March is a period of transition. The month straddles two seasons, a part-time resident in the ass-end of winter and a temporary tenant within the burst and bloom brought on by spring. As the season changes and we gain an hour of daylight, the glorious onslaught of local festivals is so close, but still aggravatingly out of reach. Still, there’s a wealth of places to go, people to see, and things to do this month while awaiting the arrival of spring, along with the warmth and activity of summer. Between massive touring comedians (one of whom will film a special here), experimental residencies, stacked local bills, and WMSE’s 35th birthday party, this March isn’t shaping up to be so bad. Here’s our 15 can’t-miss Milwaukee events. Check out our calendar for more listings.
Saturday, March 5
Kathleen Madigan (Live Special Filming) at Pabst Theater
Veteran comedian Kathleen Madigan was originally supposed to film a special at Pabst Theater last October, but was forced to postpone the performance. The Midwestern-born comic’s special—her latest since 2013’s Kathleen Madigan: Madigan Again—will be the seventh such comedy taping in Milwaukee since 2008. Prior comedy acts to tape specials at Pabst Theater Group sites include Louis CK, Kathy Griffin, Ralphie May, Whose Line Is It Anyway‘s Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood, Spinal Tap, and Jeff Dunham. Madigan’s 7 p.m. show is sold out, but tickets for the 9:30 show are still available.
Sunday, March 6
Nobunny + Indonesian Junk, The Bang Bang, Bad Wig at Cactus Club
Nobunny, the persona of Justin Champlin, tours the U.S. and Europe avidly. Thus, it’s no surprise that the project brings its grab-bag of sleazy and timeless rock, as well as bunny masks, to Milwaukee at least once a year on average. This particular Nobunny outing—fewer than six months removed from last September’s Riverwest Public House show—finds Indonesian Junk, The Bang Bang, and Bad Wig joining the Milwaukee regular on a solid Sunday bill.
Monday, March 7
Argopelter residency at Boone & Crockett
Don’t feel bad if you’ve yet to hear Argopelter. After all, the entirely improvised project featuring members of Field Report, adoptahighway, and Bell Dance Songs has played out ever so sparingly since its 2014 outset. However, this month brings ample opportunity to catch Argopelter, as the trio will hold down a semi-monthly residency at Boone & Crockett. Between distance and the collaborators’ other projects, this (and the March 21 appearance) might be your last shot to see them for a while.
Friday, March 11
Bob Saget at Pabst Theater
Everywhere you look (everywhere) lately, there’s a prominent ’90s comedy figure being booked by Pabst Theater Group. While most probably know him as Full House‘s cleanly dad Danny Tanner or as the wholesome host of America’s Funniest Home Videos, Saget has actually enjoyed a 30-plus-year career as a stand-up comedian—and quite a dirty one at that. If you wish to see the sitcom dad you grew up watching in an entirely different way, you got it, dude!
City Of Ghosts (record release) + Hidden Hospitals, Hot Coffin, Antler House at Club Garibaldi
Since putting out its The Calm In The Current back in 2013, Milwaukee rockers City Of Ghosts have gone through their fair share of changes. Amid the addition of new members and instrument changes of existing members, the transitioning band found time to write and record a new EP. Even with the different lineup, PRISMS is a continuation of the band’s distinct ambient, atmospheric sound. Making this already noteworthy show a must-attend affair is the presence of openers Hidden Hospitals, Hot Coffin, and Antler House.
Counterparts + Expire, Gideon, Cross Me, Knocked Loose at The Metal Grill
Last month, we (like so many others) were shocked and saddened to learn of The Borg Ward’s sudden closing. Given the abrupt nature of the venue’s demise, a few shows on Borg Ward’s schedule needed to be moved. Unfortunately, losing both this space and Cocoon Room within the year left Milwaukee lacking all-ages venues. On the plus side, Cudahy has an all-ages place. While the city regroups and plans its next all-ages site, The Metal Grill has stepped up to host Milwaukee hardcore kings Expire, as well as Counterparts, Gideon, Cross Me, and Knocked Loose.
Saturday, March 12
Leon Bridges + Son Little at Riverside Theater
Hopefully you already bought your ticket to see the up-and-coming soul singer because this show is sold out.
Sunday, March 9
Brian McKnight at Potawatomi Hotel & Casino’s Northern Lights Theater
Though it’s been close to 20 years since Brian McKnight hit charts hard with “Anytime,” the long-tenured R&B singer hasn’t stopped singing. Including six compilations and a pair of Christmas albums, McKnight has 20 albums to his credit. He’ll traverse that lengthy catalog during an intimate Northern Lights Theater show. Emphasis on “intimate.”
Monday, March 14 to Wednesday, March 16
Louie Anderson at Potawatomi Hotel & Casino’s Northern Lights Theater
Before he was a regular in ’80s and ’90s movies, a cartoon protagonist, and the host of Family Feud, Louie Anderson was a comedian…a pretty damn good one, at that. Though his cultural significance and his IMDB page have softened of late (minus his role in the new FX series Baskets), Anderson remains a more-than-capable comedian. The Minneapolis-born funnyman returns to the Midwest for three nights of shows at Potawatomi’s Northern Lights Theater.
Tuesday, March 15
David Cross at Pabst Theater
At a time that finds America’s ideological gap widening at an alarming clip and the upcoming election only fueling the flames of political divide, the country needs a good laugh. Enter David Cross. Over the course of his lengthy and accomplished comedy career, the comedian, actor, and author has coaxed laughter from pointed social commentary directed at trends and caricatures seated on both sides of the aisle. Sadly, being on set hasn’t permitted Cross to tour since 2009. That is, it hasn’t until now. Fresh off his incredible (yet far too short) Netflix series W/ Bob & David, the Mr. Show co-creator, Arrested Development never-nude Tobias Fünke, and incomparable stand-up comic will embark on a lengthy nationwide tour. Fortunately, his “Making America Great Again!” tour will stop at Pabst Theater.
Saturday, March 19
They Might Be Giants at Turner Hall
A They Might Be Giants show is one of the few live shows that requires an explicit “FOR AGES 14+ ONLY” warning. For the past 30 (!) years, Johns Flansburgh and Linnell have effortlessly moved and blurred the lines between geeky “adult” music (Lincoln, Flood, the new Glean) and geeky “kid” music (Here Come The ABCs, Here Come The 123s, Here Comes Science). In the ’80s and ’90s, TMBG struck a chord with an army of put-upon junior-high dorks with songs like “Ana Ng” and “Birdhouse In Your Soul”; today, they delight the offspring of those same dorks with songs like “The Vowel Family,” “Ten Mississippi,” and “I Am A Paleontologist.” TMBG are a geek-rock institution like no other, bridging young and old, past and present, cool and square.
Soul Low + D’Amato at Anodyne Coffee Roasters (Walker’s Point)
With Soul Low recently covering Tigernite at Local Coverage and temporarily tacking on extra members for a rare unplugged session at UW-Milwaukee, the beloved Milwaukee band will return to business as usual. And business is good. While they loom in “vinyl purgatory” as they await the late summer arrival of their latest full-length, Nosebleeds, they’ll take the stage with rapping/R&B hybrid D’Amato, with whom they’ve developed something of a rivalry lately. Like most Anodyne events, this show is all-ages.
Tuesday, March 22
Juiceboxxx + Midnight Reruns, Zed Kenzo, Athletic Supply at Riverwest Public House
Not only is this probably the most stylistically varied show lineups in Milwaukee this month, it’s also one of the best. Juiceboxxx returns to town for the first time since his raucous New Year’s Day breakfast show at High Dive, and he’ll be joined by Midnight Reruns, Zed Kenzo, and Athletic Supply (formerly Bleach Athletixx) for a can’t-miss show at Riverwest Public House.
Saturday, March 26
WMSE’s 35th Anniversary Show with The Benjamins + The Crosses, Skiptracer, Feck, The Mighty Deerlick, Moloko Shivers at Turner Hall
WMSE is nothing short of a local institution. It’s impossible to adequately articulate exactly how much the listener-supported station means to Milwaukee, nor could anyone come close to calculating how much of an impact it’s had on the city as an outlet and ardent champion of Milwaukee music. To celebrate WMSE’s 35th birthday, six bands will reunite for a multi-genre, cross-generational gathering. The Benjamins will headline the party, playing a show to mark the 15th anniversary of their one and only record, The Art Of Disappointment, after The Crosses, Skiptracer, Feck, The Mighty Deerlick, and Moloko Shivers turn the clock back. Happy birthday, WMSE. We love you.
Sunday, March 27
Jonathan Richman at Shank Hall
While you’re digesting your Easter ham and shaking off whatever politically charged things your loved ones said to ruin brunch, enjoy a very special performance by the incomparable Jonathan Richman. The Modern Lovers singer and respected solo troubadour will return to Shank Hall toting hundreds of songs from dozens of albums spanning the mid-’70s through 2010’s O Moon, Queen Of Night On Earth. Holiday or not, don’t miss this.