Wisconsin State Fair
State Fair Park in West Allis, through Aug. 10
If it's August in West Allis, it's the Wisconsin State Fair, the sprawling fortnight of fun that celebrates the year's greatest achievements in Badger State agriculture, horticulture, baking, sewing, show choirs. Whether you're a Wisconsin newcomer or a lifelong Dairylander, you can't press your face into one of those outsized cream puffs without feeling proud. Grandstand entertainment this week includes '80s metallurgists Queensrche (Aug. 1), country heartthrob Blake Shelton (Aug. 2) and Disney television teammates Vanessa Hudgens and Corbin Bleu (Aug. 5).
Wisconsin PBS Kids' Open House
UW Vilas Hall's fourth floor outdoor terrace, 9-11 am
We read the other day that entertainment companies are cracking down on children's performers who use trademarked characters without permission, which is why birthday parties are being invaded by the likes of SquishyGuy, in lieu of SpongeBob. But this morning fiesta will feature actual PBS characters WordGirl and Wyatt from "Super Why!," plus fun and games.
Nonstop Radio Symposium
Alliant Energy Center Exhibition Hall, 10 am. Also Saturday & Sunday, Aug. 2 & 3, 9 am
First there was Rush Limbaugh. Twenty years, 600 broadcast affiliates and countless conservative imitators later, liberals are still getting the hang of the whole political radio thing. That process continues at this progressive confab as Rachel Maddow, Stephanie Miller, John Nichols and others talk about talking.
Sugar Maple Traditional Music Festival
Lake Farm County Park, 4 pm. Also Saturday, Aug. 2, noon
Old-time music popularizer Mike Seeger, rough-edged acoustic blues and folk performer Charlie Parr, a reunion of Bill Monroe's Bluegrass Boys and an appearance by Madison country/polka greats the Goose Island Ramblers are just a few of the highlights of the season's most comfortable music festival.
Monona Terrace rooftop, 5:30 pm
The free Dane Dances series is so popular that sometimes there isn't room for late arrivals up on the roof. The first event of the season is topped by the Latin dance band Grupo Candela, so practice your best salsa steps before hoofing on over. The Davis Family Band and DJ Laurie Mlatawou open.
Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, 5:30 pm
Each month MMoCA organizers create a sublime pocket of sophistication with these events, which see well-dressed patrons sipping cocktails, listening to music (funkmeisters Vibe Syndicate play tonight) and -- lest we forget -- taking in interesting art exhibits. This First Friday features a 6:30 p.m. talk by artists Roberto Behar and Rosario Marquardt, who will be discussing their new, museum-wide installation The Absent City.
The Art of College Humor
Porter Butts Gallery, UW Memorial Union, through Sept. 16 Reception: 7-9 pm
Once as many as 200 college humor magazines were published, including the UW's own Octopus (1919-1959), but their number has dwindled to the Harvard Lampoon and a handful of others. This exhibit collects reproductions from hundreds of college humor magazines amassed by Chaseburg's John Dobbertin Jr., who edited the University of Michigan's humor magazine, The Gargoyle, in the 1960s.
EVP Coffee West, 8 pm
Clovis Mann's unabashed devotion to blues-based rock might scare off the indie kids, but the local power trio is sure to get nods of approval from fans of historic threesomes like Cream at this free CD-release show.
Cafe Montmartre, 10 pm
Too American to be confused with Coldplay, too gentle to make inroads with the Dave Matthews crowd, Minneapolis singer-songwriter Ari Herstand plays ringing folk-rock that's custom-made for the soundtrack of a certain ultra- popular doctor show. Patchwork open.
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie
MATC's Mitby Theatre, 11 am & 2 pm (also Sun., Aug. 3, 11 am & 2 pm)
It's a live-theater production of the 1985 children's book, which has the title critter demanding more and more. There's no pleasing some mice.
Madison Roots Festival
Willow Island at Alliant Energy Center, 2 pm
The outdoor party features headliners G. Love & Special Sauce, the Philadelphia threesome who amalgamate hip-hop, blues and alternative influences; and funky, rocky, folky, jammy Australians the John Butler Trio. Also appearing are, among others, Shawn Mullins, Alejandro Escovedo and Dar Williams, as well as local icons Clyde Stubblefield and Natty Nation.
UW Terrace Blues Fest
UW Memorial Union Terrace, 3 pm
Yes, rough-and-tumble bluesman Mud Morganfield, the oldest son of the great Muddy Waters, gets his mojo workin' after the sun goes down. But this free blues fest is also packed with Wisconsin-based talent, including Reverend Raven & the Chain Smokin' Altar Boys, Mud Angels and Johnny Chimes & the Gumbo Ya Yas.
Annex, 9 pm
The metal gods and goddesses who packed last week's alfresco "Band Camp" have nothing on Luna Mortis (formerly Ottoman Empire), whose expansive vision and precise musicianship just scored them a deal with Century Media Records. Look for lead singer/growler Mary Zimmer to attract an international fan base to their cause. Cwn Annwn and Verge of Collapse open.
Frequency, 10 pm
Omaha's Thunder Power!!! caper through catchy indie-rock that uncovers a ray of hope in the the gloomiest corners of the mind. You won't be able to suppress a smile. Icarus Himself and Crane Your Swan Neck open.
High Noon Saloon, 10 pm
The Handphibians, Pagee Go Go, and Massamba Dance Company give north country types a crash course in the sounds, steps and rhythms of Brazil. Now if they'd just bring along a couple thousand gallons of that sweet Brazilian ethanol.
High Noon Saloon, 8 pm
Buzz Osbourne and Dale Crover's Melvins made viscous, Sabbath-influenced rock the sonic foundation of grunge and changed the life of the late Kurt Cobain in the process. 'Nuff said. Openers Big Business feature two of the headliners' younger members.