justice as North Mississippi All-Stars. Formed in 1996 by one-time Black Crowe Luther Dickinson, the band exists in the valley between heavy blues and jam bands. North Mississippi All-Stars are able to hypnotize audiences with winding guitars and blow their amps out at the same time. And unlike their Floridian predecessors, they do it all without draping themselves in Confederate pageantry. Joining them for the trek north will be Memphis blues and soul band Southern Avenue.
Wisconsin Americana Fest
Friday, Jan. 17, High Noon Saloon (info)
In 2017, Pitchfork wrote a really great (if you’re into this sort of thing) exploration of heartland synth rock. And every time I listen to Milwaukee’s Field Report, I can’t help but think about how perfectly they embody that subgenre. Chris Porterfield’s songs marry Springsteenian views of daily existence to a War on Drugs-like love of studio tricks. It’s a souped-up version of an American standard, all compiled by one of Wisconsin’s greatest living songwriters. Field Report will headline here with a little help from Miles Nielsen & The Rusted Hearts, Lost Lakes and Driveway Thriftdwellers, plus host Frank Busch of WheelHouse.
FemFest: Night 1
Friday, Jan. 17, Bos Meadery (info)
Take a sonic journey back to the 1990s with Madison’s Heavy Looks. The band plays punk-flecked guitar pop that marries power chords to raw emotion. Think Weezer, but before they sucked ass and with more unapologetic femininity. And Heavy Looks’ vocalist and guitarist Roz Greiert is one of the organizers of the two nights of music that make up FemFest. Alongside Heavy Looks, Friday night will also include M.O.S.H. Squad, Gentle Brontosaurus, Fox Face and 4th Curtis, with DJ Hitachii performing between sets.
Friday, Jan. 17, BarleyPop Live (info)
When Steve Maury and Danny Walkowiak left apocalyptic Milwaukee punks Direct Hit!, it wasn’t because they had burned out on music. They simply wanted to try something new. Now the pair will make their Madison debut as Mertles Acres. Taking their name from The Sandlot, Maury and Walkowiak now sound closer to Jimmy Eat World or Saves the Day than their previous group. With a pair of Madison bands, ska/punk sextet Courtesy of Tim and irreverent pop punkers Coasting.
Isthmus Beer and Cheese Fest
Saturday, Jan. 18, Alliant Energy Center Exhibition Hall (info)
Like Nigel Tufnel’s amps, this year’s Beer and Cheese Fest goes all the way to 11… years, that is. And seeing as the last 10 have been a blur of deliciousness, the 2020 edition will likely be no exception. In addition to the aforementioned beer and cheese, this year will also feature a silent disco, live cheese carving, and a pairing class. Also, “Piano Fondue Dueling Pianos,” which sounds like sensory overload but it still probably worth checking out.
Saturday, Jan. 18, Communication (info)
If you’re an aspiring musician or comic, you won’t want to miss the FemFest workshops. One will provide a crash course on how to get a band up and running, from marketing tools to lessons in home recording. And instructor Tessa Echeverria is extremely knowledgable on the subject — in addition to recording bands, she also plays in Once a Month. After that, local comic Cal Smith will help budding stand-ups learn to compile their material and get up on stage. Whether you’re a total novice or have dabbled in the past, these lessons will help sharpen your craft.
Saturday, Jan. 18, Crystal Corner Bar (info)
On their 2019 album Pink Floyd on Ice, Free Dirt will surprise you. If you only know them from their goofy online presence, you’d expect their music to be some extension of the joke. But there’s nothing to laugh at about the jam trio, who at times can channel the winking tunefulness of Loudon Wainwright and the raucous, close-down-the-bar energy of Deer Tick. And you’d be hard-pressed to find a better live show anywhere in town; Free Dirt is not kidding around. They’ll share the bill here with Cribshitter, another band that marries alt-comedy and indie rock.
FemFest: Night 2
Saturday, Jan. 18, Bos Meadery (info)
The second night will be headlined by one of Madison’s wildest bands. Gender Confetti makes rallying cries for the disenfranchised, delivered directly through Sylvia Johnson’s stop-what-you’re-doing-and-listen scream. And the duo’s 2019 debut We’re Gay was one of the best albums to be released by any Madison band last year. Also performing here are Ruth B8er Ginsburg, Kat and the Hurricane, Proud Parents, DUSK and Zed Kenzo. Saint Saunter will serve as DJ for the evening.
Wisconsin Funk Fest
Saturday, Jan. 18, Majestic Theatre (info)
For more than two decades, Phat Phunktion has ruled Wisconsin’s dancefloors. The nine-piece Madison band combines early soul influences with the uncaged funk of the 1970s, making for a sound that’s as raw as it is polished. And that brass is powerful. Also bringing in the noise and/or funk will be Immigré, Black Market Brass, The Funky JBeez and DJ Phil Money.
Green Bay at San Francisco
Sunday, Jan. 19, Levi’s Stadium / FOX (info)
Having exacted some playoff revenge on the Seahawks, the Packers now roll on to the NFC Championship. They’ll head to San Francisco for a defensive battle. And with a Niners secondary led by Richard Sherman, Aaron Rodgers will have to use all the magic he can muster to carve through them. But I’m trying not to worry too much; after all, there are few guys in the NFL who are better under pressure than No. 12. I’d certainly rather have him pushing my offense down the field than Jimmy G, whom I can’t wait to see get flattened by one or both of the Packers’ tackling Smiths.
‘Kill Bill: Vol. 1’
Sunday, Jan. 19, Marcus Palace and Point Cinemas (info)
Before there was John Wick, there was Beatrix Kiddo. Like the Baba Yaga, Uma Thurman’s iconic Bride from Tarantino’s two-part revenge story is another professional killer wronged by the shadowy cabal that trained her. She begins her quest for bloody revenge in this 2003 homage to the martial flicks Tarantino grew up on. It’s easily QT’s most rewatchable film, and the scene when The Bride takes on the Crazy 88 gang is one of the greatest action sequences in cinematic history. Kill Bill: Vol. 1 will also screen on Monday, Jan. 20 and Wednesday, Jan. 22.
Sunday through Friday, Jan. 19-24, various locations (info)
If your stomach can handle it, follow one food fest with another. Restaurant Week is six days of local eateries offering can’t-miss deals. For this semi-annual event, restaurants around town will offer discounted plates of signature dishes, including three-course meals starting at just $25. This is a good chance to get a lot of eating in before hibernating for the rest of winter.