Spring feels one step closer this weekend with the start of a new month. Rejoice and hit the town for some fun. The choices include: Bockfest; performances of A Midsummer's Night Dream and by Hubbard Street Dance Chicago; comedy by Frank Caliendo; a book reading by Robin Chapman and Jesse Lee Kercheval; a Cougar listening party; a Carnaval celebration with SambaDa; live music by the WCO musicians, Diavolo, Bobby Bryan & the Uptown Allstars, Lydia, Xtring Quartet, pat mAcdonald with melaniejane, All Tiny Creatures, Dark Star Orchestra, Dervish, The Explores Club, the Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble, and the Tim Whalen Nonet; and, a Madison Literacy Network benefit concert.
Noteworthy: People magazine debuts with Mia Farrow on cover, 1974.
Birthdays: Oscar-winning actress/serial wife/perfume tycoon Liz Taylor; Stanford graduate/former First Daughter Chelsea Clinton, 1980.
Robin Chapman, Jesse Lee Kercheval
A Room of One's Own, 6:30 pm
Chapman reads from her latest poetry collection, Abundance, Kercheval from the prizewinning The Alice Stories, a set of linked tales focusing on a Wisconsin woman and her family.
Cougar listening party
Cafe Montmartre, 7 pm
Here's one more good reason to head downtown: to toast a Madison success story's vault to world-famous status. The guys from Cougar return to town for a split second to host a listening party for Patriot, the band's first offering on the London indie label Ninja Tune.
A Midsummer Night's Dream
UW Vilas Hall's Mitchell Theatre, 7:30 pm. Also Thursday & Saturday, Feb. 26 & 28, 7:30 pm
University Theatre stages Shakespeare's masterpiece featuring Puck, Oberon and the whole gang. The setting: a Caribbean jungle.
Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra musicians
Westminster Presbyterian Church, 7:30 pm
Lately, watching the labor dispute between the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and its musicians has been like following the stock market -- just when you think we've turned a corner, more bad news. The WCO canceled its scheduled concert tonight, so the musicians present a program of Mozart, Mendelssohn and Brahms.
Wisconsin Union Theater, 8 pm
Paris-born choreographer Jacques Heim's performance troupe melds dance and gymnastics with elaborate props. The performers often look to be courting disaster with their graceful moves.
Bartell Theatre, 8 pm. Also Saturday, Feb. 28, 8 pm
The drama troupes StageQ and Mercury Players Theatre join forces in this supernatural comedy about a blocked writer, the magic denizens of her apartment (among them Jesus) and the goth-astrophysicist-vampire-lesbian she loves.
Bobby Bryan & the Uptown Allstars
UW Memorial Union Rathskeller, 9:30 pm
Bobby Bryan and his three-man band turn the Rathskeller into a blues club for the night with gutbucket guitar licks, killer bass lines and a whole lot of soul before they open for the venerable Shemekia Copeland on March 12.
Annex, 9:30 pm
Lydia's reputation got a big boost Feb. 23 when its first music video hit the Internets. Whether or not you care about the hype, you should care about the music: carefully crafted ambient melodies that are both pretty and compelling. Black Gold and Joshua James open.
Restaurant Magnus, 9:30 pm
Using instruments such as bandola, tiple, mandolin and violin, the Xtring Quartet melts together the Colombian folk tradition and western classical-music tradition to make a whole new flavor of ear candy.
pat mAcdonald, melaniejane
Harmony Bar, 9:45 pm
The Door County musician, he of Timbuk3 fame and the inventive capitalization, is joined by electric cellist melaniejane, also of the inventive capitalization (see Tour Stop).
All Tiny Creatures
Frequency, 10 pm
Local electroacoustic four-piece All Tiny Creatures takes minimalism to the maximum with a deep appreciation for '70s Krautrock and Philip Glass and a ton of new ideas. Also playing: Canyons of Static, Kitty Rhombus.
Noteworthy: Michael Jackson cops eight Grammys for Thriller, 1984.
Birthdays: Quirky actor John Turturro, 1957; bouffanted B-52s vocalist Cindy Wilson, 1957.
Capital Brewery, noon-4 pm
The taps will flow freely at this beery extravaganza, spiced up with a 1 pm performance by Pupy Costello & His Big City Honky Tonk Band and, at 3 pm, Fish Fly.
Dark Star Orchestra
Barrymore Theatre, 8 pm
The Deadhead favorite returns to present the set list from a historical Grateful Dead concert in its entirety. The dedicated archivists also employ a stage setup that's based on the configuration of amps and instruments the Dead used during the original show.
Wisconsin Union Theater, 8 pm
The Dublin-based group, which turn 20 this year, perform traditional Irish folk songs, as well as their own tunes -- plus the odd Dylan cover. Get started a few weeks early on your St. Patrick's Day revel. With Martin Hayes, Dennis Cahill.
The Explorers Club
UW Memorial Union Rathskeller, 8 pm
It's hard to ignore the influence of the Beach Boys on the music of the Explorers Club, but why would you want to? They've got the vocal-harmony formula down. Plus, with six members to the Beach Boys' four, they should be at least 33% more charming. Chris Koza and Deastro open.
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago
Overture Hall, 8 pm
Artistic director Jim Vincent is moving on, so this is your last Madison chance to catch the esteemed modern-movement troupe under his leadership. Feet will fly (see preview).
Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble
Gates of Heaven Synagogue, 8 pm
Get your fix of music from the baroque period with this group, which performs the repertoire on period instruments. The program includes selections from Georg Philipp Telemann and Tarquinio Merula.
High Noon Saloon, 9 pm
California's favorite Afro-Brazilian samba-funk group hits Madison for a Brazilian-style Carnaval. The Massamba Dance Company and the Handphibians, armed with 15 percussionists, will get the party -- and the dancing -- started.
Tim Whalen Nonet
Restaurant Magnus, 9:30 pm
Pianist Whalen's exciting jazz group finds the perfect balance between composition and improvisation and keeps the listener in a state of perpetual surprise. This is the nonet's first appearance since July, so harken ye.
Noteworthy: June Carter marries Johnny Cash, 1968.
Birthdays: Who vocalist/actor Roger Daltrey, 1944; child star-turned-filmmaker Ron Howard, 1954.
Madison Literacy Network Benefit Concert
High Noon Saloon, 3 pm
Organized by Jeff Burkhart of the Dirty Shirts, who's also the Literacy Network's executive director, this fundraiser brings together book lovers and music lovers with bluegrass, honkytonk and old-timey blues courtesy of the Oak Street Ramblers, Blake Thomas, Josh Harty, the Kristy Larson Trio and several others.
Overture Hall, 7:30 pm
The standup comedian is a Wisconsin native who stars in his very own TBS sketch-comedy show, Frank TV. He's known for his uncanny impressions, including Dr. Phil and one of the funniest Bill Clintons ever.