May in Milwaukee usually serves as the calm before the storm that is summer festival season. By this time next month, we’ll be gearing up for block parties, weekly concerts, and a massive wave of occurrences bearing the “Fest” or “Days” suffix. If you thought this month would grant you a brief respite from staying out late and seeing top-tier musicians and comedians, think again. A staggering batch of tremendous indoor events will unofficially launch Milwaukee into its bustling run of great shows that should sustain the city through September. This particular May boasts the now-expected helping of touring bands and comics, but also includes a heft of release shows from beloved local acts, and a new comedy festival. There’s so much to do, but here are 15 shows Milwaukee Record is especially excited to see this month.
Wednesday, May 4
Death Valley Girls + Tenement, Fox Face at Cactus Club
While L.A. garage rockers Death Valley Girls are worth the price of admission on their lonesome, you’re going to want to show up early. Tenement, fresh off opening for Charles Bradley’s sold-out Turner Hall show last weekend and being dubbed one of the “10 Great Modern Punk Bands” by Rolling Stone, will precede the headliner. Fox Face was just added as the opener.
Thursday, May 5
Mike Krol + Sat. Nite Duets, Midwives at Cactus Club
Mike Krol’s hissy, distorted batch of shorthand garage rock has found him catching on with audiences across the country, as well as landing a spot on Merge Records. The Milwaukee ex-pat and brother of Hugh Bob And The Hustle/Rx Drugs drummer Justin Krol will come to Cactus Club for a homecoming show of sorts, and will be joined by beloved locals Sat. Nite Duets and Midwives for an altogether outstanding Thursday night outing.
Friday, May 6 to Sunday, May 8
Milwaukee Psych Fest at Cactus Club
Since 2013, Milwaukee musician Andrew Shelp has given the city a loud, fuzzed-out, and reverb-drenched gift every spring: Milwaukee Psych Fest. The multi-day shindig has become a welcome staple on the city’s concert calendar, one featuring psychedelic, drone, and shoegaze-leaning bands from Milwaukee, the United States, and the world. This year, from May 6-8, Psych Fest will once again pack the Cactus Club (both inside and out) for its fourth annual blowout. Check out the full lineup HERE.
Saturday, May 7
Space Raft (record release) + Midnight Reruns, Phylums, Platinum Boys, DJ Chris Schulist
With only four full months in the books, it’s already been a huge year for Space Raft. After releasing a seven-inch in February, getting positive coverage from Spin, and opening for none other than Bernie Sanders on the campaign trail, the Milwaukee classic rock quartet’s follow-up to its self-titled debut—which we called the best Milwaukee album of 2014—came out on tax day. Now that Milwaukee has had a few weeks to fall in love with Rubicon, Space Raft will play a belated release show with a stacked cast of fellow Dusty Medical Records alumnus including Midnight Reruns, Phylums, and Platinum Boys, with Dope Folks co-founder Chris Schulist spinning between sets.
Wednesday, May 11
Neil deGrasse Tyson at Riverside Theater
Back in December 2014, everyone’s favorite astrophysicist, champion of reason, and walking meme Neil deGrasse Tyson dropped by Milwaukee’s Riverside Theater for two enlightening shows dedicated to all things science. Per Milwaukee Record contributor Rob Wieland’s review of one of those shows, the good doctor “didn’t get to be America’s Favorite Really Smart Uncle without being able to entertain.” Tyson will bring his movie-ruining powers to the Riverside on Wednesday, May 11, with his so-called “An Astrophysicist Goes To The Movies” show. Everything from Star Wars, Interstellar, The Martian, and Mac And Me (we’re hoping) will be fair game, as Tyson discusses all the scientific things the movies got wrong, as well as the things they got right.
Elephant Revival + Dead Horses, Trapper Schoepp at Turner Hall
We don’t claim to know too much about Elephant Revival, but our familiarity with statewide bluegrass sensation Dead Horses and Milwaukee folk troubadour Trapper Schoepp makes this $10 affair a major bargain. Anything these Elephant Revival guys manage is just a bonus.
Thursday, May 12 to Sunday, May 15
Cream City Comedy Festival at various venues
Back in March, Milwaukee Record (a proud event sponsor) announced the existence of Cream City Comedy Festival. Founded by up-and-coming Chicago comics, Milwaukee comedy scene expats Sammy Arechar and Liz Ziner, as well as Vermont transplant Phil Davidson, the inaugural entertainment undertaking will bring more than 60 of the Midwest’s funniest independent comedians to nine venues in four neighborhoods for 11 shows between Thursday, May 12 and Sunday, May 15. Better yet, every show is absolutely FREE. Should the generous spirit strike you during any of the shows, your donation will support NAMI (National Alliance On Mental Illness). Awesome.
Friday, May 13
In Living Color Comedy Tour with David Alan Grier and Tommy Davidson at Potawatomi Hotel & Casino
Say what you will about their choice in acting roles, but David Alan Grier and Tommy Davidson have sustained careers almost any comedian would beg to have. They’ve been doling out laughs on stage and screen for more than 60 years combined, but both will certainly never eclipse the influence and success they enjoyed as major cast members of In Living Color. As a nod to the seminal sketch show that helped cement them as comic commodities, DAG and Davidson are hitting the road to represent the “In Living Color Comedy Tour,” which will stop at the Northern Lights Theater for a pair of Friday night shows. Whether they rehash beloved characters or just do standard stand-up sets, you’re seriously in for a treat.
Friday The 13th Fest at Riverwest Public House
Usually regarded to be an unlucky day, fans of horror, punk, “horrorpunk,” burlesque, and all-around oddities will feel pretty fortunate to be at the Public House for Friday The 13th Fest. The eclectic event doubles as a fundraiser for Milwaukee Paranormal Conference.
Friday, May 13 and Saturday, May 14
Lewis Black at Pabst Theater
Few if any humorists since Sam Kinison have managed to erect more prominent comedy careers from expertly articulated blind rage than Lewis Black. The longtime Daily Show correspondent and veteran stand-up has been screaming about all facets of society’s many failings for decades, but with 2016 being an election year, he’s surely not worried about running out of material any time soon. Mere weeks after his unannounced warm-up spot for his pal Kathleen Madigan’s Pabst Theater special filming, Black returns to the heavy-drinking land he loves for a pair of headlining shows at the very same venue.
Saturday, May 14
Hot Coffin (record release) + Soup Moat, SIN BAD at Cactus Club
Since the last time Hot Coffin put out a record (2013’s LAW, for those scoring at home), the group added Disguised As Birds singer Chris Chuzles at the helm and transitioned into a somehow-even-heavier band in the process. Behind the new frontman’s brutal and bludgeoning voice, the new-look Hot Coffin makes a hell of a second impression with eight pummeling, no-nonsense songs on its self-titled follow-up. Now you can purchase those songs on vinyl. Joining Hot Coffin’s release show is Soup Moat and SIN BAD.
Friday, May 20
Shannon And The Clams + Dogs In Ecstasy, Phylums at Company Brewing
Currently one of Riverwest’s finest restaurants, a damn fine brewery, home to a solid and spacious patio, and a frequent host for a ton of shows, it’s crazy to think Company Brewing has only been around about a year. To celebrate Company’s first sun revolution (of hopefully many), the restaurant/brewery/venue will play host to one of its biggest touring acts to date. Shannon And The Clams will bring their gritty take on the ’50s- and ’60s-era sound to town for a show that features Milwaukee’s own Dogs In Ecstasy and Phylums.
Saturday, May 21
Midwest Death Rattle (record release) + Mutts, Gallery Night at Cactus Club
Midwest Death Rattle hasn’t put out anything since its wonderful and theatrical self-titled debut way back in 2012. Despite the unthinkable delay, local listeners can take comfort in knowing the band has spent the last four years writing, perfecting, and recording 12 tracks for a new record. On May 21, Post-Apocalypso will finally see daylight. The limited portions of operatic indie-rock we’ve heard off it have been great, but count us among those excited to hear the entire album live. If this momentous occasion for the slow-working band isn’t enough for you, frequent Milwaukee visitor Mutts, and the un-Google-able greatness of Gallery Night will precede MDR’s set.
Friday, May 27
Rx Drugs + Trapper Schoepp at Club Garibaldi
When we first checked in with Rx Drugs last October, the Milwaukee super group fronted by The Championship singer-guitarist Joe Crockett and featuring members of Dashboard Confessional, Hugh Bob And The Hustle, and Trapper Schoepp And The Shades was preparing for its first show. Since the band’s Tonic Tavern outset last autumn, only a select few shows have followed, and nary a release date for the project’s already-recorded debut full-length has been set. Now that you know what they sound like, see how they sound live in a stacked local show that also features Trapper Schoepp.
Friday, May 27 and Saturday, May 28
Gloss Weekend at Cactus Club and Mad Planet
Milwaukee is currently home to many DIY record labels, and one of the best is Gloss Records. Founded in February 2015 by Harrison Colby (NO/NO) and Joe Peterson (Rio Turbo, Platinum Boys), Gloss has spent the past year releasing (mostly) cassettes from groups like GGOOLLDD, Lorde Fredd33, Marielle Allschwang, Soul Low, D’Amato, (ORB), and Surgeons In Heat, as well as Colby and Peterson’s projects. Now, the small-run label is prepping to celebrate its first year in a big way with Gloss Weekend, a three-day blowout in late May featuring sets from Gloss artists, and more. Check out the full lineup HERE.