September is one of the busiest months of the year in Madison, and this weekend is no exception with Ironman Wisconsin, the Midwest Quilt Expo, Fighting Bob Fest and its kick-off party, Sun Prairie Blues Fest, and two festivals celebrating Mexico's bicentennial. The calendar also includes: the Rhumba 4 Rainbow benefit; productions of Acts to Grind III, 84 Charing Cross Road, and You've Ruined a Perfectly Good Mystery!; stand-up by Christian Finnegan; a Clanton Brothers exhibit opening at MMoCA; and, live music from Ben & Leo Sidran, Lou & Peter Berryman, Ramblin' Jack Elliot, Skybox, Josh Harty and Blake Thomas, LA Riots, and Trevor Hall.
BIRTHDAYS: Underrated actress Amy Irving, 1953;
filmmaker/Madonna accessory Guy Ritchie, 1968.
Alliant Energy Center's Exhibition Hall, 9 am-6 pm. Also Thursday & Saturday, Sept. 9 & 11, 9 am-6 pm
Quilt Expo has earned a reputation as a major Midwestern event. It features diverse quilts from across the U.S., along with lectures, workshops, presentations and vendors. On hand will be Nancy Zieman, of Wisconsin Public Television's Sewing With Nancy.
Epic Systems Observation Deck, Verona, 6 pm
Formidable Madison pianist/singer/songwriter Ben Sidran and son Leo, himself an acclaimed musician, play a program of the jazz that is their forte. Proceeds benefit Wingra School's Joyce Perkins Scholarship Fund.
Rhumba 4 Rainbow
Marriott West, Middleton, 7 pm
This benefit for the Rainbow Project features a salsa dance contest, a colorful floor show, open dancing, salsa dance lessons and live music by Madison's Grupo Candela. You can refuel between dances at the quesadilla station.
Brink Lounge, 7:30 pm
The Berrymans call Madison home, but their gently humorous folk songs are known around the world after being performed by famous folkies such as Peter, Paul and Mary and Peggy Seeger. At this show they'll be joined by standout vocalist Cindy Mangsen and her musical partner Steve Gillette, whose songs have been covered by John Denver, Garth Brooks and numerous others.
Encore Studio for the Performing Arts, 1480 Martin St., 8 pm. Also Saturday, Sept. 11, 2 & 8 pm
Now departed from the Bartell Theatre, Encore Studio for the Performing Arts, the theater company for people with disabilities, begins the fall season in its own venue. The program is a set of mostly new playlets, including Music Is Better Than Sex and It's a Small Mall After All.
Bartell Theatre, 8 pm. Also Thursday (7:30 pm) & Saturday (4 & 8 pm), Sept. 9 & 11
You saw the movie with Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins. Now see Strollers Theatre's production of the 1981 play about the epistolary relationship between a London bookseller and a New York book lover.
Barrymore Theatre, 8 pm
September means another Fighting Bob Fest, the liberalpalooza up in Baraboo. The fun begins in Madison with speakers including Sen. Russ Feingold; broadcasters Jim Hightower, Laura Flanders and Thom Hartmann; poet and UW emeritus prof Daniel Kunene; and journalist Greg Palast. Make Fighting Bob proud.
MercLab, 8 pm. Also Thursday (8 pm), Saturday (8 pm) & Sunday (3 pm), Sept. 9, 11 & 12
Mercury Players Theatre presents a new work by local playwrights Christian Neuhaus and Rick Stemm. It's a comic mystery, during which the audience determines the direction of the story -- a conceit that pays tribute to the old Choose Your Own Adventure books. You remember those.
NOTEWORTHY: Terrorists slam two planes into the World Trade Center towers, one into the Pentagon and a fourth into a Pennsylvania field, killing thousands, 2001.
Warner Park, 10 am
Recall Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla's cry for independence at this fest, with entertainment, food and fun for kids.
Angell Park Pavilion, noon
Enjoy the many shades of blue that local and regional artists are mixing up these days with performances by Cliff Frederiksen, Blue Beyond, the Velveetatones, Aaron Williams & the Hoodoo, David Herrero and Liz Mandeville.
Stoughton Opera House, 7:30 pm
The folk troubadour was inspired first by the cowboys and rodeos that rolled through Madison Square Garden during the 1930s and 1940s, and later by his teacher Woody Guthrie. Elliott's harmonica playing and vocal style have been extremely influential as well, especially to Bob Dylan, who used to be called the son of Jack Elliott back in the 1960s.
Majestic Theatre, 7:30 pm
The Majestic keeps at the standup comedy with an appearance by funnyman Finnegan, whom you saw on Chappelle's Show or VH1's Best Week Ever. With Sean Moore.
UW Memorial Union Terrace, 9:30 pm
The indie-pop band has replaced all of its original members except one -- singer and front man Tim Ellis -- since its 2006 debut, Arco Isis. The exodus turned out to be a blessing, as the sophomore release, Morning After Cuts, is packed with breezy indie pop that's even catchier than the initial effort. With What Laura Says and Midwestern Charm.
Harmony Bar, 9:45 pm
Unforgettable Madison country-folk artist Thomas is decamping for Minneapolis, so take this opportunity to see him with peerless singer and guitarist Harty. With Chris Wagoner, Mary Gaines, Chris Sasman and Louka Patenaude.
Majestic Theatre, 10 pm
Daniel LeDisko, the DJ duo's founder, has split from his old partner and invited a new collaborator -- producer extraordinaire Jon Pegnato -- into the fold. See how fast their new brew of techno, house and drum-n-bass gets the crowd dancing on Saturday night. With DJ Nick Nice and Slubot & Indospice.
BIRTHDAYS: Towering NBA star Yao Ming, 1980.
Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, through Jan. 2
MMoCA presents the first major museum exhibition devoted to Christian and Rob Clayton, the Colorado-bred Gen-Xers whose work shows the influence of skateboard culture, punk rock and underground comics. Mostly paintings, the show also features three of the brothers' vivid mixed-media installations.
Begins at Law Park, 7 am
Cheer on a lot of really intense people as they converge on the city for a 2.4-mile swim in Lake Monona, a 112-mile bike ride out to Mount Horeb and a 26.2-mile run that ends on the Capitol Square, all before supper. First prize is $8,500, but that hardly seems the point.
Union Sports Club, Oregon, noon
Celebrate Mexico's independence day with food, food, folk dance, music and, what the heck, more food. A car parade leaves the Villager Mall for Oregon at 10 am. That will be fun.
High Noon Saloon, 8 pm
The South Carolina-bred singer and songwriter performs shiny pop music reminiscent of Ben Harper's. His appealing tune "Other Ways" landed on the Shrek the Third soundtrack. Not a bad way to sell music these days. With Cas Haley.