Though you’ve likely spent much of the summer to this point either complaining about it being too cold and overcast or too hot and muggy, it’s still comforting to know that of the 90-plus days in the season, 54 still remain. But what to do with those 54 days? In the interest of making sure the rest of your summer is bursting with live music, block parties, rib-tickling comedy, more live music, and a Midwestern lobster festival, we’ve assembled this handy, mega-sized Tracklist. Plan accordingly, Milwaukee, and enjoy it while it lasts.
Wednesday, July 31 Keg Stand Up @ Lakefront Brewery Though Milwaukee Comedy Festival only comes but once a year, Milwaukee Comedy’s great Keg Stand Up showcase is a year-round fixture that always brings the best regional comics to Lakefront Brewery Beer Hall stage and never disappoints. This month’s headliner is Denver comedian Sam Tallent, who will be joined on the fest’s first official show by the likes of Rachel Manson, Darius Kennedy, and Riley McCarthy.
Thursday, August 1 Gin Blossoms @ Turner Hall Gin Blossoms are one of the great re-appreciated bands of the ’90s. Popular but decidedly out-of-step in their heyday (it was the grunge era, after all), the group has since become a reliable and warmly nostalgic touring act. Want to hear Gin Blossoms’ major-label debut, New Miserable Experience, played in its entirety. Good, because that’s just what the band has in store for this show.
Friday, August 2 Judah Friedlander + Carter Deems @ Shank Hall
Actor, author, comedian, music video hug-giver, and trucker hat proponent Judah Friedlander will also be keeping the comedy rolling into the weekend. Fresh off the release of last year’s acclaimed Netflix special, America Is The Greatest Country In The United States, the former 30 Rock series regular will be performing all new material at Shank Hall on Friday, August 2 as part of his “Future President” tour. Local treasure, noted battle rapper, and new Wild ‘n Out cast member Carter Deems opens.
Saturday, August 3 Wu-Tang Clan + Madhatter, Bizzon @ Riverside Theater Wu-Tang Clan is playing Milwaukee this summer. We repeat: Wu-Tang Clan is playing Milwaukee this summer. It’s the group’s 25th anniversary tour—in other words, it’s been 25 (or 26) years since the release of their seminal debut Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). Hell yeah. Milwaukee’s own DJ Madhatter and DJ Bizzon will get the party started.
Sunday, August 4 Ari Shaffir @ Turner Hall Seminal stand-up and This Is Not Happening host Ari Shaffir will bring Milwaukee Comedy Festival to what’s sure to be a thrilling and memorable conclusion with a headlining performance of his new hour, which is entitled “Ari Shaffir: Jew” at Turner Hall on Sunday, August 4. Openers have not been announced, but you’re sure to be in for a treat.
Monday, August 5 Wisconsin State Fair @ Wisconsin State Fair Park One doesn’t hit up the Wisconsin State Fair (August 1-11) to eat organic small plate cuisine and witness evocative performance art. People go to the fair to eat cream puffs, watch pig races, compete in livestock competitions, and catch performances from acts like REO Speedwagon, Melissa Etheridge, and the lead singer of Herman’s Hermits. It’s glorious.
Saturday, August 10 Center Street Daze @ Center Street In 2014, stung by a few years of lousy late-summer/early-fall weather, the organizers of Center Street Daze decided to move their fest up to early August. The new date paid off, and what was once a bittersweet end-of-the-season blowout became a dog-days-of-summer celebration. The musical lineup for the 22nd annual fest (Saturday, August 10) was quietly released yesterday.
Sunday, August 11 Biju’s Block Party @ Pabst Milwaukee Brewery & Taproom Though his band broke up more than a decade ago, former Camden member Biju Zimmerman continues to be very involved in music. He’s served as a tour manager for a variety of notable musicians (including Milwaukee-born R&B superstar Eric Benet), he handles backstage duties at Burnhearts’ annual Mitten Fest and Pabst Street Party events, and he’s regularly booked bands at Sabbatic, Tonic Tavern, and Pabst Milwaukee Brewery & Taproom. Since 2015, Zimmerman has also used his booking abilities and his reputation in the local music scene to help others with his annual Biju’s Block Party.
On Sunday, August 11, the 5th annual Biju’s Block Party will bring a total of 15 bands and solo musicians to Pabst Milwaukee Brewery & Taproom for a day full of free music, fun, and philanthropy. Here’s the full lineup.
Tuesday, August 13 Sinbad @ Potawatomi Hotel & Casino The legendary Sinbad’s four-night, six-show Northern Lights Theater residency begins with this Tuesday night affair. Hopefully you’ve already bought your tickets because this (and every other show of the lengthy run of performances) is sold out.
Wednesday, August 14 Newaukee Night Market @ West Wisconsin Avenue “Placemaking” projects come and go, but Newaukee’s wildly successful Night Market series proves that good ideas are just that: good ideas. For four Wednesday’s out of the year, West Wisconsin Avenue is transformed into a party-slash-arts-and-crafts-fair, giving the city’s creative class a venue to shine.
Thursday, August 15 Wilson Center Guitar Festival @ Sharon Lynne Wilson Center Since 2013, Sharon Lynn Wilson Center has hosted and organized a celebration of all things guitar. Wilson Center Guitar Festival features live competitions (with $40,000 in prizes) and headliner concerts with performances from international talent. New this year, the competitions have expanded to five genres: blues, classical, fingerstyle, jazz, and rock.
Friday, August 16 Milwaukee Irish Fest @ Henry Maier Festival Park If the blur of whisky, corned beef, and green beer every mid-March isn’t enough Irish heritage for you, Irish Fest strives to extend the celebration into August. Attendees milling about the Summerfest grounds can imbibe in popular Irish fare and enjoy a heft of Irish and Celtic music from dozens upon dozens of acts (both North American and European), including Gaelic Storm and the trusty Red Hot Chilli Pipers.
Saturday, August 17 Fat Fest @ Crafty Cow
The second annual Fat Fest will bring the winning blend of “Food. Art. Tunes.” back to Lenox Street in Bay View from noon to 8 p.m. on Saturday, August 17. This time around, Crafty Cow and Hot Head (which will only be available for purchase inside the restaurants) will be joined by an impressive cast of outdoor food vendors that includes Lumpia City, The Vanguard, Tots On The Street, and Scratch Ice Cream. Madison-based Plain Spoke will have canned cocktails available on-site, and beer will be handled by Third Space and 3 Sheeps (including a collaborative beer the two breweries will make for the occasion).
Of course, it wouldn’t be a block party without live music. An eclectic array of performers will take the stage from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. Here who’s playing: Lorde Fredd33, No No Yeah Okay, Saebra & Carlyle, Surgeons In Heat, and Rexxx.
Sunday, August 18 American Lobster Fest @ Fiserv Forum Plaza
The largest lobster and seafood festival in the Midwest finally makes its way to Milwaukee. Finally! Buckle up for food, drinks, live music, family-friendly activities, and, of course, “live lobster flown in fresh from the cold waters of the East Coast.”
Thursday, August 22 A League Of Their Own @ Avalon Theater In mid-July, we announced we would be hosting a special screening of A League Of Their Own at Avalon Theater on Wednesday, August 21. Apparently, we chose wisely because it sold out in just four days. If missed your chance to get tickets to that showing, you’re in luck. We’ve added a second screening the following night. This one—also at Avalon Theater—will take place on Thursday, August 22. Once again, the start time is 7 p.m. and admission is $5. As always, our teammates at Lakefront Brewery will have some delicious beers on draft. We’ll see you there!
Friday, August 23 Mexican Fiesta @ Henry Maier Festival Park Mexican Fiesta has called Henry Maier Festival Park home almost as long as Summerfest has. Starting on the south side in 1973, the fiesta moved to the lakefront grounds in 1977. The longstanding event is rooted in pillars of community, education, Mexican heritage, and cultural advancement. That’s cool and all, but we’re all about the delicious food and the jalapeño-eating contest.
Saturday, August 24 WMSE’s 10th annual Backyard BBQ @ Humboldt Park
There’s still a ton of amazing local celebrations on the horizon, and WMSE‘s Backyard BBQ is one of the best. Since 2010, the listener-supported radio station has helped folks start to say goodbye to the season in style with a day full of cold drinks, hot food, and cool music at Humboldt Park. Recent installments have featured touring talents like Old 97’s, Alejandro Escovedo, and Diego’s Umbrella, as well as a ton of Milwaukee’s best bands playing beneath the Bay View park’s bandshell.
Earlier this month, the lineup for this year’s Backyard BBQ—the 10th annual affair—was announced and, as expected, it’s very good. On Saturday, August 24, you can enjoy free, family-friendly entertainment from noon to 8 p.m. from Horseshoes & Handgrenades, LowDown Brass Band, The November Criminals, The Grovelers, and Paul Cebar Tomorrow Sound.
Sunday, August 25 Milwaukee Fringe Festival @ various locations
For the fourth year running, the Milwaukee Fringe Festival spotlights theatre, dance, and music performances that fall a wee bit off the beaten path. Check out shows at the Underground Collaborative on August 23 and August 25, and at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts on August 24. Similar to past years, there are plenty of free outdoor performances, too.
Thursday, August 29 Milwaukee Rally @ various locations
Remember the big Harley-Davidson debacle of 2003, in which the secret headliner for the company’s 100th Anniversary Celebration was revealed to be…Elton John? Good times. Anyway, lots of bikes, bands, parties, tattoo contests, and more are lined up for this fest (August 29 to September 2), which takes place at various Harley-Davidson locations.
Friday, August 30 Fresh Coast Jazz Festival @ Marcus Center for the Performing Arts
A new tradition begins in 2019 with the inaugural Fresh Coast Jazz Festival (August 30 to September 1). Jazz superstars and newcomers like Ronnie Laws, Lindsey Webster, and Lee Ritenour will play the event, along with a bevy of local artists.
Saturday, August 31 Third Ward Art Festival @ Historic Third Ward If Gallery Night and Day isn’t your thing but you just can’t quit the art and fashion buzz of Milwaukee’s Third Ward—a.k.a. “Milwaukee’s Arts and Fashion District”—the eighth annual Third Ward Art Festival (August 31 to September 1) is for you. Art, more art, live music, food, and family-friendly activities are included.
Thursday, September 5 Milwaukee Record Halftime Show with TBA @ Cactus Club Are you ready for some football? We are! Our Miller High Life-sponsored Halftime Show series is returning to Cactus Club for another season. The fun kicks off on September 5. Stay tuned for the full lineup!
Friday, September 6 Penn & Teller @ Riverside Theater Forget for a moment Penn & Teller, outspoken Libertarians and skeptics. Forget for a moment Penn & Teller, reality show staples. Forget for a moment Penn & Teller, creators of the brilliant/insufferable Bullshit! Instead, focus on Penn & Teller, entertainers and magicians. For more than 40 years, the self-described “Bad Boys of Magic” have continually transformed their sometimes disreputable and corny profession into high art—all the while keeping things funny and delightfully morbid. Penn and Teller’s live show is a mind-bending Russian nesting doll of lies and deception, and a perfect example of why they’re still vital to this day: they’re really, really good at what they do.
Sunday, September 8 Harbor Fest @ UWM School of Freshwater Sciences
Music, art, and ethnicities all get their own festivals in Milwaukee, so why not water? The city is the self-proclaimed Freshwater Capital of the World, after all. This free, pro-water fest features the Milwaukee Boat Parade, pontoon tours, bike rides, nature walks, a peek at the UWM School of Freshwater Sciences building, and beer from Sprecher and Enlightened. Oh, and a DNR demonstration of how to fillet a fish!
Monday, September 9 Meat Wave + Soup Moat, and Retoro @ X-Ray Arcade
Two bands with gross names but amazing music will start your week off right with a stacked night of punk-tinged fun. Meat Wave and Soup Moat will be preceded by local high school phenoms Retoro.
Saturday, September 14 Dead Horses + Joe Pug @ Pabst Theater Less than a week removed from opening for The Who at Alpine Valley, Dead Horses will play a rare homecoming show at the gorgeous and massive Pabst Theater. Joe Pug will play in support.
Friday, September 20 Strand Of Oaks + Frankie Lee @ The Back Room at Colectivo Though he was born in Indiana and he now calls Philadelphia home, Timothy Showalter has a special place in his heart for Milwaukee. Recalling basement shows and memorable gigs in town early in Strand Of Oaks’ existence, the bandleader wanted to recreate to intimate vibe in Milwaukee with a stop at the quaint-ish Back Room @ Colectivo roughly 15 months removed from Showalter’s 2018 Cactus Club doubleheader. Frankie Lee opens.
Saturday, September 21 Bay View Bash @ Kinnickinnic Avenue Bay View Bash is a bittersweet affair. The bitterness is brought by the stinging realization that festival season is almost over and yet another awful winter is on the way. We’re all going to die and there’s nothing anybody can do about it. But whatever: Bay View Bash is amazing, and Milwaukee Record is booking another stage this year. We can’t wait!