It wasn’t too long ago that January was pretty much a vacant, blustery tundra of Milwaukee entertainment options. Between frigid conditions, uncertainties regarding Packers playoff seeding, and the post-holiday hangover, most venues opted to clear their show schedules, while performers—not unlike the rest of us—became hermits, only to emerge for groceries and to use gift cards obtained the previous month. Fortunately, those days are over.
Between a flurry of great local benefits, some unexpected out-of-towners playing intimate spaces, and some world class comedians and troubadours, this particular January is especially stacked. Make it your New Year’s resolution to get out more, and use this baker’s dozen of can’t-miss shows as your guide.
Saturday, January 7
Anti-Flag + Reel Big Fish, Ballyhoo!, and Direct Hit! @ The Rave
On August 13, 1996, Reel Big Fish released Turn The Radio Off. A week after that certified Gold Record’s release, Anti-Flag put out its first and most beloved album, Die For The Government. To commemorate the 20th anniversary (plus a few months) of those records, Anti-Flag and Reel Big Fish are hitting the road together. The veteran ska outfit and punk band will be joined on the road by modern talents Ballyhoo! and Milwaukee’s own Direct Hit!
Cactus Club Music & Comedy Show with Joseph Huber @ Cactus Club
Ryan Holman’s occasional Cactus Club Music & Comedy Show will continue for another year at Cactus Club. Holman and a solid cast of Milwaukee area comedians will dole out the laughs and, best yet, Joseph Huber will play two abbreviated sets between comics.
Friday, January 13
Milwaukee Record presents Local Coverage @ Turner Hall
After two years of fun philanthropy, Milwaukee Record’s Local Coverage benefit will return to Turner Hall Ballroom in 2017. An eclectic cast of 10 local acts from all corners of the stylistic spectrum will each play 15-minute sets, covering material of bands they drafted back in October. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to see your favorite Milwaukee outfits in a way you’ve never experienced them before. From Lorde Fredd33 adapting Midwest Death Rattle’s songs to The Pukes covering a Buffalo Gospel, before Buffalo Gospel tackles Midnight Reruns material, Local Coverage is an incomparable event for a good cause. ALL profits will be split evenly between Girls Rock Milwaukee and COA Youth & Family Centers (Holton Center). Here’s the full lineup.
Bash & Pop + The So So Glos @ Cactus Club
Though he’s now based in New York, Replacements and Guns N’ Roses bassist Tommy Stinson’s local ties run deep, as he’s represented by a former member of The Benjamins, and he recorded Midnight Reruns’ very, very great full-length Force Of Nurture. Last January, Stinson came to Cactus Club to play a show with his eponymous solo project. Since then, he’s revived his Bash & Pop project with, get this, Milwaukee’s own Justin Perkins on bass. This has the makings of being a great post-Local Coverage chaser.
Wednesday, January 18
Ben Gibbard @ Pabst Theater
So this is the New Year. And you don’t feel any different? Maybe that will change when you see Death Cab For Cutie and The Postal Service frontman Ben Gibbard perform solo at Pabst Theater.
Wednesday, January 18 to Sunday, January 22
Riverwest FemFest @ various locations
Last January, the second annual Riverwest FemFest brought more than 50 acts to four venues in as many days. Beyond being an outstanding celebration of the outstanding and important things women are doing in Milwaukee music, the grassroots festival also managed to raise more than $10,000 for Date Rape Awareness Milwaukee and Milwaukee Women’s Center.
Just when you thought the winter affair couldn’t get any better, FemFest organizers have put together 2017’s festivities, which will take place at a variety of Riverwest venues over five nights in January, this time to benefit Milwaukee Coalition For Justice and Milwaukee Women’s Center. Check out the lineup and schedule now.
Friday, January 20
Tribe UNCOVERED @ Turner Hall
Great news, fans of incredible one-night-only shows featuring some of Milwaukee’s top talent reimagining the works of some of the world’s top talent: Alverno Presents’ previously defunct UNCOVERED series will make a triumphant return in 2017. Multi-threat Klassik will reinterpret the music of A Tribe Called Quest on Friday, January 20 at Turner Hall Ballroom. In addition to Klassik, the Tribe UNCOVERED show will feature a house band made up of Foreign Goods, Stomata, and Chris Rosenau; the talents of Lorde Fredd33, AR Wesley, Deb.On.Air, Mike Regal, and Strehlow; DJ sets from Jordan Madhatter Lee and Old Man Malcolm; and choreography from Christopher Gilbert.
Art Garfunkel @ Pabst Theater
The second most famous member of Simon & Garfunkel swings through town to treat showgoers to the voice that accounted for one half of some of music’s finest harmonies. There’s also a special guest TBA. It couldn’t be… You don’t think it might be… Nah! Unless…
Saturday, January 21
Frank Caliendo @ Riverside Theater
Frank Caliendo has a unique career as a comedian. Not unlike an American Idol favorite or a late night talk show host, the impressionist’s career is dependent on the work of other, usually more famous, people. As far as this specific comic crevice is concerned, Caliendo is the Kelly Clarkson of celebrity impersonations and the Johnny Carson of pop culture mimicry. His ability to meld spot-on vocal replications and exaggerated character traits of politicians, actors, and sports figures has yielded the comic such impressive opportunities as a place in the MADtv cast, the role of resident funny man for two football pregame shows, a short-lived TBS show called Frank TV, and the ability to tour theaters throughout the country. The Waukesha native will return to southeast Wisconsin for his annual January performance that usually just so happens to coincide with the NFL playoffs.
Thursday, January 26
Lady Lamb @ private show in undisclosed location
In 2015, five-foot powerhouse Lady Lamb delighted close to 200 Milwaukeeans in a mid-summer outing at Turner Hall, which she (Aly Spaltro) called “one of [her] three favorite places to play” in the world. At show’s end, the singer-songwriter assured the decidedly won-over audience “I’ll be back again. I’ll always come back.” True to her word, Lady Lamb will be returning to Milwaukee Thursday, January 26 to play a show. There’s a catch, though: It’s going to be a private affair. In accordance with her just-released Tender Warriors Club EP, Spaltro has partnered to Undertow Music Collective to support the abbreviated release with a tour that will take place exclusively at small performance spaces.
Friday, January 27
The Pukes (record release) + Devils Teeth, and Avenues @ Company Brewing
Since first taking the stage in 2015, The Pukes have quickly won over Milwaukee with their fun and catchy horror-punk stylings. Though the band’s wonderful debut, The Revenge Of The Pukes, was officially released digitally last August and on vinyl via Good Land Records in November, The Pukes are having a belated release show for the well-received record at Company Brewing. Newcomers Devils Teeth and the always-enjoyable Avenues will open.
Saturday, January 28
Pablove 8 with Goran, KT Tunstall, Chris Porterfield, Brett Newski @ Turner Hall
Now in its eighth year, the Pablove benefit not only serves as an entertaining way to raise money for an organization that aims to “improve the lives of children with cancer,” it also functions as a means bringing out some respected local bands for a mid-winter showing. Pablove regular Goran will be joined by KT Turnstall, Field Report’s Christopher Porterfield, and Brett Newski.
Jim Jefferies @ Riverside Theater
Over the course of his near-20 years on stage in his native Australia, the United Kingdom, and, now, here in the states, Jim Jefferies hasn’t shied away from speaking his mind (usually with humorous results). As the acerbic Aussie’s material developed and became exceedingly more vicious, his star as a stand-up only grew. With increased notoriety came increased scrutiny from the ever-growing audience aware of his fearless and deliberately offensive material, which only found the controversial comic railing even harder against even more polarizing issues and sects of society on stage. Back in 2015, Jefferies waged verbal warfare against guns, immunization, and even his own fans at Pabst Theater. Following an unparalleled 2016, Riverside Theater is in for an even more loaded laugh fodder.