Summertime musical entertainment in Milwaukee typically finds a home at the city’s 8,000 street fests, or, you know, that whole Summerfest thing. But look beyond the temporary street stages and the sea of danceable picnic tables and you’ll find plenty of solid shows to keep you busy all summer long. Here are 15 of them.
The Avett Brothers + Nineteen Thirteen @ BMO Harris Pavilion
The Avett Brothers’ last Milwaukee show—a headlining slot at the Marcus Amphitheater during Summerfest 2015—was a bit underwhelming. Maybe this time around will be better? Either way, it’ll be great to see local chamber rock outfit Nineteen Thirteen (featuring Violent Femmes founding member Victor DeLorenzo) opening the show on the gorgeous outdoor BMO Harris Pavilion. Oh, and Cage The Elephant and Portugal. The Man will play the same stage the night before.
Against Me! @ The Rave
Veteran punk act Against Me! made headlines in 2012 when singer-guitarist Laura Jane Grace came out as transgender; happily, the band’s killer 2014 album Transgender Dysphoria Blues quickly put the focus back where it belongs: on the music. A follow-up record is expected this fall.
Pete Davidson @ Turner Hall
At just 22 years of age, comedian Pete Davidson is funny beyond his years. Despite holding the distinction of being Saturday Night Live‘s youngest cast member, the wunderkind has quickly established himself on the show with scene-stealing performances and sidesplitting characters. While millions see him excel in the realm of sketch most weekends each year, Davidson can hold his own as a stand-up comedian as well. Some may recall his verbal undressing of Justin Bieber on the most recent Comedy Central Roast.
Steven Hyden @ Cactus Club
Since departing his post as A.V. Club Milwaukee‘s City Editor way back in 2011, Steven Hyden has seen his work appear in renowned publications like The A.V. Club‘s national site, Pitchfork, and Grantland. Along the way, he found time to write a book. May 17 will see the release of his debut novel, Your Favorite Band Is Killing Me. A few weeks later, Hyden will join us at Cactus Club to discuss the book Rolling Stone called “highly entertaining,” his time in Milwaukee, and likely much more during the first “Milwaukee Record Book Club.” The event will double as a live recording of our On The Record podcast, and will also feature an audience Q&A. Stick around for Screaming Females after the event.
Direct Hit! (album release) + Midnight Reruns, The Hussy, Jetty Boys @ The Metal Grill
Now that the ink has dried on Direct Hit!’s Fat Wreck Chords deal, Milwaukee’s premier pop-punk prodigies are ready to release the record that captured Fat Mike’s attention into the world. Wasted Life, much like 2013’s wonderful Brainless God, is an ambitious concept album that’s executed to near perfection. This time around, the story depicts a drug trip gone awry and the altered perception of the protagonist thereafter. The year is young, but if Wasted Life isn’t the best record a Milwaukee band puts out in 2016, it’ll at least be in the conversation. Joining Direct Hit! at this all-ages Metal Grill affair are Midnight Reruns, Madison’s own The Hussy, and the pride punkers of Sheboygan in The Jetty Boys.
Electric Six + Tigernite @ Mad Planet
Detroit party-rockers Electric Six may be a long way from their Myspace-era hits like “Danger! High Voltage” and “Gay Bar,” but give them credit for sticking around and sticking to their guns. Last year’s delightfully titled Bitch, Don’t Let Me Die! is filled with the same kind of over-the-top, slightly tongue-in-cheek disco-glam the group has been cranking out for a decade-plus. Milwaukee’s mighty Tigernite will open the show.
Huey Lewis And The News @ Gathering On The Green (Mequon Rotary Park)
This show features Huey Lewis And The News and it’s taking place in Mequon. What more do you need to know?
Marilyn Manson @ The Rave
There’s an old Onion article where a just-past-his-prime Marilyn Manson is going door-to-door in a small Kansas City suburb trying to shock people. Draped in sheep entrails, Manson arrives at the home of a mother preparing to drive her daughter to a Girl Scouts meeting. “I tried to be nice and humor him a little,” the mother says. “I said, ‘Yesiree, that sure is some shocking satanic imagery, no doubt about it. And that one eye with no color in the pupil, very disturbing. I’d sure like to suppress that.’ I mean, what do you say to Marilyn Manson?” Anyway, Manson is playing The Rave July 16.
John Carpenter: Live Retrospective @ Pabst Theater
Over the course of five decades (!), master filmmaker John Carpenter has left an indelible and idiosyncratic mark on horror and sci-fi with films like Halloween, Escape From New York, The Thing, Big Trouble In Little China, Prince Of Darkness, They Live, and In The Mouth Of Madness. Equally indelible and idiosyncratic are the scores for Carpenter’s films, many of them self-composed, self-performed, and delightfully minimalist and synthesized. For “John Carpenter: Live Retrospective,” the director will perform those scores, as well as original, non-soundtrack compositions. He’ll be joined by his son Cody Carpenter and his godson Daniel Davies, as well as a live band and an accompanying stage production.
David Liebe Hart + Iron Pizza, Scrimshaw, Father Freedom @ Riverwest Public House
A year removed from last summer’s weird-as-fuck performance alongside Crappy Dracula 2, Soup Moat, and Iron Pizza at Borg Ward, “comedian” and resident of Tim & Eric‘s absurd universe of characters David Liebe Hart will move the show to Riverwest Public House this time around. Expect puppets and heaps upon heaps of subversive anti-comedy. Iron Pizza is back on the bill, with Scrimshaw and Father Freedom providing musical accompaniment.
L7 @ The Rave
The story of ’90s “grunge” tends to get more and more simplified as the years go on, leaving out vital but non-Nirvana acts like L7. The hard rocking riot grrrl band tore shit up throughout the ’90s, releasing excellent albums like Bricks Are Heavy and Hungry For Stink, and occasionally throwing in-use tampons into the crowd. Reunited since 2014, L7 will make a rare Milwaukee appearance at the appropriately grungy Rave.
Milemarker + The Life And Times @ Cactus Club
Once the dog days of summer set it and the prospect of clutching a warm plastic cup full of Miller Lite outside loses its luster, a large dose of weeknight shoegaze sounds like a breath of fresh air. Seminal eight-piece Milemarker will crowd the Cactus Club stage after The Life And Times (fronted by Shiner frontman Allen Epley) kick the uncharacteristic summer show off.
Guided By Voices @ Turner Hall
Only the most diehard Guided By Voices fan could tell you what version of the legendary band is currently on tour (The “classic” lineup? The semi-“classic” lineup?), or how many times the group has called it quits, reunited, released 14 albums, and called it quits again in the past year. But who cares? Guided By Voices fucking rule, and Robert Pollard and company haven’t played Milwaukee in over a decade.
Jenny Lewis @ Pabst Theater
Jenny Lewis’ résumé includes everything from child actor (The Wizard), frontwoman for a beloved early-’00s indie band (Rilo Kiley), member of a one-off Traveling Wilburys update (“Handle With Care”), and adored solo artist. That last bullet point is especially important here, as Lewis will return to Milwaukee to celebrate the 10th (gulp) anniversary of her perfectly perfect solo debut Rabbit Fur Coat. Joining her will be The Watson Twins, who were featured on the acclaimed 2006 album.
Echo And The Bunnymen @ Turner Hall
Echo And The Bunnymen haven’t played Milwaukee in over 30 years. ‘Nuff said.