Here we go! The four months of outdoor fun that are Dane County's summer festival season commences this weekend with Fitchburg Days, Syttende Mai and the WORT Block Party. The calendar also includes: the Lisa Frank and Nova Czarnecki exhibit at the Watrous Gallery and Focal Points: American Photography Since 1950 at MMoCA; a book reading by Dale Kushner; comedy by The Second City; a production by Winterblue Theatre; performances by Con Vivo, the Madison Choral Project, and Madison Youth Choirs; a VO5's graduation dance party and the '80s vs. '90s Halfway to Halloween ball; and, more live music from Anas Mitchell and Jefferson Hamer, The Funeral and the Twilight, Gurf Morlix, Kristin Hersh, Anders Parker & Kendall Meade, B.B. King, Brandon Beebe, Cajun Strangers, Jon Davidson, and Spirit Family Reunion.
NOTEWORTHY: New York Stock Exchange formed, 1792.
McKee Farms Park, Fitchburg, through May 19
The festival emphasizes Fitchburg's Irish roots with food, music and a carnival. Not sure what a Tilt-a-Whirl has to do with Ireland, but we're not complaining.
Stoughton, through May 19
Stoughton outdoes Norway itself in the annual ethnic festival, featuring a Norse canoe race, a rosemaling demonstration and hardanger fiddling.
Lisa Frank and Nova Czarnecki
Overture Center's James Watrous Gallery, through June 30. Reception: 5:30-7:30 pm
In "Stilleven," Frank uses digital manipulation to combine close-range photographs of natural imagery into stunningly complex patterns. In "It's Only Natural," Czarnecki's paintings depict dreamlike landscapes in which figures merge with natural images such as birds and flowers. Sounds like the perfect art show for spring.
First Congregational United Church of Christ, 7:30 pm
This local ensemble has returned from New York's Carnegie Hall more eager than ever to get Madison hooked on chamber music. They'll team up with members of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra to perform works by Mozart and others.
The Second City
Overture Center's Capitol Theatre, 7:30 pm
Chicago's iconic comedy troupe presents a best-of show, featuring songs and improvisation. It's a benefit for the cancer support organization Gilda's Club Madison. With local comedian Bryan Morris.
TAPIT/New Works, 8 pm. Also Saturday, May 18, 8 pm
The Maine/Minnesota troupe offers a rare chance to see a staging of W.B. Yeats' The Only Jealousy of Emer and The Death of Cuchulain, experimental plays inspired by Japanese Noh drama and Irish folklore.
VO5's Graduation Weekend Dance Party
UW Memorial Union Terrace, 8:15 pm
The zany local disco band will get the crowd grooving to funky sets at 8:15 pm, 9:30 pm and 10:45 pm.
Anas Mitchell and Jefferson Hamer
Redamte Coffee House, 8:30 pm
The singer-songwriters will perform selections from Child Ballads, an album of gorgeous folk tunes from the 16th and 17th centuries. (See Tour Stop.)
'80s vs. '90s Halfway to Halloween Costume Ball
Majestic Theatre, 9 pm
Halloween is such a big deal in Madison that we now need to celebrate being approximately six months out from it. DJs Nick Nice and Vilas Park Sniper will share videos from the likes of A Flock of Seagulls and Salt-N-Pepa as partiers try to outdo one another with costumes of their favorite stars from 20 to 30 years ago.
The Funeral and the Twilight
Willy Street Pub & Grill, 9 pm
This Minneapolis band makes creepy, charismatic post-punk that City Pages has praised for its "slasher-film-meets-psychological-thriller narrative." With Dharma Dogs, Singing Knives, the Smunn, Orifice A, Dead Apples and Sir! No Sir!
Kiki's House of Righteous Music, 9 pm
The Austin musician who produced Lucinda Williams' self-titled 1988 album is a talented performer as well. See if he brings his dobro and mandocello to this house show.
NOTEWORTHY: Earth passes through tail of Halley's Comet, 1910.
Focal Points: American Photography Since 1950
Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, through Sept. 1
The museum presents six decades of photographs from its permanent collection, organized according to themes rather than styles, in an attempt to answer the question, "What is American about American photography?" Among the artists represented: Diane Arbus, Winston Link and Robert Mapplethorpe.
High Noon Saloon, 7 pm
The cellist, vocalist and Throwing Muses frontwoman helped pave the way for the riot grrl movement by exploring many shades of anger during her early-'90s solo performances. The New York Times lauded her for challenging gender roles and singing about "more than simply vulnerability or defiance." With Mark Waldoch.
Madison Choral Project
Luther Memorial Church, 7 pm
This new 16-member professional vocal ensemble makes its debut at a free concert that includes selections from F. Melius Christiansen's Celestial Spring and Leland B. Sateren's "The Sun has Gone Down." Read a review on thedailypage.com/music on Sunday.
Anders Parker & Kendall Meade
Kiki's House of Righteous Music, 8 pm
Parker, leader of experimental rock group Varnaline, and Meade, of wispy indie-pop project Mascott, are longtime friends who've been collaborating for nearly two decades. They'll perform songs from Wild Chorus, an album named after Parker's new analog recording studio.
Overture Hall, 8 pm
The 87-year-old bluesman's name says a lot about him: He's indeed the king of his musical realm, and his songs pierce your heart like a BB gun. There won't be many dry eyes in the house if he performs "There Must Be a Better World Somewhere." With Anthony Gomes; read a review on thedailypage.com/music on Sunday.
UW Memorial Union Terrace, 9 pm
Get to know this homegrown artist's debut album, In This Place, whose introspective tunes show how much he admires Elliott Smith and Ray LaMontagne. With the Beat Chefs.
WORT Block Party
600 block of West Doty Street, 11 am-7 pm
The people's radio station takes it to the streets in this annual party, featuring kids' activities, a record sale, food, and live performances by the likes of the Handphibians and the Cash Box Kings.
Madison Youth Choirs
Overture Center's Capitol Theater, 1, 4:30 & 7:30 pm
Sit back and let the heavenly voices lift your spirits as the girlchoirs (1 pm), boychoirs (4:30 pm) and high school ensembles (7 pm) celebrate their 10th anniversary season.
A Room of One's Own, 2 pm
The local writer is gaining national attention for her passionate and mysterious new novel, The Conditions of Love. She'll read from the tale of a sensitive girl's coming of age in the 1950s Midwest (see Books).
Harmony Bar, 7 pm
These guys are no strangers to locals fascinated with New Orleans. Their music is pretty authentic, too: The drummer and lap-steel player grew up in Louisiana and have played Cajun music for most of their lives.
Glass Nickel Pizza-Atwood Ave., 9 pm
The young Portland musician took an electro-pop approach to his sophomore album, Tip of the Iceberg, which teems with raw emotion and great production values.
Spirit Family Reunion
Frequency, 9 pm
The New York City band have performed their Appalachian-style Americana at the Newport Folk Festival and on NPR's Mountain Stage. With Oak Street Ramblers.