Madison revels in one season while looking to the next with the Garden Expo and the Midwinter Midwest Gypsy Swing Festival this weekend. The calendar also includes: the opening of Houdini: Art and Magic at MMoCA and Darwin Day at the UW; standup by Demetri Martin; a reception for Madison's Poets Laureate; a production of Bunnicula; a show by The Peking Acrobats; performances by the Madison Savoyards, Oakwood Chamber Players, Xtring Quartet, and Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble; a "Rock 'n' Roll High School" tribute concert; the United Way Bluegrass and Cliff Frederiksen benefits; and, more live music from Girlyman, Marco Benevento, Lost Lander, F. Stokes, Cornmeal, Heartless Bastards, and Corey Smith. The first anniversary of the opening protests at the Wisconsin Capitol are also commemorated, with rallies, benefits, and a book reading by Dennis Weidemann.
NOTEWORTHY: House of Representatives passes Civil Rights Act, 1964.
Alliant Energy Center's Exhibition Hall, 4-9 pm. Also Saturday (9 am-6 pm) & Sunday (10 am-4 pm), Feb. 11 & 12
Hard as it is to believe right now, spring may come one day. You can prepare at this Wisconsin Public Television fundraiser, which features demonstrations, workshops and exhibitors.
Houdini: Art and Magic
Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, through May 13
This traveling exhibit gathers historical artifacts of the great magician's life, as well as works by contemporary artists (Deborah Oropallo, Raymond Pettibon) influenced by him. Curator Brooke Kamin Rapaport speaks at tonight's reception (6-9 pm).
High Noon Saloon, 7 pm
Inspired by the harmonies of the Mamas & the Papas, this quartet weave their voices into a folk-rock tapestry the Village Voice has labeled "really good, really unexpected and really different."
First Unitarian Society, 7:30 pm
The very model of a Gilbert and Sullivan repertory group, the Savoyards presents its annual winter concert of the duo's loping melodies and improbable rhymes -- called, this year, "How Quaint the Ways of Paradox."
Midwinter Midwest Gypsy Swing Festival
Brink Lounge, 7:30 pm. Also Saturday, Feb. 11, 7 pm
Gypsy-swing outfit Harmonious Wail have lured some of their favorite confreres for a rollicking two-day festival. Friday night's festivities include jam sessions, performances by Swing Gitan and Hot Club of Detroit; Saturday's docket features a set by local notables Caravan Gypsy Swing Ensemble.
Redamte Coffee House, 8 pm
This keyboard wizard specializes in tickling the ivories of Hammond organs and Wurlitzer electric pianos, whose sounds bend and loop in his indie-rock project with drummer Joe Russo. This show features works for solo piano.
Rock 'n' Roll High School: A Tribute to Punk
Majestic Theatre, 9 pm
Bands including Direct Hit, the Moguls, the Gusto, Tugg and Droids Attack morph into classic punk acts the Descendents, NOFX, Screeching Weasel, Rancid and Black Flag. With DJ Schnitzengruben.
UW Memorial Union Rathskeller, 9:30 pm
The critics at Rolling Stone and Spin have been buzzing about this Portland, Ore., folk-rock quartet, whose melodies brim with love letters to the Pacific Northwest's majestic scenery. With Paper Thick Walls.
Barrymore Theatre, 11 pm
The stand-up comedian, former Daily Show correspondent and sometime movie star presents a night of non sequiturs and loopy drawings. The early show is sold out, but there's still room for you night owls (see interview).
NOTEWORTHY: Nelson Mandela freed after 27 years in South African prison, 1990.
Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, 10 am-2 pm
The UW throws its annual salute to English naturalist Charles Darwin, who propounded the theory of evolution, which is still antagonizing Texans. There are learning stations for the kids and talks by experts.
Week of Action
State Capitol, 11 am-1 pm
Today's rally kicks off a week of activities looking back at last winter's massive downtown protests. A benefit concert with Richard Davis assists protesters in their legal defense (East Side Club, Sunday, Feb. 12, 4:30-10 pm), and there's a Valentine's march from UW's Library Mall to the Capitol (Tuesday, Feb. 14, 11 am), plus much more. Visit preview or facebook.com/oneyearstrongerwi for details.
Poets Laureate reception
South Madison Library, 1:30 pm
Fabu steps down and Verse Wisconsin editors Sarah Busse and Wendy Vardaman step up as the city's official versifiers. There are readings by Fabu, Andrea Musher, Bruce Dethlefsen and Hibiscus Poetry Collective.
Overture Center's Playhouse, 2:30 & 6:30 pm. Also Sunday, Feb. 12, 2:30 pm
Children's Theater of Madison presents a theatrical adaptation of the unconventional children's stories, in which a family's pets conclude that a rabbit is a vampire.
Oakwood Chamber Players
Oakwood Village-West auditorium, 7 pm. Also UW Arboretum visitor center, Sunday, Feb. 12, 1:30 pm
The local ensemble performs a concert in two locations; on the program are Schumann's Piano Quartet in E flat and Fauré's Piano Quartet in C.
Stoughton Opera House, 7:30 pm
Using instruments like bandola, tiple, mandolin and violin, the Xtring Quartet melts together the Colombian folk tradition and Western classical-music tradition to make a whole new flavor of ear candy.
UW Union South Sett, 9 pm
The globetrotting hip-hop artist returns to his Madison stomping grounds to premiere a seven-song EP, Love Always, which was recorded here -- and in Paris and L.A.
Majestic Theatre, 9:30 pm
Fusing bluegrass and roots music with lightning-fast tempos and a double dose of improvisational flair, the members of this jam band have won numerous fans at high-profile fests like Wakarusa and Bonnaroo. With the Giving Tree Band.
High Noon Saloon, 9:30 pm
Propelled by front woman Erika Wennerstrom's powerful, primal voice and an expanded lineup of instrumentalists, these Austin, Texas, rockers highlight tunes from their eclectic new album, Arrow, three days before its official release. With Hacienda and Little Legend.
NOTEWORTHY: Painter Grant Wood dies, 1942.
United Way Bluegrass Benefit
Barrymore Theatre, 1 pm
Dust off your banjo and tune up your mandolin: The Barrymore's 11th annual benefit for the United Way features performances by the Cork 'n Bottle String Band, Sparetime Bluegrass, the Oak Street Ramblers and kid-friendly entertainer David Landau.
A Room of One's Own, 2 pm
Author Weidemann discusses Cut from Plain Cloth, which gathers photographs and stories from last winter's protests at the Capitol.
The Peking Acrobats
Overture Hall, 3 pm
The troupe of gymnasts, jugglers, clowns and cyclists return to amaze us with feats of balance and dexterity, accompanied by a Chinese orchestra.
Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble
Gates of Heaven, 3 pm
Chamber music of the 17th and 18th century is the watchword as members of this local ensemble use period instruments to play compositions by J.S. Bach, Heinrich Schutz, Domenico Gabrielli and more.
Cliff Frederiksen Benefit
Brink Lounge, 5 pm
An epic lineup of local musicians raises money and spirits for jazzman Cliff Frederiksen, who's battling cancer. The bill includes the Stellanovas' Mary Gaines and Chris Wagoner, New Breed Quintet guitarist Louka Patenaude, jazz chanteuse Gerri DiMaggio and many other notables (see preview).
Majestic Theatre, 8 pm
A rising star in Nashville's country music scene, Smith packs his tunes with tales of small towns and wild parties. Live vicariously at this show, which boasts tunes from his latest release, The Broken Record. With Florida-Georgia Line.