Top Ten Picks for January 2016

The New Year got off to a great start in Milwaukee’s music scene. Here are the top picks from January, featuring IshDARR, Trapper Schoepp, Christopher Porterfield, Riverwest FemFest, Local Coverage, milo, a multitude of music videos, and more.

10. Summerfest rolls out Amphitheater headliners

We’re just a little less than five months from the annual Big Gig (otherwise known as the 10-day stay-away-from-Third-Ward-chaos festival), and the Summerfest organizers have already announced half of the mainstage headliners. All the way back in October, we heard about Selena Gomez performing on opening night, June 29. In November, Blake Shelton was announced for July 1. This month the announcements kept on coming, as we found out Luke Bryan will play on July 7; Weezer and Panic! at the Disco on July 9; and Sting and Peter Gabriel on July

9. Violent Femmes prove they can do anything

Last April, seminal Milwaukee band Violent Femmes released its first original material in more than 15 years with the four-song EP Happy New Year. The group is on a quest to prove that the same spark that lit fire to 1983’s self-titled debut is still alive, as this month they announced a follow-up to the EP, the 10-song album cheekily titled We Can Do Anything.

8. Rolling Stone recognizes milo as an artist to watch

Milo’s spellbinding album so the flies don’t come landed at No. 5 of my top albums last year, but it’s clear that the wordsmith has only shown us the tip of the iceberg. With all that potential, it’s not surprising to see him listed as one of Rolling Stone’s artists you need to know last month (though, it’s sort of an odd inclusion because a reader would already recognize him from the magazine’s best rap albums of 2015).

7. Local artists premiere music videos galore

January is usually a slow month for shows and new albums—this year really hasn’t been much different. While most bands take this time off to recharge, there were a handful that capitalized on the stagnation with new music videos. There’s Soul Low’s infectious prom night tale (“OMG STD”), Lex Allen’s early morning soul (“Cream and Sugar (feat. Webster X)”) Group of the Altos’ interweaving stories (“Coplights”), Phylums’ napkin doodle at Fuel Cafe (“Cold Coffee”) and GGOOLLDD’s freezing dance party (“Dance Through the Winter”).

6. Jaill releases collection of new songs on cassette for Infinity Cat Recordings

Even after June’s surreal, jangly pop album Brain Cream, Jaill have shown no signs of slowing down. In January, the band put out 10 new tracks as part of Infinity Cat Recordings’ cassette series. Wherever It Be is much more laid-back and straightforward than anything they’ve released in the past. The relatively low-frills approach works in the band’s favor, as stripping things down really shows off Vincent Kirchner’s immersive songwriting skills.

5. Christopher Porterfield resurrects early Milwaukee music mogul for Alverno Presents

Last month we learned that the Alverno Presents series would be shutting down after this season finishes up in April. It’s a significant hit to the Milwaukee music schedule, as these shows were often major must-see events. Christopher Porterfield’s “How To Write A Popular Song” was certainly one of those can’t-miss performances. The Field Report frontman revisited the career of Tin Pan Alley pioneer and music sheet hustler Charles K. Harris with the help of members from Phox, Megafaun and Porterfield’s own group.

4. Trapper Schoepp announces album release date, debuts new song

I wrote about Trapper Schoepp’s Rangers and Valentines back in July in advance of his Summerfest performance. The alt-country album was essentially finished, but the singer-songwriter was still putting on some finishing touches. In January, he announced the record will be coming out April 1 on Xtra Mile Recordings. He also premiered the music video for “Ballad of Olof Johnson,” a story-song that details an old family legend of when Schoepp’s immigrant relative encountered a blizzard while traveling to Minnesota and decided to flip the wagon, dig a hole and wait out the blustering snow. Needless to say, he lived to pass down the story to future generations. That’s just one of the unbelievable tales Schoepp tells on Rangers and Valentines.

3. IshDARR drops new single

No rapper experienced a bigger 2015 than wunderkind IshDARR. His debut mixtape Old Soul Young Spirit garnered national attention and racked up insane amounts of Soundcloud plays. His dance track “Sugar” ended up on Apple Music’s best of 2015 rap list with Future’s “March Madness,” Fetty Wap’s “Trap Queen,” Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright.” Now he’s back with a new song, “Time Shawty” that’s making waves, as well.

2. Riverwest FemFest expands in second year

The second annual Riverwest FemFest countered the all-too-common occurrence of three band bills featuring all dudes by offering a four-day festival that presented the eclectic female contributions to the music scene. That’s twice as many days as there were in its inaugural year and there were no signs of diminishing returns. The festival raised more than $10,000 (!!!) for Date Rape Awareness Milwaukee and the Milwaukee Women’s Center, and a small amount went towards founding a new non-profit called Feminist Expression Milwaukee.

1. Local Coverage rocks Turner Hall

Also in its second year, Local Coverage, a one-night music showcase where local bands cover other another local band on the bill, moved into Turner Hall Ballroom to raise funds for Girls Rock Milwaukee and Guest House of Milwaukee. The benefit made the most of the much bigger space, exceeding the fundraising totals and putting on a better show to more people than last year. The standout performance came from Tigernite, who committed fully to the GGOOLLDD flair while also fusing in their distinctive glam-rock stylings.



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.