By the time the novelty of the leaves changing colors wears off, your Halloween costume is put away, and you reach the annual realization that you don’t actually like pumpkin beers, it’s already November. Once the clocks are turned back an hour, we’re abruptly forced to accept that daylight will become a rare treat, the holidays are nigh, and casual patio brunches or weekend barbeques will soon be replaced by muttering obscenities while scraping off your windshield. As the darkness creeps in ever more, it’s important to have events to look forward to as we await the rebirth of spring (which is so, so far away). Fortunately, there’s a shitload of great concerts, comedy shows, and film events to somewhat dull Milwaukee’s collective seasonal depression. Here are some that stand out to Milwaukee Record.
Tuesday, November 4
Bob Odenkirk at Pabst Theater
Yes, he truly achieved mainstream notoriety in the role of brevity-injecting and morally questionable Breaking Bad attorney Saul Goodman, but Bob Odenkirk was, is, and always will be a comedian first and foremost. The “Bob” portion of the seminal Mr. Show With Bob And David sketch show, and writer, cast member, and/or producer of pretty much every piece of comedy (and some dramas) you’ve enjoyed since the mid-1990s will drop by Pabst Theater for “a night of stand-up, conversation and humor in celebration of his all new book A Load of Hooey.” GOD DAMMIT, will this be good!
Thursday, November 6 to Saturday, November 8
Shane Mauss at Comedy Cafe
With all due respect to Frank Caliendo (very little), comedian Shane Mauss might be the funniest comic with direct Wisconsin ties working today. The La Crosse native relocated to California long ago, but he graciously makes sure to swing through his home state fairly regularly to extol his heady and hilarious musings to Wisconsin comedy clubs. Roughly a year removed from delighting Comedy Cafe with material that would eventually be featured on his great Mating Season special on Netflix, Mauss returns to the club to head a bill that also includes locals Greg Bach and Matt Werner.
Friday, November 7
La Santa Cecilia at Latino Arts Auditorium
It’s always a big deal when a reigning Grammy winner comes to town. It’s no different when La Santa Cecilia drops by the Latino Arts Auditorium November 7. The Los Angeles-based six-piece took home Grammy hardware in the category of Best Latin Rock, Urban, or Alternative Album in January. La Santa Cecilia fuses Latin culture with elements of rock and world music. The Latino Arts Strings Program will open the show.
Saturday, November 8
Miltown Beat Down finals at Miramar Theatre
For the past nine years, the Miltown Beat Down has pitted the area’s best producers against one other in a battle for beat-making dominance. Organized by Jordan “DJ Madhatter” Lee, the long-running tournament has come to cover everything from hip-hop to EDM, and consistently draws one of the most diverse audiences in the city. For tonight’s finals, sets from the eight remaining contestants will be capped off with headlining performances from Milwaukee native Salva, as well as Kid Cut Up, who returns to his former city and the event he helped create.
Saturday, November 8
Caroline Smith + Klassik at Club Garibaldi
Minneapolis singer-songwriter Caroline Smith spent the better part of her nearly decade-long career plugging away with pleasing-enough indie-folk. That changed with last year’s Half About Being A Woman, an album that finds Smith embracing laid-back neo-soul to winning effect. Fans of Sylvan Esso should take note, as well as fans of Milwaukee’s tireless Klassik, who opens the show with his own strain of smooth, retro-futuristic soul.
Thursday, November 13
The New Pornographers + The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart at Pabst Theater
Neko Case may be her own force of nature these days, but it’s comforting to see how easily she slips back into the band that kicked off her career, The New Pornographers. The Canadian indie supergroup (Case, Dan Bejar, AC Newman, Kathyrn Calder, Todd Fancey, and John Collins) is approaching its 15th year; it’s sixth LP, Brill Bruisers, was released this summer. The fuzzed-out, shoegaze-y, and always-excellent The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart open the show.
Tuesday, November 11 through Thursday, November 13
Caste Of Killers Presents Battle Royale IV Preliminary Rounds (sites alternate nightly)
It’s safe to say that Milwaukee has never been funnier than it is at this moment. Within the last five years, the local comedy scene has ballooned to find exponentially more DIY showcases and open mics taking root in all crevices of the city, with both the quantity and quality of performers growing in kind. It’s no coincidence that Caste Of Killers has been around about five years. The local comedy collective has been a linchpin of the scene since early 2010, and every year, COK pits talent from Milwaukee’s usually tight-knit and supportive scene against one another in the Battle Royale. For three consecutive weeknights in mid-November, a heft of Brew City stand-up comics will vie for the prize of $200 and the title of “Funniest Person In Milwaukee.” Before the finals, there’s a trio of preliminary rounds. The opening round will take place at Frank’s Power Plant. Round two will go down at Karma, before the prelims conclude at Club Garibaldi on November 13.
Friday, November 14
“Kneel To Neil” at Linneman’s Riverwest Inn
Wednesday, November 26
“Nod To Bob” at Linneman’s Riverwest Inn
Beginning in 1986, Neil Young’s Bridge School Benefit concert has raised money for the titular non-profit organization, which assists children with severe speech and physical disabilities. The Milwaukee offshoot, “Kneel To Neil,” has been raising money for Bridge School (and WMSE) for 10 years. This year’s installment finds members of Calliope, Caley Conway And The Lucy Cukes, The Whiskeybelles, The Carolinas, and more tackling the songs of Young, all for a good cause. Two weeks later, on Wednesday, November 26, Linneman’s hosts another benefit/tribute show, “Nod To Bob,” which pays homage to Bob Dylan and raises money for the Hunger Task Force.
Saturday, November 15
Interpol at Pabst Theater
Where has the time gone? Interpol’s near-flawless debut record Turn On The Bright Lights just turned 12 a couple months ago. Since then, the New York post-punkers have been trying to match it with equal parts success (Antics), utter failure (Interpol), and something in between (Our Love To Admire). The band’s latest—the two-month-old El Pintor—finds the veteran outfit expertly straddling the line of matching Bright Lights and going to exciting new places. If this show appeals to you, hopefully you have tickets. It’s sold out.
Saturday, November 15
Avi Buffalo + Twin Brother + Soul Low at Mad Planet
In 2010, Avi Buffalo—a little-known indie rock collective out of Long Beach—burst onto the scene with its celebrated self-titled debut. Aside from rampant critical acclaim, Avigdor Zahner-Isenberg’s pet project also earned an opening slot on Modest Mouse’s 2010 tour, and a slot on Sub Pop. Following four fairly quiet years, Avi Buffalo broke its silence in September with the release of At Best Cuckold, a somber Neil Young-meets-American Analog Set follow-up that’s well worth the wait. Local support from Twin Brother and Soul Low makes the Avi or Interpol dilemma all the more difficult.
Sunday, November 16
W. Kamau Bell at Shank Hall
Sired in the comedic hotbed of San Francisco, bold and brilliant political comedian W. Kamau Bell rose to national semi-notoriety in 2012 when his unique and fearless stand-up style earned him his own late night show on the FX Network, Totally Biased With W. Kamau Bell. With the short-lived show put out to pasture recently, the comedian is refocused on refining his on-stage material, and has less to lose. This promises to be a great follow-up to Shank Hall’s latest comedy booking, the well-attended and wonderful Kyle Kinane show in back in May.
Friday, November 21
GWAR at The Rave
The last few years have been tough for GWAR, the eternally costumed schlock-rock band that normally laughs in the face of tragedy (before defecating on it). In late 2011, guitarist Cory Smoot—a.k.a. Flattus Maximus—was found dead in the band’s tour bus; earlier this year, lead singer and founding member Dave Brockie—a.k.a. Oderus Urungus—died of a heroin overdose. But you can’t keep the scumdogs of the universe down: GWAR is soldiering on, and recently added a female co-singer named Vulvatron. Expect a typically over-the-top and bodily-fluid-filled show at The Rave, and possibly a surprisingly poignant Pet Shop Boys/Jim Carroll cover.
Wednesday, November 26
The Summertime Dudes + Hand Of Doom (Christian Houtman benefit) at Club Garibaldi
One of the best things about Milwaukee’s premier cock-rock cover band, The Summertime Dudes (current and ex-members of Call Me Lightning, The Mistreaters, Temper Temper, Space Raft, Whips, more), is their name: these dudes only play out in the summer, when the rays are warm, the brew is cold, and the babes are bitchin’. But every once in a while the group can be coaxed out in the non-summer months for a good cause. In the case of tonight’s show, that cause is former Mistreater and all-around good dude Christian Houtman, who has some pesky medical bills nipping at his heels. A $5 minimum donation is all you need in order to help out a dude in need and hear some Ratt. Black Sabbath tribute band Hand Of Doom opens the show.
Friday, November 28
Ace Frehley at Northern Lights Theater
While KISS frontman Gene Simmons spends his days bemoaning the “death” of rock and roll (and just generally being an asshole), former KISS guitarist Ace Frehley is busy making rock and roll. This year’s Space Invader is remarkably solid for a solo record released by a former KISS member in 2014, managing to crack the Billboard 200 albums chart (for what that’s worth these days). New material aside, this show at Potawatomi’s Northern Lights Theater is a chance to see one of rock’s most influential lead guitarists up close and personal—no makeup, no gimmicks, and no Simmons attached.
Saturday, November 29
Found Footage Festival at Turner Hall
With their traveling Found Footage Festival, Wisconsin natives Nick Prueher and Joe Pickett have spent the last decade delighting crowds with strange, unusual, and delightfully dated VHS treasures—a feat made all the more impressive by the fact that, you know, YouTube exists. But there’s nothing like watching cringe-inducing public access shows from the ’80s and clips from “cybersex” instructional tapes along with a like-minded live audience.
Sunday, November 30
Volcano Choir at Turner Hall
Has it only been a year since Volcano Choir’s explosive Repave was unleashed onto the world? While certainly modern, there’s something ageless about the album, as if Bon Iver mastermind Justin Vernon and his Collections Of Colonies Of Bees collaborators tapped into something ancient and elemental. Best summed up by the bombastic, jaw-dropping “Byegone,” Repave was one of 2013’s best albums, a collection that finally put to rest the notion that the band was simply a Vernon side-project or distraction. Volcano Choir’s tour in support of the album comes to a close with tonight’s show.