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Killer Wisconsin Shows This January

Why you should say yes to seeing live music!

Something To Do Live! by Mike Huberty
January 2015

When someone in a band asks you to come to one of their live shows, there are a million reasons to say that you can’t make it. I’ve heard every excuse out there. It’s always, “There’s a cover charge and I’m broke” or “I can never talk to my friends when the band is playing” or “I’ve got the kids that night” or “I’m at home with venereal disease” (well, my friends anyway.) I know that the allure of Netflix, Xbox, or the latest comic book movie seems overwhelming. And the clubs and bars that host shows don’t make it any easier. After all, the shows are designed to run until bar time to keep the maximum amount of people drinking at the bar. You know that it’s after Midnight when drinkers start getting loose with their wallets and the shots start flowing freely (the Jägerbomb was undoubtedly invented in the wee hours of the morning as a quick wake-up/barf inducer.)

But when you’re saying “no” to a local show, you’re saying “no” to your own culture. When you decide to go somewhere instead that just plays all the songs that you can already hear on the radio, you’re saying that the artists in your town don’t have anything to say that’s as worthwhile as something that’s been designed by committee and thoroughly test marketed to appease the maximum amount of people in the shortest amount of time between commercials. Sure, some of those songs can be great and very original, but for the most part, it’s just there to help you pass the time. 

But that’s not what art and music and live shows are about. It’s about that guy from your warehouse department that’s singing a song about how he lost the love of his life, it’s about the girl from a rough family that’s learning to finally celebrate her independence, it’s about raising our fist in the air at the mediocrity of everyday living and expressing the joy, anger, and fear that we all feel. It’s about connecting with the people in your community in a way that you can’t get through a social network. It’s about embracing the moment and validating that your friends and neighbors have something to say about the lives you’re living and the places you’re from.

We’re in Wisconsin, not Nashville or LA, and this state in January is tough. Sure, we laugh when we see a meme about how heartier we are than Southerners who start sliding all over the highway with an inch of snow, but in the end, most people just stay home instead of braving the roads. There are original bands and songwriters playing music in your town that can change your outlook, make you smile, and help you have a deeper and more meaningful relationship with the place you live. That’s not something to make an excuse about, that’s something to get excited about. Here are some great shows featuring original artists that are going on in our state this month.

If you’re in Madison on January 9th, there’s a show at the High Noon Saloon with The Mascot Theory, 500 Miles to Memphis, and The Delta Routine. All bands that I’ve had the honor to write about in this magazine. If you dig Americana, Rockabilly, or Roots Rock, then you’ll be in heaven.

And in Milwaukee, the same weekend, there’s an Electronic Rock act called The Dark Clan playing on January 11th at the Miramar Theatre. Fronted by Dan Clark, who’s been a Wisconsin music scene mainstay for years, their songs are catchy, soaring, powerful, and memorable. If you like anything like Angels and Airwaves or NIN, I guarantee you’ll find their songs uplifting, and the Miramar isn’t just a bar, it’s a great place for live music.

If dancing is what gets you out for a live show, then Something To Do is at Milwaukee’s BBC Upper Level on January 16th. They’re probably the longest-running active Ska band in the state and they play a tight set that will make you laugh and make you move.

And if you’re a hippie, don’t despair, because the same weekend in LaCrosse, the People Brothers Band brings the classic jam band sound to the Mississippi. That’s January 17th at The Root Note. It’s a classic, diverse sound that anyone can appreciate.

In the middle of the state, another artist that I’ve featured in the past, Country-Rock troubadour Michael Alexander is bringing his band, Big Whiskey, to Wausau for the big snowmobile race at the 525 Track on Saturday January 24th. His album, “Gas Station Sunglasses”, is a heartfelt and emotional collection of singer-songwriter tracks.

And you don’t have to be in a big city to hear something original. DAT Bar in Merrill is featuring the guys from Horseshoes & Hand Grenades on Saturday, January 31st. They’re one of Wisconsin’s best string bands and if you like revved-up country and bluegrass, you’re going to have a great time!

That’s just a smattering of some great original music that you can see this month. There are great Jazz, Hip Hop, and R&B shows that I’ve missed because I’m not an expert in those areas, but hopefully this helps you next time someone you know invites you to a show, to turn that excuse you were contemplating into a “Yes, I can’t wait!”


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