What to do in Madison this weekend: La Fête, Blooming Butterflies, and more Isthmus Picks – Isthmus

Blooming Butterflies, July 14-Aug. 7, Olbrich Gardens-Bolz Conservatory, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.: The exotic plants, birds, and water features of Olbrich Gardens glassed-in Bolz Conservatory are magical year-round. But it’s extra special when you can also have an encounter with a delicate, ephemeral butterfly (just make sure nobody rides along when you exit). The live butterflies are back at Bolz for the first time since 2019. Butterfly Action Day programming, focusing on monarch conservation, takes place from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on July 29. Find out more at

Sleeping Jesus, Thursday, July 14, UW Memorial Union Terrace, 6 p.m.: Q: Is the pull of this event the music of Minnesota’s Sleeping Jesus, which plays dreamy indie pop, or the direction the band will be facing, which will be toward Lake Mendota instead of toward the Union? A: BOTH! UW Hoofers encourages audience members to rent watercraft (single or double kayaks, stand-up paddleboards or canoes from Outdoor UW, $15) to watch the front of the band. Or bring your own floating device and enjoy the concert that way. (The band, of course, can just walk on the water.) The rest of youse schlubs can grab a beer and a brat and watch the back of the band from the iconic Memorial Union chairs. Those wanting watercraft must reserve in advance at, and check out additional regulations.

“Weird Al” Yankovic, Thursday, July 14, Overture Hall, 7:30 p.m.: Grammy-winning singer and songwriter “Weird Al” Yankovic is as renowned for elaborately produced concerts as for his playful pop parodies during the last four-plus decades. This time around, though, Weird Al and his band are leaving the costumes, stage sets and parodies at home. “The Unfortunate Return of the Ridiculously Self-Indulgent, Ill-Advised Vanity Tour” focuses on Yankovic’s original songs, with a set list that changes nightly. (We hope “One More Minute” makes the Madison show.) Comedian Emo Philips opens.

La Fête de Marquette, July 14-17, McPike Park: The midsummer marker that is La Fête de Marquette has a jam-packed lineup of jams (and a newly added fourth stage) in 2022. The stage schedules feature performers from both near (Cajun Strangers, Primitive Culture, Kelsey Miles, Panchromatic Steel) and far (The War and Treaty, Sonny Landreth, North Mississippi Allstars, and Musique Electronique headliners Kenny Dope and Freddy K, who both also play late-night sets at High Noon Saloon). While the iconic Ferris wheel is taking the year off, other family-friendly activities have been added, including film screenings, art activities from Red Caboose, and a youth karaoke contest. Another new feature: The Soul Express Brass Band will lead a second line parade (a celebratory New Orleans tradition) to the fest through the Willy Street neighborhood on Saturday afternoon (call the Wil-Mar Center at 608-257-4576 for info on how to participate). Find the schedule at

Shinedown, Thursday, July 14, The Sylvee, 7:30 p.m.: Nearly two decades after the release of Shinedown’s 2003 debut album, Leave A Whisper, this band shows no sign of slowing down. Planet Zero, the group’s seventh studio disc, takes aim at what bugs us in 2022 (divisive politics, cancel culture, Twitter) and is generating rave reviews with songs that hold their own next to such Shinedown classics as “Second Chance,” “Atlas Falls,” “Cut the Cord” and “Bully.” The band that stands at the top of Billboard’s “Greatest of All Time Mainstream Rock Artists” still has plenty to say — both lyrically and musically. Minneapolis rockers Cold Kingdom will open the show. Rescheduled from February, this show is sold out.

Pieta Brown, Thursday, July 14, Bur Oak, 8 p.m.: Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon has said that Pieta Brown made his favorite music ever produced in his Eau Claire studio. Poet, folkie, Iowa born-and-raised in a home with no furnace, Pieta Brown takes the grounded folk music influence of her father, songsmith Greg Brown, and churns it into her own unique, charm-filled Americana. When not working in her own lane, she’s recorded and performed with Calexico, Amos Lee, and Iris DeMent. With Meggie Shays.

Memory Cloth Circle, through Aug. 31, UW Arboretum Visitor Center: “ Bees, Birds and Other Wee Beasties” is a gathering of textile art by the Memory Cloth Circle that highlights our friends the pollinators. These are colorful, whimsical and joyful works that celebrate these small creatures on whom we large creatures depend. The Memory Cloth Circle began in 2013 as an outgrowth of the Wisconsin Triennial; member artists convey stories through needlework, fabric and other mixed media. Visitor Center hours are 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m. weekdays and 12:30-4 p.m. weekends.

Much Ado About Nothing, July 15-24, Madison Country Day School, Waunakee: There is tragic Shakespeare and comedic Shakespeare, hard Shakespeare and, well, less hard Shakespeare, winter Shakespeare and summer Shakespeare. Surely the delightful Much Ado About Nothing is comedic, less hard, and summery. The tale of how Beatrice and Benedick get together is one of the Bard’s least taxing and most delightful, and you can catch this version from Madison Shakespeare Company , set in the dusty Southwest, outdoors at the Madison Country Day School’s amphitheater. It’s a beautiful setting just off River Road as the Yahara wends its way toward Lake Mendota. Shows at 6:30 p.m. Fridays and 5 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays; tickets are available now on Eventbrite.

The Straight Story, Friday, July 15, UW Cinematheque, 7 p.m.: That The Straight Story is perhaps the most “normal” of David Lynch’s directorial outings says more about the other films, perhaps, than it does about this one, based on a true story. The Straight Story follows the journey of 73-year-old Alvin Straight from Iowa on a John Deere riding lawn mower; he needs to visit his estranged brother in Wisconsin as both are growing old and ailing. The journey — filled with chance encounters with oddball characters — is arduous, both emotionally and physically. The cast includes Richard Farnsworth, Sissy Spacek and Harry Dean Stanton. Producer and co-writer Mary Sweeney will be on hand for a post-screening discussion.

Madison Radicals, July 15 & 29, Breese Stevens Field: Ultimate is so entrenched in Madison’s culture that we no longer need to explain that it’s a disc sport featuring acrobatic plays and pinpoint passing, do we? Good. The Radicals are Madison’s pro ultimate team and their games at Breese Stevens Field are as Madison as it gets. Unlike every other major team representing the city, most Radicals either grew up in Madison or attended UW-Madison, or both. The Radicals welcome their three fiercest American Ultimate Disc League rivals to town during the regular season’s final month. The team stands at 5-4 after downing Minnesota on July 10; coming up are matches with Indianapolis (7 p.m., Friday, July 15) and Chicago (7 p.m. Friday, July 29).

Mad Lit, alternating Fridays, through Oct. 7, 100 block of State Street, 8-11 p.m.: Mad Lit is taking over the 100 block of State Street every other Friday for performances from local artists. The shows are organized by Greater Madison Music City, who seek to create more equitable, diverse and inclusive spaces for the Madison music community. Coming up: Orquesta MAS, Grupo Candela and DJ Chamo on July 15; and K.I.L.O aka SkitL’z, Juciee Monroe, Delali, Danielle Crim and DJ Ace on July 29. Find the full schedule at

Kristen Toomey + Aaron Putnam, Friday, July 15, Yahara Bay Distillers, Fitchburg, 8 p.m.: Catch a pair of Chicago-based, nationally touring comedians at this Cheshire Cat Comedy showcase. Newcity Stage describes Kristen Toomey’s style as “a mix of meanness underlaid with a heavy dose of Midwestern niceness and self-deprecation.” In addition to club shows, Aaron Putnam does stand-up for patients at drug and alcohol treatment centers as the founder of Stand Up in Recovery. With host Eric Fretty. Tickets here.

Michael McDermott, Friday, July 15, The Bur Oak, 8 p.m.: One of Chicago’s finest singer-songwriters (Michael McDermott) released one of his best albums (St. Paul’s Boulevard) earlier this year. McDermott is a true rock and roll survivor. He emerged as a major-label darling in 1991 with “A Wall I Must Climb,” then went on to release more than a dozen albums — some better than others — that probe dark corners and celebrate simple things. Through it all, McDermott never lost his heartland-rock soul, and now he’s bringing along his band for this seated show in an intimate venue. If you’re a fan, or even just curious about the guy, you should be there.

Wristwatch LP release, Friday, July 15, Mickey’s Tavern, 10 p.m.: Wristwatch started as a pandemic recording project during the winter of 2020-21 by Madison guitarist-keyboardist-songwriter Bobby Hussy (with bass added by Tyler Spatz). The self-titled result first emerged as a very limited pressing from FDH records in July 2021, but now is back in a new pressing from Hussy’s own No Coast label. For those familiar with Hussy’s past work, Wristwatch lands somewhere between the guitar frenzy of The Hussy and the synth terrorism of Cave Curse, and is an energetic and entertaining listen (and especially lively in the four-piece live band incarnation). A heavy bill also includes a pair of other Madison bands who released excellent albums in 2021: House of Lud and Daughters of Saint Crispin.

MOVE4BGC + Gladys Knight, Saturday, July 16, McKee Farms Park, 7:30 a.m.; Overture Center, 6 p.m.: This annual summer fundraiser by Boys & Girls Clubs of Dane County is greatly expanding its scope in 2022. The morning features the expected bike rides, run and walk, along with yoga, at McKee Farms Park. The day doesn’t end there, however; in the evening, Overture Center hosts a pair of events, including a concert at 6 p.m. by legendary Grammy-winning soul singer Gladys Knight and opener After 7; it’s followed by the White Party at 8:30 p.m., with celebrity appearances and music by Dru Hill, Remedy and a DJ. For more info and tickets to each event, visit

Girls Rock Camp Showcase, Saturday, July 16, High Noon Saloon, noon: Under the direction of Beth Kille of Gin, Chocolate & Bottle Rockets, youngsters flock to the rock and roll church at Westminster Presbyterian each summer for the always-filled, one-week Girls Rock Camp. There, bands are created, songs rehearsed and professionally recorded, and a show emerges. This show features one session of this summer’s crop of talent, some of whom are sure to land a gig at the High Noon down the road as adult players. To receive updates about future camp dates, sign up at

Unity Picnic, Saturday, July 16, Southwest Madison Employment Center, noon-5 p.m.: This summer tradition hosted by the Urban League of Greater Madison returns to a fully in-person celebration for the first time since 2019. Along with food by BP Smokehouse and Kipp’s Catering, there will be plenty of activities for the kids, and music by Kinfolk and DJ Ace. This year’s event is at a new location, the Urban League’s Southwest Madison Employment Center, across the street from Elver Park at 1233 McKenna Boulevard. It’s free to attend.

Communication Fourth Anniversary, July 16-17, 2645 Milwaukee St.: Communication is a nonprofit arts venue providing a sober space for all ages to engage in creative expression. As part of its fourth anniversary events, you can make some art of your own as part of a tie dye workshop led by Emily Popp (2 p.m., July 16). $30 includes a shirt; register here for this joint fundraiser for the venue and Tone Madison. Also taking place from 3-6 p.m. on July 16 is a pop-up exhibit by local makers DripSphere (aka Ethan Jackson) and Kettle Black Silver (aka Lisa Lauren). July 17 includes a record sale from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. and a rock show at 6:30 p.m. featuring The Bismarck, Future Living, Material Vue and Straphanger. Find out more at

Sunspot CD release, Saturday, July 16, Crucible, 6:30 p.m.: Guitar rock fans assemble: Madison trio Sunspot is unveiling its ninth studio album, The Strangest Frequency, with an early evening show July 16. The album features Sunspot’s patented blend of catchy and crunchy on a dozen cuts, including the 2020 single “I Don’t Wanna Be a Ghost” (see the video filmed at a haunted Lake Geneva mansion on YouTube) and other songs with supernatural themes such as the ghost hunters’ lament “Spend the Night.” Tickets include a copy of the CD.

Indigo De Souza, Sunday, July 17, UW Memorial Union Terrace, 7 p.m.: Indigo De Souza’s second album, Any Shape You Take, earned much-deserved critical plaudits in 2021. Placed squarely in the middle of the album, the sonic primal scream that builds up in “Real Pain” feels like a perfect statement for our uncertain pandemic times. The album overall is a dark and masterful gem by an artist to watch. With Abigail Arkley.

Mackenzie Moore single release, Sunday, July 17, High Noon Saloon, 7:30 p.m.: Mackenzie Moore’s single release party is an artistic coming-out for the hard working Sauk City singer-songwriter, UW-Madison student, and Daily Cardinal correspondent. Most influenced by Sheryl Crow, Moore has also been influenced by Madison’s thriving folk-Americana scene where she’s been spotted watching and taking notes for some time. Some of those fellow artists are participating in this concert, including Candace Griffin (with Kat and the Hurricane), Jenna Joanis, Jake Johnson and Derek Ramnarace, and Gin, Chocolate & Bottle Rockets.

We hope it’s handy for you to find Picks grouped together in a single post. The individual Picks can still be found in the usual places online: collected here, and sprinkled throughout all the events.

Note: Many venues and businesses may continue to maintain individual requirements for masking, as well as proof of COVID-19 vaccination and/or a negative test for entry. Before heading out for any in-person event, confirm it is still taking place and check for any attendance guidelines on the relevant business websites or social media accounts.

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