February holds the distinction of being the year’s shortest month, one of Wisconsin’s coldest spans of time, and the final full month of winter. However, this particular February finds Milwaukee artists and venues bucking the trend of late-season boredom and Valentine’s-adjacent blues with a bevy of great events. Beyond massive undertakings like Mitten Fest and Mama Tried, renowned touring bands and comedians are swinging through town as well. Meanwhile, noted locals will play record release shows as clubs host exciting one-off events like All Messed Up and Tarik Moody’s Love Letter To Milwaukee. Oh, and Coolio is coming to Mad Planet for some reason.
The year’s shortest month is long on worthwhile entertainment options here in Milwaukee. There’s a lot to pick from, but here’s our 13 can’t-miss events for February.
Wednesday, February 1
Phox + Cuddle Magic @ Pabst Theater
After releasing its lush and dreamy self-titled debut album in 2014, Phox was tabbed by many to carry the Wisconsin music torch to the mainstream. After avid touring, some late night appearances, and some cherry festival slots since then, the Madison (by way of Baraboo) folk-tinged pop project decided to put the project to bed—at least temporarily—and focus on other projects. Before going on hiatus, Phox will play one more Milwaukee outing. Hopefully it won’t be their last.
Friday, February 3
Platiunum Boys (7″ release) + Wet Piss, and Slow Walker @ High Dive
Head down to the Big Splash for Platinum Boys’ christening of its new New Kind Of Love/Already Gone 7″, with Chicago-based Wet Piss and Milwaukee’s own Slow Walker—who just released a great new EP—playing in support.
Saturday, February 4
Burnhearts Mitten Fest 2017
Now that New Year’s festivities have come and gone, folks in Milwaukee are forced to come to terms with the harsh realization that winter is here in full force and there’s not much to do outside. Fortunately, on the horizon there sits an eight-hour respite from the seasonal doldrums that offers an outdoor escape from the norm every February. For the past four years, Burnhearts’ Mitten Fest has helped combat cabin fever for thousands of people who converge in a two-block stretch on Bay View’s Potter Avenue (and part of Logan last year) with a wintry mix of live music, food, beverages, and charity. Milwaukee’s favorite winter festival will return with Lorde Fredd33, Paper Holland, Field Report (solo), and Storm Clouds.
Ms. Lauryn Hill + The MLH Caravan: A Diaspora Calling! @ Riverside Theater
After making a mark with The Fugees, Lauryn Hill released her first and only album, The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill, in 1998. Following a lengthy self-imposed hiatus, Ms. Lauryn Hill has returned refocused and as good as ever. The Grammy winner is bringing her MLH Caravan, which “allows [her] to continue the theme of unity and celebration of the many facets of cultural and artistic beauty throughout the African diaspora while on tour.”
Wednesday, February 8
Gary Gulman @ Turner Hall
Veteran stand-up comic Gary Gulman has done it all: numerous late night television appearances, thousands of miles logged between comedy clubs throughout the country, TV and film credits, and five comedy albums. Fresh off last year’s It’s About Time, the accomplished comedian will drop by Milwaukee for a single night to treat Turner Hall to set of off kilter and uproariously funny observations.
Friday, February 10
Rhett Miller + Trapper Schoepp @ The Back Room
Though you probably know him better as the singer of Old 97’s, Rhett Miller has plied his songwriting skills into a respectable solo career, too. The crooner will play material from his seven solo records and, with any luck, stripped-down versions of Old 97’s classics. Trapper Schoepp opens.
Saturday, February 11
Valentine’s Weekend Laugh-A-Thon with Earthquake, Aries Spears, and more @ Milwaukee Theatre
Since 2006, Milwaukee Theatre has given both comedy-loving couples and laugh-seeking loners reason to smile on Valentine’s weekend. This year’s lineup is headlined by the incomparable Earthquake. The force of comic nature is joined by MadTV alumnus Aries Spears, among others.
Sunday, February 12
Cloud Nothings + Moon Bros, and Dramatic Lovers @ Turner Hall
With just one month in the books, Cloud Nothings have already gone and released what’s sure to be one of 2017’s best albums. The band’s days-old Life Without Sound is an unflappable collection of post-punk masterpieces. Be sure to catch Cloud Nothings at a venue without seats while you still can. They probably won’t be playing Turner next time around. Moon Bros and new Milwaukee supergroup Dramatic Lovers open.
Wednesday, February 15
WORK + The Rutabega, and Body Futures @ Cactus Club
There isn’t much to say about this one. It’s just a good show.
Thursday, February 16
Ben Folds (solo piano) + Kadhja Bonet @ Riverside Theater
If “Brick” is your favorite Ben Folds song, Riverside Theater has just the show for you. The affable pop-pianist and (usual) bandleader will tickle the ivories sans accompaniment during a rare solo piano performance. Kadhja Bonet opens.
Friday, February 17
Tarik Moody’s Love Letter To Milwaukee @ Company Brewing
Ten years ago, Tarik Moody moved to Milwaukee. Though the 88Nine personality previously lived in Atlanta, Washington D.C., and Minneapolis, “The Architect” is finally home. To celebrate his decade in town, Moody is issuing a “Love Letter To Milwaukee” in the form of an outstanding night of entertainment. Company Brewing will host the soiree, which includes an Unlooped vs Dilla reunion, Def Harmonic, Siren, and a collaboration that features Honey, Klassik, and SistaStrings. Jordan “Madhatter” Lee and Kiings will DJ between acts.
Friday, February 17 and Saturday, February 18
All Messed Up VII @ Linneman’s Riverwest Inn
Two months ago, All Messed Up selected participants at random and formed 16 bands. After the 64 participants had ample time to write and rehearse together, those acts will take the stage at Linneman’s for two nights of All Messed Up VII. Come see the likes of MMOOLLDD, ZZ Hop, The Shit And Piss Boys, and I’m In A Band With A Fucking Cop perform 15- to 20-minute sets like you’ve never seen before (and probably never will again).
Friday, February 24
The Fatty Acids (album release) + Zed Kenzo, Phat Nerdz, and Aloha Juice @ Anodyne Walker’s Point Roastery
A lot has changed since 2013. This website didn’t exist in 2013, for example. That year was the last time The Fatty Acids put out a record. Since the venerable synth-poppers released Boléro close to four calendar years ago, some members departed, others got married, a couple of them joined different bands, and a few started philanthropic music festivals or opened businesses. Though the project was set squarely on the back burner for a bit, the time has come for The Fatties to return with Dogs Of Entertainment. The band’s fourth LP—which will be released by Gloss Records at the end of February—is a more grown-up and down-tempo (not to mention a very, very good) version of the local music kingpins you’ve come to know and love through the years. This Anodyne outing is the all-ages half of the album release festivities. There will also be a 21+ show at Linneman’s on March 3.