If you’re a regular Milwaukee show-goer, you’re bound to encounter dozens of local acts playing dozens of local shows a year. Miss your favorite band one week? No problem—they’ll be across the street later in the month. It only makes sense: Milwaukee is their home, and what better place to play a show than your own backyard? But there are a host of out-of-town artists that play here often, too, so much so that they could almost be considered adopted sons or daughters of Milwaukee. With frequent guest Colleen Green playing a Milwaukee show with Jaill and Mannequin Pussy Tuesday, September 1 (ask your in-the-know friend and/or Facebook for details), we decided to round up 11 far-flung acts that can call Milwaukee their home away from home.
1. Colleen Green
In a just and righteous universe, Colleen Green’s alternately crunchy and gooey guitar-pop ditties would be blaring from every car stereo and iPhone in the country. And who know, it may happen one day! Until then, Milwaukee is lucky to count the L.A. musician as a familiar face; Tuesday’s show will be her second Brew City gig since April. Green’s latest album, I Want To Grow Up, is a droll and funny look at entering that terrifying place known as “your 30s.”
2. The Blind Shake
The Blind Shake hails from Minneapolis, but can’t seem to quit Milwaukee. Fast, loud, surf-y, reverb-y, bald, and ridiculously fun, the three-piece has been a welcome guest for years. An appearance at the 2014 Milwaukee Psych Fest was a recent highlight, as was a February Shank Hall show with Swami John Reis.
Even if he hails from Los Angeles, veteran rapper Regan Farquhar (or “Busdriver”) is something of an adopted Milwaukeean by this point. Last October, he came to the Cactus Club in support of his newly released Perfect Hair—which features production work by Milwaukee beat-machine Riley Lake. The accomplished emcee also released a music video in the very same month that was directed by WC Tank and featuring friend of Milwaukee Record Becky Cofta. Back on August 20, Busdriver performed in Milwaukee for the third time since last February, when he joined former Hellfire Club labelmate, Milwaukee’s own milo, for a show at Mad Planet.
4. Paul Collins
With the amount he tours, Paul Collins doesn’t just play Milwaukee constantly, he plays everywhere constantly. Still, his connection to our fair city is a little stronger than most, as Midwest Beat bassist Tim Schweiger and Good Land Records co-owner/drummer extraordinaire Jon Phillip used to be in his backing band. If that’s not enough, the Midnight Reruns song “King Of Pop” pertains to a well-known story about people prank calling Collins in the middle of the night.
5. Jim Gaffigan
While not a musician, Jim Gaffigan needs to be included on this list, as the beloved comedian, actor, and author performs multiple shows at Pabst Theater every December. Though he was born in Elgin, Illinois and currently lives in New York, his annual run of Milwaukee shows is a holiday homecoming of sorts. His wife Jeannie hails from the area, meaning his time with in-laws is Milwaukee’s gain. He’ll return for three shows between December 29-31.
6. Nikki Lane
You’d be forgiven if you thought classic country revivalist Nikki Lane actually was from Milwaukee. Since 2011, the South Carolina native has played innumerable shows here, including two this August alone. Counting former Milwaukeean Hugh Masterson of Hugh Bob And The Hustle among her pals likely has something to do with that; Masterson even joined Lane onstage during her opening slot for Jenny Lewis at Turner Hall this past April.
7. Local H
Not content to simply play a New Year’s Eve Eve show at Shank Hall in 2014, un-killable grunge-rock duo Local H returned to Milwaukee on July 1 to heat up an unseasonably cool night at Summerfest. Other past Milwaukee appearances include a 2013 Shank show and a 2008 Summer Soulstice slot.
The bleary lounge act calls Chicago home, but doesn’t seem to stay there too often. The trio (or in some cases, just Tom Waits-ian singer-pianist Mike Maimone) crisscrosses the Midwest, but seems to head north on I-94 to play in nearby Milwaukee more often than most other cities. By this point, Mutts is a Mad Planet regular, and a frequent inclusion on shows with locals like Myles Coyne and The Delta Routine. Somewhat fresh off playing Coyne’s annual Breadfest in July, Mutts will return to town October 11 to play Linneman’s.
Nobunny, the persona of Justin Champlin, tours the U.S. and Europe avidly. Thus, it’s no surprise that the project brings its grab-bag of sleazy and timeless rock, as well as bunny masks, to Milwaukee at least once a year on average. Usually, Nobunny keeps to Cactus Club or Quarters, but will start its 36-show tour at Milwaukee’s own Riverwest Public House on September 20.
10. Ike Reilly
Say what you will about the aforementioned Shank Hall, but the longtime East Side venue inspires loyalty in many touring artists. (Pat McCurdy will be back December 11!) One of those artists, Ike Reilly, is usually good for a handful of Shank shows per year—hell, if memory serves, he once played there twice in one month. Happily, the Libertyville, Illinois resident doesn’t have to travel too far when he graces Milwaukee with his old-school rock—with or without his band, the Ike Reilly Assassination.
11. Sylvan Esso
Though hoards of Milwaukee residents are quick to try and claim up-and-coming electro-pop duo Sylvan Esso as a local band, the fact is they aren’t—even if Nick Sanborn spent a decade here and played in Decibully, not to mention he and Esso singer Amelia Meath met at a Cactus Club show. Fortunately, that tangential connection is enough to bring the Durham, North Carolina-based project to town at an incredible clip. Between last year’s Burnhearts/Pabst Street Party and a late headlining set at this year’s Summerfest, Syvan Esso played a whopping four Milwaukee gigs.