What to do in Madison this week: Cathy Couture album release, Natalie Foster and more Isthmus Picks – Isthmus

Madison Night Mares debut, June 16-17, Warner Park Duck Pond, 6:05 p.m.: The Duck Pond will seldom be empty this summer as a new women’s fastpitch softball team will alternate with the Madison Mallards this summer. The Night Mares take on the La Crosse Steam for their first two games. On Monday, attendees will receive a magnet with the season’s schedule. Read Mel Hammond’s season preview here, and find tickets at

Janis Siegel + Jeremy Kahn, Monday, June 17, North Street Cabaret, 7 p.m.: The voice of Janis Siegel is one of the most recognizable of the jazz world; it helped The Manhattan Transfer cross over to the pop charts in the 1970s and ’80s — a rare accomplishment for jazz musicians after the Big Band era. Siegel has concurrently enjoyed a solo career for many years, building her own catalog of albums and collaborations outside her Grammy-winning band. For this concert Siegel will be accompanied by Chicago pianist Jeremy Kahn. Tickets at

Down From the Hills, Tuesday, June 18, Seven Acre Dairy Co., Paoli, 5 p.m.: Bluegrass on a terrace overlooking the Sugar River as it meanders through the scenic hamlet of Paoli? Yes, please. Down from the Hills plays the best kind of bluegrass, inspired by the likes of Bill Monroe and Earl Scruggs. Seven Acre does its part with half-price ice cream treats.

Harry Whitehorse International Wood Sculpture Festival, through June 22, San Damiano, Monona: This ambitious festival brings together a slate of wood sculptors from around the world for a week-long residency, to show their work, create new work, and involve the public with demos and other entertainment. Harry Whitehorse, the late Ho-Chunk sculptor from Monona, inspired the festival that will focus on both contemporary and traditional wood sculpting techniques.The public is invited to watch the artists work 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily from June 15-21 and from 9 a.m.-11:30 a.m. on June 22; each day highlights a different art form. The week also includes a Cash Box Kings concert at 6 p.m. on June 18 as part of the San Damiano Summer Biergarten Concert series, and closing ceremony at 5 p.m. on June 22 followed by a potluck.. Find a schedule at

Madison Marimba Quartet plus one, Tuesday, June 18, Rennebohm Park, 6:30 p.m.: The marimba has to be one of the most underrated instruments, sounding both jazzy and tropical and perfect for an evening in the park. Its wooden bars are super fun to hit and they sound good even when you don’t know what you’re doing (unlike, say, the violin). But these folks know what they are doing. Quartet founder Jim Latimer will be joined by Tim Gruber, Nancy Riesch-Flannery and J. Danielsen Latimer — plus a fifth marimba player, Greg Riss, who’s giving the elder Latimer a bit of a breather. The program includes “Ladyfingers Rag” by Madison trumpet player Judy White, newly scored for marimbas.

Natalie Foster, Tuesday, June 18, Leopold’s Books Bar Caffe, 7 p.m.: Economic activist Natalie Foster will visit cozy Leopold’s to discuss her new book, The Guarantee: The Fight For America’s Next Economy, which imagines a future in which the government actually takes care of such pesky needs as housing, health care, college education, “dignified work,” child and elder care and a lot of other stuff that currently is not happening. She’ll be in conversation with Madison’s own Ben Wikler, chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. Hey Ben, shouldn’t you be out mobilizing apathetic voters or something?

Xizhou Xie: through July 14, Garver Canvas, Art is an important part of the experience at Garver Feed Mill; director of public programming and business operations Bethany Jurewicz has a master’s degree in contemporary art theory and was determined to include art in the restored space. A spacious room on the first floor known as Garver Canvas is devoted to gallery-style public exhibits. For the next month and a half the space is devoted to the work of Xizhou Xie. “Layers of Self: Exploring Identities” ponders the question “Who am I?” While mostly abstract, Xie’s work does demonstrate some traditional Asian influences. Gallery hours are noon-6 p.m. Thursday and Saturday, noon-8 p.m. Friday and noon-4 p.m. Sunday.

Cathy Couture album release: Wednesday, June 19, Red Rooster, 6:30 p.m.: Singer-songwriter Cathy Couture first got on a mic in front of people in 2022 when participating in Ladies Rock Camp. Singing and learning various instruments also inspired Couture’s songwriting, and music became an important way of coping when she was diagnosed with stage IV cancer in early 2023. Couture’s first album, Transitions, musically processes her fight into thoughtful, direct and humorous folk rock songs. And while recording a second album, Amazing, Couture received the happy news that her cancer has gone into partial remission. For this show Couture will be joined by her recording partners, Jenna Joanis, Dan Kennedy and Beth Kille, with an opening set by Kennedy.

Blood Simple, Wednesday, June 19, UW Cinematheque, 7 p.m.: Before there was Fargo, there was Blood Simple. This 1984 noir-ish concoction first put Joel and Ethan Coen on the map. The quirky film stars M. Emmet Walsh, the invaluable Dan Hedaya, and Frances McDormand in a plot that is undeniably Coen-esque: an affair, a botched kidnapping, a murder-for-hire. “The characteristic Coen awareness, a sly recognition of letting the audience share their power over our access to the story world, is everywhere in evidence,” wrote the late UW film historian David Bordwell. The screening features a 35mm print from the Wisconsin Center for Film & Theater Research, and will be shown with Bordwell’s video essay discussing point-of-view in the film.

National Women’s Music Festival, June 20-23, Marriott-West, Middleton: Founded in 1974 at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana to counter the under-representation of women in the music business, the National Women’s Music Festival has since 2008 been at home in Middleton. Along with four days of concerts, the fest features workshops, speakers, film screenings, vendors, and more. The music lineup includes legends (Cris Williamson, Barbara Higbie & Teresa Trull, Bitch) along with up-and-coming artists such as Joy Clark, whose solo debut album is due this fall on Righteous Babe Records. Find the schedule and tickets at

Community Art Show, through June 23, Common Wealth Gallery: Common Wealth Development’s gallery space on the third floor of the Madison Enterprise Center has long been a reliable go-to for local visual artists with an exhibit concept and a need for a place to mount it. Case in point: the Community Art Show, which features work by more than 50 local creators, from professional to beginner, of all ages. Remaining hours are 4-7 p.m. on June 20 and noon-5 p.m. on June 22-23, and (or by appointment:

Chris Smither + Betty Soo, Thursday, June 20, Bur Oak, 8 p.m.: Chris Smither is an American original. Miami-born and raised in New Orleans, he learned song structure as a child on the ukulele from his uncle. As recounted by Smither in the promotional materials for the new album All About the Bones: “Uncle Howard showed me that if you knew three chords you could play a lot of the songs on the radio. And if you knew four chords, you could pretty much rule the world.” All About the Bones is a haunted consideration of human nature made all the more entrancing by Austin singer-songwriter Betty Soo, who accompanies Smither on this tour. This one sold out well ahead of time, but check for last minute tickets at

Murder!(s), June 20-22 and 27-28, Broom Street Theater, 8 p.m.: Are We Delicious? resurfaced in 2023 following an extended pause due to the pandemic. The Madison ensemble most often writes, rehearses and performs a one-hour show in two weeks, but this time is back with a revival of a show the group produced in 2019. Murder!(s), subtitled “a (mostly) true crime story,” concerns a murder-for-insurance-money scheme gone awry. The production is a fundraiser to help defray the costs to mount the show at the Green Bay Fringe Festival. Tickets at

Madou Sidiki Diabaté & Salif Bamakora, Thursday, June 20, Gamma Ray, 9 p.m.: The new Gamma Ray Bar (in the space formerly home to The Frequency and Slipper Club) just opened June 1, and is already scheduling some unique concerts, including the kora duo of Madou Sidiki Diabaté and Salif Bamakora. Diabaté is of the 71st generation in his West African family’s long lineage of griots; Bamakora is his student. This Madison Music Review concert is a rare chance to see the duo in the Midwest. Tickets at

HIRS Collective, Thursday, June 20, Mickey’s Tavern, 10 p.m.: HIRS formed 15 years ago as a duo, but in the intervening years has grown into The HIRS Collective, an ever-evolving ensemble without a fixed lineup. No matter who is involved (including a dizzying array of guests on their recordings such as Shirley Manson and Melt-Banana), the band creates bracing punk rock in a dizzying array of styles with lyrics and samples shining a light on injustice and raging for a more inclusive future for queer and trans folks, people of color, and other marginalized communities. Also on the bill: Rockford trio Pains and Madison hardcore artists Solshade (previously announced band Sex Scenes is no longer making it to Madison)

Find the individual Picks collected here, and as part of the full calendar of events.

Editor’s note: This post has been updated with a new lineup for the Mickey’s show on June 20.

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