Wisconsin State Fair
State Fair Park in West Allis, through Aug. 12
It's a state law that all Wisconsin residents must visit the fair and eat at least one cream puff. They must also check out the livestock, the rides and the music, including the Doobie Brothers and Kansas (Aug. 2); Gary Allan, Tracy Lawrence and Luke Bryan (Aug. 3); George Jones (Aug. 5); and Kool & the Gang with Ruben Studdard (Aug. 9).
Wisconsin PBS Kids Open House
UW Vilas Hall's Fourth-Floor Terrace, 9-11 am
Kids can meet Curious George and Clifford the Big Red Dog at this carnival-style party, based on PBS children's programs. Attendees can bring a used children's book to donate to the Madison YWCA Third Street Program.
Madison Arts Crawl
FoRCE sponsors this jaunt through local visual-arts venues, including Absolutely Art, Fanny Garver Gallery, Mother Fool's Coffeehouse, State Street Gallery, Escape Java Joint, Ma-Cha Teahouse + Gallery, Rachael Brooke Designs and Madison Music Foundry (where rockers Sunspot set up shop).
20th Anniversary Show
Artisan Gallery in Paoli, through Sept. 9. Celebration: 5-9 pm
The Paoli gallery looks back over its two-decade history, as well as to its future with new paintings by Kelli Hoppmann and Jonathan Wilde and a "light installation" by Thomas Ferrella.
Jess: To and From the Print Page/California Context
Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, through Sept. 23. Reception: 5:30-8 pm
Jess was an artist associated with Beat culture in 1950s San Francisco. MMoCA shows his surreal impastos, collages and designs, along with the books and magazines in which they were reproduced. "California Context" exhibits other artworks made in California during Jess' era to shed light on his achievement; included are Ed Ruscha, Richard Diebenkorn and David Hockney.
Monona Terrace Rooftop, 5:30-9:30 pm
The free series, running Friday evenings in August, is designed to get Dane County's diverse cultures partying as one. The kickoff event features irresistible dance music by Paul Cebar & the Milwaukeeans, David Hecht & Primitive Culture, and DJ Laurie.
Mitby Theater at MATC-Truax, 7:30 pm. Also Saturday (7:30 pm), Sunday (2 pm) & Thursday (7:30 pm), Aug. 4, 5 & 9
Music Theatre of Madison presents Stephen Sondheim's disturbing yet somehow delightful musical, which chronicles the history of presidential assassination attempts in the U.S. Brace yourself for a strange and tuneful evening.
Isthmus Vocal Ensemble
Luther Memorial Church, 7:30 pm
This ensemble comes together for only one performance a year, but it's a doozy. Top regional singers rehearse intensely for two weeks under the direction of Scott MacPherson, who travels from his home in San Antonio to pull the whole thing together. They'll perform an eclectic program that includes J.S. Bach, Eric Whitacre, Russian choral works and American folk hymns, then disappear into the mist like Brigadoon.
Broom Street Theater, 8 pm. Also Saturday (8 pm) & Sunday (2 pm), Aug. 4 & 5
Ron Collins' play is based on the true rags-to-riches (and back to rags) story of the eccentric inventor who founded Detroit's Vogue Record Company.
Annex, 8:30 pm
Singer/tunesmith David Terry owes a lot to Modest Mouse, but at times his use of defiantly uncool sources like '70s renaissance-rock giants Emerson Lake and Palmer drags his smart, perky pop project Aqueduct into terra incognita. Fresh-faced fellow Seattle residents Smoosh are kinda cute, and like Aqueduct they'll be trekking to Lollapalooza as soon as this show's over. Ben Weaver opens.
Know It All Boyfriends
Cafe Montmartre, 9 pm
Members of Garbage, pop-rocker Freedy Johnston and other local lights fill out the membership of this rambunctious cover act.
Sons of Crack Daniels and Jane Wiedlin with Whore du Jour
High Noon Saloon, 9 pm
Pat MacDonald of Timbuk 3 and P-Funk mandolinist Eric McFadden are Sons of Crack Daniels, a campy goth country duo with whiskey, weepin' and, of course, death on the brain. Adding to the night's weird ambience, The Go-Go's Wiedlin will perform with Madison's Whore du Jour. Art-punks Screamin' Cyn Cyn & the Pons, hard-rockers the Skintones and bluesman Chris Aaron are also on the bill.
Café Montmartre, through Aug. 31. Reception: Monday, Aug. 6, 7 pm
The photographer uses a "camera toss" technique to create dynamic images of Madison locations, rendered as blurry streaks of light and color.
Capital Brewery, noon-8 pm
The outdoor family festival features Tony Brown & the 608 Riddims, Ken Lonnquist & the Kenland Band, WADOMA West African Dance and a fashion show by UW African students, along with crafts, food, jugglers and an auction. Proceeds benefit Kidlinks, which offers help to AIDS orphans in South Africa and AIDS education to Madison youth.
Booked for Murder, 4 pm
The mystery writer reads from her new book about an antiques appraiser who investigates a colleague's death from poisoning. The title -- Deadly Appraisal -- would bring a chill to the cast of Antiques Roadshow.
WJJO Band Camp
Alliant Energy Center, 10 am
Couldn't score a free ticket to Ozzfest? WJJO's Band Camp is the next-best thing for those requiring a full day of metal mayhem. Stonesour, Sevendust, Godhead, Nonpoint, Burden Brothers, Skillet, Dope and more will be on hand to beat your eardrums into submission.
Farley's House of Pianos, 4 pm
The accomplished Ukrainian pianist performs Liszt's "Totentanz" and Schumann's "Scenes from Childhood" in the first part of the program. Then she's joined by Alexei Kuznetsoff for four-hand works by Rachmaninoff and Schubert.
Barrymore Theatre, 7:30 pm
The feral poet/rocker was one of the few female artists to emerge from New York's historic underground music scene as a bona-fide star. Her performances remain electric rituals of sound and spirit. This show benefits the Center for Media and Democracy and includes a silent auction in the lobby.
Annex, 8 pm
Hard to say which is better: Himmelman's brainy, well-turned pop-rock or his unpredictable manipulation of the usual artist/audience relationship. You can bet he won't be resting on his laurels tonight. SoDangYang featuring Marques Bovre & Jim Schwall opens.