5 Rays of Hope in a Soul-Crushing Milwaukee Winter
Seasonal affective disorder is no match for art, music, and chili.
In 1993’s Groundhog Day, Bill Murray sums up winter thusly: “It’s gonna be cold, it’s gonna be grey, and it’s gonna last you for the rest of your life.” Murray’s character was dealing with an existential crisis of cosmic proportions, of course—living the same day over and over—but his description could just as easily apply to Milwaukee winters: they’re cold, they’re depressingly grey, and they happen every goddamn year. It’s enough to make you throw yourself in front of a bus, if you can find one that’s running on time.
But fear not, seasonal-affective-disorder-afflicted Milwaukeeans, there’s hope amidst the hopelessness. Here are five things to look forward to this winter—courting a young Andie MacDowell sadly not included.
Gallery Night and Day
The winter edition of the Third Ward’s ever-popular Gallery Night and Day (January 17-18) may seem like a hard sell—trudging through the snow and braving the cold just to check out some art?—but there’s something to be said for throwing caution to the wind and going for it anyway. Plus, there are ice sculptures. And if trudging through the snow and braving the cold really isn’t your bag, you can always hop aboard ART Milwaukee’s ART Bus, where the refined pleasure of art appreciation and the refined ambiance of a drunken Brewers shuttlebus are handily combined into one convenient package.
The annual Milwaukee Film Festival is one of the best things about autumn in Milwaukee, but there’s plenty of cinematic goodness to be had the rest of the year. Each month, Milwaukee Film hosts free screenings of new, top-flight films at the Oriental Theatre for its ever-growing member base. These films tend to be ones that won’t screen regularly in town for months, or films that won’t screen in town at all. Plus, there’s always a pre-film happy hour at The Hotel Foster, just in case you think slamming down a few shots before watching Upstream Color is a good idea. (It’s not, by the way.) The next screening is set for Wednesday, January 29, where members will see The Square, a highly personal documentary about the Egyptian Revolution. If you’re not already a member, get to it.
Mitchell Park Domes’ “Music Under Glass” series
Similar to the Milwaukee Public Museum, the Mitchell Park Domes are a semi-kitschy local treasure that every Milwaukeean should visit on a semi-regular basis. Where else can you take in an arid desert landscape, a sweltering tropical jungle, a bunch of flowers, and a lingering ’70s vibe all in one place? The Domes have been hosting their “Music Under Glass” series since November, with local bands plying their trade under the warm, geodesic wonders, all while squaring off against evil James “Big Jim” Rennie and his cronies. (Oops, that last part is from Stephen King’s Under The Dome.) The bands themselves tend to be iffy at best, but the January 30 installment should be a doozy: Sigmund Snopek and David Woods will perform music “honoring the galaxies,” and will be joined by costumed Star Wars characters from the Midwest Garrison of the 501st Legion.
Burnhearts’ Mitten Fest 2014
Bay View’s Burnhearts Bar took a big chance last year with its inaugural Mitten Fest: Even with the promise of stellar music and a shitload of brandy slush, would crowds show up for an outdoor event in the middle of winter? Well, crowds did show up, and Mitten Fest was a rousing success that seemed to surpass the expectations of everyone involved. This year’s installment (February 8) should be an even bigger shindig, with music from The Fatty Acids, Whips, Midwest Death Rattle, and Heavy Hand. Cortney Heimerl will curate a cold-weather craft fair, and there will be plenty of bourbon barrel-aged brandy Old Fashioneds, ginger brandy, and beer. Oh, and don’t forget to bring some non-perishable food and warm winter clothes for the Hunger Task Force.
WMSE’s 12th Annual Rockabilly Chili Fundraiser
At this point, WMSE’s annual chili blowout needs no introduction, but if you’re among the seven people who haven’t already heard of it, here goes: Thousands of Milwaukeeans flood into the first-floor gymnasium of the MSOE Kern Center and sample chili from more than 50 local restaurants; awards are given for best meat, best vegetarian, most unique, best heat, and best presentation; everyone goes home happy and clutching a package of Tums. For the 2014 event (March 2), WMSE is kicking things up a few notches by utilizing the second-floor field house of the Kern Center, inviting six Milwaukee Fire Department houses to the contest, staging a chili pepper race for the kids, and featuring a live rockabilly band. Steel your stomachs now, Milwaukee. We can survive the winter (and heartburn) together.