Saturday's our day to play – Isthmus

An epic arts events pile-up on Sept. 25, and more Isthmus Picks for Sept. 23-30
September 22, 2021
12:01 PM
On Sept. 9, Public Health Madison and Dane County updated its face covering requirement for public indoor spaces to include a range of new exemptions, including for the performing arts; the new order is in effect through Oct. 8. Many venues and businesses also have instituted requirements for proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test to attend events. Before heading out, confirm events are still taking place and check for current guidelines on the relevant business websites or social media accounts.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Wednesday-Thursday, Sept. 22-23, Warner Park, 7:30 p.m.: Madison Ballet, celebrating its 40th anniversary season, kicked off with a masterful pivot: Heading to the great outdoors to revisit a production already postponed once by COVID. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is based on the Shakespeare comedy, and features the choreography of Peter Anastos and the music of Felix Mendelssohn (played by Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra). The production moves to Warner Park following a pair of performances last weekend in Delafield; it’s free to attend, but reservations are recommended at
Dougal MacArthur
Activist and author Tarana Burke.
Tarana Burke, Thursday, Sept. 23, online, 6 p.m.: From author Tarana Burke comes Unbound: My Story of Liberation and the Birth of the Me Too Movement, a memoir about the activist’s own sexual assault and commitment to helping those affected by sexual violence. Burke founded the Me Too movement in 2006, more than a decade before the hashtag went viral and the movement became global. The Wisconsin Book Festival and Flatiron Books present a discussion filmed at the New York Botanical Garden, followed by a live Q&A session with Burke. Register here for the Zoom link.
J. Scott Kunkel/Scotify Studios
Sleepy Gaucho
Sleepy Gaucho + Graham Hunt, Thursday, Sept. 23, Shitty Barn, Spring Green, 7 p.m.: Sleepy Gaucho features songs by Andy Goitia; they mix laid-back country rock with a psychedelic edge, adding up to a catchy, atmospheric whole. Graham Hunt — formerly of the power poppy Midnight Reruns and heavy Midwives, both of Milwaukee — has been performing as a solo artist since moving to Madison a few years back. Hunt released the excellent Painting Over Mold earlier in 2021. Catch these intriguing, hard-to-pin-down songwriters on a well-chosen double bill.
Steve Hanzek
Boogie & the Yo-Yo’z
New Glarus Oktoberfest, Thursday-Sunday, Sept. 23-26, downtown New Glarus: Celebrate Oktoberfest in New Glarus, down the road from its iconic brewing company (but note, the brewery’s public areas are closed until October). With music, craft vendors, food and fun for the whole family — and, of course, local beer — the annual New Glarus Oktoberfest celebration goes all weekend long. Sept. 23 is Dirndl Day, with attendees encouraged to wear traditional German clothing and polka down with the Steve Meisner Band from 7-10 p.m.; evening headliners also include SuperTuesday (8 p.m. Sept. 24) and Boogie & the Yo-Yo’z (8 p.m. Sept. 25). Find the full schedule at
Ross Zentner
Jamaica Gobel and Marti Gobel (front) in the Forward Theater production of “Mom, How Did You Meet the Beatles?”
Mom, How Did You Meet the Beatles? Thursday, Sept. 23, Overture Center-Playhouse, 7:30 p.m.: In the mid-1960s, poet and playwright Adrienne Kennedy co-wrote a stage adaptation of two books written by John Lennon. Titled after the first, In His Own Write, the play premiered in London later that decade. Kennedy’s memories of the time are also now a play, written in an interview-style format with her son, Adam Kennedy. Mom, How Did You Meet the Beatles? is making its regional premiere in a production by Forward Theater. ALSO: Friday (7:30 p.m.), Saturday (2 and 7 p.m.) and Sunday (2 p.m.), Sept. 24-26.
L.A. Scoundrels, Friday, Sept. 24, Harmony Bar, 7 p.m.: A new band made their first appearance at a MAMA Cares fundraiser in August: L.A. Scoundrels. Despite the name, they’re not from the west coast; it’s an aggregation of Madison-area all-stars including keyboardist Dave Adler (The Gomers, Steely Dane), multi-instrumentalist James Strelow (Dearth), and others. L.A. Scoundrels also features original songs and guitar work by Nick Matthews. There are rumblings that at least one of Strelow’s bandmates in the Elvis Costello tribute Get Happy!! may also take the stage at the Harmony on Friday, but you’ll have to be there to find out for sure.
Madison Symphony Orchestra, Friday-Saturday, Sept. 24-25, Overture Hall: Madison Symphony Orchestra had planned to return to in-person performance with Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, one of the most iconic pieces of music in the classical repertoire. But those plans were put on hold by the Dane County mask mandate as it was written as of the start of September; “Joyful Reunion” is moved to the 2022-23 season. The orchestra has gone in a different direction with a new program featuring a smaller performing ensemble entitled “String Spirit,” featuring works by Elgar, Poulenc and Tchaikovsky, by MSO’s Rhapsodie Quartet and principal organist Greg Zelek. Concerts are at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 24 and 8 p.m., Sept. 25.
Geordon Wollner
Interlay EP release, Friday, Sept. 24, Majestic, 8 p.m.: Madison-based quartet Interlay has been developing a dense, guitar-based sound since forming in 2018 (as Wash), mixing influences from goth and grunge into something for the new century. This show marks a delayed celebration for the release of their excellent Oct. 2020 EP, Cicada. Also on the bill: Eau Claire heavies Gash, who released the new album Leftern in May; and a set by Madison-based hip-hop artist CRASHprez (aka Good Convo podcast host Michael Penn II).
Art Fair on the Square, Saturday-Sunday, Sept. 25-26, Capitol Square: When the organizers of the Art Fair on the Square moved the mother of all area art fairs from its usual mid-July perch to late September, they doubtless thought they were being prudent, allowing for more potential fairgoers to be vaccinated. As it turns out, July might have been the better option. The organizers didn’t, of course, have a crystal ball, but they could probably buy one at their own event — there will be nearly 500 artists in this juried show, with painting, photography, mixed media, jewelry, fiber arts, clothing, glass, ceramics, metalwork, woodcraft and probably a lot more. Open 9 a.m.-6 p.m. on Sept. 25 and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Sept. 26.
Carol Schroeder
Artist Simone Lawrence during the creation of “The Machine,” a mural at Neuhauser Pharmacy on Monroe Street.
Monroe Street Festival, Saturday, Sept. 25, along Monroe Street, 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m.: This annual event returns with music and dance performances, kids’ activities (including a day of demo classes at Monroe Street Art Center), a used book sale at Monroe Street Library, and sidewalk sales at various businesses. Also, the Monroe Street Anti-Racism Project unveils “The Machine,” a mural painted by Simone Lawrence, at Neuhauser Pharmacy. The unveiling begins with a program at 1 p.m., followed by music by DJ Ace and kids’ activities. Find the full schedule at
Hill and Valley Exploration Tour, Saturday-Sunday, Sept. 25-26, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.: The fifth annual Hill and Valley Exploration Tour provides a DIY but curated tour to introduce folks to the hilly, pastoral area of northwestern Sauk and far eastern Richland counties. It could be a bike tour (if you’re in good shape — the hills are massive) or a weekend drive. Follow the event map to check out farms selling produce, and locations such as Ernest Hupeden’s Painted Forest in Valton or Branding Iron Roadhouse tavern in Lime Ridge. There’s also a kickoff event from 5-8 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 17, at Reedsburg City Park, with music by the Byrd Brothers and wood-fired oven pizzas by Branding Iron Roadhouse. See the map and full event schedule at Although most events are outside, don’t forget to keep a mask handy.
Glass and jewelry artist Andrea Stilwell is participating in the 2021 Art Walk Stoughton.
Art Walk Stoughton, Saturday, Sept. 25, downtown Stoughton, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.: Works by 17 local and regional artists will be on display at downtown Stoughton boutiques, galleries and other businesses at this pop-up art fest hosted by the Stoughton Arts Council. Photographs, paintings, sculptures, furniture, pottery, jewelry, wood work, glass and fiber art will all be available for purchase, and the event will also include demonstrations, music, and activities for children. Find the locations at
Fermentation Fest, Saturday-Sunday, Sept. 25-26, Witwen Park, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.: This normally sprawling celebration where culture meets agriculture looks a lot different this year. All the events are confined to one location, but what a location — the charming Witwen Park in Witwen, a little crossroads west of Sauk City. It’s a former camp meeting and revival site on the banks of Honey Creek. with the tabernacle building still standing. The tabernacle will be the site of several music performances, including from 85% (Katrin Talbot and Parry Karp) and Taylor Ackley & the Deep Roots Ensemble. More music, local food, workshops, cow calling, pasture walks, and more will all bring together art with rural knowledge. Much is free but some music performances, fermentation workshops, and other special events require tickets. For details see
Sara Rohs
Madison Contemporary Dance Company, Saturday, Sept. 25-26, Olin Park Pavilion: MCD caps a busy summer season with a “Collaboration Concert,” featuring works developed with dancers from A Step Above Dance and Music Academy, Bridge Lakepoint Waunona Neighborhood Center and The Hitterz Collective, and choreographers Miye Bishop and Papa Kobino Brewoo. Find tickets here for the concerts, which take place at 1 p.m. on Sept. 25 and 1 and 5 p.m. on Sept. 26.
Rooted in the Land: Past, Present and Future, Saturday, Sept. 25, Farley Center for Peace, Justice & Sustainability, Verona 1:30-4 p.m.: The Farley Center is celebrating the 10th anniversary of its Natural Path Sanctuary, an area dedicated to “green” burials, with an extensive installation of earth art exhibits, designed to decompose back into the land. Saturday’s reception includes artist presentations every 15 minutes starting with Karen Reppen and followed by Efrat Livny; Phil Saunders; Angela Richardson and Paul Andrews; Rene Simon; Bobbette Rose, Betsy Delzer and Cynthia Reynolds; Iris Nyugen; Katrina Krueger and Billy Morgan; and David Carlson. Find more info at The exhibits will be up and open for viewing through Oct. 31.
Ferris.B Photography
Karen Wheelock
Concert to #EndAlz, Saturday, Sept. 25, Cargo Coffee East, 6:30 p.m.: Madison-based singer-songwriter Karen Wheelock is a strong advocate for more research and awareness of Alzheimer’s disease, and has hosted concert fundraisers for the Alzheimer’s Association in recent years. Wheelock has put together a top-notch local lineup for the sixth annual show, also featuring compelling pop chameleon 7ucky Vita and folk-pop-country singer-songwriter Chloe Louise.
David O’Donohue
NEEDTOBREATHE, Saturday, Sept. 25, The Sylvee, 7 p.m.: Touring in support of the new album Into the Mystery, NEEDTOBREATHE falls comfortably into the country/folk bin, but with vocals that recall early ’90s rock. Into the Mystery exudes a quiet assurance; the band (guitar, keyboard, drums) doesn’t fall prey to genre constrictions. With Switchfoot and The New Respects.
Birds, Bikes & Brews, Sunday, Sept. 26, Capital Brewery, Middleton, noon-5 p.m.: Birding while bicycling and drinking beer sounds like something that might have happened less than happily in one of Steve Martin’s lesser films. But here the biking is optional; you can walk or hike or skateboard to Middleton’s favorite birding destinations after picking up a map at Capital Brewery, and return for a beer afterward. The organizers provide suggestions for biking and birding destinations — seven routes in all — within easy distance of the biergarten. Proceeds benefit the Madison Audubon Society’s missions of bird conservation, education, and citizen science. Register at, and don’t forget the binoculars.
Jay Starr
Fermata, Sunday, Sept. 26, The Bur Oak, 8 p.m.: Madison band Fermata built a strong following in the oughts with a uniquely aggressive acoustic sound (often guitar, cello and bass) built around the emotive vocals of Lisa Mazza Hamilton. In effect, it’s the sound of chamber music approached with hard rock structures and attitude. Following their 2009 debut album, Only Ghosts Remain, Fermata went on hiatus…until now. The group is back with their first show in 12 years, along with a brand new album, Ever Colder.
Shoshannah White
Tom Rush
Tom Rush, Tuesday, Sept. 28, The Bur Oak, 8 p.m.: Tom Rush began his performing career while a student at Harvard in the early 1960s, quickly proving to be a premier interpreter of traditional folk and blues songs (along with the occasional excursion to the rock ’n roll and pop songbooks). Later in that decade Rush helped transition urban folk into the singer-songwriter era, performing music by then-obscure songwriters such as James Taylor and Jackson Browne and writing a standard of his own, “No Regrets.” His most recent album, Voices, is a set of all original material. Rush is most often found performing on the east coast, so don’t miss a rare chance to catch a show in the Midwest, accompanied by Matt Nakoa on keys and harmony vocals.
Brian Hatton
Sphinx Virtuosi
Sphinx Virtuosi, Thursday, Sept. 30, UW Memorial Union-Shannon Hall, 7:30 p.m.: Sphinx Virtuosi is an 18-member professional chamber orchestra composed of Black and Latinx musicians who employ classical music to drive social change and promote diversity in the arts. Sphinx Virtuosi makes annual appearances at Carnegie Hall and Miami’s New World Center, and will visit Memorial Union to perform works by Valerie Coleman, Florence Price, Alberto Ginastera and others. Purchase tickets for the event here.
I Have a Song to Sing, O! through Sept. 30, online: The Madison Savoyards’ productions of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas are an indelible part of summer in Madtown. This year, the troupe is sticking with an online version of a musical revue, titled “I Have a Song to Sing, O! Musical Gems from Gilbert & Sullivan.” It’s a greatest hits of sorts, though the rarely-heard “Thespis” is also on the program. This professionally recorded production is only available for streaming through Sept. 30 on, so there’s no time like the present to check it out.
Geordon Wollner
Tim Anderson of Able Baker.
Able Baker, Thursday, Sept. 30, High Noon Saloon, 8 p.m.: The excellent February EP Spiral Bound Songs by Able Baker finally gets a release party. The Madison-based project is led by Tim Anderson, whose songs capture the ear with chord structures and hooks that often go in unexpected directions. Also on the bill are Flint, Michigan, visitor Greet Death (whose recent single “I Hate Everything” is on the nose for 2021 emotions); heavy sounds from Chicago’s Brady; and more jangly-noisy rock from Madisonians Dear Mr. Watterson.
We hope it’s handy for you to find the Picks in a single weekly post. The individual Picks can still be found in the usual places online: collected here, and sprinkled throughout all the events.
September 22, 2021
12:01 PM
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