January is an exciting time: a time of renewal, a time of promise, and a time when we inevitably refuse to make New Year’s resolutions because we’ve been burned in the past and that shit never works anyway. It’s also a time to make an effort to go to as many shows as possible—a feat made easy by a nicely busy schedule of January Milwaukee concerts and events. So, before February rolls around and you realize that winter will never, ever end, here are 15 shows to get your 2015 off on the right foot. (Need more? Be sure to visit the Milwaukee Record events calendar, which is locked and loaded for January.)
Thursday, January 8
NO/NO at Riverwest Public House
Milwaukee’s deeply awesome NO/NO is only a few months old, but the time is rapidly approaching when it will no longer be necessary to mention that the group is the New Wave reincarnation of the disbanded Delphines. For now, simply listen to the band’s two excellent EPs, soak in the 2 a.m.-melodies of singer-songwriter Harrison Colby and the vocals of Rio Turbo’s Cat Ries, and know that the city’s best new band will soon need no “born-from-the-ashes-of” qualifier. Milwaukee/Chicago duo (Orb) and Sat. Nite Duets frontman Stephen Strupp open the show. Admission is $5, or free with the donation of a new or gently used piece of winter clothing.
Myles Coyne at Boone & Crockett (also January 15, 22, 29)
What does Milwaukee’s hardest working musician do to gently ease into a new year? Kick off a month-long residency at Boone & Crockett, of course. Yes, the man of a thousand bands, Myles Coyne, will go solo for four Thursdays in January at B&C, and will be joined by a revolving cast of groups and musicians each night: The Grasping At Straws and Donovan The Shark join Coyne on the 8th; Boom Forest and Devil Met Contention stop by on the 15th; Thriftones and The New Red Moons pitch in on the 22nd; and Cherryball and Heavy Leaf close things out on the 29th. All shows are free, and include a complimentary PBR with the purchase of your first drink, because Milwaukee.
Friday, January 9
Paul Collins Beat at Bremen Café
Power-pop veteran Paul Collins has spent the past four decades doing time with legendary groups like The Nerves and The Beat, and touring almost constantly with The Paul Collins Beat. Happily, little has changed in all those years: Collins’ recent albums—2008’s Ribbon Of Gold and last year’s Feel The Noise—are chock full of the same kind of hooky, feel-good guitar tunes that fans of his ’70s work have always loved. Seeing the tireless journeyman in the close confines of the Bremen Café should be a particular treat. Madison’s Prognosis Negative opens the show.
Thursday, January 15
Steven Wright at Northern Lights Theater
It’s impossible to talk about comedian Steven Wright without using words like “monotone,” “deadpan,” “surreal,” and “one-liners.” It’s also impossible to avoid simply quoting one of Wright’s many monotone, deadpan, surreal one-liners, so here we go: “I wish the first word I ever said was the word ‘quote,’ so right before I die I could say ‘unquote.’” Longtime fans will likely be familiar with most of the material Wright will toss off tonight—much of it from 1985’s I Have A Pony and 2007’s I Still Have A Pony—though any opportunity to see The Guy On The Couch live and in person should not be missed.
Klassik at The Hotel Foster
With 2012’s In The Making, Milwaukee rapper/musician/video director Kellen “Klassik” Abston announced himself as one of the city’s most unique and musically restless acts. Equal parts jazzy, spacey, and soulful, songs like “Running 2” and “Light” (the latter of which appeared on 2013’s YRP album) effortlessly skirt above the surface like a space-age hovercraft, occasionally touching down on any number of styles and influences. After a relatively quiet 2014, Klassik is hitting the ground running in 2015 with four EPs that will eventually lead to a new album in the spring. Tonight’s show celebrates the release of the first of those EPs, Winter. El-Shareef, Damir Balo, and Blizz McFly And Great Music open.
Friday, January 16
Local Coverage at Club Garibaldi
Local Coverage is the true story of eight Milwaukee bands, picked by Milwaukee Record to work together and cover each other’s songs, to find out what happens when bands stop being polite…and start getting real. But seriously: We’re super stoked to be presenting this show, which will find Whips playing 15-20 minutes of material by The Fatty Acids, Maritime playing Whips, Temple playing Maritime, The Fatty Acids playing WC Tank, Ugly Brothers playing Temple, The Olives playing Bright Kind, WC Tank and Riley Lake playing The Olives, and Bright Kind playing Ugly Brothers (whew). Local funnyman Tyler Menz will host the show, which costs a measly $5. Oh, and 100-percent of the proceeds will benefit Girls Rock Milwaukee. Oh, and there’ll be a 50/50 raffle featuring goodies from some of Milwaukee Record’s supporters. Oh, and BE THERE.
Phox at Pabst Theater
We’re loath to recommend any other shows on the 16th that aren’t MILWAUKEE RECORD PRESENTS LOCAL COVERAGE AT CLUB GARIBALDI, but there are a few worth mentioning. First up is Phox at Pabst Theater, with the beloved Wisconsin band taking its mellow, NPR-approved folk-rock to the big stage, and capitalizing on last summer’s sold-out show at Turner Hall. Say what you will about Phox, but it’s heartening to see a grassroots ’Sconnie band get some national love for a change. Madison psych-rock outfit Dolores opens the show.
The Midwest Beat at Cocoon Room
If Phox or MILWAUKEE RECORD PRESENTS LOCAL COVERAGE AT CLUB GARIBALDI aren’t your bag, then you could do worse than The Midwest Beat at Riverwest’s all-ages Cocoon Room. Wait, make that The Midwest Beat, Midwives, Head On Electric, and Butter at Riverwest’s all-ages Cocoon Room. Damn, that’s a killer lineup. Welp, no matter where you end up on the 16th, know that there has never been a better time for live music in Milwaukee, and that anyone who suggests otherwise is crazy. See you at Club Garibaldi!
Saturday, January 17
Pablove 6 at Turner Hall
For the past six years, the annual Pablove Benefit Concert has assembled some of the area’s best musical acts on one stage in order to raise awareness and funds for pediatric cancer research. For its 2015 installment, Pablove is putting forth one of its most interesting lineups yet. Shirley Manson of Garbage will perform a one-off show with Sons Of The Silent Age, a David Bowie tribute band featuring Matt Walker (Morrissey, Smashing Pumpkins) and Chris Connelly (Ministry). Other acts on the bill include Replacements tribute band Pleased To Meet Me; Morrissey/The Smiths tribute band The Salford Lads Club; GGOOLLDD; Brett Newski; and Rebecca Hron.
Sunday, January 18
Ladies Rock showcase at Riverwest Public House
An offshoot of the popular Girls Rock Milwaukee camps, which give girls age 8-16 a chance to learn musical instruments, form bands, and write songs, Ladies Rock offers the same music-minded encouragement and support for adults 21 and over. The three-day retreat will take place January 16-18 at UWM’s Zelazo Center, and will culminate with tonight’s showcase at Riverwest Public House. Stop by for a chance to support a unique cause, and to hear musicians of all skill levels do their thing in front of an appreciative crowd.
Tuesday, January 20
Reel Big Fish + Less Than Jake at The Rave
The checkerboard-patterned dream of the ’90s lives on at The Rave this month, when ska-punk holdovers Reel Big Fish and Less Than Jake take you back to a time when guilty-pleasure third-wave ska tunes littered the airwaves like so many sewn-on “rude boy” patches. So yeah, ska sucked in the ’90s and it sucks now, but at least it has always committed to that suckieness. (And at least Reel Big Fish and Less Than Jake didn’t shoehorn “ska” into their band names.) Fellow skankin’ ’90s group Authority Zero opens the show.
Thursday, January 22
Soul Low + Whips, The Fatty Acids at Linneman’s
If you’re looking for a deliriously stacked local bill this month, look no further. Soul Low is the proud creator of one of the best albums of 2013 (the genre-jumping UNEASY) as well as the first release of 2015 (the similarly jittery and multi-faceted Kind Spirit EP). Whips, meanwhile, recently unleashed their monster Turn It On, which has enough sexy, no-frills rock and roll for three albums. The Fatty Acids, of course, are a tireless Milwaukee institution, and a welcome (and frequent) addition to any local lineup. In addition to being awesome, this show will serve as a homecoming for Soul Low, which is currently touring the southwest. Detroit synth-pop act Jamaican Queens share the bill.
Friday, January 23
Chris Tucker at Riverside Theater
Here are some Chris Tucker-related fun facts guaranteed to make you feel old: the first Friday movie is 20 years old; the first Rush Hour movie is 17 years old; and The Fifth Element is love. Done feeling decrepit? Let’s talk about the present: Chris Tucker is back to his stand-up roots, evoking the days when he was a brash up-and-comer on Def Comedy Jam. His return to the Riverside should be a can’t-miss show because, let’s face it, it’s on a Friday, you ain’t got no job, and you ain’t got shit to do.
Riverwest FemFest at Cocoon Room (also January 24)
The wintertime Riverwest Fest may be a thing of the past, so it’s with great relief that the inaugural Riverwest FemFest has come along to squash any impending winter doldrums. Dedicated to “celebrating the strong, talented women in our community while donating to a great cause,” the two-day FemFest will find more than a dozen female-driven bands descending on the Cocoon Room: City Pines, Shelly Schauer, Poncho People, Flag Signals, Caley Conway And The Lucy Cukes, The Grasping At Straws, and New Boyz Club will play on the 23rd; Toby Pansy, Fox Face, Appleseeds, Fuck Of Seagulls, and Sin Bad will play on the 24th. There will also be poetry readings, an art auction (the proceeds of which will benefit the Milwaukee Women’s Center), and an after-party at Riverwest Public House featuring Temple and Venus In Furs.
Saturday, January 31
Jon Mueller/Death Blues: Ensemble at Pitman Theatre
When he’s not busy drumming for Volcano Choir, Jon Mueller tends to brood on the meaning of life, death, and the impermanence of time. You know, the small stuff. Mueller’s multi-disciplinary, teeth-rattling Death Blues project is about a lot of things, but its main concern is about being present in the moment, and meditating on the fleeting nature of that moment. Since premiering for Alverno Presents in 2012, Death Blues has taken many forms—a gorgeous book and record set was one of the finest releases of 2014—but it remains best as a live performance full of booming, primal post-rock. For the final, three-movement “Ensemble” piece, Mueller will be joined by fellow explorers Fred Lonberg-Holm, Jaime Fennelly, Jim Warchol, Marielle Allschwang, and Nathaniel Heuer. Do. Not. Miss.