October gets a rollicking start this weekend with the Great Midwest Marijuana Harvest Festival, Gallery Night, the Madison Horror Film Festival, and Pipers in the Prairie. The calendar also includes: the "What is Human?" symposium, a talk by Evelyn Fox Keller, a production of The Revolt of the Beavers!, and a performance of Causeway by Kate Corby & Chris Walker on the UW campus; a talk by Elizabeth Gilbert; and, live music by Leo Kottke, the MSO, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Company of Thieves, The New Standards, All That Remains, These United States, Erin McCarley, Juliette Lewis, and Liam Finn.
NOTEWORTHY: Thurgood Marshall sworn in as U.S. Supreme Court's first African American justice, 1967.
UW Pyle Center, 8:30 am-9 pm. Also Thursday (7-9:30 pm) & Saturday (8:30 am-1 pm), Oct 1 & 3
This symposium gathers science and humanities experts to consider that tricky titular question. It's free, but you have to register (Gallery Night
The semiannual showcase for Madison's visual-arts scene includes special events at 50-plus galleries, museums and businesses. Highlights include a 6:30 p.m. lecture by UW professor Jeff Smith about Bonnie and Clyde, the film that inspired the Robert Rauschenberg print series Reels (B + C), on display; S.V. Medaris' "Corn Fed" show at the central public library; recent work by Gregg Kreutz at Fanny Garver Gallery; and oil-on-linen paintings by Tom Maakestad at Grace Chosy Gallery.
Frequency, 5 pm. Also on Library Mall Saturday (11:30 am) & Sunday (1:15 pm), Oct. 3 & 4
No, pot advocates aren't always mellow, especially when they're pushing for legalization. The annual celebration of phat nugz features a fund-raiser on Friday, speakers and music on Saturday, and a march up State Street on Sunday.
Chazen Museum of Art, 7:30 pm
The UW's Humanities Without Boundaries series continues with MIT scientist Keller, who's talking about nature, nurture, and the fact that it's a mistake to think of them as categorically different.
Stoughton Opera House, 7:30 pm
Kottke is an innovator among guitar players, popularizing an aggressive style of finger picking and a much-copied system of down-tuning his strings to suit his low vocal register. His songwriting, on the other hand, draws from oldies but goodies: Delta blues, jazz and vintage Americana.
Overture Hall, 7:30 pm. Also Saturday (8 pm) & Sunday (2:30 pm), Oct. 3 & 4
John DeMain conducts the fall schedule's first MSO performance as pianist Peter Serkin joins the ensemble for Brahms' first piano concerto. Also: Beethoven's "Consecration of the House" overture and Richard Strauss' "Death and Configuration."
UW Vilas Hall's Hemsley Theatre, 7:30 pm. Also Saturday, Oct. 3, 2 & 7:30 pm
University Theatre begins the season with this Theatre for Youth production. It's a musical adaptation of the 1937 Federal Theatre Project play, which raised eyebrows with themes deemed socialist. Now that's timely.
UW Lathrop Hall's H'Doubler Performance Space, 8 pm. Also Thursday & Saturday, Oct. 1 & 3, 8 pm
The UW Dance Program presents work by two recently appointed professors/dancers/choreographers. See preview.
Wisconsin Union Theater, 8 pm
The New Orleans players are acclaimed for their sophisticated update of the city's boisterous brass-band tradition, throwing bebop and funk into the mix. With Mama Digdown's Brass Band.
High Noon Saloon, 9:30 pm
After winning the New York Songwriters Circle competition in 2007, the Chicago indie-rock group's single "Oscar Wilde" got them plenty of mainstream exposure this year, both on the TV show Gossip Girl and in a national ad campaign for Dove products. With Brighton MA and Little Red Wolf.
Restaurant Magnus, 9:30 pm
This Minneapolis trio, featuring members of Semisonic and The Suburbs, plays jazzy, vibraphone-drenched renditions of familiar standards and rock staples you wouldn't otherwise associate with the vibraphone ("London Calling").
BIRTHDAYS: Actress-singer Ashlee Simpson, 1984.
Market Square Shopping Center, noon. Also Sunday, Oct. 4, noon
This extravaganza features fear-inducing screenings, including the premiere of Madison filmmaker Cory Udler's Incest Death Squad. Also on hand are guests including Broom Street Theater founder Stuart Gordon, who went on to bigness in Hollywood writing Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and directing Re-Animator.
Aldo Leopold Nature Center, 4:30 pm
The center holds a fundraiser featuring music by the Celtic Brigade Pipe Band and Madison Pipes & Drums. There will be fancy food and drink and a gigantic bonfire, to say nothing of those blasting bagpipes. They get the blood flowing.
Barrymore Theatre, 7 pm
The Massachusetts metal avatars pay a Madison call on the strength of the precise guitar work and growling vocals we've all come to associate with metalcore. With Lacuna Coil, Maylene & the Sons of Disaster and From Sword to Sunrise.
UW Memorial Union Terrace, 8:30 pm
Jesse Elliott and his D.C.-based band don't just want to make music that rocks. They also want to make something that's literary, even elegant. Learn more in Tour Stop, page 16. With the Chris Koza Band and the Gentle Guest.
Orpheum Theatre's Stage Door, 9 pm
The Hotel Cafe Tour and South by Southwest veteran returns to town with a hit iTunes single, 2008's "Pony (It's OK)"; and a new album, Love, Save the Empty, with several songs that are scaling the pop-music and video charts. With Landon Pigg and Jentri Colello.
BIRTHDAYS: Oscar-winning actress/activist Susan Sarandon, 1946.
Overture Hall, 7:30 pm
The literary sensation shows up to talk about, presumably, Eat, Pray, Love and whatever else is on her mind.
High Noon Saloon, 8 pm
Though she's best-known for her acting roles in '90s films (Natural Born Killers, Cape Fear), Lewis has been showing off her music talents in the '00s. She provided backing vocals for the Prodigy's 2004 album and led the garage-rock outfit Juliette & the Licks until earlier this year, when she formed a new band, the New Romantiques, and began work on a forthcoming album. With the Ettes and American Bang.
Majestic Theatre, 8 pm
The frontman of Betchadupa and son of Crowded House frontman Neil Finn joins Aussie multi-instrumentalist Eliza-Jane Barnes and a bevy of effects pedals to make some Down Under-style dream pop.