Best of the Big Top
Monona Terrace, 7:30 pm
As part of the series "The Future of Farming and Rural Life in Wisconsin," the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters presents Warren Nelson and his fellow performers from the Bayfield-based Lake Superior Big Top Chautauqua. They offer stories and songs celebrating small-town Wisconsin life.
The Tragically Hip
Barrymore Theatre, 7:30 pm
Nearly 25 years into their career, Canada's Tragically Hip still haven't really penetrated the U.S. market. Which is too bad. Lead singer Gordon Downie is a great -- albeit slightly oddball -- entertainer, and his compatriots are expert at putting over their smart, catchy pop-rock. Winter Sleep opens.
Paul & Storm and Jonathan Coulton
Café Montmartre, 8 pm
The keyboard-guitar duo Paul & Storm, formerly of Da Vinci's Notebook, are regulars on "The Bob & Tom Show" and "Dr. Demento." They'll play witty songs and riff on current events. Coulton is a folk-rocker whose songs tend to include biological imagery, befitting his professional connection with Popular Science magazine.
High Noon Saloon, 8:30 pm
Chicago's Irish band mix folk and punk, adding guitar and drums to traditional instruments like mandolin, banjo and fiddle. Their latest album, The Valley of the Shadow of Death, gives thumbs-up to Dee Dee Ramone and thumbs-down to the war. The Pints open.
The Bottle Rockets
High Noon Saloon, 9 pm
Although they're still capable of bashing out some inspired Missouri-bred slop-rock, the glorious Bottle Rockets also deliver some amiable acoustic pickin'. The down-home vibe should be perfect for a lazy May evening. The Blueheels open.
Orpheum Theatre's Stage Door, 9 pm
Brooke obliterates most of her folk side on her new pop-rock album, Careful What You Wish For. The polished singer-songwriter disc aims squarely for the Sheryl Crow demographic.
Thee More Shallows
Café Montmartre, 9 pm
For their third full-length album, The Book of Bad Breaks, the San Francisco indie-rockers pile on the noisy effects, drum machines and Casio-toned synths. But there's a deep-thinking pop-rock band operating under the filigree.