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Sunday, March 1, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 20.0° F  Fair
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Kick winter to the curb with these 40 touring pop concerts in Madison
Spring awakening
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Now that the days are getting a tad longer and warmer, you can put a bit of your heat-and-electricity budget toward something truly hot and electrifying: live music by some of the most exciting touring acts in the business. Here are several of the season's most promising visitors, who'll play the same stages as legends like bluesman Robert Cray (Feb. 11, Barrymore Theatre), cowpunk Alejandro Escovedo (April 1, High Noon Saloon) and karaoke favorites Chicago (April 28, Overture Center).

Madison's concert calendar bulks up as fans start shedding their long johns, so look for additional shows at as winter melts into spring. Bonus: You'll find a selection of videos from the acts themselves in this story.

Cate Le Bon
Jan. 24, Frequency
This Welsh singer hypnotizes audiences with her warm voice, foreign-language lyrics and '60s Mod aesthetic. On 2013's Mug Music, she serves up edgy laments and instrumental performances that traverse late-1990s twee-pop territory and the hallowed grounds of '70s proto-punk.

Zeds Dead
Jan. 24, Orpheum Theater
The Canadian duo play booming electronic music that blends elements of electro house, hip-hop, glitch and dubstep. Put on your dancing shoes -- or your most club-worthy snow boots -- and succumb to the power of the bass.

Bad Suns
Jan. 26, Frequency
Hints of Elvis Costello and the Cure emerge in this young band's melodies, which pay homage to records singer Christo Bowman listened to with his dad while growing up. Though the vocals on the single "Cardiac Arrest" will perk up your ears, its rhythmic groove will burrow into your brain.

Patty Griffin
Jan. 29, High Noon Saloon
The singer-songwriter extraordinaire is touring her "lost" album, Silver Bell, which was recorded 13 years ago but never officially released. Freshly mixed and beautifully polished, it includes concert favorites such as "Truth #2" and "Top of the World."

Damien Jurado
Jan. 30, Frequency
Though Jurado's best known for his atmospheric, folk-leaning material, he was "discovered" by the singer of '90s emo act Sunny Day Real Estate, who connected him to revered indie-rock label Sub Pop. He later moved to Secretly Canadian, which is about to release Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son.

Josh Ritter
Feb. 5, Stoughton Opera House
Though the author and singer brought 2013's Beast in Its Tracks to town last year, its romantic tales and witty wordplay are worth another listen near Valentine's Day.

Jason Isbell
Feb. 7, Barrymore Theatre
Though you'll also want to catch the country-fried alt-rock of Drive-By Truckers (March 28, Barrymore Theatre), don't miss their former guitarist's solo act. The focus of the show will be Southeastern, a new album filled with spare arrangements and lots of emotion.

Kacey Musgraves
Feb. 8, Barrymore Theatre
The Nashville Star alum's Same Trailer Different Park hit number one on the Billboard country chart last year, after her first four releases failed to make a dent. With feisty lyrics like "When the straight and narrow/Gets a little too straight/Roll up a joint...and follow your arrow," she should be a real crowd pleaser.

Neutral Milk Hotel
Feb. 8, Orpheum Theater
Fans have long postulated that this psych-folk band's gorgeous 1998 release, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, is a concept album about Anne Frank. The crew of musicians that recorded that LP reunited for this tour, which means that songs like "Holland, 1945" will be in tip-top shape should they appear on the set list.

Man Man
Feb. 10, High Noon Saloon
The Philly band's 2013 album, On Oni Pond, didn't crack the Billboard 200 like their previous two releases, but its unusual combination of Balkan brass and bossa nova beats is pure bliss, especially if you're in the mood for dancing.

Com Truise
Feb. 15, UW Union South Sett
After cutting his teeth as a drum-n-bass DJ, this artist made his act more "contemporary" by infusing it with 1980s synthesizer conventions and spoonerizing the name of Top Gun's leading man. Expect a crowd of '90s babies, plus a few folks who remember the '80s and just can't get enough.

The Wild Feathers
Feb. 15, Majestic Theatre
This band don't bother to invent a clever name for their style. They focus on making rock that stands the test of time while channeling the heritage of their Nashville home.

Yonder Mountain String Band
Feb. 15, Orpheum Theater
A popular act at outdoor festivals, this progressive-bluegrass act should make the Orpheum feel like a campsite in August.

Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks
Feb. 19, High Noon Saloon
Indie rock might not exist without Malkmus and his band Pavement, whose fun 1994 single "Cut Your Hair" became an anthem when moody fare by Nirvana and Pearl Jam ruled the rock world. At this show, he and his current band will dig into their catchy new album, Wig Out at Jagbags.

Dropkick Murphys
Feb. 21, Orpheum Theater
The beloved Celtic punk band has no qualms about celebrating St. Patrick's Day early, especially if there's Wisconsin beer involved. The gang should have a bigger following than ever thanks to their support of local workers during the 2011 Capitol protests and their 2013 album, Signed and Sealed in Blood, whose sing-along anthems make any day feel like a holiday.

Feb. 22, UW Union South Sett
Influenced by '90s alt-rockers like the Smashing Pumpkins, this Chicago-based duo make a type of garage rock that's more accessible -- and just as enjoyable -- as the psychedelic variety so many California bands have embraced recently.

Feb. 22, High Noon Saloon
A wonderful, whimsical indie-pop act deserves a spot-on description. The New York Times nailed it in a four-word review of the band's 2010 CMJ Fest performance: "luscious, luminous, lilting lullabies."

Richard Thompson
Feb. 22, Barrymore Theatre
Known for his mastery of "pick and fingers" guitar playing, Thompson is an artist you should really see at a solo acoustic show like this one. Though he might not play a lot of material from 2013's Electric, he's likely to perform a couple of originals others have popularized, such as "Wall of Death" (recorded by R.E.M. in the mid-1990s) and "Dimming of the Day" (a favorite of Bonnie Raitt).

Nicole Atkins
Feb. 23, High Noon Saloon
One of this powerhouse singer's YouTube fans described her as "Roy Orbison as a chick, fronting a band of elves." See if you agree when she belts out epic tearjerkers like "The Way It Is."

Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears
Feb. 26, High Noon Saloon
"Come to My Party" isn't just a funky new track by this bluesy soul group; it's an order. Enamored of both James Brown and Howlin' Wolf, with showmanship to match, this act will get you moving in ways you never thought possible.

Cloud Cult
March 1, Barrymore Theatre
After several intense years of child rearing, film scoring and tree hugging, Craig Minowa and his arty pop band have created a new live LP. They'll play an acoustic set and an electric one to welcome this bundle of sonic joy.

Pink Martini
March 6, Overture Center's Capitol Theater
This talented mini-orchestra's cocktail of pop, jazz and classical music has only grown better with age -- 20 years, to be exact. They've performed with ensembles ranging from the L.A. Philharmonic to the Tonight Show band, but nothing beats a local show topped off with "Smile," the Charlie Chaplin song that closes their latest album, Get Happy.

Xiu Xiu
March 6, Frequency
The shape-shifting project of singer-songwriter Jamie Stewart, Xiu Xiu captivated art-rock fans and lots of East Coast scenesters with 2004's Fabulous Muscles, which spawned the memorably creepy "I Luv the Valley OH!" Their music is poised for a renaissance if preview tracks from the forthcoming LP Angel Guts: Red Classroom are any indication.

The Naked and Famous
March 11, Majestic Theatre
This New Zealand-based electronic-pop band are rarely naked in public, but they're well on their way to becoming famous. Their 2010 single "Punching in a Dream" was featured on The Vampire Diaries, and "Young Blood" brought an MGMT-like vibe to MTV's Awkward. This tour centers on their 2013 release, In Rolling Waves.

Rebirth Brass Band
March 13, UW Union South Sett
This may well be the party of the year. In addition to playing a Mardi Gras-season concert, the New Orleans natives will celebrate 30 years together when they bring a fresh crop of funk, rock and jazz to the Isthmus Jazz Series. Flea, Red Hot Chili Peppers' jazz-loving bassist, has praised the band's live set on Twitter, calling it "hard as hell" and "free as a ray of light."

Punch Brothers
March 26, Overture Center's Capitol Theater
Founded in 2006 by former Nickel Creek member Chris Thile, this group honors the bluegrass and classical traditions with mandolin, fiddle and banjo. They've since learned how to use a guitar wail and a bass rumble to channel the tone and theatrics of their favorite punk and metal bands.

Future Islands
March 27, High Noon Saloon
The Baltimore-based synth-pop band just signed to 4AD, the home of such greats as the National and Grimes. Plus their previous album, On the Water, bowled over critics with calming rhythms, sweet melodies and heartbreak-themed lyrics that are both youthful and wise.

April 8, High Noon Saloon

This band of Londoners use a trumpet, saxophone, musical saw and more to tie together wispy, lyrics-driven folk and jagged, rhythm-powered post-punk. Unlike the Wild Feathers, they aim to entertain with their self-descriptions, branding their 2013 The Sea EP "Space Opera Meets Spaghetti Western."

April 8, Majestic Theatre
This 35-year-old band of Tuareg musicians are the definition of persistence. They returned to their native Mali in the early '90s after spending more than a decade in the Algerian desert to avoid the gunfire surrounding their home. Then in 2011, their LP Tassili won the Grammy for best world music album.

Keb' Mo'
April 9, Barrymore Theatre
Though he got his start playing steel drums in a calypso band, this three-time Grammy winner became an accomplished guitarist at a young age. Now he gives Delta blues a contemporary twist with elements of folk and jazz.

Stephen 'Ragga' Marley
April 26, Barrymore Theatre
Though there are lots of other reggae-influenced acts on this spring's concert calendar, including Iration (Feb. 19, Majestic Theatre) and Rebelution (April 11, Majestic Theatre), none is Bob Marley's son. Whether he fuses hip-hop beats with dancehall or performs some of his dad's hits, Marley's zeal for performing is bound to captivate. For another ode to a famous musical family, hit the Barrymore on Feb. 17 to see Dweezil Zappa's band play Frank Zappa's 1974 live album, Roxy & Elsewhere.

The 1975
May 3, Majestic Theatre
Formed in Manchester, England, this group of rising stars blend synth-pop and alt-rock with smooth, R&B-style vocals, black-and-white visuals and ethereal production flourishes.

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