Various galleries, 5-9 pm
The semiannual orgy of art encourages vistors to take in the wares at 54 local galleries, including major institutions like the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, whose First Friday event features a gallery talk about the big George Segal exhibit (and the music of Lou & Peter Berryman). Other highlights: paintings by Yueh-Mei Cheng at Grace Chosy Gallery; works by S.V. Medaris, Audrey Christie and Alicia Rhea in "Seasons on the Farm" at Madison Central Library; mixed-media images by Cate Loughran at Common Wealth Gallery.
Kanopy Dance Company
Overture Center's Promenade Hall, 7:30 pm. Also Saturday (8 pm) & Sunday (2:30 pm), Oct. 3 & 4
Featuring contributions by seven choreographers, "After the Fall: A Dance Opera in 2 Acts" expands on Kanopy work going back to 2000. The performance is, we hear, about a character named Mohawk Man who falls through a looking glass into a world controlled by the Puppet Master.
Wisconsin Union Theater, 7:30 pm
The Maine-based singer-songwriter with the impossibly plaintive pipes gives a long shout-out to Meg White, of all people, on his soon-to-be-released new CD, Gossip in the Grain. If you're looking to get your soul stirred, LaMontagne's your man. Leona Naess opens.
Walk With a Vampire
Bartell Theatre, 8 pm. Also Saturday (2 & 8 pm) and Thursday (8 pm), Oct. 4 & 9
The latest from Encore Studio for the Performing Arst, the theater company for people with disabilities, concerns a developmentally disabled woman who implicates a friend in a bloody crime.
Frequency, 9:30 pm
Is there still a place in this mean old world for fuck-all rock that strikes a chord with both contemporary stoners and members of the Thin Lizzy fan club? Absolutely. Just ask the Arge, who celebrate the release of a new EP tonight with a set of unbashed rockin'. Dick the Bruiser, Tancho Tancho and Black Sam open.
Pale Young Gentlemen
Cafe Montmartre, 9:30 pm
Local heroes Pale Young Gentlemen celebrate the release of Black Forest (Tra La La), a sophisticated, career-making indie excursion that matches elegant string arrangements with front man Mike Reisenauer's elastic warbling. She Is So Beautiful/She Is So Blonde and Time Since Western open.
Annex, 9:30 pm
Wolf Parade's Scott Krug pushes and pulls the limits of lo-fi with Sunset Rubdown, an inspired side project that's heavy on stream-of-consciousness musings and on-the-fly weirdness. Casiotone for the Painfully Alone open.
High Noon Saloon, 10 pm
DJ Jason Hann and String Cheese Incident percussionist Michael Travis eschew canned loops and other prerecorded material in their live grooving marathons. The jam-friendly duo improvises every trippy beat, every woozy synth line. Seeker open.
Madison Area Open Art Studios
Various artists' studios, 11 am-5 pm. Also Sunday, Oct. 4, noon-5 pm
If Gallery Night wasn't enough, check out this annual event's sixth staging, in which artists from Blue Mounds to Sun Prairie and points in between open their studios to you, the art-hungry public. Hand-bound books by Lorna Aaronson? Oils and watercolors by Daina Zemliauskas? You're covered. See maoas.com for details.
Essen Haus, noon
Fall is here, so it is time to truck to the city's only dedicated polka venue for food, fun and, lest we forget, beer. Bouncy music by the David Austin Band.
Mami Wata Regatta
Memorial Union Terrace, 3 pm
The Chazen Museum of Art previews its upcoming exhibit Mami Wata: Arts for Water Spirits in Africa and Its Diasporas with a parade of boats whose sails are colorfully painted by local artists. Steel drum music by Day-Oh! Paradise, and who doesn't love steel drum music?
Harmony Bar, 9:45 pm
These canny Milwaukeeans scored a label deal by deviating from the tried-and-true blues repertoire and giving familiar rock and pop hits rollicking blues and R&B treatments.
High Noon Saloon, 10 pm
Who says electronic music is for airheads? The Mathematicians' fun, math-themed synth pop and dance music will keep those lazy neurons buzzing for hours. Screamin' Cyn Cyn & the Pons and Ouija Radio open.
Wisconsin Union Theater, 8 pm
A kinder, gentler Ani DiFranco? Who knows if it's permanent, but the fieriest folkie of 'em all spends a lot of time mainlining the mellow on her new release, Red Letter Year. Even if motherhood has taken some of the edge off her music, it's a dead certainty that she'll have something righteous to say about the upcoming election. Peter Mulvey opens.
The Cardinals featuring Ryan Adams
Overture Center's Overture Hall, 8:30 pm
Don't worry, the mature Ryan Adams is more likely to laugh off an inane requests for "Free Bird" than jump into the audience and demand that the boorish offender leave the premises immediately. Tonight the reformed alt-country bad boy plays at being just one of the guys as the Cardinals visit pop, rock and folk tunes from every stage of his fitful career, including music from the soon-to-be-released Cardinology.