Miller Lite

Milwaukee Music Scene

Milwaukee Music Scene

thank·ful - an adjective used to express gratitude 

Every Thanksgiving, we survey our lives and reflect on what we are thankful for. Topping our list is usually friends and family. While we do love our friends and families, we're also very grateful for our lively Milwaukee music scene. It's unique, it's growing, and just like us, it has something for everybody!  

Dave Grohl said it best: "Wouldn't you love it if your city was famous for music? A rich and vibrant music scene brings a lot of happiness. It's like air - it's important. You need to have that in your life just to remind you that life's worth living." Personally, we think he was thinking of Milwaukee when he said this. 

From the smallest clubs to Jazz bars to venues that used to be gentlemen's clubs, Milwaukee has a plethora of places to see great live music in intimate settings that we're thankful for, including some of our own unique venues on the Summerfest grounds!

We asked our staff what some of their favorite places are to catch a show. Here’s what they said:  

  • American Family Insurance Amphitheater - This majestic venue was made for live music and each show truly provides an intimate experience. The newly renovated amphitheater on the Summerfest grounds will be open for the festival season in 2020. 
  • Anodyne in Walker's Point - Great spot to relax with a hot coffee or a cold beer and take in some local or regional tunes. 
  • Backroom at Colectivo - Want to have the claim to fame of "I saw them before they were big"? This venue has had its fair share. Most recently Summerfest staff raved about a show with Jade Bird at this venue.
  • BMO Harris Pavilion - When on a warm summer night you get the experience of amazing views, that lake breeze and live music all at once – time seems to stop and there’s nothing better.
  • Cactus Club - Looking for a laidback, intimate venue to see your fav local or indie artists? You want to come here.
  • Club Garibaldi - Classic corner tavern that hosts upcoming bands. Summerfest staff reminisce about seeing Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats here back in the day before they were playing sold-out venues around the country.
  • The Cooperage - A hub for live music alongside the river in the Harbor District. We're told you can get a good taco here too. 
  • The Jazz Estate - Perfect for an intimate jazz performance. 
  • Kochanski's Concertina Bar - Want to get in touch with the Polish and German cultures of Wisconsin? Head to this old-school, vintage venue. Get ready to polka.
  • Marcus Center for the Performing Arts - If orchestras, musicals, and operas are your jam, keep tabs on their calendar. 
  • Miller High Life Theater - An elegant theater right in the city that has hosted artists like Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson, Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers and more.
  • Miramar Theater - Dubbed the "hipster dance club & bar with a chill vibe" according to the internet. If that's your vibe, you can catch local and national acts of all genres here.
  • The Pabst Theater - The centerpiece of Milwaukee's downtown theater district that has a look of a European opera house. Always has a full calendar of shows to check out.
  • The Rave / Eagles Club / Eagles Ballroom – A landmark concert venue in Milwaukee that used to be a gentleman's club. Regional and national acts frequent this unique venue. Long told are the stories of Summerfest staff having seen the likes of Vance Joy, In This Moment, Oasis, Garbage, and many more before they were big at this venue
  • The Riverside - One of Milwaukee's most opulent theaters that has welcomed high caliber artists like Neil Young, Norah Jones, and Aretha Franklin.
  • Shank Hall - Love everything from cover bands to national acts? Hit up this small rock club on the lower East side.
  • Site 1A - Experience the Milwaukee nightlife in the Third Ward with a wide range of resident and visiting DJs. 
  • Turner Hall - Another beautiful venue that's actually a National History Landmark. See an eclectic mix of shows here. 

What are your favorite intimate music venues in Milwaukee? What would you add to the list?

Author: Kellie McGinnis