Mad City Men's Expo
Alliant Energy Exhibition Hall, 3-10 pm. Also Saturday, Dec. 8, 1-10 pm
After years of watching the Women's Expo from the sidelines, local men now have their own event. It features over 100 exhibitors displaying manly wares related to cars, boats, tools and fitness. On the entertainment stage, you can learn about drink-mixing, martial arts and, of course, hair restoration. Green Bay Packer Donald Driver signs autographs from 5:30 to 7:30 pm on Friday; standup comedians perform from 8 to 10 pm on Friday and 5 to 6:30 pm on Saturday; and the Madtown Throwdown ends the event with, appropriately, a kick to the gut on Saturday at 8 pm.
Forest Art Wisconsin
UW Arboretum and Dane County Regional Airport. Reception at the Arboretum: 5-8 pm
This photography exhibition documents the site-specific public art project "Native/Invasive" at the Northern Highland American Legion State Forest in Minocqua last spring and summer. Artists from around the world -- including such locally familiar names as Laurie Beth Clark, Tom Loeser, Bird Ross, Truman Lowe and Nancy Mladenoff -- created their art along a nature trail while living together in Minocqua, working with the theme of "Native/Invasive."
WinnAtwood Winter Festival
Winnebago Street and Atwood Avenue, 5-9 pm
Businesses up and down picturesque Winnebago and Atwood streets feature special events, from door prizes to live music to free samples.
Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, 5:30 pm
MMoCA's monthly event includes an illustrated talk by the UW's Stephen Hilyard, whose videos and photographs are featured in the exhibition "The Beautiful Lie." Ben Sidran and Nick Moran provide the evening's jazz soundtrack, and families can make puppets and masks inspired by the colorful Karl Wirsum exhibition.
Mary Kay Neumann
PilateSpa. Reception: 5:30-9:30 pm
The local artist shows her watercolors, including intensely colored sunflowers that would have brought a smile to Van Gogh's face.
University Book Store-Hilldale, 7 pm
The photographer has chronicled the mark we've made on the American landscape with his striking black-and-white images of trains, cities and rural areas. He discusses his book Vanishing Point: 50 Years of Photography.
Homegrown Hip-Hop Festival
UW Memorial Union, 7 pm. Also Thursday & Saturday, Dec. 6 & 8, 8 pm
Highlights of this free fest include Madison expat El Guante, who helms Friday's open mike for local rhymers; and an appearance by the always vigorous Brother Ali on Saturday. Lucha Libre and Figureheads also perform on Saturday.
Majestic Theatre, 7:30 pm
The geek folkie/web celebrity is a very droll guy, and his cover of "Baby Got Back" is just the tip of the iceberg. But it's his decision to let fans pay whatever they want for downloads of his music that will forever endear him to anti-corporate types. Coulton's sometime collaborators Paul & Storm are also on the bill.
Hemsley Theatre in UW Vilas Hall, 7:30 pm. Also Sunday, Dec. 9, 2 & 7:30 pm
University Theatre presents a solid production of Dael Orlandersmith's two-person play about black-on-black discrimination based on skin color. The language is poetic and the acting powerful.
Madison Area Concert Handbells
Asbury United Methodist Church, 7:30 pm. Also Saturday, Dec. 8, Asbury United Methodist Church, 7:30 pm; and Sunday, Dec. 9, First Congregational Church, 3 pm The ensemble plays ambitious repertoire on a gleaming array of bells.
Don Gahr and Francisco X. Mora
Grace Chosy Gallery, through Dec. 29. Reception: 6-8 pm
Gahr shows his quirky wooden animal sculptures, Mora his whimsical paintings of animals and people, inspired by Mexican life.
Madison Symphony Orchestra
Overture Center's Overture Hall, 7:30 pm. Also Saturday (8 pm) & Sunday (2:30 pm), Dec. 8 & 9
Conductor John DeMain and the MSO show their whimsical side with the popular "Christmas Spectacular," featuring costumed characters and Santa hats. Adding musical might are tenor Carl Tanner from the Metropolitan Opera, the Madison Symphony Chorus, the Madison Youth Choirs and the Mt. Zion Gospel Choir. Along with crowd-pleasing carols and Anderson's "Sleigh Ride," the MSO also digs into excerpts from Bach's "Mass in B Minor" and Mendelssohn's "Elijah."
Cafe Montmartre, 9 pm
The Wisconsin-bred singer-songwriter conjures the failed America of dilapidated farmsteads and empty main streets about as well as any country-roots musician could. The title track of his album Ghost Repeater offers a dazzling dissection of the heartland state of mind.
High Noon Saloon, 10 pm
The Guinness-friendly Irish-rockers get together with their rabid local fans for some live recording. Pert Near Sandstone open.
Overture Center Rotunda, 9:30 am, 11 am & 1 pm
No, not The Nutcracker -- not yet. Madison Ballet whets your appetite with a free performance at Overture's Kids in the Rotunda series.
UW Horn Choir
Chazen Museum of Art, 2:30 pm
Sixteen UW horn players blow for all they're worth in the annual family-oriented concert, which takes maximum advantage of the Chazen's acoustics.
Yolanda Kondonassis & the Rosetti String Quartet
Wisconsin Union Theater, 8 pm
This is the first Concert Series recital at the Union Theater to feature a harpist. Kondonassis can certainly hold her own, having soloed with major orchestras, won top prizes and recorded critically acclaimed albums for Telarc. With the Rossetti String Quartet, she'll perform works by Handel, Mozart, Mahler and Debussy.
The JoAnne Powers Trio
Mother Fool's Coffeehouse, 8 pm
Local jazz saxophonist Powers can play it straight, but she really makes things happen when she steps out into the free zone. Her trio celebrates the release of a CD.
Jsan & the Analogue Sons
King Club, 9 pm
Your SAD kickin' in a little early this year? Take a tip from Ithaca, N.Y.-based reggae warriors Jsan & the Analogue Sons and let the dubwise sounds take your mind. Venice Gas House Trolley also appear.
High Noon Saloon, 9:30 pm
This big, remarkably polished contemporary country band is something of a legend in these parts. So expect the hat-and-boots crowd to be out in force.
Olbrich on My Mind: 10 Years in the Gardens
Olbrich Botanical Gardens, through March 2. Reception: Thursday, Dec. 6, 5:30-7:30 pm
Local photographer Joe De Maio shows images taken in Olbrich Botanical Gardens. This might be the only place in Madison where you can see a spot of green.
The Dillinger Escape Plan
Loft in the Lussier Teen Center, 7 pm
Although the last couple albums have seen them experimenting with the occasional pop tune, DEP's precise riffing, odd time signatures and gales of discordant clanging are what first made them post-hardcore royalty. Can't stand holiday music? You can bet they won't be playing any. A Life Once Lost and Genghis Tron open. All ages!
Dan Hicks & the Hot Licks
High Noon Saloon, 7:30 pm
It's been 40 years since Hicks and his Hot Licks first brought smooth vocal harmonies and jazzy string-band music to acid-addled rock audiences. He's still swinging with a vengeance, which makes his season-appropriate "Holidaze in Hicksville" show one of the top Christmas-time gigs of the week. Harmonious Wail opens.
UW Symphony Orchestra
Mills Hall in the UW Humanities Bldg., 7:30 pm
The UW School of Music wraps up its fall concert season with a free performance, including Shostakovich's dramatic "Symphony No. 5" and an excerpt from Gershwin's Porgy and Bess.