Harvest season crescendos this weekend with the Isthmus Food & Wine Festival, a two-day celebration of culinary bounty. The calendar also includes: comedy with Bill Cosby and Leslie Jordan; productions of I Can't Go On. I'll Go On, The Normal Heart, Seeking Flight, and Charlotte's Web; acrobatics by LEO; a First Unitarian Society benefit concert and the Clocks in Motion performance; more live music from Frank Fairfield, Dinosaur Jr., Carrie Nation & the Speakeasy, The United Sons of Toil, Army Navy, Heartless Bastards, Ruth Moody Band, Nina Ferraro, Coheed and Cambria, Dani Deahl, Ivan & Alyosha, Knuckel Drager, and Black Prairie; and, a screening of the documentary As Goes Janesville.
NOTEWORTHY: John Jay sworn in as first Chief Justice of United States, 1789.
Alliant Energy Center Exhibition Hall, 5-9 pm. Also Saturday, Oct. 20, 2-6 pm
Isthmus welcomes you to foodie paradise: a chance to eat, shop and learn. This new event emphasizes local dining culture with exhibits and presentations by chefs, bartenders, wine experts and Isthmus food critics. Oh, and did we mention sampling? Word to the wise: Come hungry.
UW Vilas Hall, 7:30 pm. Also Thursday & Saturday, Oct. 18 & 20, 7:30 pm
University Theatre presents six late-period short plays by the absurdist genius Samuel Beckett: Ohio Impromptu, Play, Eh Joe, Catastrophe, Come and Go and Not I. The performances take place in Vilas Hall's Hemsley and Mitchell theaters and the scene shop space, and are guaranteed to blow your mind.
Stoughton Opera House, 7:30 pm
Though this folk-revival wunderkind sounds like a product of Appalachia, he got his start busking on the busy street corners of Los Angeles. Discover some long-lost blues tunes and murder ballads as he brandishes banjos, fiddles and guitars.
Overture Hall, 8 pm
Along with Mark Twain, Cosby is one of the greatest storytellers America has produced. His last couple standup appearances in Madison have proven that, even in his 70s, he's still got it.
Barrymore Theatre, 8 pm
The diminutive Jordan, known for his scene-stealing turns on Will & Grace, elicits big-time laughs with his ribald autobiographical storytelling. You will be entertained (see Comedy).
Bartell Theatre, 8 pm. Also Saturday (8 pm) & Thursday (7:30 pm), Oct. 20 & 25
Stage Q opens its 12th season with Larry Kramer's Tony Award-winning drama about the early days of the AIDS epidemic in New York.
Broom Street Theater, 8 pm. Also Saturday & Thursday, Oct. 20 & 25, 8 pm
Director Joan Broadman explores animal rights in this whimsical comedy about the efforts of two African gray parrots to regain their freedom. Live free or squawk!
Majestic Theatre, 8 pm
The hearing-aid industry should award this band a medal for their extremely loud, feedback-saturated performances, which influenced '90s icons such as Pavement and Nirvana. This show will revolve around their new release, I Bet on the Sky, which has earned high praise from NPR and SPIN. With Shearwater.
Willy Street Pub & Grill, 9 pm
In an interesting about-face, one of Madison's most beloved metalhead hangouts will host a concert by this "brass-n-grass" outfit, which spices up acoustic string-band music with loud, feisty horns. Those looking for something even harder will find what they're looking for in openers Lurk Hards and Owen Mays & the 80 Proof Boys.
Dragonfly Lounge, 9 pm
The glorious reign of this Madison math-punk band has come to an end. They'll conclude their chapter in local-music history with a set of revolution-themed rock that's bound to rouse the proletariat (see Music). With Nonagon, Knife the Symphony and Dick the Bruiser.
UW Memorial Union Terrace, 9:30 pm This L.A. trio lace bright, Posies-style power-pop with subtle hints of melancholy. Their new album, The Last Place, is more dark and personal than their self-titled debut -- and twice as compelling. With the Violet Lights. Heartless Bastards High Noon Saloon, 9:30 pm
Few vocalists deliver a sonic wallop as hearty and memorable as frontwoman Erika Wennerstrom's (see Tour Stop). With Futurebirds and Dana Falconberry.
Sequoya Library, 1 pm
Brad Lichtenstein's impressive documentary looks at the Wisconsin city devastated by the closing of its GM plant in 2008, and further divided by the Scott Walker wars in 2011. This screening includes a discussion with Lichtenstein, Rep. Mark Pocan and others. The film also screens at the Barrymore Theatre on Wednesday, Oct. 24, at 7 pm, with another Wisconsin-oriented documentary, United States of ALEC.
Overture Center's Playhouse, 6:30 pm. Also Sunday, Oct. 21, 2:30 pm
Children's Theater of Madison presents E.B. White's well-loved story about a lonely pig named Wilbur and Charlotte, the original web-slinger. This adaptation is set in Wisconsin, and features elements of Native American lore, not to mention a giant metal web. Children can learn to make dreamcatchers at an Opening Night Party at 5:45 pm in the Rotunda.
Stoughton Opera House, 7:30 pm
Moody, one-third of the Canadian folk trio the Wailin' Jennys, will swathe the opera house in earthy soprano vocals and beautiful solos on the banjo and bodhrán.
Overture Center's Capitol Theater, 8 pm
"Mind-bending," "gravity-defying," "groundbreaking" -- we're exhausted already. Find out if you have the stamina for this one-man absurdist magic and acrobatics show, "best of" winner at this year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
Redamte Coffee House, 8 pm
Though she's still in her teens, this Chicago-area musician has songwriting skills that take many folks years to master. She'll spin some ear candy with sweet vocals, a ukulele and perhaps a toy piano or two. With Waiting to Run and the Sweetness of Gone.
Majestic Theatre, 9 pm
The highly conceptual quartet returns with The Afterman: Ascension, a new album of proggish post-hardcore. This time, the story explores dystopian themes with spooky instrumental numbers and heavy, optimistic odes such as "Key Entity Extinction: Domino the Destitute." With the Dear Hunter and the Band 3.
Segredo, 9 pm
This stylish Chicago blogger and DJ will jump-start the weekend with a custom blend of electro, moombahton, trap and disco house. With DJ Chris Grant.
UW Memorial Union Terrace, 9:30 pm
This Seattle folk-pop group prefers sunny melodies and softly tickled ivories to the gloom and guitars that put their city on the musical map. This approach has drawn positive attention from both Paste and Rolling Stone. With Chamberlin.
High Noon Saloon, 9:30 pm
This gritty surf-punk band bring all sorts of homegrown rock 'n' roll notables out of the woodwork when they don their masks and hit the High Noon's stage. With Whisky Pig, Bereft and the Garza.
NOTEWORTHY: Guggenheim Museum opens in New York City, 1959.
First Unitarian Society, 2 pm
Local classical-music notables (Karlos Moser, Trevor Stephenson Tyrone Greive, et al.) play works by great composers (Satie, Mozart, Britten) in a setting that can't be beat (Frank Lloyd Wright's Unitarian Meeting House).
Mills Hall at UW Humanities Building, 2 pm
More than 100 percussion instruments will perform tunes from George Crumb's American Songbook VI, which features famous folk songs such as Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind." Guest artists Jamie Van Eyck and Paul Rowe will add vocals to the mix.
Frequency, 8 pm
A side project of the Decemberists' Chris Funk, Nate Query and Jenny Conlee, this Portland, Ore., band infuse bluegrass with hints of klezmer, tango and Romanian music. They'll set the stage ablaze with a new album, A Tear in the Eye Is a Wound in the Heart. With Darren Hanlon and Shelley Short.