What to do in Madison this weekend: Ghost Wars, Joey’s Song and more Isthmus Picks – Isthmus

Sex Ed Disco Dance Party, Thursday, Jan. 5, Crucible, 8 p.m.: It’s an all-star lineup of DJs — Sarah Akawa, Millbot, Avalon, Coop There It Is and French Jessica — spinning at this fundraiser in support of local queer artist Gracie K Wallner, who is making a documentary about the importance of queer/inclusive sex ed, the history of why the topic hasn’t been taught, and who is championing it in the community and the world. In addition to the DJs, the event will feature free safer sex supplies, a costume contest, and more.

Bent Antenna + Back Issues + Jane Hobson, Thursday, Jan. 5, High Noon Saloon, 8 p.m.: This show kicks off your weekend early with a combo platter of two rock bands made up of scene vets and a buzz-generating newcomer. Bent Antenna formed as a duo and upped the pop-rock action by expanding to a quartet, featuring members of The Delicate Delegate, Killdozer and MaeRae. The Back Issues played their first show last summer, and is a trio with players drawn from Small Mediums, New Recruits and Rocket Bureau. Jane Hobson was a member of The Hobgoblins while at Oberlin College in Ohio, and is back in Madison leading an eponymous band and quickly building a following with an ever-growing catalog of lyrically direct modern rock songs.

Fashion Focus | Home, through Jan. 29, Madison Museum of Contemporary Art: Featuring the portfolios and garment collections of both students and alumni of Mount Mary University in Milwaukee, “Fashion Focus | Home” explores the idea of home and what it means to the artist — from memories and reclamation to displacement. The collection is an addition to MMoCA’s existing multi-media exhibition, ”Home,” and is on display through Jan. 29. Regular hours are noon-6 p.m. Thursday-Sunday.

Madison Home Expo, Jan. 6-8, Monona Terrace: When it comes to a home freshen-up, why wait to remodel until before you sell, when you could be enjoying all these improvements yourself? Or, if you’re keen on selling, learn more about building a new home, too. Exhibits and vendors will be showcasing their best ideas 2-7 p.m. on Friday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Sunday. More info at

Jamie Pacton, Friday, Jan. 6, Kismet Books, 6 p.m.; Thursday, Jan. 19, Mystery To Me, 6 p.m.: Verona-based author Jamie Pacton’s YA fantasy debut, The Vermilion Emporium, was published in November. And while the story about two misfits who discover the deadly secret to weaving lace from starlight inside a magical curiosity shop takes place in the fictional city of Severon, it has very real roots in south-central Wisconsin. In 2018, Pacton found herself inside a now-closed women’s clothing and consignment store in Fort Atkinson called The Vermilion Emporium. “It was such a delightful and incongruous name for a shop in this little rural town that it stuck with me,” she says. “I started daydreaming about a magical curiosity shop with the same name, and that magical shop became the heart of my story and the title of my book.” The talk at Mystery to Me requires registration, and a livestream is available; find info at

Mackenzie Moore + Bone Holler, Friday, Jan. 6, Cargo Coffee-East, 6:30 p.m.: 2022 was a busy year for singer-songwriter Mackenzie Moore, who released her second album in September, captured the MAMA for Folk/Rock Performer of the Year in November, and graduated from UW-Madison in December. The glossy electro-inspired folk rock of Out of Nowhere displays Moore’s continuing growth as a songwriter. Your chances of catching a local Moore show will soon become rare, as she plans to move to the west coast this summer, so don’t miss this excellent double bill shared with Bone Holler, a Madison trio expert at murder ballads and other doomy subjects.

Wisconsin Folk Fest, Friday, Jan. 6, Majestic, 7 p.m.: Some unique Midwestern folk acts kick off the first weekend of Wisconsin Fests, an annual winter genre-themed celebration of Wisconsin artists hosted by FPC Live Jan. 6-7 and Jan. 13-14 at three different venues. Sun Prairie’s Spine Stealers make music that might be heard at a haunted truck stop. Madison’s Gin Mill Hollow brings the folk rock. Good Morning Bedlam from Minneapolis burned down the stage at last Summer’s Orton Park Festival with jumpy, jazzy folk music and off-the-rails presentation. The more somber but polished-as-hell Milwaukee folk giants Dead Horses headline.

Ghost Wars, Jan. 6-7, Madison Metropolitan School District Planetarium, 8 p.m.: Visual and performing artist Thomas Ferrella, video artist and UW-Madison film professor Aaron Granat, and the musical collective You of All People are collaborating once again for a created-on-the-spot music and film concert, designed for the immersive environment of the planetarium. Ghost Wars will examine the nexus of capitalism and war through history and visions of the future. Ticket sales (at benefit Friends of Ukraine, Madison. Read more here about their previous collaboration, MindStorm.

Wisconsin Metal Fest, Friday, Jan. 6, High Noon Saloon, 8 p.m.:  Wisconsin Metal Fest features three of the finest head-banging bands Madison has to offer. Power-metal mavens Lords of the Trident are fresh off a mega-successful tour of Japan; brutal death-metal clan Casket Robbery is supporting the release of November’s devastatingly heavy Rituals of Death; and Droids Attack, Madison’s thick-grooved, stoner-thrash kings, are still the droids we’ve always been looking for.

Kid Disco, Saturday, Jan. 7, Great Dane-Hilldale, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.: Kid Disco is a longtime favorite winter event for families with littles, and it returns for the first time since early 2020. DJ Nick Nice spins kid-friendly music, and the theme for the afternoon is superheroes (costumes encouraged). Tickets will be sold at the door, first come, first served.

Joey’s Song, Saturday, Jan. 7, The Sylvee, 7 p.m.: The ninth Joey’s Song benefit concert — held in honor of Joey Gomoll, who passed away in 2010 from a rare form of epilepsy one week shy of his fifth birthday — boasts an all-star lineup as usual. Headlining is The Know-It-All Boyfriends, an only-in-Madison collective featuring Garbage members Butch Vig and Duke Erikson joined by Frank Anderson, Cory Chisel, James “ Pie ” Cowan, Alex Drossart, Freedy Johnston and Jay Moran. Special guests include Soul Asylum’s Dave Pirner, along with members of Fountains of Wayne, Portugal. The Man, Belly, The Nielsen Trust, and Letters to Cleo; Charlie Berens (Manitowoc Minute) and Joel Hodgson (Mystery Science Theater 3000) will also join in the fun. Proceeds will go toward CURE Epilepsy and affiliates of the Epilepsy Foundation. Between the benefit concerts and five compilation CDs, Joey’s Song has raised more than $750,000 in the fight against epilepsy. Find ticket info at

MadRock, Saturday, Jan. 7, Liquid + Ruby, 9 p.m.: Following up on the paired venues’ New Year’s Eve dance music blowout, Liquid and Ruby are changing it up with a regional rock showcase taking over both rooms. Featuring seven bands, the lineup leans to harder-edged sounds in various subgenres: heartland rock/punk (20 Minute Mission from Madison); hard rock/metal (No Escape of Wausau and Seilies from Madison); pop punk flavored by emo and metal (Beloit band At the Wayside), by indie rock (Colorado Ave of Rockford), and served relatively straight (Wisconsin-based Common Threads); and ’90s-’00s covers and originals influenced by the era (Ron’s Supper Club from Madison).

Immersive Van Gogh, through Feb. 20, Greenway Station: If you’ve ever wanted to just fall into a scene depicted in one of Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings…this traveling presentation by Lighthouse Immersive is about as close as you can get. Spaces are transformed with large-scale projections of digitally recreated incarnations of Van Gogh’s works. Purchase tickets for timed entry at; the experience is hosted at 1651 Deming Way, Middleton, in the Greenway Station retail center. The residency has been extended through Feb. 20.

Donut Fest Madison, Sunday, Jan. 8, Delta Beer Lab, 3-5 p.m.: If doughnuts and beer don’t seem a natural pairing to you, this event is designed to change your mind. Doughnut samples plus beer and coffee are the draw; other non-alcoholic beverages will also be available. Kids are allowed, but no strollers. It’s just a casual afternoon hanging at the Beer Lab. Find admission tickets here (VIP tickets include 1 p.m. entry).

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

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