Effective Aug. 19, Public Health Madison and Dane County reinstated a face covering requirement for public indoor spaces, which may affect whether a performance can take place. Many venues and businesses also have instituted requirements for proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test to attend events. Before heading out, check for current guidelines on the relevant business websites or social media accounts.
Orton-Front Festival, Thursday-Friday, Aug. 26-27, Orton Park; Saturday-Sunday, Aug. 28-29, Yahara Place Park: The Marquette Neighborhood Association’s iconic festivals join forces this year for one weekend of music, food, vendors and more. The extended weekend kicks off at Orton Park, with the traditional dusk performances by Cycropia Aerial Dance, as well as music by Jimmy Sugarcane People and Forward! Marching Band on Aug. 26 and Oak Street Ramblers and Hirt Alpert on Aug. 27. The party moves to Yahara Place Park (home of the Waterfront Festival) on the weekend, where you’ll want to set up camp but will still have to decide between two stages filled with local favorites (Gaines & Wagoner, Raine Stern Band, Funkee JBeez, Cris Plata and many others) and touring performers such as Los Straitjackets, Bassel & the Supernaturals, Eric McFadden and Kate Vargas, and more. And don’t forget the Fools’ Flotilla, a group paddle to the fest hosted by River Alliance of Wisconsin, starting at 10:30 a.m. Aug. 29 from the Tenney Park locks (registration begins at 9:30 a.m.). Find the full schedule at marquette-neighborhood.org.
Robert J., Thursday, Aug. 26, 1855 Saloon, Cottage Grove, 5 p.m.: Robert J. Conway has been a part of the Madison music landscape for decades, both as a solo performer and in bands such as The Moon Gypsies and Rowdy Prairie Dogs. Earlier this summer Robert J. announced a move to Connecticut, and is now playing his final local shows through Labor Day. In addition to Aug. 26, this week you can find Robert J. at the Come Back In patio at 5 p.m. on Aug. 27 and 4 p.m., Aug. 29. (Hot tip: The new Rowdy Prairie Dogs album, Barland, isn’t out until later in September but you can get a copy ahead of time at shows.) Find more shows at robertj.com.
Bongzilla, Thursday, Aug. 26, High Noon, 7:30 p.m.: If the name Bongzilla isn’t enough of a clue, the fact that this Madison-based trio titled its latest album Weedsconsin should tell you all you need to know. Proudly influenced by marijuana, Bongzilla will light up Madison on the first night of an eight-date tour of mostly upper-Midwestern cities. With a hazy history dating back to 1995, and plenty of hiatuses along the way, Bongzilla didn’t waste its pandemic-induced time off the road — recording the aforementioned Weedsconsin, a split LP with heavy Italian sludgers Tons (Doom Sessions, Vol. 4) and a pair of 7-inch singles. Homegrown stoner metal at its finest. With Bridge City Sinners.
A Phoenix Too Frequent, Thursday, Aug. 26, American Players Theatre, Spring Green, 7:30 p.m.: This Christopher Fry comedy, written in blank verse, harks back to earlier drama, both English and Greek. Written in the 1940s, A Phoenix Too Frequent is set in ancient Greece; the setup involves a widow, who longs to join her dead husband in the afterworld, falling in love with a soldier. ALSO: Friday (7:30 p.m.), Saturday (8 p.m.), Sunday (1 & 6 p.m.), and Wednesday (2 & 7:30 p.m.), Aug. 27-Sept. 1. Through Oct. 3. Tickets here.
Good Neighbor Festival, Friday, Aug. 27-Sunday, Aug. 29, Firemen’s Park, Middleton: Middleton’s fall festival returns with a 2021-appropriate theme of “All Together Now!” It all kicks off at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 27 with a kiddie parade from Lee Street (near the high school) to the festival grounds. There’s a carnival, plenty of food, movies for the kids (7 pm Fri.-Sat.), an arts and crafts fair (9 a.m.-5 p.m. Sat.-Sun.), and many more happenings, including a pun slam (2:30 p.m. Sunday). The fest main stage includes music by The Jimmys (7 p.m. Friday) and Pacific Coast Highway (2 p.m. Sunday). Find all the details at goodneighborfestival.com.
Hot Rods for Dryhootch, Saturday, Aug. 28, Bowl-A-Vard Lanes, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.: Dryhootch is a nonprofit by veterans for veterans, offering a range of support services; the Madison branch will be moving into a new building this fall, and this fundraiser organized by One Accord for Veterans aims to raise money for furnishings. There’s a classic auto show (preregister at theFOAT.com/528854), volleyball, bowling, kids’ activities and a raffle; music begins at 11 a.m., featuring Bad Habit, Jason Rowe, Scarlet Morning, Speakeasy and the Al Swanson Trio.
Allegories from Latin America: Stories from our Mother Earth, Saturday, Aug. 28, Sherman Avenue United Methodist Church, 1-6 p.m.: This new event from CultivARTE Colectivo isn’t just an art fair, it’s a true festival of the arts. Held pop-up style at Sherman Avenue United Methodist Church, there’s artist workshops by Angelica Contreras, Monica Cliff and others (sign up here); a family dance workshop by Francis Medrano; music by Richard Hildner Armacanqui and Latin Pride Orquesta; and exhibits by visual artists, all from the Latinx community. Free, but $25 ticket sales will help underwrite the event. Find more info at cultivartecolectivo.com.
Burgers & Brew Drive Thru, Saturday, Aug. 28, Capital Brewery, Middleton, 4-7:30 p.m.: The annual REAP fundraiser has a twist — area chefs will cook burgers from recipes submitted by the public and chosen by a panel of local food luminaries based on “flavor, creativity, and use of locally sourced ingredients,” according to REAP. And you can haz, at this Burgers & Brew Drive Thru at Capital Brewery in Middleton. Winning burgers will be paired with local beers, and you can take your meal to-go or eat in the Capital Brewery Bier Garten. A ticket ($25) gets you one burger, a beverage and two sides. Funds raised support REAP’s healthy and local food programs.
Token Creek Chamber Music Festival, Saturday-Sunday, Aug. 28-29, Festival Barn, 4 p.m.: A favorite event for classical audiences for more than three decades, the Token Creek Chamber Music Festival returns to live concerts following last year’s retrospective anthology of streaming events. While attendance in person is limited, the concerts will also be available to stream the following day and throughout the festival. The series continues on the weekend with a pair of performances by the Chamber Music Society of Minnesota. Find tickets and program info at tokencreekfestival.org; concerts continue through Sept. 5.
Curdfest, Saturday, Aug. 28, Breese Stevens Field, 4-8 p.m.: Fried and fresh cheese curds are just the beginning at this celebration of cheese. Sample from a creative menu featuring international influence and unique takes on classic Wisconsin curds: mole curds, Cajun curds, curd egg rolls, West African suya spice curds, and curd Benedict to name a few. Plus, music and beverages. Free admission.
Event Horizon, Saturday, Aug. 28, Cafe CODA, 7 & 9 p.m.: This jazz quartet’s self-titled 2020 debut album is a melodic gem, laid back yet swinging, and featuring 11 original songs by saxophonist Jim Kaczmarek and pianist Scott Mertens. Also including bassist Donn DeSanto and drummer Rick Vitek, Event Horizon is essentially a Chicagoland supergroup, as each member is a musical ringer who has played with a who’s who of jazz and pop artists from Richie Cole to Diahann Carroll to The Buckinghams. The group makes their Madison debut with two shows at Cafe CODA.
Ratboys + Gentle Brontosaurus, Saturday, Aug. 28, UW Memorial Union Terrace, 7 p.m.: A decade and 12 albums after its formation, Ratboys pays homage to the band’s early days and college dorm room start. The Chicago rock quartet’s new album, Happy Birthday, Ratboy, features 10 rerecordings of their first songs (including the entire RATBOY EP) and a brand new song, “Go Outside.” The band features Jill Steiner on guitar and vocals, Dave Sagan on guitar, Marcus Nuccio on drums, and Sean Neumann on bass and vocals. Also on the bill is Madison indie-pop charmers Gentle Brontosaurus.
GLEAM reception, Saturday, Aug. 28, Olbrich Botanical Gardens, 7:30 p.m.-midnight: Catch the first glimpse of the colorful and bright installations illuminating all 16 acres of Olbrich Botanical Gardens. Roam the gardens to view towering, delicate and inviting light sculptures made just for the exhibit by artists and designers from around the country. The opening viewing of GLEAM: Art in a New Light will feature performances by Cycropia Aerial Dance, and the chance to meet some of the artists. Can’t make it to the opening? The exhibit will continue Wednesday-Saturday evenings until the end of October; advance tickets only.
I Have a Song to Sing, O! Through Sept. 30, online: The Madison Savoyards’ productions of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas are an indelible part of summer in Madtown. This year, the troupe is sticking with an online version of a musical revue, titled “I Have a Song to Sing, O! Musical Gems from Gilbert & Sullivan.” It’s a greatest hits of sorts, though the rarely-heard “Thespis” is also on the program. This professionally recorded production is available for streaming Aug. 14-Sept. 30 on madisonsavoyards.org. If you don’t know whether you have a Savoyard within you, give it a shot — it’s free.
Paulapalooza, Sunday, Aug. 29, Hop Garden/Mill Park, Paoli, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.: Paulapalooza is a fundraiser for Paul’s Party, a nonprofit providing recreational and sports equipment for kids with physical disabilities. The all-ages event includes a silent auction and raffle, food, and even a special Hop Garden red lager brewed just for Paulapalooza. The packed music lineup: Mark Croft at 10 a.m., Raine Stern at 11 a.m., Drew Jacobs at noon, Chloe Louise at 1 p.m., Sweet Josephine at 2 p.m., and Quick & Painless at 3 p.m. Find more info on Facebook.
Black Latino Unity Picnic, Sunday, Aug. 29, Penn Park, 1-5 p.m.: This annual event from Immigrant Workers’ Union (and partners) celebrates grassroots efforts to bring together all of Madison’s communities in the fight for better jobs and living conditions. It’s family friendly and features music and other entertainment, kids’ activities, a screen printing station (bring T-shirts), a discussion of COVID-19 impacts on Black and Latino communities, and more. There will also be “Live Well @ Your Library” events coordinated by Madison Public Library, and a Latino Chamber of Commerce market starts at 10 a.m. Find more info on Facebook.
Picturing a Nation: American Drawings and Watercolors, Aug. 31-Nov. 28, Chazen Museum of Art: These days the history of the United States and how it is taught and depicted is a hot topic for discussion, which makes this survey of American drawings from the 18th century to the early 20th century especially timely. Organized by the Chazen and highlighting items from its own collection, the show begins with images from the early days of the young nation and concentrates on often overlooked media — pen and ink, graphite, watercolor, chalk and pastels. Some of the artist’s names are familiar; others less so. Current hours are noon-5 p.m. Tuesday-Wednesday and noon-7 p.m. Thursday-Friday.
Jazz at Five, Wednesday, Sept. 1, McKee Farms Park, Fitchburg, 4 p.m.: In order to allow for more social distancing, Jazz at Five made the move to Fitchburg. Each Wednesday will start with youth performers at 4 p.m., followed by 5 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. sets by a variety of bands. Sept. 1 begins with youth performers from Skai Academy, followed by a pair of ensembles from UW-Madison’s stellar jazz studies program: UW Jazz Ensemble All Stars, led by Johannes Wallmann; and UW Jazz Faculty Ensemble featuring Arun Luthra, the Division of the Arts artist-in-residence for the fall 2021 semester. The series continues on Wednesdays through Sept. 8. Find more info at jazzatfive.org.
Where Are Wisconsin’s Fair Maps? Wednesday, Sept. 1, online, 7 p.m.: Voting districts in Wisconsin and political gerrymandering are the topics of this League of Women Voters of Dane County webinar, moderated by former Wisconsin Public Radio host Joy Cardin. Law Forward’s Doug Poland will provide legal perspective on gerrymandering and outline steps that Wisconsin citizens can take to advocate for fair maps. Next, Kriss Marion, a farmer and county supervisor in southwestern Wisconsin, will discuss the negative effects of gerrymandering on farmers. Finally, Matt Rothschild, executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, will discuss the negative financial effects of gerrymandering on Wisconsin citizens. The Zoom webinar is free; registration is required.
Moors & McCumber, Thursday, Sept. 2, The Bur Oak, 7:30 p.m.: This duo is reminiscent of harmony-folk duos of the 1970s, with a modern Americana spin. James Moors (who lives in Superior, Wisconsin) and Kort McCumber are on tour ahead of the October release of their seventh studio album, Survival, and visit Madison for a Music Makes a Difference concert to benefit The Rainbow Project. With local singer-songwriter Hannah Busse. Tickets here.
Summerfest, Thursday-Saturday, Sept. 2-4, 9-11 and 16-18, Maier Festival Park, Milwaukee: Are you ready for Megan Thee Stallion…Dave Chappelle…Guns N’ Roses…Run the Jewels…and about 1,000 more performers? It could only be Summerfest, still the biggest music festival of them all. The format is a bit different in 2021, with the fest broken up over three weekends in September rather than during its traditional midsummer perch. Proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID test are required for entry during the festival, or for any of the American Family Amphitheater concerts scheduled adjacent to fest days. Find all the details at summerfest.com.
We hope it’s handy for you to find the Picks in a single weekly post. The individual Picks can still be found in the usual places online: collected here, and sprinkled throughout all the events.