After 11 months of fun, it’s almost time for Milwaukee’s events calendar to flip to a new year. Not even counting the city’s six-month run of festivals and block parties, it’s been a hell of a year for music, comedy, and general randomness. December is no different. Though the holidays monopolize some of it, the final month of the year isn’t lacking in terms of concerts, comedians, holiday film screenings, last hurrahs, and other hyper-local fun. As we say goodbye to an up-and-down 2019, here are 15 things Milwaukee Record recommends you do this December.
Monday, December 2
Shot For Shot With Chefs Episode 4 Screening @ The Cooperage
Join us at The Cooperage for a premiere of the fourth Shot For Shot With Chefs episode, featuring Dan Jacobs and Dan Van Rite of DanDan, Fauntleroy, EsterEv, Ash Milwaukee, and more. We’ll screen the new video, then talk about the parts we can remember from that drunken night of food talk, sports banter, pull tabs, and crazy consumption of beer and liquor. Bofferding—the official beer of Shot For Shot With Chefs—will have its delicious Pils and Brune on special all night long, and you can expect some specialty cocktails from spirit sponsor Great Northern Distilling. Come by around 7 p.m. and stay for the screening at 8 p.m. This 21+ event is FREE.
Friday, December 6
Smoking Popes + Direct Hit! @ The Back Room At Colectivo
Chicago pop punk legends, Smoking Popes, will come to their second home—the comfy confines of The Back Room @ Colectivo—to play yuletide songs and their own material during this year’s Heartbreak For The Holidays show. They’ll be preceded by Milwaukee’s and Fat Wreck Chords’ own Direct Hit!, playing one of their only local shows of the year.
Late Night With Mondo Lucha @ The Cooperage
No, it’s not a new late-night talk show (though it totally should be)—it’s another Mondo Lucha pop-up wrestling event. Neat! Superstars of the long-running, terrifically popular, and homegrown Lucha Libra company will perform for an intimate crowd of 200.
Holiday Comedy Extravaganza with Tom Clark + Steph Clark, more comics TBA @ Rounding Third
Milwaukee-born funnyman Tom Clark has done voiceover work on Aqua Teen Hunger Force, wrote for The Man Show, and acted opposite Bob Odenkirk, Denis Leary, and Kyra Sedgwick in small film and television roles. However, the locally-bred talent is probably best known for his work on stage, having amassed appearances on Conan and Comedy Central. No long removed from the release of his Amazon Prime special, Outraged, the longtime road comic and comedy club regular will return to his hometown for one night only to co-headline a Holiday Comedy Extravaganza with his wife, Steph Clark.
Saturday, December 7 and Sunday, December 8
“Murray Christmas” @ Avalon Theater
For those of you seeking an extremely small dash of holiday spirit on top of the seasonal annoyances and expectations this season, Milwaukee Record and Lakefront Brewery have just the thing. On Saturday, December 7 and Sunday, December 8, you can have yourself a “Murry Christmas” at Avalon Theater when the theater screens a pair of beloved Bill Murray films. The two-day holiday event will start with an 11 a.m. screening of Scrooged, the hilarious 1988 comedic take on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. The Christmastime cult classic will be followed by a 7 p.m. showing of the seminal 1981 military romp, Stripes. The next day, the showtimes will reverse. Tickets to screenings cost $5 apiece and they’re available now. Murray Christmas to all, and to all two good nights.
Tuesday, December 10
Cage The Elephant + Angels And Airwaves, The Federal Empire @ The Rave
Every year, FM 102.1 pulls out all the stops for its Big Snow Show. The first of two Snow Show, uh, shows coming to The Rave this year features an impressive lineup that includes Cage The Elephant, Angels And Airwaves, and The Federal Empire.
Wednesday, December 11
Thurston Moore Band + Devin Brahja Waldman @ X-Ray Arcade
Perhaps best-known for his work as a member of Sonic Youth, Thurston Moore has also managed an abundance of excellent solo material. A few months removed from a performing a live score to artist James Nares’ Street at Milwaukee’s Oriental Theatre, Moore will return to the region with a full band to head up a can’t-miss show at X-Ray Arcade. Devin Brahja Waldman opens.
Fred Armisen @ Turner Hall
Long before Fred Armisen was an established comic actor, long-tenured Saturday Night Live cast member, and Portlandia co-creator, he was a drummer. The percussionist-turned-humorist gave fans an opportunity to get a glimpse into his musical past when he released his innovative Fred Armisen: Stand Up For Drummers comedy special in 2018. Now, almost two years later, Armisen will come to Turner Hall with a live show continuation of that special called “Comedy For Musicians But Everyone Is Welcome.”
Saturday, December 14
Christopher Porterfield + Boy Bjorn @ The Back Room At Colectivo
Until very recently, 2019 had the appearance of being a quiet year for Field Report. That all changed a couple weeks ago when the accomplished Milwaukee band that’s fronted by singer-songwriter Christopher Porterfield launched a new label, put out a pair of EPs, and announced a solo show at Colectivo’s Back Room. Don’t miss a rare chance to see Porterfield play stripped-down renditions of Field Report material (and the debut of a new project called Boy Bjorn) on December 14.
Sunday, December 15
Milwaukee Record Halftime Show with Green Day Packers @ Cactus Club
Imagine, if you can, a band that combines the music of Green Day with lyrics specifically about the Packers. Actually, you don’t need to imagine that because such a band already exists. Come the first and only Green Day Packers show of 2019 during halftime of the Green Bay-Chicago game.
Friday, December 27
An Evening With Chevy Chase @ Riverside Theater
If any of you are looking for any last-minute gift ideas, we have one. Tickets to see An Evening With Chevy Chase, preceded by a 30th anniversary screening of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, at the Riverside Theater on Friday, December 27. Chase will be brought from his happy holiday slumber over there on Melody Lane with all the other rich people and will “share stories from his career and the making of his classic movies and legendary television programs.” We for one can’t wait to “expect the unexpected as Chevy Chase shares a no-holds-barred trip down memory lane in this exclusive evening with a comedy legend.”
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.