Enjoy a compilation of selected tracks by artists playing shows we're excited about in Madison during the week of Dec. 15-22, 2016. For more information on these shows, read on under the Spotify playlist!
Helmet, Thursday, Dec. 15, High Noon Saloon, 8 pm: Formed while bandleader Page Hamilton was studying jazz guitar at the Manhattan School of Music, Helmet has always been one of heavy music’s more unpredictable experimental groups. Now the “Unsung” rockers are hot off the release of Dead to the World, their first album in six years, and it sounds like they were never gone in the first place. With Chicago hard-rock heroes Local H.
Destroy All Christmas, Friday, Dec. 16, Frequency, 9 pm: Few things go hand-in-hand quite like Christmas and metal (after all, “Santa” is just a quick letter-switch away from “Satan”), and the shred-heads at Riff Reaper Records will be celebrating that. If live sets from Droids Attack and House of Lud aren’t enticing enough, there will also be gifts from the bands, free slices of Ian’s “Droids A-Snack” pizza and a special visit from Santa-Bot. Can’t beat that for a $7 cover.
Gloss Coats + Wood Chickens, Friday, Dec. 16, Art In Gallery, 8 pm: When local artist Shelley Peckham debuts her work at Art In, she’ll be doing so in pretty good company. This Means War! has lined up a killer night of music to support her: Madison rockers Gloss Coats and Wood Chickens (who are releasing their Christmas EP) will be joined by Mike Maimone of the Chicago band Mutts. There will also be food and drink. Support your local scene, and have a ton of fun doing it.
Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience, Saturday, Dec. 17, Orpheum Theater, 8 pm: Some tribute bands have more provenance than others, and this is one such group: Jason Bonham is the son of Zep drummer John Bonham. Jason has drummed with the other members of the legendary hard rockers at some of their very infrequent reunion performances since disbanding after John’s death in 1980. The band also features Stoughton native James Dylan on vocals.
Harmonious Wail album release, Saturday, Dec. 17, Old Sugar Distillery, 7:30 pm: Fronted by Madison’s First Couple of Swing, Sims and Maggie Delaney-Potthoff, Harmonious Wail has spent almost three decades perfecting the sounds of Gypsy swing and be-bop jazz. At this festive release party for Holiday Spirits, treat yourself to a “Wail N’Good Cheer” signature cocktail while taking in Harmonious Wail’s versions of holiday classics, plus a few surprises, such as Burt Bacharach’s “What the World Needs Now.”
The Rousers & Friends Holiday Party, Saturday, Dec. 17, Harmony Bar, 9:45 pm: Three-plus decades since forming, Madison legends the Rousers remain one of our most reliable sources for a rockin’ dance party. With help from special guests including Cris Plata, Tom McCarty and Al Falaschi, they will present an evening of fan favorites and some Christmas songs all wrapped up Rousers-style.
Willy Porter, Saturday, Dec. 17, Stoughton Opera House, 7:30 pm: Hailed by the Boston Globe as having “the Olympian speed of Leo Kottke bolstered by rootsy vocals and twisting, offbeat lyrics,” Willy Porter is a Wisconsin staple. The Mequon-born, Milwaukee-based troubadour has released nine critically acclaimed albums and is currently supporting Bonfire to Ash, a collaborative album with Carmen Nickerson, whom he’s worked with regularly since the release of his 2013 album Cheeseburgers and Gasoline.
Gangstagrass, Sunday, Dec. 18, Frequency, 8 pm: No, it’s not a new strain of marijuana marketed to fans of ’80s rap. Gangstagrass is a Brooklyn-based sextet that deals in the unlikely mashup of hip-hop beats and bluegrass melodies, perfect for fans of Trampled by Turtles and N.W.A. What began as an isolated experiment in 2006 has grown into a genre-bending (genre-creating?) group famous for writing the Emmy-nominated theme song for the FX show, Justified. With The Lower 5th.
Blueheels + Faux Fawn, Wednesday, Dec. 21, High Noon Saloon, 6:30 pm: Describing themselves as “a train wreck in the people’s key,” the members of Blueheels are pretty funny guys. But their musical talent is no laughing matter: The Madison group is back after a five-year hiatus, promoting a new album. They’ll be joined by Faux Fawn, a local chamber folk sextet. See story, page XX.
Steve Gillespie, Thursday, Dec. 22, Comedy Club on State, 8:30 pm: Steve Gillespie claims that he has nothing except credit card debt and his friend’s Netflix password. This “gentlemen degenerate” actually has something that all standup comedians should have: solid bits and pinpoint comedic timing. Gillespie, who recently relocated from Minneapolis to Los Angeles, was the runner up for “Best of the Midwest” at Gilda’s Laughfest in 2013, and his recent appearance on Conan solidified his status as a bona fide rising star. If you’re looking to end your year with some belly laughs, look no further. With Pat Susmilch, Cody Lemke. ALSO: Friday, Dec. 23, 8 & 10:30 pm.
Find all of his week's Isthmus Picks here.