...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead
Fall in Madison is about dressing in layers and bracing for the deep freeze, physically and psychologically. Luckily, this fall has a roster jam-packed with artists to help keep both your body and spirit warm, whether it's by sweating up a storm at a rock show or by pondering themes of change with a seasoned singer-songwriter. Here are a few of the season's highlights.
...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead
Sept. 26, Majestic Theatre
The anger and violence at the core of Trail of Dead's music - especially 2002's stellar Source Tags and Codes - will stir up your deepest, most primordial emotions at one moment and fling you into ethereal bliss the next thanks to beautiful arcs of strings, haunting bells and odd chords that stun you into submission. The band will showcase a new album, The Century of Self.
Oct. 1, High Noon Saloon
At a time when iPods and Auto-Tune drive so much music making, live shows featuring sweaty, grungy, MacBook-free rock 'n' roll are downright refreshing. This Israeli garage-rock trio have only released one full-length recording, 2009's Where Were Ya When It Happened, but they cause an absolute ruckus wherever they perform, crowd-surfing with their drum kit, stealing fans' drinks and occasionally lighting things on fire.
Oct. 6, Barrymore Theatre
Known for their strange and enticing sound and album titles that range from eyebrow-raising (piouhgd and Electriclarryland) to gasp-inducing (Rembrandt Pussyhorse and Locust Abortion Technician), the Surfers laid the groundwork for the grunge era and became fast favorites of Kurt Cobain, Courtney Love, Sonic Youth and Jello Biafra. A reunited lineup of original members Gibby Haynes, Paul Leary, Jeff Pinkus, King Coffey and Teresa Nervosa will shock and awe you not only with music but burning cymbals, strobe lights and other larger-than-life antics.
They Might Be Giants
Oct. 11, Barrymore Theatre
The purveyors of "Birdhouse in Your Soul" and "Particle Man" have been making goofy, geeky gems for kids as of late, first for the Disney Channel and Cartoon Network, then on kid-oriented CD/DVD combos such as 2008's Here Come the 123s and the brand-new Here Comes Science. The band visits Madison for a family show that's sure to entertain kids both young and not-so-young.
Oct. 13, High Noon Saloon
Holland's first studio album as a solo artist, 2004's Escondida, combined country and folk with musical saw, marimba, ukulele and other unconventional instrument choices, but her expressive voice gave it the gravity of a great old jazz record. More recently, she's been collaborating with M. Ward on her 2008 release The Living and the Dead and lending her vocal and instrumental talents to Bad Religion's Greg Graffin and rapper extraordinaire Sage Francis.
Oct. 13, Majestic Theatre
If there's one thing Dinosaur Jr. are not, it's quiet: Their awe-inspiring feedback- and distortion-laced rock has been splitting eardrums for the past 25 years, and some copies of their most recent release, Farm, were even recalled for being "too loud" due to a software error during the sound-layering process. With a good pair of earplugs, however, Farm's songs are some of the best you'll hear live this year - at least if you're into dramatic shifts between loud and quiet, complemented by a hypnotic drone of vocals.
Oct. 16, High Noon Saloon
If you didn't manage to get tickets to Sufjan Stevens' sold-out Sept. 28 show, fret not: This tremendously talented multi-instrumentalist and singer from his touring band (not to mention the Polyphonic Spree) is giving him a run for his money a few weeks later. Her clever new release, Actor, pierces you with distortion when you think you're being charmed to pieces by a pop melody.
Oct. 27, Overture Hall
Harris has spent much of her career as a duet partner, making other musicians - from Willie Nelson to Bob Dylan to Beck - shine. At this appearance with her Red Dirt Boys, she'll show off her solo work, which has helped keep vintage country sounds alive while paving the way for alt-country bands like Drive-By Truckers and singer-songwriters like Patty Griffin.
Oct. 30, Overture Hall
It's been awhile since Folds has teamed with his '90s band Ben Folds Five, which spawned a slew of lovable, sarcastic and melancholy favorites such as "Song for the Dumped" and "Brick." Instead, the piano-rocker's been performing with symphonies and collaborating with William Shatner, who provided a commentary track to Folds' Common People. It's a dance piece the Milwaukee Ballet debuted two years ago that was the subject of Gonzo Ballet, a hit at this year's Nashville Film Festival.
The Bouncing Souls
Nov. 5, Majestic Theatre
It's hard to believe that the party-loving punk quartet, founded in 1987, are older than most college freshmen, considering the energy they bring to each new disc. That includes their 20th Anniversary Series, which is being released all year long, one beer-soaked track per month.
The Fiery Furnaces
Nov. 13, Majestic Theatre
Matthew and Eleanor Friedberger released their most accessible album (I'm Going Away) earlier this year, a surprising move after eschewing easy-to-swallow hooks and sing-along lyrics for nearly a decade. It will be interesting to see if their new approach to recording affects their live shows, which in the past have been almost as abstract as their excellent 2004 concept album Blueberry Boat.