This Week in Milwaukee: Dec. 29 - Jan. 4
Thursday, Dec. 29
Jeff Dunham @ BMO Harris Bradley Center, 7:30 p.m.
While much of the country was surprised by Donald Trump’s November victory, at least one comedian wasn’t: Jeff Dunham. The Comedy Central mainstay says he knew Trump would win, based on how much support he saw for the billionaire at his live shows. Of course, that says as much about Dunham’s audience as it does the state of politics in America. Dunham became one of the country’s top touring comedians not only because of his unusual medium (he’s a ventriloquist), but also for his unapologetically conservative world view. He’s the Fox News Channel of the comedy world—channeling the anger of red-blooded Americans who feel under attack by cashiers who now say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” Some of Dunham’s puppets include José, a talking jalapeño pepper who wears a sombrero, and Achmed the Dead Terrorist, a sort of skeleton version of Osama Bin Laden. Are you laughing yet?
Jim Gaffigan @ The Pabst Theater, 7 and 10 p.m.
Why, yes, Jim Gaffigan has played the Pabst Theater before. The affable comedian is now celebrating 10 years of his annual New Year’s Eve residency at the historic venue, where each year he performs a number of shows skewering his dietary habits and, more recently, his family life, riffing on his experiences as a father of five kids. His family life was also the inspiration for “The Jim Gaffigan Show,” an old-fashioned, surprisingly sweet sitcom for the TV Land network that he co-wrote with his wife Jeannie. The show attracted good reviews, strong ratings and some marquee guest stars, including Will Ferrell, Jerry Seinfeld, Alec Baldwin and Jimmy Fallon. But this fall the Gaffigans announced they were ending it after two seasons so they could spend more time with their real family, not the fictionalized one on screen. Gaffigan will perform multiple shows at the venue through Dec. 31. All proceeds from the Thursday, Dec. 29 show at 10 p.m. will be donated to the Riverwest Food Pantry.
Friday, Dec. 30
Local H w/ Devils Teeth @ Shank Hall, 8 p.m.
’Tis the season for familiar faces. While the Bradley Center welcomes the Harlem Globetrotters once again and The Pabst Theater turns over its stage to Jim Gaffigan, Shank Hall will host one of its own regular acts, Local H. The guitar and drum duo remains best remembered for their grunge-era 1995 hit “Bound to the Floor,” but in recent years they’ve moved on to more ambitious territory, stretching out on a series of concept albums. Last year’s Hey, Killer was their first record in a while without an overarching theme, and it was also their first with new drummer Ryan Harding.
Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra’s “Raiders of the Lost Ark” @ The Marcus Center, 7:30 p.m.
For evidence of just how fun movies were in the pre-CGI era, just revisit Steven Spielberg’s special-effects spectacle Raiders of the Lost Ark, the first of Harrison Ford’s Indiana Jones movies. The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra will celebrate the film’s 35th anniversary with a live performance of its iconic John Williams score, accompanied by a giant HD projection of the film. (Also Dec. 31, 2:30 p.m.)
Stellar Spark w/ Datsik and Snails @ The Rave, 8 p.m.
Perhaps this was inevitable: The Rave’s annual Stellar Spark New Year’s Eve bash has grown so large that it has spilled over into a second day. This year’s party will be split across two shows, with headliners Datsik, Snails and Matroda on Friday, Dec. 30 and Borgore, Kayzo and Prince Fox on New Year’s Eve proper. Most of those acts represent EDM in its loudest, flashiest form—especially Datsik, a Canadian DJ-producer whose drop-heavy dance music draws heavily from classic hip-hop. Like too many dubstep acts, though, his racial appropriations sometimes push the boundaries of good taste. He titled his 2014 EP Down 4 My Ninjas.
Sunday, Jan. 1
Polar Bear Plunge @ Bradford Beach, noon
While some of us simply bundle up and hope for winter’s mercy, others prefer to confront the elements head on. Every New Year’s Day, hordes of brave lunatics meet at Milwaukee’s Bradford Beach to dive into Lake Michigan. It’s an unofficial event, so there’s no need to register; just show up by noon and make sure you bring some warm clothes (including socks) to change into after the dive. Milwaukee Fire Department paramedics will be on hand just in case anything goes wrong.
Cool Fool Kite Festival @ Veteran’s Park, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
For people who want to spend New Year’s Day by the lake without jumping into the damn thing, the Gift of Wings kite shop hosts its annual winter celebration of really, really big kites. In addition to the flying novelties, there will be live ice artists and ice carving lessons, kite demonstrations as well as hot food, hot chocolate and hot coffee.