After a seemingly endless barrage of polar vortexes, spring is finally here to soothe poor Madison's freezer burn. It was a long slog, and a lot of us survived by hibernating with a few good records. But now that weather conditions have climbed down from "life-threatening," we're all clear to get back out there and support our local music scene. To that end, Isthmus has picked out a dozen and a half local shows to help defrost frozen ears, feet, hearts and minds.
Music to knock icicles from ears
March 22, Crystal Corner Bar
Fresh off a tour with Nobunny, the Hussy have a new 12-inch split with Digital Leather coming out in May. The new record contains six new songs by the Madison garage-punk act, plus their cover of a Digital Leather tune, and it's likely hit just as hard as their great 2013 album, Pagan Hiss. Madison dual-guitar thrashers Fire Retarded, whose debut comes out in April, will also be on the bill.
March 22, Dragonfly Lounge
Soundless may not blow out the windows, but their vocal harmonies make a big impression. At this show, the band will celebrate the release of a new album, Atoms, with an assist from Tyranny Is Tyranny, a post-rock noise project headed by members of now-defunct Madison greats the United Sons of Toil.
March 29, Good Style Shop
Trin Tran just released a new EP, Far Reaches, on John Dwyer's Castle Face Records. Frontman Steve Coombs recorded the short EP by himself, but his live set draws on the power of a full band. In other words, growling synth stompers like "Eyes the Size" should be loud enough to shatter any remaining ice on Lake Mendota.
April 12, Frequency
Tucked into a big lineup are a couple of Madison bands that invoke the lonesome Old West. Instrumental act El Valiente weave together their rock experiments with wistful atmosphere, twangy guitars and a little bit of glockenspiel, and two-piece country-blues shufflers Cowboy Television create painted-desert backgrounds. Both summon warmer musical climes, in case spring takes its time in getting here.
April 26, Frequency
Composed of Madison rock bosses from bands like Brainerd, Bongzilla, Pachinko, Striking Irwin and Droids Attack, the Garza are a Madison supergroup of sorts. They don't mess around, and the 14 songs on their new album prove it. But before the Garza burn the frostbite from your face, the two men of Dick the Bruiser will level the Frequency by hollering vocals over a rhythm assault from their drums and bass.
Dancing music to thaw frostbitten toes
March 28, Mickey's Tavern
The Flavor That Kills conjure easy, hip-swinging grooves like "Save for You," a choogling slab of bar rock with a sturdy rhythm. The set's likely to include songs from an in-the-works full-length featuring Awesome Car Funmaker veteran Ryan Corcoran's pop-soul vocals. Surf-tinged shredders Venus in Furs will also be on hand to fulfill their mission: making you dance.
Cold Sweat: Madison Funk and Soul Revue
April 4, High Noon Saloon
Shine your dancing shoes, because this revue sounds like a fancy, fun night on the town. But don't expect squeaky-clean thrills as you twist and contort to the Mustache, a mighty Madison funk outfit that count James Brown and Zapp & Roger among their influences. Fans of Baghdad Scuba Review will want to get there in time to see side project Electric Spanking shimmy through a set of "funktastic covers and tasty-licked originals."
April 12, Inferno
Most days, the polished pop-rock glam kids of Sexy Ester would be more than enough to constitute a fun night out. But in this event, they are playing second fiddle to Les Cougars, a burlesque show starring "mature" performers who combine music, comedy and dance. After a sexually liberating event like this, expect a raunchier-than-usual post-show dance party. Completing the theme, men age 25 and under get in for free.
May 9, Majestic Theatre
Youngblood Brass Band sprang forth from Oregon, Wis., in loose formation and made a name early on with a huge, live hip-hop sound that attracted real-deal collaborators like Talib Kweli. Beyond their somewhat novel approach to rap music, YBB excel at New Orleans and jazz configurations, showed off nicely on the their 2013 album, Pax Volumi. Whatever the band decide to get into at this gig, the show-goers are bound to dance their brains out.
Soul-warming music to melt frozen hearts
Lowell Elementary Benefit
March 23, Harmony Bar & Grill
The annual fundraiser for Lowell Elementary is a time to contribute to ongoing enrichment programs. It's also a time to have a blast with the entire family by sampling quality local music. Tony Castañeda Latin Jazz Sextet, the Madgadders and Ellie & the Jeffs will all lend their talents to the cause.
March 28, High Noon Saloon
Getting good at an instrument is one way to increase your chances of being immortalized on a record. Cheering wildly at a great concert is another. When sweet-voiced Whitney Mann and her all-star country band record this show -- possibly for future release -- it'll give the audience a chance to appear on an album and leave the playing to the pros.
Cadillac Joe Memorial Show
April 19, High Noon Saloon
Cadillac Joe crafted a reputation as a remarkable jazz and blues Hammond organ player, entertaining all over Madison. Since the artist's death in 2009, his son Aaron Williams has paid yearly tribute with a special memorial concert to raise awareness about lymphoma and leukemia. Featuring accomplished power trio Aaron Williams & the Hoodoo and award-winning blues rockers the Jimmys, this event provides a chance to lift spirits by honoring a man who blessed Madison with decades of wonderful music.
Appalachian Armageddon III
April 26, High Noon Saloon
It does the heart good to see Count This Penny -- husband-and-wife duo Allen and Amanda Rigell -- marry their voices over charming acoustic melodies. But when Appalachian Armageddon III kicks off on this night, the gentle folk will be ready for musical battle with another great local act, Winn Dixie. Both bands promise special guests, one-time-only original material and fully awesome stage costumes. Come for the banjo beatdown, stay for the mandolin mayhem!
High Noon Saloon 10th Anniversary Party
May 4, High Noon Saloon
Madison suffered a great loss when Cathy Dethmers' concert venue O'Cayz Corral burned down in 2001. If a similar fate struck its successor, High Noon Saloon, the city would be beside itself. But that's morbid, because High Noon isn't going anywhere. To help ring in its 10th anniversary, Madison's Josh Harty and Nick Brown play an afternoon show, and Madison children's entertainer David Landau plays an early show for the whole family. Combined with a late show by Old West-loving indie rockers Murder by Death, this event's a perfect excuse to spend a whole day camping out by the stage and lounging on the patio.
Cerebral music to rouse hibernating brains
April 1, Frequency
Dig deep into the cold storage your mind has become, because it'll take all brain cells on deck to absorb everything Second Family Band sets out. A shifting collective of Madison avant-garde performers, Second Family are known for their huge, improvised palettes of sound. Spires That in the Sunset Rise will paint surrealist music with vocal melodies, assorted string instruments and harmonium.
April 3, Frequency
Though they're named for a Unix operating system equivalent of a black hole of data, Null Device have offered up plenty of material, including five LPs, in their nearly 20 years together. On their 2013 album, Perihelion, they swirl world music flavors with head-nodding beats, adding insightful lyrics that may cause pondering as well as dancing.
April 26, South Madison Center for Culture and Community
Hip-hop and Madison still have a contentious relationship, but anyone who doubts the technical merits of the genre should check out this event. A panel of judges, including Madison hip-hop luminary DJ Pain 1, will hover over a beatmaking competition and make themselves available for Q&A and networking. Happening at the community center at 633 W. Badger Rd., this event shows what kinds of raw hip-hop gems can be found in Madison and the surrounding areas.
May 5, Dragonfly Lounge
Andrew Fitzpatrick might appear to have his hands full playing guitar for All Tiny Creatures, Cap Alan and Volcano Choir, but the high-quality work he puts out as Noxroy suggests otherwise. His latest, Anverloss, accesses synths through a computer that may have had Coke spilled on it, resulting in jittery, hypnotic sound pieces. Drone team Drunjus have first dibs on the stage, and noise builder John Wiese will conclude the evening with music that tickles the synapses.