The World's Largest Brat Fest looms over Memorial Day in Madison, but it's merely the meaty center to a busy holiday weekend. The fun also includes: the Madison Marathon and the Madison Classic Horse Show; the grand opening of Out; the finale of Wisconsin Fashion Week; and, live music from Denise LaGrassa, Plum Union, Chafo, Comstock Reunion, Felicia Alima, Mr. Brownstone, Josh Harty, Felix, Peaches, Arizona, and Perry Weber & the DeVilles. The long weekend ends patriotically with the Monona Memorial Day Parade and a Madison Veterans for Peace commemoration.
NOTEWORTHY: Johnny Carson signs off as host of The Tonight Show, 1992.
BIRTHDAYS: Smiths frontman Morrissey, 1959; supermodel/author/actress Naomi Campbell, 1970.
Out, 1262 John Q. Hammons Dr.
Not long ago it was lean times for local queer folk in search of evening options, as one club after another shut down. But a gay nightlife renaissance is afoot, and it includes this new spot west of the Beltline. Opening events include the music of Ann Christopher (Friday, May 22, 7 pm) and Candi Stratton performing as Cher (Saturday, May 23, 7 pm). Madison gays, you have nothing to lose but your chains.
Alliant Energy Center's Arena, through May 24
The annual American Saddlebred and Hackney Ponies show features over 350 horses from around the Midwest competing for horsey glory. Expect gorgeous animals, skillful riders and many interesting smells.
Willow Island at Alliant Energy Center, 10 am-9 pm. Also Saturday (10 am-9 pm), Sunday (10 am-9 pm) & Monday (10 am-6 pm), May 23-25
Brat Fest has been raising money for worthy causes lo these many years, and how is it done? It is done by you buying and eating greasy sausages. So bon appétit, and while you're there, enjoy the music of dozens of acts including Sunspot, Mighty Short Bus, Felicia Alima, Madison County, Aaron Williams & the Hoodoo and Lube.
Overture Center's James Watrous Gallery, through June 28 The abstractionists share their work in this side-by-side show, called Conceal/Reveal. Baker scraped, carved and layered with paint and beeswax to produce her colorful works, while Wiesenfarth's somber acrylics -- presented in a collection she calls Noyé -- evoke the aftermath of Katrina. Learn more at a reception (5:30 pm) and artists' talk (6:30 pm).
Brink Lounge, 7 pm
The Chicago-based singer and songwriter performs winning, jazzy, folk-inflected piano music that's enlivened by her dusky alto. She's in town to promote her first release in seven years, April Dreams.
Indie Coffee, 7 pm
The Milwaukee/Chicago duo's songs sound a bit like they were recorded in a cardboard box or a messy bedroom, but their zany lack of polish is what makes them so fun, especially in a tiny venue. Also playing: The Boy With the Broken Jaw, El-Tin Fun.
Urban Courtyard, 345 W. Washington Ave., 7 pm
The couture conclave has its big finish with this runway event tonight and, on Saturday, May 23, the all-day happenings at Overture Center, which include more runway action and America's Next Top Model Bootcamp.
UW Memorial Union's Fredric March Play Circle, 7:30. Also Thursday (7:30 pm) & Saturday (2:30 & 7:30 pm), May 21 & 23
The gay theater group is filled with teenagers determined to make the world a more tolerant place. A show called "Proud Theater: Full Circle" features their original drama, music, poetry and dance.
UW Memorial Union Terrace, 9 pm
Conceived in the practice rooms of the UW-Madison School of Music, Chafo blends funk, jazz, reggae and a bit of jam-band flair, but those aren't the only ingredients in their musical stew. See if you can figure out the rest.
Tornado Club's Corral Room, 10 pm
Comstock Revision brings some good old-fashioned punk songs to the basement of the Tornado, plus a brand-new CD, showing off some of their best material from the past three years. Coloratura and Fortune & Glory open.
Frequency, 10 pm
The MAMA-winning R&B songstress has taken a stand against human trafficking with her latest release, Trade, which she's highlighting tonight. Sample a track from the album via MadTracks. Also playing: DJ Pain 1, Marianna Smirnova, Darius Alemzadeh.
High Noon Saloon, 10 pm
Hankering for a live rendition of "Sweet Child O' Mine?" You're in luck: The Guns N' Roses cover band extraordinaire has chosen the High Noon as the venue for its last show. Sabbra Cadabra and the Bon Squad do covers of Black Sabbath and AC/DC tunes, respectively, to open the show.
Café Montmartre, 10 pm
The songwriting of local favorite Josh Harty is a force to be reckoned with on its own, but tonight he supercharges his Americana gems with the addition of a backup band. The Getrites open.
NOTEWORTHY: Stalin lifts the Berlin blockade, 1949.
Nottingham Cooperative, 8:30 pm
The song titles of down-and-dirty New Orleans garage band Felix are almost as fun as the music itself, ranging from improbable situations ("Mother's Day at the Louvre") to eyebrow-raising missives ("New Ass"). Brooklyn's Jasmine Dreame Wagner, the heart of Cabinet of Natural Curiosities, shakes up the conventions of folk music with the addition of ambient noise and lots of odes to one of hipsters' favorite symbols: birds. Also playing: Son Cats.
Majestic Theatre, 9 pm
Though Peaches' gender-bending, sex-through-electroclash performances are shocking to some, here's an even more shocking fact: The beard-wearing chick behind Fatherfucker (2003) and Impeach My Bush (2006) used to teach elementary school. Drums of Death opens.
Café Montmartre, 9:30 pm
No one in the band is from the state of the same name, but the group toys with "Western" ideas such as cowboy melodies and peyote-induced desert freakouts. Milwaukeean Margaret Stutt -- a.k.a. Pezzettino -- kicks things off with a few of her piano-meets-accordion, Amélie-meets-Andrew Bird compositions.
Harmony Bar, 9:45 pm
Members of singer-guitarist Weber's polished Milwaukee-based crew worked with blues heavyweights like Hubert Sumlin, Luther Allison, Buddy Guy and James Cotton before putting together their own Americana/roots act. Needless to say, they know all about vibing up a barroom.
NOTEWORTHY: Brooklyn Bridge opens, 1883.
BIRTHDAYS: Comedian Tommy Chong, 1937; actress/Elvis wife Priscilla Beaulieu Presley, 1945.
Capitol Square to Willow Island, 7:30 am
Sweat off five pounds running the marathon, then gain 'em right back as you cross the finish line at Willow Island, where the Brat Fest is in full swing.
MEMORIAL DAY OBSERVED
NOTEWORTHY: Cassius Clay knocks out Sonny Liston at 1:56 of the first round to retain the heavyweight boxing title, 1965.
BIRTHDAYS: Novelist Jamaica Kincaid, 1949; Vagina Monologues playwright Eve Ensler, 1953.
Monona Grove High School to Owen Road, 10 am
Time to remember the (too) many American soldiers who've died lately, as well as others who've served their country. Monona's parade is followed by ceremonies at Blooming Grove and Roselawn cemeteries and Highland Memory Gardens.
James Madison Park, 1 pm
As we remember our fallen, the Madison Veterans for Peace ask us to think about preventing more deaths. The rally's keynote speech by St. Mary's College professor Sahar Shafqat is called "Is Peace Possible in Afghanistan & Pakistan?"