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, ambitious one-offs like Guthrie Uncovered, a special Say Anything screening in the company of John Cusack himself, and an Abby Jeanne residency help make the year’s shortest month a solid one in terms of entertainment options.
Saturday, February 3
Mitten Fest 2018 @ Burnhearts
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 five 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 Avenue lately) with a wintry mix of live music, food, beverages, and charity. Milwaukee’s favorite winter festival will return with Slow Walker, Lex Allen, NO/NO, Fox Face, and Rose Of The West.
John Cusack with Say Anything @ Riverside Theater
Is there anyone better than John Cusack? If you were weaned on ’80s movies like Sixteen Candles, Better Off Dead, and Say Anything…, the answer is “no.” If you were weaned on ’90s movies like Grosse Pointe Blank, Con Air, and Being John Malkovich, the answer is “no.” And if you were weaned on more recent movies like High Fidelity, The Ice Harvest, and Hot Tub Time Machine, the answer is…well, you get the idea. Anyway, Cusack is coming to the Riverside Theater for a screening of the aforementioned Say Anything… and a live conversation. Nice! Yes, fans will be able to experience Cusack in all his Lloyd Dobler, Cameron Crowe-directed splendor, as well as in a moderated discussion where the actor will discuss the making of the film, his entire career, and hopefully why he’s so down on Better Off Dead.
Marilyn Manson @ The Rave
There’s an old Onion article where a just-past-his-prime Marilyn Manson is going door-to-door in a small Kansas City suburb trying to shock people. Draped in sheep entrails, Manson arrives at the home of a mother preparing to drive her daughter to a Girl Scouts meeting. “I tried to be nice and humor him a little,” the mother says. “I said, ‘Yesiree, that sure is some shocking satanic imagery, no doubt about it. And that one eye with no color in the pupil, very disturbing. I’d sure like to suppress that.’ I mean, what do you say to Marilyn Manson?” Anyway, after being forced to postpone his tour after sustaining an injury on stage last September, Manson will make his belated return to The Rave this Saturday.
Monday, February 5 (and 12, 19, 26)
Abby Jeanne’s “Fire In February” Residency @ Company Brewing
Abby Jeanne capped off a breakout 2017 with her “Electric New Year” show, an unofficial culmination of a year in which the owner of Milwaukee’s most captivating voice released her well-received debut album, stole the show at Local Coverage, played a flurry of festivals, released a few music videos, and put out her best song to date. Though last year was big for her, Abby Jeanne seems poised for even bigger things in 2018 with her “Fire In February” residency. The run of four Monday night shows at Company Brewing will span the entire month. Each show will include a different opener, who will perform before Abby Jeanne takes the stage at 8:30 p.m. sharp. She’ll be joined by Chicago’s Lucille Furs on February 5, Klassik on February 12, New York-based Fiona Silver on February 19, and Rose Of The West on February 26. Each show costs $10 individually or $30 for all four.
Friday, February 9
Jens Lekman + Peter Oren @ The Back Room at Colectivo
Has it really been 10 years since Jens Lekman played Milwaukee? Unless someone knows otherwise, it appears the Swedish indie darling last played our fair city March 29, 2008 at the Pabst Theater. Sheesh. Well, fast-forward a full decade and prepare for a much-needed reintroduction, because Lenkman is set to play The Back Room @ Colectivo. Finally.
Guthrie UNCOVERED @ Turner Hall
Local music treasure Johanna Rose of Nickel&Rose notoriety is leading “a unique interpretation of the music of Woody Guthrie” at Turner, produced by David Ravel and featuring accompaniment by Painted Caves, Klassik, Peter Mulvey, Abby Jeanne, Hello Death, and many more. You’ve heard Guthrie’s music before, but you’ve never heard it sound quite like this. And you’ll never hear this again.
Saturday, February 10
Joan Jett & The Blackhearts @ UWM Panther Arena (Admirals post-game concert)
How often do you get to see a Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame act and an AHL game on the same night? Shockingly, kind of regularly, it seems. Not 15 months after the Milwaukee Admirals hosted Cheap Trick, 2015 Hall inductee Joan Jett and her Blackhearts will play a post-game show at Panther Arena.
Wednesday, February 14
Farley + Barley (Tommy Boy screening) @ Avalon Theater
Even now, more than 20 years since his untimely death, Chris Farley still holds a special place in the hearts of comedy fans and Wisconsinites. To celebrate the life and the work of the Madison native and Marquette graduate, Lakefront Brewery and Avalon Theater are joining forces for a special screening of Tommy Boy for an event the brewery has dubbed “Farley + Barley.” The quotable 1995 comedy classic will be shown on the eve of what would have been Farley’s 54th birthday. The screening will double as a tap takeover at Avalon, with Lakefront serving up a variety of beers that have been temporarily renamed for the occasion.
A Very Emo Valentine’s @ Company Brewing
This Valentine’s Day, a skilled backing band will take the stage at Company Brewing to accompany the likes of Zed Kenzo, Britney Freeman-Farr (aka B~Free), Fernando Arias, Yasmeen Daniel, and Mario Betancourt Lanza to perform songs “in the spirit of Riverwest Valentine’s Day sadness.” Some of the “emo” acts who will be covered at the event are Bright Eyes, My Chemical Romance, Fall Out Boy, Yellowcard, 30 Seconds To Mars, Paramore, Hawthorne Heights, Panic At The Disco, The Killers, and more. While we have no idea whether this cast of musicians could possible enhance some of these embarrassing songs from the early aughts, we’re excited to watch them try.
Friday, February 16
Valerie June + Birds Of Chicago @ Pabst Theater
Tennesee’s own Valerie June expertly straddles the boundaries of folk, Americana, bluegrass, gospel, soul, and country. No matter what type of music you think she plays, we can all agree it’s nothing short of astounding. Less than a year removed from the release of her wonderful The Order Of Time, June will take to The Pabst to head up a show that also features Birds Of Chicago. Not long ago, Valerie June was playing Club Garibaldi, so catch this rising star at Pabst Theater while you still can.
The Comedy Getdown @ Riverside Theater
Riverside Theater has scared up a fearsome foursome of funnymen for “The Comedy Getdown.” Cedric “The Entertainer” heads up a bill that also includes Eddie Griffin, D.L. Hughley, and George Lopez.
Saturday, February 17
Bon Iver + Collections Of Colonies Of Bees, and Field Report @ BMO Harris Bradley Center
Way back in 2007, an unknown Eau Claire musician named Justin Vernon released For Emma, Forever Ago, a batch of “hauntingly beautiful” cabin-curated tunes that put him on the indie rock radar and, eventually, under the national spotlight. More than 10 years, two studio albums, a pair of begrudgingly-accepted Grammys, and a lengthy hiatus since that record’s release, Vernon is celebrating a decade since Emma came out by performing at the Bradley Center. Collections Of Colonies of Bees and Field Report (fronted by Vernon’s former DeYarmond Edison bandmate Christopher Porterfield) will play in support.
Wednesday, February 28
Iron Chic + Dusk, and Telethon @ Cactus Club
New York punks Iron Chic are joined by Appleton alt-country aficionados and breakout Brew City band Telethon for an unforgettable end to what appears to be an outstanding month in Milwaukee music.