Even though it’s already snowed a few times, the daylight hours have dwindled significantly, and the Packers already earned a playoff spot, it’s technically not even winter yet. Yes, the season will officially begin this Saturday. Though winter’s arrival officially ushers in a cold, harsh, and emotionally-testing epoch of inactivity that lasts until mid-March, Milwaukee has made sure to combat the seasonal doldrums with a ton of great shows in recent years.
This winter is no different, as the city will be abuzz with a steady helping of top-tier touring comedians and bands, stacked local shows, rescheduled wrestling events, and even a festival or two thrown in for flavor. If the prospect of another Wisconsin winter has you down in the dumps, here are 28 standout events that might help warm your spirit.
Saturday, December 21 and Sunday, December 22
Nate Craig @ The Underground Collaborative
Nate Craig has come quite a way since leaving the Badger State. Since moving to L.A., the Wisconsin-born comedian has become one of Bill Burr’s go-to openers, he’s amassed a wealth of TV credits on Comedy Central’s Roast Battle and Tosh.O, he’s written for Ridiculousness and A Prairie Home Companion, and acted opposite Emma Stone and Jonah Hill on the Netflix’s Maniac. Though his acting and writing résumés have grown a great deal through the years, Craig is still a stand-up comedian first and foremost. The comic will return to his native state following the release of his latest album, Preferred Customer, in what’s sure to be a can’t-miss holiday performance. (Also December 21)
Friday, December 27
Meat Wave + Slow Walker, Convert, Saebra & Carlyle, So Zuppy @ Cactus Club
In celebration of Sam Reitman’s birthday, the Cactus Club bartender and busy local musician (who handles bass/vocals in Slow Walker and drums for countless other Milwaukee bands) is giving show-goers the gift of one hell of a holiday-adjacent show. Chicago rock trio Meat Wave will return to headline a show that also features Slow Walker, Convert, Saebra & Carlyle, and So Zuppy.
BoDeans @ Potawatomi Hotel & Casino
Another December means another hometown show by BoDeans. Since forming in Waukesha in the 1980s and achieving national notoriety in the ’90s with “Closer To Free,” the band has managed to endure a variety of lineup changes and release a heft of new material. Two years removed from the release of Thirteen (the band’s sixth release since 2010), BoDeans will close out its fourth decade as a band with a December 27 performance at Potawatomi Hotel & Casino.
Saturday, December 28
SistaStrings + Nickel&Rose @ Shank Hall
The year 2019 has been an accomplished one for both SistaStrings and Nickel&Rose. One of the Milwaukee projects released an EP, and both of them toured between high-profile opening slots and festival gigs in their hometown. The pair of bands—who are friends and consistent collaborators—will say goodbye to one year and preview what’s sure to be an even busier 2020 by playing together at Shank Hall.
Sunday, December 29 to Tuesday, December 31
Greensky Bluegrass + Horseshoes And Hand Grenades (excluding December 31) @ Riverside Theater
Just how popular has Greensky Bluegrass become? Well, the fast-picking Kalamazoo, Michigan-based progressive bluegrass powerhouse is headlining a three-night residency at Milwaukee’s massive Riverside Theater. You’ll have two chances to see the up-and-coming outfit AND Horseshoes And Hand Grenades (December 29 and December 30) before Greensky plays us into 2020 alone with a New Year’s Eve performance.
Saturday, January 11
Abby Jeanne + Retoro @ Turner Hall
Roughly a year removed from formally releasing her wonderful sophomore album, Music Box Dancer, at Turner Hall, Milwaukee’s own Abby Jeanne will return to the sprawling downtown ballroom for a relatively rare local appearance. Local teen phenoms Retoro will play in support. Tickets are just $15.
Sunday, January 12
Cloud Nothings + Flat Teeth @ The Back Room @ Colectivo
In early 2017, the prolific Cleveland post-punkers in Cloud Nothings released Life Without Sound, and performed cuts from that unflappable mini-masterpiece at Turner Hall. Two years and one album later, they return to Milwaukee to preside over an intimate evening of music at The Back Room @ Colectivo. Milwaukee’s own Flat Teeth will open.
Thursday, January 16
Doughboys Podcast @ Turner Hall
Back in June, we announced that Doughboys, a wildly popular and downright hilarious chain restaurant podcast, would be making its maiden voyage to Milwaukee this past fall. A lot has changed since we first told you about what originally was to be an October 3 show at The Back Room @ Colectivo. Some of those changes include: the show selling out less than an hour into its pre-sale phase, Doughboys’ Milwaukee show being bumped up to the far more spacious confines of Turner Hall, co-host Mike “The Spoonman” Mitchell getting cast in a movie alongside Chris Pratt, and the Doughboys announcing their Milwaukee show was cancelled due to that filming conflict. Well, we’re pleased to report the Doughboys show at Turner Hall was NOT cancelled. Rather, it was pushed to January 16. Will they finally review Culver’s? Will they try a bunch of local “brewdogs” in the Drank Or Stank segment? Will Wiger complain about how cold Wisconsin is in the middle of January? Will Mitch repeatedly interrupt the show to provide updates on how his beloved Celtics are doing in their game that’s simultaneously happening across the street against the Bucks? All those questions and more will be answered at Turner Hall on January 16. Wow.
Lakefront Brewery Extravabandza @ Cactus Club
On top of being one of Milwaukee’s first and finest craft breweries, Lakefront Brewery also holds the distinction of employing a ton of local musicians. The brewery’s strong musical connection will be celebrated in January during a multi-act extravaganza (or “ExtravaBandza”). Join Lakefront at Cactus Club to see a potent seven-pack of brewery-affiliated outfits, including: Audible Kink, Gold Steps (acoustic set), DEEP FEMME, Resurrectionists, Mortgage Freeman, Garden Home, and Fuzz Summit.. As if seeing the bands you love with members who have a hand in making and distributing the beer you love isn’t already sweet enough, your entire $5 cover will be donated to Sojourner Family Peace Center.
Friday, January 17
Eric Benét @ Potawatomi Hotel & Casino
Since first cutting his teeth on stages in Milwaukee during his youth, Eric Benét has released a treasure trove of smooth R&B jams, he’s achieved worldwide acclaim, and he’s toured the planet a few times over. In January, the local success story will return to his native Milwaukee for a night to perform favorites from his sprawling catalog.
Thursday, January 23
Benjamin Gibbard + Frances Quinlan @ Pabst Theater
In addition to his impressive and emotive body of work he’s managed as the lead singer of Death Cab For Cutie and as one half of The Postal Service, Benjamin Gibbard has also found the time to write and release excellent solo material. He’ll drop by Pabst Theater to play some of that (and hopefully some select cuts from the bands we mentioned in the previous sentence) on January 23. If that’s not reason enough to leave the house in the middle of winter, Hop Along singer Frances Quinlan will open the show and is sure to play material from her forthcoming solo record that will be released January 31.
Friday, January 24
Jerry Seinfeld @ Riverside Theater
What’s the deal with Jerry Seinfeld lately? Since his eponymous sitcom ended in 1998, the observational comedian has kept out of the public eye for the most part, outside of cashing incomprehensibly large royalty checks, doing some type of bee movie (the name escapes us), attaching his name to the short-lived The Marriage Ref, and letting people film him in cars on the way to get coffee with comedians. Has Seinfeld’s success made his material less identifiable? Will he come out wearing white athletic shoes with jeans and a blazer? Will it be a show about nothing? Those questions and more will be answered at the Riverside Theater during a pair of shows.
Saturday, January 25
Bruce McCulloch @ Shank Hall
You know who’s great? Bruce McCulloch. You know what’s great? Bruce McCulloch bringing his latest solo show, “Tales of Bravery and Stupidity,” to Milwaukee’s Shank Hall on Saturday, January 25. What’s the show about? McCulloch explains in an interview with Calgary CBC: “It’s actually probably the most personal I’ve gotten in this show. I talk about a kind of a unique friendship of mine. And there’s actually parts that are quite touching—or at least that’s what I’m told. A lot of it is like stand up, and a lot of fun, but there’s a couple moments there that are much more serious.”
Saturday, February 1
Mitten Fest @ Burnhearts
After 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 seven 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 in recent installments) with a wintry mix of live music, food, beverages, and charity. The lineup hasn’t been released yet, but we know it’s going to be a delight.
Marc Maron @ Turner Hall
Veteran comedian, actor, influential podcast host, and guy who played guitar on a Trapper Schoepp album Marc Maron will come back to Milwaukee with his new hour. Unlock your gates and make your way to this show. We good?
Thursday, February 6
Grace Potter + Devon Gilfillian @ Pabst Theater
You know Grace Potter. You love Grace Potter. You should see Grace Potter play songs from her recently-released record, Daylight, and all other corners of his catalog when she takes the stage at Pabst Theater in February.
Thursday, February 13
Ginuwine @ Potawatomi Hotel & Casino
Less than a year after he helped bring “Love Vibes” to Miller High Life Theatre during a co-headlining tour with Tyrese, noted R&B mainstay (and the man responsible for “Pony”) Ginuwine will come back to town to perform at Northern Lights Theater on the eve of Valentine’s Day.
Tuesday, February 18
Trixie Mattel: Grown Up @ Turner Hall
Actor, musician, television host, RuPaul Drag Race champion, and Milwaukee native Trixie Mattel will make her semi-annual trip back to Milwaukee to delight Turner Hall with her Grown Up tour.
Friday, February 21
NXT Live! @ Turner Hall
For a while there, WWE’s great NXT show could be counted upon to come to Turner Hall every six months. That streak would’ve continued, except their November return was postponed until February. Now that you’ve had to wait a little longer than usual, maybe this show will hit even harder and go over even better than it typically does.
Sunday, February 23
Wückfinter @ Ray’s Wine & Spirits
Following a successful first installment that consisted of rare tappings and woefully under-dressed drinkers refusing to bow down to the season in the Ray’s Wine & Spirits parking lot, the Wauwatosa beer bastion and 3 Floyds decided they’d boldly take on winter yet again. On Sunday, February 23, the second annual Wückfinter will return to the “Rayborhood” with a winning wintry mix of craft beer, music, food, games, and more. From noon to 6 p.m., patrons can indulge in more than 20 varieties of 3 Floyds beer, a food truck operated by 3 Floyds chef Cole Ersel (a Milwaukee expat, formerly of Wolf Peach) and other food vendors, a specialty slushy made with 3 Floyds beer, an event-appropriate playlist curated by Rushmor Records DJs, oversized games like Jenga and Connect Four, and more. Bundle up. Wückfinter is coming.
Wednesday, February 26
Dashboard Confessional + The Get Up Kids @ The Rave
After a sort of lengthy lapse of shows here, Dashboard Confessional has become a Milwaukee fixture again and we aren’t complaining about it. Chris Carrabba and co. will come to The Rave for the second time in 15 months (and to Milwaukee for the third time in that span) as part of Dashboard Confessional’s 20 Year Celebration tour that will find them performing songs from its entire catalog. Oh yeah, The Get Up Kids are opening! Don’t miss the best show of 2001 that the 2020 version of you is sure to enjoy as well.
Friday, February 28
Refused + Youth Code @ The Rave
When you have the chance to see Refused, you take it. The seminal Swedish punk band will play its first Milwaukee show in, pshhhh, maybe 100 years when they come to The Rave. New Noise isn’t new in the slightest anymore, but the record’s message is more accurate and important than ever. Youth Code opens.
Direct Hit! + Limbeck @ X-Ray Arcade
Limbeck is back, baby! Sweetening this prospect of the already-enticing reunion tour stop is the opportunity to see Direct Hit! play on its home stage. Go out, have fun, and don’t worry if you’re tired and hungover the next day because it’s Leap Day and we all know that day doesn’t actually count.
Thursday, March 5
They Might Be Giants @ Pabst Theater
Why is the world in love again? Why are we marching hand in hand? Why are the ocean levels rising up? It’s a brand new anniversary show for 2020! They Might Be Giants‘ 30-year-old album Flood! What will the show entail? Well, it’s being billed as “an evening with” thing, featuring Johns Flansburgh and Linnell playing two full sets with their live band. Flood will be played in its entirety, of course. Predictably, this show is sold out.
Sunday, March 8
WMSE’s Rockabilly Chili Fundraiser @ Kern Center
Since the early aughts, WMSE has assembled the city’s most skilled chili connoisseurs to vie for prizes in but a few categories during its annual Rockabilly Chili fundraiser. This year, more than 60 restaurants, bars, and cafes will compete. As chili season’s conclusion is nigh, end it in the best way imaginable.
Wednesday, March 11
Tiny Moving Parts + Belmont, Capstan, Jetty Bones @ X-Ray Arcade
Bask in the “twinkly emo” of Minnesota-based Tiny Moving Parts when they cross the Mississippi River to come to Cudahy in belated support of 2019’s awesome breathe.
Thursday, March 12
Shellac @ The Back Room @ Colectivo
Sold out, like, immediately.
Friday, March 13
Jeff Ross & Dave Attell: Bumping Mics @ Pabst Theater
Two words: Dave Attell. If you’re not already smashing that “purchase ticket” button after reading that, we’ll offer you 10 more words: And Jeff Ross if you’re into kind of thing. Roasted!