Not too long ago, January was pretty much a vacant, blustery tundra in terms 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 shows, the official opening of a new comedy club, special movie screenings, and some world class comedians and musical acts blowing through town, this particular January is especially stacked. Make it your New Year’s resolution to get out more, and use this list of 15 can’t-miss shows as your guide.
Wednesday, January 8
Yacht + Juiceboxxx @ X-Ray Arcade
Grammy-nominated dance pop project Yacht will head up a must-attend hump day show at X-Ray Arcade. Before they perform, Milwaukee ex-pat Juiceboxxx will play a homecoming show along with another opener TBA.
Thursday, January 9
Colin Mochrie’s HYPROV @ Marcus Center For The Performing Arts
HYPROV combines the divergent—but equally entertaining—skillsets of improvisor Colin Mochrie (of Who’s Line Is It Anyway? fame) and hypnotist Asad Mecci to forge an incomparable and undeniably entertaining comedy experience. Volunteers from the audience are put under and asked to “yes, and” with Mochrie, which guarantees no two shows will be the same and offers what’s sure to be a great time. HYPROV will come to Uihlein Hall at Marcus Center For The Performing Arts on January 9.
Friday, January 10 and Saturday, January 11
The Laughing Tap Opening Weekend with Sam Tallent + AJ Grill, Dana Ehrmann @ The Laughing Tap
Last month, The Laughing Tap—a brand new Walker’s Point comedy club opened by the fine folks behind Milwaukee Comedy and the Milwaukee Comedy festival—hosted a pair of soft opening shows. On January 10, the city’s only comedy club will officially open its doors for a pair of performances. Denver-based comic Sam Tallent gets the honor of headlining the first official shows and, before the up-and-coming humorist takes the stage, local stand-up mainstays AJ Grill and Dana Ehrmann will take the stage.
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.
Milwaukee Record Halftime Show: Shle Berry @ Cactus Club
Just because the regular season is over doesn’t mean we’re about to stop Milwaukee Record Halftime Shows. As long as the Packers are playing, the series will continue. Now that we know when the Packers will be playing, we can also officially announce the next Milwaukee Record Halftime Show performer. On Sunday, January 12, the incomparable Shle Berry will take the stage at Cactus Club for a short set between the second and third quarter of that evening’s Packers playoff game. The game starts at 5:40 p.m. As always, the (21+) show is free to attend. Also as usual, bottles of High Life will be on special for just $2.50 (or $10 for a bucket of five bottles). Go Pack Go!
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.
Black Pumas + Seratones @ Pabst Theater
In August of 2018, Milwaukee got its first taste of Black Pumas. It’s safe to say a lot has changed since the soulful Austin-based outfit played that show at The Back Room @ Colectivo. Days after releasing its self-titled 2019 record last June, the duo headlined a stage at Summerfest and went from being a relatively unheralded act to a band on the rise. Less than 18 months since that Back Room Show and half a year since playing Summerfest, Black Pumas will return to Milwaukee to headline a Pabst Theater show that also includes support from Seratones. Don’t miss it!
Saturday, January 18
The Princess Bride: An Inconceivable Evening With Cary Elwes @ Riverside Theater
Milwaukee fans of The Princess Bride will have a second chance to see the film in a unique way: on the big screen, at the Riverside Theater, and with star Cary Elwes. (Elwes brought the film to the Riverside in 2016 following a postponed 2015 show.) On Saturday, January 18, 2020, “The Princess Bride: An Inconceivable Evening With Cary Elwes” will return to the storied Milwaukee theater, complete with a screening of the film, a post-film “behind-the-scenes” talk from Westley/Dread Pirate Roberts himself, and a moderated Q&A session.
Wednesday, January 22
Milwaukee Record presents ‘Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story’ @ Avalon Theater
Walk Hard traces the amazing (and entirely fictional) life of Dewey Cox—played by John C. Reilly at his finest—in a parody of early 2000s musical biopics like Walk The Line and Ray. Written by Judd Apatow and Jake Kasdan (who also directed), The 2007 film finds Reilly sharing the stage and screen with an unthinkably stacked cast of comic actors and musicians. Though it grossed a dismal $20 million at the box office (well shy of its $35 million budget), Walk Hard has caught with audiences in the 12 years since its release en route to achieving cult comedy status. Whether you want to see it again or you’re itching to catch it on the big screen for the very first time, you’re cordially invited to join us for this rare opportunity to see Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story in theaters.
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.”