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 Head and the Heart
Monday, Sept. 16, The Sylvee (info)
The Head and the Heart’s melodies are pristinely crafted and lend to massive singalongs — the kind that always sound better with a big crowd. And their 2019 album Living Mirage really swings for the fences. It’s practically an arena rock record, loaded with hooks and power chords that are gloriously ’80s. This is their second night at The Sylvee after a sold out show on Sunday. With The Moondoggies, Washington state’s answer to The Band.
You Oughta Know Trivia: ’90s Hip Hop
Tuesday, Sept. 17, High Noon Saloon (info)
The 1990s were a golden age of hip hop. Tupac and Biggie were still alive and cranking out synapse-snapping rhymes. Snoop Dogg hadn’t become a cartoon character yet. Jay-Z was still young and hungry and gave a shit. (This was back before he “couldn’t rhyme no more about crime no more.”) So test your knowledge of rap’s halcyon days, and enjoy a live performance afterward from local rapper LilChief.
Tuesday, Sept. 17, The Wisco (info)
When your band shares a name with one of the most brutal locations in the Game of Thrones universe, the music needs to follow suit. This Brooklyn trio combines thundering drums with riffs as jagged as dragonglass, making for a sound that’s a perfect soundtrack to an unexpected wildling raid. Support comes from a pair of local bands: post hardcore outfit Since When and sludgy rockers Lunar Moth.
‘The Book of Mormon’
Tuesday through Sunday, Sept. 17-22, Overture Hall (info)
If you would have told teenage me that the BASEketball guys would someday win a bunch of Tonys, I probably would’ve laughed in your face. But with The Book of Mormon, Trey Parker and Matt Stone established themselves as no joke on Broadway. Their comic musical became a cultural phenomenon, and the original production helped launch the careers of actors Josh Gad, Andrew Rannells and Brian Tyree Henry.
Wednesday, Sept. 18, High Noon Saloon (info)
Long-running New Orleans indie rockers Generationals are nu-new wave. They carry on many of the digitized wall-of-sound ethos of bands like New Order and Tears for Fears, but with more recording toys at their disposal. Their latest album, Reader as Detective, was released this year on Polyvinyl Records. Rounding out the bill is New York pop group Gemma and their sparkling brand of indie pop.
Wednesday, Sept. 18, Mickey’s Tavern (info)
The ’90s never ended for Bashford, and we’re all the better for it. The local rockers play a throwback take on grunge that stomps like Bleach-era Nirvana. This band is one one of Madison’s best kept secrets. Joining them all the way from Arkansas is Ankle Pop, a lo-fi punk duo for fans of Twin Peaks and Japandroids. A pair of darkwave groups — Minneapolis’ Avida Dollars and Madison’s Cave Curse — will also perform.
Thursday, Sept. 19, Barrymore Theatre (info)
The only thing I like more than being scared is learning about scary things. Aaron Mahnke’s podcast Lore checks both boxes, taking deep dives on urban legends and folklore in a way that both informs and terrifies. Here, Mahnke will be delivering “rare and exclusive tales that won’t be found on the podcast.” And every story Mahnke presents is at least partially rooted in truth — so no matter how fucked up and weird it may seem, there’s still a bit of veracity to it. Better sleep with the lights on after this show.
Thursday, Sept. 19, Memorial Union Terrace (info)
Is Lola Kirke an actress who’s also a musician, or a singer/songwriter who can act? It’s hard to know for sure, because she’s good at both! Here, the 28-year-old Mozart in the Jungle star will perform her hazy take on Laurel Canyon country. Maybe she’ll even bust out her “Fuck Paul Ryan” pin for the occasion. Supporting her is the anachronistic folk singer Odetta Hartman.
Thursday, Sept. 19, High Noon Saloon (info)
Madison Afrobeat collective Immigré is releasing a new EP and wants you to celebrate with them. That shouldn’t be a hard sell — the band is a captivating live act that draws as much from pop and funk as it does from traditional African music. With Midtown Social, a California band whose sultry, classicist take on soul is underlined by contemporary production flourishes.
Thursday, Sept. 19, Orpheum Theatre (info)
Bert Kreischer is to partying what Michael Jordan was to basketball: He’s so good at it that it may as well be in his DNA. At Florida State, Kreischer was the inspiration for a Rolling Stone article that served as the basis for National Lampoon’s Van Wilder. Now older and presumably wiser, Kreischer mines his anarchic antics for comedy gold (which he almost always performs shirtless). Perhaps you’ve heard his story about getting involved with the Russian mob and being nicknamed “The Machine”?
Thursday through Saturday, Sept. 19-21, Comedy on State (info)
Ari Shaffir was religious early in life before becoming pretty much the opposite. He grew up in an orthodox Jewish community and attended a seminary in Israel before returning to the U.S. and abandoning his faith altogether. Now, Shaffir is performing a show aptly called “Jew.” The comedian will seek to discuss one of the world’s oldest religions from both his insider and outsider perspectives. And undoubtedly, it will be very, very funny.
‘Evil Dead: The Musical’
Thursday through Sunday, Sept. 19-22, Vilas Hall’s Mitchell Theatre (info)
I had the good fortune to see Evil Dead: The Musical in 2014, and it turned my conception of musical theatre on its bloody, undead head. The show importantly maintains the gory, mind-bending brilliance of Sam Raimi’s original 1981 film, but it also turns its camp factor up to the max through the power of song and dance. Guests seated in the first few rows should bring a poncho, lest they fall victim to the fake-blood “splatter zone.” Groovy. This University Theatre production opened last month and concludes next Thursday through Sunday, Sept. 26-29.
The Budos Band
Friday, Sept. 20, Majestic Theatre (info)
Daptone Records is full of virtuosic musicians, but few are as eclectic as The Budos Band. The nine-piece instrumental group veers from Afrobeat to soul to heavy metal without ever breaking a sweat. Imagine if Booker T & the M.G.’s jammed with Black Sabbath. But instead of guitars, it’s bombastic, pointed horns doing the riffing. Each song sounds like the theme music for some 1970s action movie badass. The haunting folk of Paul & The Tall Trees will open.
The Moth: GrandSLAM
Friday, Sept. 20, Barrymore Theatre (info)
This event will bring together some of Madison’s best storytellers to tackle the theme “Now or Never.” Basically, these tales will all be about “seize the day” scenarios — acting with minimal thought, in other words. Performers will include comedian Charlie Kojis and ex-mayoral candidate and environmental activist Raj Shukla, among others. Music will come from teenage piano wunderkind Leo Dreis.
Michigan at Wisconsin
Saturday, Sept. 21, Camp Randall Stadium / FOX (info)
Time to bust out that “Muck Fichigan” shirt your old roommate thought was the funniest thing in the world. After a week off, the Badgers will take on the 11th-ranked Michigan Wolverines in their first conference game of the season. The Wolverines also enjoyed a bye this week, so look for these two teams to come at each other refreshed. (It could also be a chance for the 13th-ranked Badgers to move up in the national polls.) And after back-to-back pummelings of unranked non-conference schools, it’ll be fun to see the Badgers square off against another perennial Big Ten powerhouse.
Saturday, Sept. 21, Barrymore Theatre (info)
Given her name, Phoebe Judge couldn’t have found a more perfect job than hosting a crime podcast. In a compassionate, almost soothing manner, Criminal presents the stories of wrongdoers, victims, and those in that nebulous area between. Judge’s live show includes evidence photographs, court documents and original animation by artist Julienne Alexander.
Saturday, Sept. 21, Memorial Union Terrace (info)
Somewhere between Devo and Talking Heads sits Video Age. The New Orleans duo pulls the Eighties’ wiggly synths and booming drum machines into the 21st century. It’s like vaporwave without the irony. Their excellent sophomore album, Pop Therapy, was released in 2018. And if you want a really good song stuck in your head, give “Days to Remember” a listen.
Saturday, Sept. 21 High Noon Saloon (info)
One of Madison’s most unhinged hard rock bands is back, and so is their equally unhinged festival. Stoner demigods Helliphant will be throwing their Helliphest party, which is set to feature such activities as chainsaw carving, tarot reading, belly dancing and caburlesque. Besides your hellraising hosts, entertainment will come from Drunk Drivers, Sons of Kong, 20 Watt Tombstone, Foxy Veronica’s Peach Pies, The Earthlings, and DJs Lovecraft and Juan Wick.
Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors
Saturday, Sept. 21, Majestic Theatre (info)
Drew Holcomb makes Americana that’s downright life-affirming. His lyrics are like pep talks for the listener, all warm platitudes and great advice. It makes sense that Holcomb’s band is called The Neighbors. In many ways, he’s like a musical neighbor; someone you can turn to whenever you need a little help. His 2019 album, Dragons, includes songs co-written by Lori McKenna, The Highwomen’s Natalie Hemby and The Lone Bellow’s Zach Williams.
Sunday, Sept. 22, High Noon Saloon (info)
Black Mountain is like a musical blacklight poster. They cater in gloriously geeky imagery, like a Dungeons and Dragons campaign set to muscular riffs and cosmic aesthetics. Fans of Led Zeppelin’s Tolkienist hard rock and Mastodon’s resin-soaked jams will find a lot to like about Black Mountain. And their videos, like this year’s retro-futurist “Licensed to Drive,” are delightfully weird experiences that wear their geekiness on their sleeve. Support will come from Dommengang — who our own Brandon Clementi says “embody the spirit of motorcycle-riding, pool-shooting psych rock” — and Pittsburgh spaceman Majeure.
Sunday, Sept. 22, The Winnebago (info)
Tennessee native Chastity Brown has been described as a “rocking, rolling encyclopedia of roots music.” A banjo-playing soul singer, Brown’s music shifts from the back porch to the church, oftentimes in the same song. At once restless and relaxed, Brown is one of the most inventive performers in Americana. She last released Silhouette of Sirens in 2017 on Red House Records.
Sunday, Sept. 22, Mickey’s Tavern (info)
This one’s for you if you like punk caked in grime — like, actual grime, not the British rap subgenre. Madison’s Dumb Vision play fast and loud, but still retain a plainspoken hookiness that recalls kindred spirits like Guided by Voices. Joining them from Auckland, New Zealand is Warm Leather, a band that combines beachy riffing with unhinged chaos and Iggy Pop screams. And from Green Bay comes Garbage Man, a smoked-out hardcore punk unit.
Captured! By Robots
Sunday, Sept. 22, Crucible (info)
I would like to preface everything I write about this band by saying that is all, 100% true. Captured! By Robots is a California-based grindcore trio comprised of two robots and their human slave. That slave is Jay Vance, a former member of third wave ska band Skankin’ Pickle. Vance here is “JBot,” the creator of his own captors and architect of one of the most aggressively strange bands in recent memory. And speaking of robot-related names, Madison stoner rock legends Droids Attack will provide support.