What to do in Madison this week: Monona Community Festival, Mike Campbell & the Dirty Knobs and more Isthmus Picks – Isthmus

Mike Campbell & the Dirty Knobs, Monday, July 1, Barrymore , 8 p.m.: At first listen, you might mistake “Dare to Dream,” the new single by Mike Campbell & the Dirty Knobs, as a lost Tom Petty track. The most famous Heartbreaker takes plenty of influences from the former frontman, managing to sound both familiar and fresh. The third album from Campbell and The Dirty Knobs, Vagabonds, Virgins & Misfits, came out in mid-June and features cameos by Graham Nash, Lucinda Williams, Chris Stapleton, and fellow Heartbreaker Benmont Tench. If recent setlists are any indication, he’ll also sneak in some Petty classics. Roots singer-songwriter Shannon McNally opens. Tickets at

Art for Humanity’s Sake, through July 8, Java Cat; reception July 2, 5:30-7:30 p.m.: Work by more than 25 artists is part of this silent auction coordinated by Madison-Rafah Sister City Project, to benefit Middle East Children’s Alliance’s humanitarian work in Gaza. Art is on display at Java Cat, which will also host a meet and greet with artists from 5:30-7 p.m. on July 2. The auction is open through 5 p.m. on July 8 at

Asher Perlman, Tuesday, July 2, Leopold’s Books Bar Caffé, 7 p.m.: Asher Perlman, a regular contributing cartoonist at The New Yorker and a writer for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, grew up in Madison and tells us he read Isthmus religiously. That alone makes us a fan. But his cartoons, which resonate with Midwestern charm, are funny enough to make us laugh out loud, too. Perlman, now based in Brooklyn, New York, will be back in town to promote his new book, Well, This Is Me (Andrews McMeel Publishing), which is packed with more than 150 cartoons about everything from Jiffy Lube to a dog’s encounter with a genie to travel, work, death and dying.

Hillbilly Casino, Tuesday, July 2, High Noon Saloon, 7:30 p.m.: Nashville’s Hillbilly Casino plays straight up rockabilly with uplifting verve. The band features former members of Brian Setzer’s Nashvillains, BR549 and the Blue Moon Boys, and is on their 20th anniversary tour. Along for the ride are openers Sasquatch & the Sick-a-Billys, who play rockabilly with a harder rock edge. Tickets

Columbus Fourth of July, July 2-7, Fireman’s Park, Columbus: Why travel to Columbus for a Fourth of July celebration? Columbus’s Fireman’s Park has the look of a late 19th century American Midwestern small town, with its impressive two-story dance hall. The park hosts a carnival each day and bands at night July 3-5 and all afternoon and evening on July 6 (including a Madison Music Foundry showcase and fan fave ’80s hair band tribute Cherry Pie). Fireworks are scheduled for dusk on the Fourth. The fest closes on Sunday with a classic car show. Find the full schedule at

Lyle Lovett & His Large Band, Tuesday, July 2, Overture Hall, 7:30 p.m.: Lyle Lovett first found commercial success on country radio, but even those early records were disinclined to be confined by strict genre conventions. In hindsight, Lovett is one of the artists who helped point the way to the concept of Americana music. The first Large Band record, in 1989, netted Lovett a Grammy for Best Male Country Vocal Performance, and Lovett is on the road with the current incarnation of that ensemble for much of 2024. Expect to hear songs from the 2022 album 12th of June (his first in a decade) and with this versatile group, possibly anything from his catalog or otherwise. Tickets at

Stoughton Fair, July 3-7, Mandt Park, Stoughton: This festival remains centered on community exhibitors of livestock, arts and crafts, and more. But the Stoughton Fair also includes plenty of entertainment: Stunt dog performances by Team Zoom Canine Entertainment, CC Bucking Bulls rodeo, truck and tractor pulls, and live music including Bree Morgan Reloaded, The Box Band, and others. There’s also a Friday fish fry…what is more Wisconsin than that? Find the full schedule at

Allison Mahal, Wednesday July 3, Lake Vista Cafe, 4:30 p.m.: The Live @ Lake Vista series takes advantage of the dining area atop Monona Terrace and its dramatic setting to feature smaller acts than Concerts on the Rooftop, right around the dinner hour. Allison Mahal is a Chicago-area singer/songwriter now working out of Milwaukee after a stint in Nashville. Her vocals recall the whispery side of Billie Eilish. She’ll be highlighting songs from her 2023 debut album, Not Over This Yet.

Monona Community Festival, July 3-4, Winnequah Park, Monona: From beginnings as Monona Fun Days in the 1960s, the Monona Community Festival has grown into one of Dane County’s best Fourth of July events, featuring a spectacular fireworks display, a big art fair, bands and a hopping beer tent, kids’ activities, and the unique spectacle of the Wisconsin Wife Carry Championship. The fest has always been free admission, and entirely volunteer run as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit raising funds for community organizations; unfortunately, a decline in volunteers and a rise in costs to put on the festival have led the organization to announce that 2024 will be the final year. Set aside some time to make some new memories to join those of fun times during past years. Find the full schedule at (note, the carnival opens on July 2).

Thank You, David Bordwell, Wednesdays, July 3-24, UW Cinematheque, 7 p.m.: The UW’s cine-fan theater pays tribute to one of its own, film scholar David Bordwell, who passed away in March, with a series called “Thank You, David Bordwell.” All the Wednesday night screenings this summer will be 35mm prints of films from Bordwell’s own collection, now housed at the Wisconsin Center for Film & Theater Research. On July 3, Jan de Bont’s bus/bomb thriller Speed “exemplifies the fairly well-crafted action picture,” as Bordwell wrote. July 10 features the French film Vagabond from 1985; July 17 highlights Laura, the Otto Preminger murder mystery of 1944; and the series closes July 24 with Tiger on Beat, a Hong Kong buddy-cop film that Bordwell praised as “exciting, even exhilarating.” All films are at 7 p.m. at 4070 Vilas Hall.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, June 27-Sept. 7, American Players Theatre, Spring Green: APT moves away from romantic comedy with this 1982 August Wilson play that centers on conflict during a recording session for blues singer Ma Rainey. Rainey’s real life inspired the play; “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” is one of her own songs. Upcoming performances include 7:30 p.m. on July 3; tickets and info at

Anthony Caulkins, Wednesday, July 3, Bur Oak, 8 p.m.: People don’t generally associate the banjo with eggheads. Anthony Caulkins is an exception — and an exceptional player. An MFA graduate, he’s studied and written about all kinds of music forms including a textual analysis of the seminal Public Enemy song “Fight the Power.” He’s also an in-demand guitarist in his hometown of Austin. Madison alt-country outfit Dogtown Hollow and singer-songwriter Alexis Gabriel support. Tickets at

Catfish River Music Festival, July 4-6, Rotary Park, Stoughton: Along with three days of music, the Catfish River Music Festival features the announcement of the 2024-2025 season at Stoughton Opera House. It’s also a fundraiser for the nonprofit, and beverage sales help maintain the historic venue — as do donations from enthused music fans. But, who is playing, you may ask? Returning fest favorites The Cactus Blossoms and Charlie Parr (back-to-back on Friday); a galaxy of local stars such as Neil Young tribute band Shakey, carisa and The Spine Stealers; and many more. Prepare for a busy weekend. Find the full schedule and updates at

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

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