Take advantage of the late winter thaw and hit the town this weekend for just about everything under the sun. The fun includes: Pheasant Fest; productions of Candide, Proof, Love Is in the Air, and Goodnight Moon & The Runaway Bunny; an art opening featuring Dagny Quisling Myrah and a new program by Kanopy Dance; Kids Rock! and a WORT benefit; along with tons move live music from the MSO, Leo Kottke, Los Campesinos!, Rhett Miller, Jessica Simpson with Rascal Flatts, Five Times August, The Takebacks with El Valiente, Shanghai Party Boss, and Ben Taylor.
Noteworthy: Apollo astronaut Alan B. Shepard tees off on the moon, 1971.
Birthdays: Semi-retired NBC News anchor and Greatest Generation author Tom Brokaw, 1940; howling Guns n'Roses banshee Axl Rose, 1962.
Alliant Energy Center's Exhibition Hall, 1-9 pm. Also Saturday (9 am-6 pm) & Sunday (10 am-5 pm), Feb. 7 & 8
Pheasant season sure feels like a long ways off, doesn't it? But if you're keen to get cracking on everything related to shooting birds, this expo is for you, with its vendor displays, seminars (representative title: "Pheasant Hunting 101") and the irresistible Bird Dog Parade.
Dagny Quisling Myrah: Night & Day
Grace Chosy Gallery, 6 pm
Inspired by Edward Hopper, the Madison artist painted oils of local sights (including the Bartell Theatre and, fabulously, the record store Strictly Discs) in both day and evening light. Check them out at this reception.
Wisconsin Union Theater, 7:30 pm. Also Sunday, Feb. 8, 2 pm
Four Seasons Theatre presents a concert version of Leonard Bernstein's musical, which flopped when it opened in 1956 but endures, thanks to successful revivals and that indelible score. The show -- featuring lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, among others -- follows the unflappable hero of Voltaire's 1759 novel and features chorus and orchestra.
Kanopy Dance Company
Overture Center's Promenade Hall, 7:30 pm. Also Saturday (8 pm) & Sunday (2:30 pm), Feb. 7 & 8
The resident company of Overture Center presents Dark Nights: Miserere; for the refugees of the world, a concert of three dances including works by choreographers Lisa Thurrell and Robert Cleary.
Madison Symphony Orchestra
Overture Hall, 7:30 pm. Also Saturday (8 pm) & Sunday (2:30 pm), Feb. 7 & 8
John DeMain conducts the ensemble in "A Feast of Beethoven" with three works by Bonn's finest: "Leonore Overture No. 3," "Piano Concerto No. 3" and "Symphony No. 7." On the 88 keys the concerto features Russian Olga Kern, who eight years ago notched a gold medal in the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition.
Bartell Theatre, 7:30 pm. Also Thursday (7:30 pm), Saturday (7:30 pm) & Sunday (3 pm), Feb. 5, 7 & 8
Madison Theatre Guild presents Robert Auburn's Tony-winning play about a young woman who confronts the legacy of her father, a brilliant and troubled mathematician.
Barrymore Theatre, 8 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.
UW Memorial Union Rathskeller, 9 pm
When they're not dreaming up silly titles such as "You! Me! Dancing!" and "You Throw Parties, We Throw Knives," the seven members of Los Campesinos! are putting a witty spin on literature, Facebook minidramas and their homeland of Wales. Critics at Popmatters and Pitchfork included the group's debut album on their best-of-2008 lists. Titus Andronicus opens.
Love Is in the Air
Bartell Theatre, 8 pm. Also Saturday, Feb. 7, 8 pm
Strollers Theatre's John-Stuart Fauquet put together this romantic revue, which combines songs from popular musicals and literary excerpts. The show is a fundraiser for Strollers, and the luscious hors d'oeuvres and champagne at intermission should put everyone in the mood for love.
WORT Benefit with Things Fall Apart, Droids Attack, the Skintones
High Noon Saloon, 10 pm Here's your chance to mosh for a good cause. Punk -- especially the hardcore variety -- is the thread that binds the latest participants in WORT's benefit concert series.
Noteworthy: Switzerland grants women the right to vote, 1971.
Birthdays: U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), 1935; actor-comedian Chris Rock, 1966.
High Noon Saloon, 1 pm
Just because you're little doesn't mean you can't hang out in the grownups' nightclub -- well, this afternoon, anyway. Bring the young'uns to this fundraiser for Madison Children's Museum, which features entertainment by the Kenland Band, juggler nonpareil Truly Remarkable Loon, Kids' Gomeroke and more. All this, and pizza.
Goodnight Moon & The Runaway Bunny
Overture Center's Capitol Theater, 1 pm
The classic, much-loved children's books are staged by Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia. Do you think they'll do an encore of Goodnight Bush?
Majestic Theatre, 9 pm
Though he's best known as the front man of the Old 97's, singer and guitarist Rhett Miller also makes tightly crafted pop albums that have won lots of critical acclaim yet managed to escape the limelight. Read more about Miller and his forthcoming album in this week's Tour Stop. Joe Pug opens.
Jessica Simpson, Rascal Flatts
Kohl Center, 8 pm
If you don't know who Jessica Simpson is, you've done a stellar job of avoiding the tabloids for the past 10 years. She visits the Kohl Center to promote her 2008 album, Do You Know, along with country three-piece Rascal Flatts, which has been peppering the Billboard Hot Country and Adult Contemporary charts with hits since 2000.
Five Times August
UW Memorial Union Rathskeller, 9 pm
The music of Dallas-based singer-songwriter Brad Skistimas, a.k.a. Five Times August, is tailor-made for college-kid reality TV shows like Laguna Beach and The Real World. Hear it live in its natural environment, then hang out with Skistimas at a meet-and-greet event following the show.
The Takebacks, El Valiente
Crystal Corner Bar, 9:30 pm
If you're not sold on the talent of the local music scene, this bill's likely to convert you. Post-punk meets dub in the world of the Takebacks, El Valiente engineers beautiful post-rock experiments, and the Hussy warms things up with a noisy, messy and peppy spin on garage punk.
Shanghai Party Boss
Annex, 10 pm
If the spastic dancing doesn't crack you up, at least a few of the band's lyrics are bound to get you laughing -- and get the party started right for a Saturday night. Also playing: Keef Unplugged.
Noteworthy: Anna Nicole Smith dies, 2007.
Birthdays: Actress Mary Steenburgen, 1953; Mötley Crüe vocalist Vince Neil, 1961.
High Noon Saloon, 8 pm Yes, he's the son of James Taylor and Carly Simon. But Ben Taylor adds elements of hip-hop and rock to free-flowing tunes that often stray far from the pleasant pop-folk of his famous folks. With Schuyler Fisk.