Instead of spending this final weekend before the Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year's frenzy snowed-in, head out and partake in the blizzard of shows around Madison. The options include: The Nutcracker by Madison Ballet; IndieQueer: Discotech at the Majestic; a simulcast at Point Cinemas of the New York Metropolitan Opera performing Thas; and live tunes by Riders in the Sky, Bon Iver, Pistofficer, Madison County, The Skintones and Whore du Jour, Hot Sauce and the Lucas Cates Band, the Joel Paterson Trio, Yid Vicious, Kristy Larson, Faces for Radio, Willy Porter, Steven Meyer, and Building Better Bombs.
Presented by Madison Ballet in Overture Center's Overture Hall, 7:30 pm. Also Saturday (2 & 7:30 pm), Sunday (2 pm) & Wednesday (1 pm), Dec. 20, 21 & 24
This year the local troupe jettisons the Snow Queen, the Sugar Plum Fairy and other familiar aspects of the holiday favorite, all in the name of greater fidelity to the original 1816 short story by E.T.A. Hoffmann.
Stoughton Opera House, 7:30 pm. Also Thursday, Dec. 18, 3 pm
If you peel away the cornball jokes and the goofy costumes, not that you would want to, what you have in Riders in the Sky is supremely accomplished, staggeringly knowledgeable instrumentalists and singers who pay tribute to the great musical traditions of the American West. For this visit the Grand Ole Opry cast members present Christmas the Cowboy Way.
Barrymore Theatre, 8 pm
Eau Claire native Justin Vernon became an overnight celebrity after his melancholy debut, For Emma, Forever Ago, recorded in a remote Northwoods cabin, was reissued by Jagjaguwar in February and caught the attention of critics at Pitchfork. He visits Madison to generate some buzz for his forthcoming album, Blood Bank, due out Jan. 20. The sold-out show should be one of the year's most talked-about, so now's the time to work those connections and get your hands on an extra ticket. The Tallest Man on Earth opens.
Majestic Theatre, 9 pm
So is the relative dearth of gay bars in Madison a sign that gays are welcome everywhere, or that the LGBT community here is lackluster? Either way, the event promoters IndieQueer are doing their best to liven things up with their queer-themed dance parties. Tonight they celebrate a second anniversary with DJs Diamonds, VDRK and OCD Automatic.
Willy Street Pub & Grill, 9 pm
Though Kenosha's Pistofficer admits to dumpster diving to make ends meet, they're rich in musical influences, which range from the Dwarves' newest album, The Dwarves Must Die, to '80s West Coast hardcore. Chicago's Mad Minute and Madison's The Bottles keep the punk coming for the rest of the night.
The Bean, 9:30 pm
The Madison-area band performs a polished brand of country music that's very much in the vein of what Nashville is putting out these days (representative tune: "Lookin' at the Back of 17," about Cambridge NASCAR phenom Matt Kenseth). Expect the boys to play tracks from their new album, Enjoy the Ride.
High Noon Saloon, 9:30 pm
Add a little metal riffage to your weekend with an eardrum-busting set by the Skintones, then watch Whore du Jour transform lo-fi garage rock into dance-ready electronica. Also playing: Dead End Rejects, the Gusto, Roboman.
Point UltraScreen Cinema, 11 am
Going to the opera in the big city is a pretty fine thing, but you can get a taste of the highbrow experience here in Dairyland thanks to the Met's live, high-definition presentations on the big screen. This time the wondrous Renee Fleming stars in Jules Massenet's Thas.
Brink Lounge, 7:30 pm
Milwaukee soul-funk group Hot Sauce know how to make classics sound modern and make the most modern soul-style songs sound classic. This week they team up with Madison's Lucas Cates Band to spice up the Brink Lounge's Holiday Extravaganza, which will also feature a variety of prizes and an appearance by the one and only Miss Wisconsin (look out, Sarah Palin).
High Noon Saloon, 9 pm
Ex-Madisonian Joel Paterson brings his new band to town, a trio that fuses hot jazz, blues and rockabilly with the help of a pedal-steel guitar, a string bass and a smattering of vocals. Madison's North Country Drifters open.
Restaurant Magnus, 9:30 pm
Using clarinets, fiddle, horns, guitars and a few advanced degrees in ethnomusicology, Yid Vicious has been bringing the chutzpah of klezmer music to Madison for 13 years. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah or Festivus, it's bound to inspire celebration.
Harmony Bar, 4 pm
The Madison chanteuse has perhaps the best country-music singing voice in town, and she'll be at the east-side institution to remind you that her 2008 release, Honky Tonk Trio, makes a great stocking-stuffer for last-minute shoppers.
Frequency, 10 pm
Remember Jane's Addiction and Temple of the Dog? Faces for Radio does. Not only will they make you remember why you loved these bands so much 10 years ago, they'll precipitate a mad dash to download "Hunger Strike" after the show. Also playing: Agent Zero.
Café Carpe, Fort Atkinson, 6 pm
Though he's got enough Milwaukee, Madison and Minneapolis fans to keep him busy for months, Willy Porter's embarking on a tour of Alaska in February. Catch him with a handful of other top-notch acoustic performers -- Peter Mulvey, David Goodrich and Bill Camplin -- before he heads north.
Restaurant Magnus, 7 pm
If you haven't enjoyed a Sunday evening of bossa nova guitar yet this year, here's your last chance. Meyer creates an atmosphere that's ideal for sipping a glass of wine and discussing the good old days, whether it's the economic boom of the 1950s or the kickass concerts you went to in 2008.
Frequency, 9 pm
Whether Stef Alexander is making hip-hop as P.O.S. or hardcore with Building Better Bombs, he's a force to be reckoned with. Fellow Minnesotans Cody Weigel and Adam Marx, a.k.a. the Seawhores, will shake up the show with an explosion of multimedia effects and apocalyptic-sounding pop. Also playing: Rust Belt Sermon, This Bright Apocalypse.