April is one of the busiest periods in the Madison arts season, and this weekend starts out the month in style. The calendar includes: the Richard Davis Foundation Bass Conference; a production of Lonestar and performance by Howie Bell; the Easter Hat Parade; a MAMAs benefit; and, more live music by Bill & Bobbie Malone with the Blue State Boys, the Wisconsin Chamber Choir, Enduser, Black Lips, Har Mar Superstar, The Cool Kids, Ben Sollee & Daniel Martin Moore, Rising Gael, Solid Gold, Camera Obscura, and Toubab Krewe with John Brown's Body.
BIRTHDAY: Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Emmylou Harris, 1947.
UW Humanities Building's Mills Hall, 7 pm
UW professor Richard Davis has made Madison a bass mecca. This free concert -- part of his annual bass conference -- features state-of-the-art plucking and bowing by Davis and other nationally known classical and jazz types, including Rufus Reid and Donovan Stokes.
Zor Hall, 575 Zor Shrine Pl., 8 pm
Comedian Bell has been climbing the ladder of laughs for some years, with appearances on BET, Comedy Central and HBO's P. Diddy Presents the Bad Boys of Comedy. With Madison native David Freeman.
827 E. Washington Ave. (former Lussier Teen Center), 8 pm. Also Thursday & Saturday, April 1 & 3, 8 pm
The Bricks Theatre, one of the companies that sprang from the ashes of Madison Repertory Theatre, continues its run of James McLure one-acts with this playlet about three boozing Texas men in a time of war.
Bill & Bobbie Malone with the Blue State Boys
Wil-Mar Center, 8 pm
The Madison-based historian Bill Malone, who literally wrote the book on country music, performs a Texas-tinged set with wife Bobbie. Their sweet harmonies are a local treasure.
Wisconsin Chamber Choir
First Unitarian Society Auditorium, 8 pm
Just in time for Easter, the ensemble presents "St. John Passion," Bach's intense 1724 oratorio. At 7 pm there are opening remarks by Isthmus music critic John W. Barker.
Inferno, 9 pm
The Cincinnati native has taken up residence in Brussels, Belgium, where he's making rambunctious breakcore out of drum-n-bass, hip-hop and even a bit of old-school jungle. He'll bring the mayhem to Madison before kicking off a European tour with braindance and breakcore pioneer X&trick. With Howz Mah Drankin' Tour, Cthulhu.
High Noon Saloon, 9:30 pm
The self-proclaimed "flower-punk" band from Atlanta actually makes a version of garage rock that's spiked with bits of blues, chunks of punk, dabs of doo-wop and a few psychedelic oddities. You may want to pack an umbrella to this show, too, as the band's been known to vomit, pee and explode chickens (fake ones) onstage. With Box Elders and the Hussy.
Har Mar Superstar
Annex, 9:30 pm
After Screamin' Cyn Cyn & the Pons open the show, you'll see that their fancy frontman Shane O'Neill gets at least a little inspiration from Har Mar Superstar. The saucy, R&B-flavored alter ego of singer-songwriter Sean Tillmann doesn't just dance around in his skivvies; he's written songs for Jennifer Lopez and Kelly Osbourne but one-ups both of them with his flair and fabulousness.
NOTEWORTHY: Windy City voters elect Jane M. Byrne as Chicago's first woman mayor, 1979.
Easter Hat Parade
Capitol Square, noon
The annual parade allows you to see and be seen in your fanciest or silliest hat. Kids can make hats beginning at 10 am at Capitol Kids, 8 S. Carroll St. The parade includes live baby farm animals from A-Z farm.
Madison Area Music Association benefit
Scatz, 7 pm
The watchword is hard rock as the MAMAs get some help from a truckload of local bands: Muzzy Luctin, Faces for Radio, Cudasigh, Don Bakken, Motherhive Syndicate, Viscous Circle and Transient.
The Cool Kids
Orpheum Theatre, 7:30 pm
After the Internet hype machine turned Chuck Inglish and Mikey Rocks' single "Black Mags" into a golden opportunity in 2007, they didn't rush into a full-length album. Instead, they released a slew of mixtapes and a well-received EP, The Bake Sale. Their debut album is slated to drop this summer, however, so get a taste of the live version before the hype hits again. With New Boyz.
Ben Sollee & Daniel Martin Moore
Majestic Theatre, 7:30 pm
The Sub Pop labelmates and fellow Kentuckians recently released a new, collaborative album, Dear Companion. With Sollee's distinctively percussive cello playing and Moore's expressive-yet-unpretentious vocals, the release explores the social, spiritual and environmental effects of mountaintop removal coal mining practices in Central Appalachia.
Brink Lounge, 9 pm
This quartet, which blend traditional Celtic music with modern Irish folk-rock, have opened for big names such as Gaelic Storm, and now they are up for a Madison Area Music Award in the world music category. Catch them before they hit the big time.
Annex, 9:30 pm
Their recordings definitely belong in the electro bin, but the Minneapolis-based band tend to belt out lots of rockin' soul numbers when they return to their Madison roots. With Flight, Ridley and DJs the Real Jaguar and Wes 3.
BIRTHDAYS: Literary lioness Maya Angelou, 1928; actor Heath Ledger, 1979.
High Noon Saloon, 8 pm
The Scottish indie-pop band used to get written off as a Belle & Sebastian knockoff, but they've grown into their own identity, especially with the release of 2009's My Maudlin Career, which received almost as much love from the U.S. charts as it did from music critics. With Princeton.
Toubab Krewe, John Brown's Body
Majestic Theatre, 8 pm
Toubab Krewe, a festival favorite that blends the musical traditions of West Africa with those of the American South, joins forces with reggae eight-piece John Brown's Body for a special Easter show, preceded by an Easter egg hunt at the Majestic. Learn more about the show -- and the hunt -- in this week's Tour Stop.