It hardly gets any more Capital-M "Madison" than this weekend, a three-day sampler of the city's essential flavors. The calendar includes: the Food for Thought Festival; talks by Jill Richardson and Ralph Nader; a fifth birthday party for Overture; Tales from the Dork Side by Broom Street; the Monroe Street Festival and a Big Top Chautauqua; and, live music by Cory Chisel & the Wandering Sons, Built to Spill, the Pro Arte Quartet, City Center, Killdozer, the Oakwood Chamber Players, Mike Gordon, Amit Peled, ...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead, Joshua Radin, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Sleepy Sun, and The Weakerthans. Break out the pink flamingos.
NOTEWORTHY: Sonny Liston KOs Floyd Patterson to claim heavyweight belt, 1962.
BIRTHDAYS: Spanish filmmaker on the verge Pedro Almodovar, 1951; actress Heather Locklear, 1961.
Food for Thought Festival
Wisconsin Union Theater, 3:30 pm. Also Saturday, Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., 8 am-1:30 pm
The annual food fiesta explores ways to make eating more healthy, sustainable and -- last but not least -- enjoyable. Friday's panel discussion features food writer extraordinaire Michael Pollan, innovative dairy farmer John Vrieze and UW Health writer Susan Lampert Smith. Saturday's events include a talk by Pollan, exhibitors, cooking demos and kids' activities.
Cory Chisel & the Wandering Sons
Majestic Theatre, 7 pm
The Appleton-based neo-folk outfit hits town again with tunes that are one part Ryan Adams, one part Bruce Springsteen and 100% homegrown. With Joshua James.
Rainbow Bookstore, 7 pm
The food activist and founder of the blog La Vida Locavore discusses her book Recipe for America: Why Our Food System Is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It. That's a topic as zeitgeisty as zeitgeisty can be.
Tales from the Dork Side
Broom Street Theater, 8 pm. Also Saturday (8 pm) & Sunday (2 pm), Sept. 26 & 27
Willy Street's merry band presents a sequel to playwright Brian Wild's 2007 Dork Side of the Moon. This episode finds the heroes in a haunted mansion. Broad comedy presumably ensues.
Built to Spill
Barrymore Theatre, 8 pm
The band recently took part in Pitchfork's "Write the Night" series, in which fans developed their set list for the evening. On their visit to Madison, they'll be making their own list, but with lots of new songs off their forthcoming There Is No Enemy. Disco Doom opens.
Pro Arte Quartet
Mills Hall, UW Humanities Building, 8 pm
The university's resident foursome was founded back in 1912, as the court quartet to Belgium's Queen Elizabeth, and it moved to Madison in 1940. In this concert the gang kicks off the fall season with some Brahms, Beethoven and Grieg. Guest violist Victoria Chiang joins in.
UW Memorial Union Terrace, 9:30 pm
Fred Thomas is best known for exploring the borders of lo-fi pop with Saturday Looks Good to Me, but in City Center he and his compatriots play hide-and-seek with melodies, submerging them and rescuing them from a wonderful haze of sonic fragments. With Peaking Lights.
High Noon Saloon, 9:30 pm
Who says Seattle spawned the grunge movement? Madison's own Killdozer did as much as many Rain City bands to foster the angst and distorted guitars of the era, as well as its jet-black sense of humor. Killdozer reunites for an evening to bring back memories and perhaps start a movement anew. With Mannequin Men and the Urinals.
NOTEWORTHY: Beatles release Abbey Road, 1969.
BIRTHDAYS: Aussie singer Olivia Newton-John, 1948; tennis champion Serena Williams, 1981.
Overture Center Fifth Anniversary Celebration
Overture Center, 10 am
Can it have been five years already? Check out the Rhapsodie Quartet, organist Sam Hutchison, Children's Theatre of Madison, Kanopy Dance and more at this birthday confab.
Oakwood Chamber Players
UW Arboretum Visitor Center, 1 & 4 pm
The group helps observe the Arboretum's 75th anniversary (and the ensemble's 25th anniversary) with works about the great outdoors: Douglas Hill's "Scene from Sand County" and Rodney Rogers "Iridescent Prairies."
Barrymore Theatre, 8 pm
Gordon's more than just the bass of Phish: He's quite accomplished at piano, percussion, guitar and harmonica, and he's into calypso, bluegrass and Jewish music in addition to the jam rock for which he's so well known. Find out just how well-rounded he is during this solo gig with jazz-fusion giants Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey.
Farley's House of Pianos, 8 pm
The Israeli cellist, who performed last January with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, is joined by pianist Eli Kalman in music of Prokofiev, Shostakovich and Rachmaninoff. The program is called -- what else? -- "Russian Evening."
...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead
Majestic Theatre, 9 pm
The Austin-bred, Brooklyn-based art-rock ensemble boasts not one, not two, but three drummers, and all are put to good use, especially on this year's The Century of Self. With the Secret Machines and Invade Rome.
High Noon Saloon, 9 pm
Radin walks the path of whispery, autumn folk-pop that Nick Drake and Elliott Smith explored before him, except it's taken a more commercial route, finding its way onto shows such as American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance. With Gary Jules and Amber Rubarth.
NOTEWORTHY: Warren Commission Report released, 1964.
BIRTHDAYS: World speed-skating & cycling champion and NCAA cross-country ski champion Beth Heiden Reid, 1959; Oscar-winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow, 1972.
Monroe Street Festival
1700-2600 blocks of Monroe Street, 10 am-5 pm
Time once again to pay tribute to the great west-side thoroughfare. There'll be sales by the street's boutiques, the requisite fun for the kids and entertainment by the Black Lights, the Cashel Dennehy Irish Dancers, the Wadoma African Drumming Troupe and the New Breed.
Room 2650 UW Humanities Building, noon
The activist, former presidential candidate and 1977 Saturday Night Live host discusses his provocatively titled book Only the Super Rich Can Save Us. Expect massive demonstrations by former Corvair owners.
Big Top Chautauqua
Middleton-Cross Plains Area Performing Arts Center, 7 pm
The chautauqua movement isn't what it used to be -- it went out with the Bull Moose Party -- but the legacy lives on up in Bayfield, Wis., where the Big Top Chautauqua's original shows celebrate Great Lakes culture and other stuff. Tonight's performance is called "Best of the Big Top."
Michael Franti & Spearhead
Wisconsin Union Theater, 8 pm
Franti and his band don't just make hip-hop out of rhymes and beats: They craft it out of jazz, folk, funk, reggae and plenty of rock 'n' roll, coming up with the radio hit "Say Hey (I Love You)" as of late. Read more about the group in this week's Tour Stop. Trevor Hall opens.
Frequency, 8 pm
"Let's get weird" may be the band's motto -- and the phrase fans use to begin the group's shows -- but their excellent vocal harmonies are likely to please lovers of both experimental rock and straight-ahead pop. With Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound and Frail By Design.
High Noon Saloon, 8:30 pm
Make a lovely fall evening even finer with a bit of maple-leaf rock rustled by a gust of punk and fronted by a former member of Propagandhi. Fellow Canucks Rock Plaza Central kick off the show with some breezy folk-pop.