April is typically a period of rebirth. Baseball season begins, the first full month of spring is upon us, and rampant festival announcements combine with extended daylight and occasional days of unseasonable warmth to signal the city’s best days are soon to come. While we’re still two months removed from PrideFest (the official start of festival season), April brings about other reasons to celebrate. This particular April will shower the city with tremendous entertainment options, including a local holiday, a tremendous four-night benefit for area art programs, Adam Sandler, and rare Milwaukee appearances by respected musicians. There’s so much to do this month, but these 15 events stand out to us.
Tuesday, April 3
Judas Priest + Saxon, and Black Star Riders @ Riverside Theater
Yes, Judas Priest is coming to Milwaukee for the first time in nearly 10 years, man. The legendary British heavy metal act will play the Riverside Theater in support of a new studio album, Firepower. Halford, guitarists Glenn Tipton and Richie Faulkner, bassist Ian Hill, and drummer Scott Travis will surely blow the roof off the joint (Downing left in 2011), and will surely live up to their iconic, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame-nominated, WAMI-winning reputation.
Wednesday, April 4
Milwaukee Record presents UHF at Avalon theater
A film that originally tested well with audiences but flopped upon release (it was up against little films like Batman, Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade, and Ghostbusters II), UHF has since gone on to become a bona fide cult classic. And now you’ll be able to experience its zany brilliance on the big screen: Watch as George Newman (Yankovic) struggles to save a fly-by-night UHF station! Thrill as janitor Stanley Spadowski (Michael Richards) takes the world by storm with his firehose-happy Stanley Spadowski’s Clubhouse! Jeer as diabolical Channel 8 owner R.J. Fletcher (Kevin McCarthy) schemes to put George and friends out of business! Recite every single word of the Gandhi II, Conan The Librarian, and Spatula City commercials! Hope you enJOY it!
This screening is now sold out, but whether or not you got tickets, you should join us for a UHF after party (or “Weird Al” pre-party?) from 9-midnight at Vanguard.
Saturday, April 7
Rhett Miller + Bea @ The Back Room at Colectivo
Though you probably know him better as the singer of Old 97’s, Rhett Miller has plied his songwriting skills into a respectable solo career, too. The crooner will play material from his seven solo records and, with any luck, stripped-down versions of Old 97’s classics. Bea opens.
Monday, April 9
Ty Segall + Solid Freex @ Mad Planet
Ty Segall‘s April 9 show at Cactus Club sold out in mere minutes, making it one of the fastest sellouts in the cozy Bay View bar’s history. In effort to meet the unprecedented demand of customers, Cactus Club has decided to move the show to the more spacious confines of Mad Planet instead. What’s being billed as “Cactus Club presents Ty Segall at Mad Planet” brings the troubadour to the Riverwest venue for an unforgettable night. Solid Freex will play in support.
Monday, April 9 and Tuesday, April 10
“Weird Al” Yankovic + Emo Philips @ Pabst Theater
Wouldn’t it be great if Al did a tour strictly for the hardcore fans? Like, the really hardcore fans? The hardcore fans who have been waiting decades to hear, say, “Frank’s 2000″ TV,” “The Biggest Ball Of Twine In Minnesota,” or “Mr. Popeil” live? Well, here we go: Yesterday, The Weird One announced his “Ridiculously Self-Indulgent, Ill-Advised Vanity Tour,” an intimate, bare-bones (no costumes, props, or video), no-two-shows-alike, largely non-parody tour featuring himself and his band playing “deep cuts and obscure tracks. The songs that were never hits. The ones you barely remember.” Oh, we remember, Al. We remember.
Friday, April 13 to Sunday, April 15
Midwest Gaming Classic @ Wisconsin Center
In 2001, two guys started a small show “to celebrate the Atari Jaguar” at a Boy Scout Service Center that drew about 100 gaming enthusiasts. Since that unheralded outset, the event—which was later named Midwest Gaming Classic—has ballooned in popularity and has taken over virtually every square inch of the Brookfield Sheraton for three days every April. After more than 10,000 gamers, pinball nuts, tabletop competitors, and cosplayers milled around the suburban hotel last year, the organizers made the bold decision to bring the Classic to downtown Milwaukee this year. The move to the Wisconsin Center gives Midwest Gaming Classic more than double the space, which means there’s more room for game play, vendors, and entertainment. It’s the same MGC you know and love, except there much more of it and its way closer to come.
Saturday, April 14
Tigernite + Midwest Death Rattle, and Zed Kenzo @ Company Brewing
It’s been less than 10 years since a group of friends realized Milwaukee’s 414 area code had a striking resemblance to the numerals in April 14 (or 4/14) and turned that laughable coincidence into a full-blown local holiday. Since its unlikely outset, “Milwaukee Day” has resulted in an official mayoral proclamation, a founder getting to throw out a first pitch before a Brewers game, an abundance of civic-centered specials offered by area businesses, a formidable hashtag, a cameo on Jeopardy!, and the inspiration for a beer.
The holiday has also become a day to celebrate local music. Join Milwaukee Record at Company Brewing for the official Milwaukee Day Showcase. There, pints of Company Brewing’s new Milwaukee Day Lager will be available for $4 all night long. We’ve done our part by assembling an all-star cast of some of the city’s finest musicians. Celebrate Milwaukee Day with performances by Tigernite, Midwest Death Rattle, and Zed Kenzo. Tickets to the show—sponsored by Gruber Law Offices and WMSE—are on sale now.
Lex Allen (album release) @ Cactus Club
Adding to the Milwaukee Day fun is Lex Allen, who will use the holiday as an occasion to release his long-awaited Saints & Sinners. Special guests, DJ DRiPSweat, Max Holiday, and DJ Lotusmark will also be on hand to keep the spirits high for this local celebration that doubles as a record release show.
Tuesday, April 17
Bill Murray, Jan Vogler, and Friends @ Riverside Theater
Okay, this is pretty great: On Tuesday, April 17, the one and only Bill Murray (yep, Bill Groundhog-Day, Ghostbustin’-ass Murray) and German cellist Jan Vogler (along with violinist Mira Wang and pianist Vanessa Perez) will play Milwaukee’s Riverside Theater. You heard that right: Bill Murray, German cellist, violins, pianos, Riverside Theater. YES.
Murray and Vogler met on a trans-Atlantic flight a number of years ago, struck up a friendship, and eventually decided to collaborate. Their 2017 album, New Worlds, features Murray singing and reading American classics while accompanied by Vogler and his classical trio. If you’ve ever wanted hear the man who played Peter Venkman solemnly read passages from Huckleberry Finn alongside a lovely rendition of “Moon River,” this is the album for you. Oh, and Murray sings “Jeanie With The Light Brown Hair” and does some numbers from West Side Story. It’s weird and wonderful and kind of beautiful.
Wednesday, April 18
Lakefront Brewery presents Wayne’s World at Avalon Theater
Lakefront Brewery and Avalon Theater recently joined forces to show Tommy Boy on the eve of Chris Farley’s birthday for an event they called “Farley + Barley.” After the success of that sold out screening, the brewery and Bay View theater will follow it up with another ’90s favorite with Saturday Night Live ties next month. Wednesday, April 18 will be “Mill-E-Wah-Que Fest” at Avalon when Lakefront hosts a screening of Wayne’s World.
The classic 1992 comedy stars Mike Meyers and Dana Carvey as two underachieving basic cable talk show hosts who bite off more than they can chew. Of course, you know that. Wayne’s World is one of the highest grossing and most culturally transcendent comedies of all time, and (for better or worse) it inspired a treasure trove of quotes that are still in regular circulation today. As the event’s name indicates, Milwaukee also plays a prominent part in the picture.
Wednesday, April 18 and Thursday, April 19
Adam Sandler + Rob Schneider @ Riverside Theater
Much like the universe, and much like the Self, Adam Sandler contains multitudes. There’s the early Saturday Night Live Sandler, scoring big on characters like Opera Man and the Herlihy Boy. There’s the early movie star Sandler, headliner of such kind-of-crummy-but-kind-of-great hits as Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore. There’s the latter-day movie star Sandler, headliner of such paid-summer-vacation scams as Grown Ups and Grown Ups 2. Hell, there’s even the accomplished movie star Sandler, headliner of such legit-terrific films as Punch Drunk Love and The Meyerowitz Stories.
Then there’s the Sandler that’s scheduled to perform not one, but two shows at Milwaukee’s Riverside Theater. What will those performances entail? We imagine some stand-up, some stories, some songs, and maybe some deep cuts from They’re All Gonna Laugh At You! Oh, and Rob Schneider will be there, too. And both shows (along with others on the tour) will be filmed for Sandler’s upcoming Netflix special. Let’s go!
Friday, April 20
Jack White @ The Rave
We hope you bought tickets to this one early. It’s sold out!
Friday, April 20 and Sunday, April 22
Field Report (album release) + Caley Conway (4/20) and Buffalo Gospel (4/22) @ Back Room at Colectivo
Last month, Field Report officially released Summertime Songs, arguably the Chris Porterfield-led project’s most anticipated album yet. It lived up to the hype (and then some). About a month after its release, Milwaukee will get a chance to sing along to Summertime Songs with a pair of Field Report shows at Colectivo’s Back Room. Caley Conway will precede the hometown heroes in the first (already sold out) show, with Buffalo Gospel playing in support of the second show.
Tuesday, April 24
MC Chris + Bitforce @ Cactus Club
If you didn’t get your fill of geeky entertainment at Midwest Gaming Classic, consider self-described “nerd rapper” MC Chris’ Cactus Club show to be the unofficial MGC after party. The veteran musician, animator, and Adult Swim mainstay will come by the Bay View bar, with Bitforce playing in support.
Thursday, April 26 to Sunday, April 29
Arte Para Todos @ various venues
In its first three years, Arte Para Todos raised approximately $60,000 for Milwaukee public school art programs through the selfless efforts of musicians and visual artists bringing their talents to dozens of local bars, venues, and galleries. Thankfully, the city’s most eclectic and ambitious benefit is returning for another year with oodles of entertainment scattered throughout Walker’s Point, Bay View, Harambee, Riverwest, and the East Side.
From April 26-29, the benefit that accurately calls itself “Milwaukee’s largest local music event” will feature around 70 acts showcasing their talents close to 30 venues spread throughout five neighborhoods. As always, all proceeds gained through ticket sales will be donated to Milwaukee school art programs. Once again, the lineup of performers who are donating their time and talent to the event is nothing short of amazing. Here’s who’s playing this year’s Arte.