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 entertainment options. Beyond massive events like Mitten Fest and Mama Tried, renowned touring bands and comedians are swinging through. Meanwhile, noted locals will play release shows amid exciting one-off events like Dre Day and All Messed Up.
The year’s shortest month is long on worthwhile entertainment options in Milwaukee. There’s a lot to pick from, but here’s our 15 can’t-miss events for February 2016.
Monday February 1 – Tuesday, February 2
Groundhog Day at Avalon Theater
No matter if a critter in Pennsylvania sees its shadow and has absolutely no bearing on when a season ends, Avalon Theater will make Groundhog Day worthwhile with two weeknight screenings of the holiday-appropriate Bill Murray classic. Watch surly weatherman Phil Connors relive the same day over and over and over again with a pair of Groundhog Day screenings—sponsored by Milwaukee Record—at the Bay View theater on Monday, February 1 and Tuesday, February 2. Sure, you’ve probably seen the 1993 Harold Ramis-directed comedy before, but this is a movie few people would mind seeing over and over and over again. Both showings start at 9:30 p.m. and cost $5.
Monday, February 1 – Wednesday, February 3
Dave Chappelle at Pabst Theater (six shows)
It seems like only yesterday when Dave Chappelle dropped by Milwaukee for two—no, make that four; no, make that six—shows at the Pabst Theater. That instantly sold-out three-night stint was one of the highlights of 2014, and a thrilling return for a legendary comedian who had been out of the spotlight for far too long. If a strictly enforced “NO CELL PHONES ALLOWED” policy was what it took for Chappelle to feel comfortable hitting the road again, we were all for it. So what could possibly top those 2014 Milwaukee shows? Forget six shows spread out over three nights—how about eight shows spread out over four nights? The first two shows are in the books, but there are still six left.
Friday, February 5
Indonesian Junk (album release) + Static Eyes, Bad Wig, Mono In Stereo at High Dive
Milwaukee rockers Indonesian Junk will put their long-awaited self-titled record into the world by headlining a stacked release show that also features Static Eyes, Bad Wig, and Mono In Stereo. Like all High Dive shows, it’s free.
Yeah, Bro! Podcast LIVE at ComedySportz
If you haven’t heard, we’ve officially welcomed Jacob Bach’s wonderful Yeah, Bro! Podcast aboard as a partner podcast. The 41-episode-old show where Bach interviews straight men about gay things doles out laughs on a weekly basis, while also dispelling misconceptions about both gay and straight issues. When he’s not recording them in bath houses or in the former vault at ComedySportz, Bach will occasionally invite others to bear witness to how the Yeah, Bro! sausage is made with fun and raunchy live shows. For a scant $5 cover, you can see Bach interviewing and facilitating games (gaymes?) with comedian/writer Jake Shaw, the Midnite Show improv group, and Milwaukee Record co-founder/editor Tyler Maas.
Saturday, February 6
Burnhearts Mitten Fest 2016
The unofficial title of Milwaukee’s favorite day belongs to another event bearing the “Fest” suffix, which grants citizens an eight-hour respite from the winter doldrums and forces people outdoors for one unforgettable day of February fun. Over the last three years, Burnhearts‘ Mitten Fest has helped combat cabin fever for thousands of people in a two-block stretch on Bay View’s Potter Avenue with a wintry mix of live music, food, beverages, and charity. Past Mitten Fests brought about performances from Call Me Lightning, Jaill, The Fatty Acids, Whips, Canopies, Greatest Lakes, Heavy Hand, and others beneath the heated tent set before throngs of bundled-up beer- and brandy old fashioned-swilling attendees. This year’s lineup might be the fest’s best lineup and its most eclectic, with Midnight Reruns, Moon Curse, Queen Tut, and Whiskeybelles providing musical accompaniment.
Friday, February 12
Tigernite + The Pukes, Sheena And The Headbangers at Cactus Club
If you’re one of the hundreds of people who fell in love with Tigernite’s rousing renditions of GGOOLLDD songs at our Local Coverage show last month, you’re going to love the way the band performs its own material. Sure, the Cactus Club stage doesn’t have room for gold-clad background dancers, but the larger-than-life glam-rock outfit will still put on an arena-caliber spectacle, no matter the venue. Local punkers The Pukes and all-female Ramones cover band Sheena And The Headbangers will open.
Friday, February 12 + Saturday, February 13
All Messed Up VI at Linneman’s Riverwest Inn
Last year’s All Messed Up found the fate of the unique concept show up in the air. Though creator Anthony Dean Schwader has since stepped away from the concert where 64 musicians of all backgrounds and skill levels are randomly arranged into 16 bands, AMU, fortunately, lives on for year six. Don’t miss what could be your one and only shot to see Dude’s Name And The Something Somethings, Makeout Dumpster, and Thomas Nelson’s Extreme Teen Bible add to the rich tradition of one of Milwaukee music’s strangest and best annual events.
Saturday, February 13
The Pines + Buffalo Gospel at Club Garibaldi
If the sweet sounds of Minneapolis roots purveyors The Pines and Club Garibaldi’s award-winning buffalo wings aren’t enough to get you through the door, an all-too rare show from beloved local country outfit Buffalo Gospel surely helps. Cap off your Valentine’s date night out or distract yourself from the looming loneliness during the Hallmark holiday with what could be the best show of the weekend.
Sunday, February 14
Henry Rollins at Turner Hall
If there’s a better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day than listening to polarizing punk figure Henry Rollins scream shit at you, we’re not aware of it.
Wednesday, February 17
Bone Thugs-N-Harmony + Klassik at Turner Hall
Oh how the years fly by! Believe it or not, it’s been 20 years since hip-hop legends Bone Thugs-N-Harmony put out E. 1999 Eternal, which featured standout hit “Tha Crossroads.” Man, by this point that guy in Bone Thugs probably really misses his uncle Charles, y’all. Klassik—creator of what we dubbed the Best Milwaukee album of 2015—will open.
Thursday, February 18
Dre Day MKE 2016 at Company Brewing
Speaking of notable anniversaries in hip-hop, February 18 will mark the 51st anniversary of Dr. Dre’s birth. To celebrate the life and work of the incomparable rapper and headphone namesake, 88Nine Program Director and local rap pundit Jordan Lee will help ring in Dre Day MKE 2016, a localized event honoring the pride of Compton. According to Lee, this year’s festivities will include: DJ Bizzon hosting Hip Hop Karaoke “Dr. Dre Edition,” $20 Sack Pyramid Game Show with local “celebrities,” Miltown Beat Down Dr. Dre remix battle, and Dr. Dre samples DJ mix set by Lee himself.
Friday, February 19 – Sunday, February 21
Mama Tried Motorcycle Show at UWM Panther Arena and Harley-Davidson Museum
Mama Tried is a weekend-long celebration of horsepower in a city with an indelible relationship with the motorcycle. Beyond the Flat Out Friday race (where riders race atop a dried Dr. Pepper syrup surface!) and Saturday’s bike show, this event presents what could be the final chance to see Whips and Moon Curse until spring…and easily the only chance to catch them at the Harley-Davidson Museum this year.
Saturday, February 20
Christopher Lloyd Goes Back To The Future at Riverside Theater
On the night I go back in time of Saturday, February 20, 2016, you will be treated to a screening of Back To The Future at Riverside Theater, hosted by Doc Brown himself, Christopher Lloyd. The actor will be on hand to share behind-the-scenes stories from the making of the classic ’80s/’50s time travel film, and answer questions from the audience. Please take whatever precautions are necessary to attend this important event.
Tuesday, February 23
Jason Isbell + Shovels And Rope at Pabst Theater
Former Drive-By Truckers member Jason Isbell trudged through addiction and divorce (in both the marital and musical sense) before emerging from the tumultuous tunnel toting the best and most moving music he’s ever written. His 2013 post-rehab album Southeastern references his sobriety and interpersonal changes in waves that shift from delicate to devastating on a song-by-song basis. Last year’s Something More Than Free peaked at No. 1 on US Country charts and No. 2 on US indie rock charts. He’ll be joined at the Pabst by Shovels And Rope.
Saturday, February 27
Rock And Roller Remote Controller Premiere + Space Raft, Dream Vacation at Bremen Cafe
Remember when Space Raft was supposed to put out that seven-inch back in, like, November? Well, a rejected test press pushed the release to February. Bremen Cafe will now serve as the site of a double release show. Along with Space Raft’s new material, the second episode of Rock And Roller Remote Controller will be screened. Dream Vacation will also play this varied night of free fun.