Here is this week's critics' choice calendar. The Guide provides an extended listing of events in and around Madison.
Dane County Fair
Alliant Energy Center, through July 20
Check out the rides, the livestock, the circus acts and the food you probably shouldn't eat but will anyway. Friday features a roller derby bout in Exhibition Hall (6 pm) and alt-rock from Wayland, Gemini Syndrome and Stars in Stereo on the main stage (7 pm). The music lineup also includes country band Madison County on Saturday (7 pm) and a half-dozen Spanish-language bands on Sunday (noon).
Madison Early Music Festival
Luther Memorial Church & UW campus venues, through July 19
This year's early music extravaganza centers on Italian works from the 1300s through the 1600s. In addition to lectures and workshops, there are lots of performances, including the Handel Aria Competition (UW Music Hall, July 17, 7:30 pm) and an all-festival concert featuring musical settings of Petrarch's poem series Trionfi (Luther Memorial Church, July 19, 7:30 pm).
Maxwell Street Days
State Street, 8 am-6 pm. Also Saturday (8 am-6 pm) & Sunday (10 am-5 pm), July 19 & 20
Though it's July, it will feel a bit like Black Friday on State Street this weekend. The contents of many shops spill onto the sidewalks for three full days, tempting passersby with some of the biggest markdowns of the year.
James Madison Park, 4:30-9 pm
Check out this outdoor art show in a beautiful lakeside park, with music by Ucarri Maze (4:30 pm), Coby Ashpis (6:15 pm), Red Rose (7:30 pm) and DJ Izhai (8:30 pm).
Strings & the Wild Things
Henry Vilas Zoo, 5:30-8 pm (concert at 7 pm)
The Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra provides the music, and the critters provide a touch of the wild at this event that includes free train and carousel rides for the kiddies and a cash bar for the more mature.
Live on King Street with tUnE-yArDs, Speedy Ortiz and Dosh
King Street, 6 pm
This summer's first Live on King Street performance features the drum loops and ukulele beats of Merrill Garbus, who performs as tuNe yArDs with electric bassist Neil Brenner. (See Tour Stop.) They'll be joined by "snack rockers" Speedy Ortiz and multi-instrumental electronic performer Dosh. DJ Nick Nice provides dance-friendly tracks between the live sets.
Bonnie & Clyde
Bartell Theatre, 7:30 pm. Also Saturday & Thursday, July 19 & 24, 7:30 pm. Through July 26
Music Theatre of Madison presents the tuneful tale of America's most notorious and romantic bank-robbing couple. Expect pencil skirts, fedoras and hails of bullets.
Elect More Variety Shows!
Broom Street Theater, 8 pm. Also Thursday & Saturday, July 17 & 19, 8 pm. Through July 26
The group that staged Voices of a People's History last summer return to present satirical plays, songs and poems, some of which lambaste Madison culture and politics.
Both Kinds: Madison Country-Western Music Festival
High Noon Saloon, 8:30 pm
What better venue than the High Noon for a Wisconsin-bred country and western music fest? The North Country Drifters, a local band specializing in '30s-era western swing, headline. With Earl Foss & the Brown Derby, JP Cyr & His Radio City Wranglers and New Hiram Kings.
Hip-hop vs. EDM Showdown with Chris Labella
Inferno, 9 pm
Higher Education Records and the Madison Electro Collective present this face-off featuring Chris Labella's fusion of hip-hop with blues, jazz and grunge riffs. With Glow Mechanics, Higher Education, Kenobi, Dub Borski and McCoy's Boys.
Isthmus Paddle & Portage
James Madison Park, Capitol Square & Olin Park, 9 am (registration 7-8:30 am)
Dust off your canoe and find a seaworthy costume for this zany race across Lake Monona and Lake Mendota, which also features a portage through the Capitol Square. Boat drop-off at James Madison Park starts at 6:30 am, the race starts around 9 am, and there will be a bash near the finish line at Olin Park as paddlers complete the competition. Feel-good bonus: A portion of the proceeds go to the Clean Lakes Alliance.
Ward-Brodt Music Showcase
Ward-Brodt Music Hall, 10 am-4 pm
The instrument shop hosts a day of free outdoor performances, including sets by Project M finalist Katie Scullin, Madison Area Music Award winner Gabe Burdulis and versatile singer-songwriter Lucas Cates.
Strollin' Monroe Street
Various venues on Monroe Street, 4 pm-midnight
The Greater Madison Jazz Consortium's second jazz-fueled bar crawl heads to the near west side. A spoken-word showcase featuring Flowpoetry, Rob Dz, Heymiss Progress and the Lucas Koehler Combo should give the Monroe Street Library a retro coffeehouse vibe starting at 4 pm. Cocktails enter the picture at 5 pm, when saxophonist Clay Lyons and Standard & Pours perform at Brocach. Other highlights include Brazilian act Grupo Balanca at Baci, vocalist Gerri DiMaggio with pianist Paul Hastil at HotelRed, and gypsy swing group Harmonious Wail, who wrap up the night at Brasserie V.
RedZone, 8 pm
This standup showcase features appearances by six comedians, including Antonio Aguilar, winner of Milwaukee's popular Snark Madness Comedy Tournament, and Mike Schmidt, who was crowned Madison's Funniest Comic in 2011.
Jolly Bob's, 10 pm
This underground house producer has reemerged on Chicago's club scene after a four-year hiatus. Born in Cuba and raised in Miami, he built a following in Chicago in the '90s and belongs to the city's House Preservation Society collective. With DJs Lovecraft and Wyatt Agard.
Bartell Theatre, 10:30 pm
Music Theatre of Madison pairs talented local singers with roles they'd never get cast in and songs they'd never be asked to sing for an audience. Previous years' results have been both impressive and hilarious. (The show is free, so consider sticking around after Bonnie & Clyde.)
Sinking Suns, The Book-Burners
Mickey's Tavern, 10 pm
Madison's Sinking Suns aim straight for the gut with two new records they'll introduce at this show, including the solid Bad Luck, Tragedy and Revenge. The Book-Burners, a punk band from Chicago, perform material that resembles a Dischord Records release from the '90s without sounding preciously retro. With Acoustic Guillotine.
High Noon Saloon, 7:30 pm
The long-reigning king of surf guitar cracked up legendary guitar maker Leo Fender by playing one of the first right-handed Stratocasters upside-down and left-handed. But many of his innovations have had a lasting impact on popular music, from his shiver-inducing reverb to his fascination with mystical-sounding Eastern scales. Catch him at what could be one of his last performances. With the Revomatics.
Caravan of Thieves
Frequency, 8:30 pm
This globetrotting act gives gypsy jazz a twist with entrancing vocal harmonies and a theatrical presentation style that incorporates snaps, claps and audience sing-alongs.
Count This Penny
McKee Farms Park, Fitchburg, 7 pm
Madison-based folk act Count This Penny has been featured on A Prairie Home Companion. Expect songs from their excellent 2012 album Pitchman at this free show.
Brink Lounge, 8 pm
The daring and sophisticated jazz vocalist, who learned her craft in Madison, releases her first studio album in seven years, My Favorite Color.
Frequency, 9 pm
This dreampop band from Brooklyn, N.Y., formed while bonding over Weezer's Blue Album. They're likely to perform songs from their March 2014 release, Cruel Runnings. With the Griswolds and Finish Ticket.
Kristin A. Oakley
A Room of One's Own, 6:30 pm
The Madison native and UW alum reads from her debut novel, Carpe Diem, Illinois, about a town whose residents have quietly shut down the local schools.
Concerts on the Square
Capitol Square, 7 pm
Pius Cheung's marimba stylings take center stage at this al fresco Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra concert. Program highlights include Dvorak's breathtaking "New World" Symphony and Gershwin's ravishing "Rhapsody in Blue."
A Room of One's Own, 6:30 pm
The author of My Family and Other Hazards shares stories from her memoir of growing up in small-town Wisconsin, where the family business is a mini golf course. Sounds like the perfect summer read.
Frequency, 7 pm
Mack is a folk humorist and, according to her promo, all-around weirdo. You may have heard her on The Bob and Tom Show or Marc Maron's WTF podcast; she's also appeared on Comedy Central's Live at Gotham and NBC's Last Comic Standing.
Ancora Coffee-King Street, 8 pm
Though Chris Porterfield's folk-leaning act first gained attention through Bon Iver's Justin Vernon, it has made big strides over the past two years, in part with an NPR feature on the 2013 single "I Am Not Waiting Anymore."
Segredo, 8:30 pm Segredo debuts its swanky new 21-and-over lounge, Liquid, with an EDM show by the artist who pioneered the "stutter edit" technique, in which a producer takes a fragment of sound and repeats it rhythmically (see Nightlife). With Christian Burns and Antics.
Daniel and the Lion
High Noon Saloon, 8:30 pm
This Baraboo band have been touring with Counting Crows all summer, but they'll headline this show with their emotive, heartfelt pop. With Cameron McGill and Corey Hart.
SummerJam featuring Fringe Character
Majestic Theatre, 9 pm
Composer and producer Fringe Character describes his funky electronic creations as "nuelectrosoulhop." It's much easier to dance to than it is to say.