Beat the Winter Blues at Mitten Fest

Fight back against winter with an entire afternoon of live local music at the annual outdoor block party at Burnhearts in Bay View. Plus: Smith Westerns frontman goes solo, stream new music from Indonesian Junk and more.

The winter tends to bum everyone out. Energy bills skyrocket, even after you spend an inordinate amount of time sealing every window with over-priced, heavy duty plastic wrap. Then there’s the seasonal affective disorder, which literally saps the energy out of people and tricks them into thinking award shows are a fun watch. Even worse, there’s the very real possibility of crippling region-wide blizzards, which the East Coast just barely survived. Plain and simple, winter sucks.

There’s not much you can do to fight back, other than, say, plugging a space heater into a neighbor’s outlet or moving to southern California, where they could actually use the water. But while there’s no cure to the ill effects of this terrible season, there’s one surefire option to show winter who’s boss for at least one weekend. That’d be the annual outdoor block party, Mitten Fest, which returns for its fourth year outside of Burnhearts in Bay View on Saturday.

So why should you really spend the day outdoors? Well, there’s rare, high ABV beer from Central Waters and Founders breweries to keep you warm, specially-made brandy Old Fashioneds and ginger brandy cocktails courtesy of Burnhearts, piping hot drinks from Valentine Coffee, delicious food from local restaurants Goodkind, Honeypie Café and Gyspy Taco (the truck usually parked outside Boone & Crockett) and an arts and crafts fair presented by local artist Cortney Heimerl.

Did I mention there’s an entire afternoon of local music, too? The eclectic line-up includes a country ensemble (The Whiskeybelles, 12:30 p.m.), a rapper (Thine Queen Tut, 2 p.m.), a metal band (Moon Curse, 3:30 p.m.) and a power pop group, who put out the best album of last year (Midnight Reruns, 5 p.m.).

The event is free, but organizers suggest donating cash, non-perishable food and clothing to support local non-profit Hunger Task Force. It’s not hard to see why the party keeps growing in size. Last year was the biggest turnout so far but this year may dwarf that number—4,000 people are interested in attending according to the event’s Facebook page. So instead of staying curled up in a blanket this Saturday afternoon, show winter who’s really in charge.

Mittenfest runs from noon-8 p.m. outside Burnhearts, 2599 S. Logan Ave., on Saturday, February 6 and features Midnight Reruns, Moon Curse, Thine Queen Tut and The Whiskeybelles.

Smith Westerns Frontman Goes Solo

Rex-conjuring Chicago teenagers, Smith Westerns, blew up in 2011 thanks to its sophomore album Dye It Blonde. But the band sputtered on 2013’s follow-up Soft Will and subsequently broke up the following year. While the other members went onto form a new band called Whitney, frontman Cullen Omori decided to go it alone. His solo debut New Misery is due out March 18 on Sub Pop. The first single, “Cinnamon,” sounds like something straight out of a ‘90s John Hughes film. Near the end of the music video, the singer literally sets flame to his old band.

Cullen Omori plays Cactus Club, 2496 S. Wentworth Ave., on Thursday, February 4 with local openers Light Music. Doors open at 9 p.m. Tickets are $10.

Stream of the Week

Listen to three new tunes, “Shake It With You,” “Little Malibu,” and “Out of Love,” off the forthcoming self-titled album from Indonesian Junk before the band’s digital/CD release show on Friday, February 5 at High Dive, 701 E. Center St., with openers Static Eyes, Bad Wig and Mono in Stereo. (A vinyl release is tentatively set for April 29.) You can also catch them over the radio airwaves on Tuesday night during WMSE’s Local/Live program, which starts at 6 p.m. on 91.7 FM.

This Week in Live Music

Tuesday, February 2: Grizfolk with Max Frost at Shank Hall, 8 p.m. ($10) – (1434 N. Farwell Ave.,

Wednesday, February 3: Audible Electricity featuring Adam Krause and LFTY at Acme Records, 6 p.m. (2341 S. Kinnickinnic Ave..

Friday, February 5: Macklemore and Ryan Lewis at The Rave, 8 p.m. (SOLD OUT) – (2401 W. Wisconsin Ave.,

Also: Three Dog Night at The Pabst Theater, 8 p.m. ($45.50-$55.50) – (144 E. Wells St.,

And: Cowboy Mouth with Dirty Dozen Brass Band at Potawatomi’s Northern Lights Theater, 8 p.m. ($25) – (1721 W. Canal St.,

Saturday, February 6: The Bad Plus (TWO SHOWS) at West End Conservatory, 5:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. ($25) (5500 W. Vliet St.,

Also: BUHU with D’Amato and Awkward Terrible at Riverwest Public House, 9 p.m. ($5) – (815 E. Locust St.,



Kevin is a freelance writer residing in Milwaukee. He’s contributed to The Shepherd Express, Third Coast Daily, Pop Matters and the sadly now-defunct A.V. Club Milwaukee. He looks forward to forging a deeper connection with the city’s impressive music scene during his gig as a Music Notes blogger. His talents include music criticism, riding a bicycle, drinking tasty beers and a crafty croquet swing. His weaknesses comprise Jean-Claude Van Damme movies, professional wrestling and his ever-growing record collection. He’s in desperate need to find more physical (and hard drive) space for the exceptional albums Milwaukee musicians keep churning out.