Between the gradual increase of daylight, the return of baseball, rising temps, beer garden openings, and a steady stream of festival announcements, it’s starting to feel a lot like spring in Milwaukee. Though the new season doesn’t technically start until Sunday, March 20 (and we’re still bracing ourselves for a more snow at some point between now and late April), we’ve already mentally said farewell to another Wisconsin winter and are now setting our sights squarely on all things spring.
Between late March and mid-June, event calendars in Milwaukee and its surrounding suburbs will be in full bloom with concerts, comedy shows, film screenings, Milwaukee Day events, live podcasts, the return of Rockabilly Chili, and much more. And that’s not even counting large multi-day spring happenings like Milwaukee Film Festival, PrideFest, and Locust Street Festival. There’s so much to look forward to in Milwaukee in the coming months, but here are 32 local events we’re especially excited about this spring.
Thursday, March 24
Bright Eyes + Christian Lee Hutson @ Riverside Theater
Following a lengthy hiatus from both recording and touring, the influential Omaha-based band—consisting of Conor Oberst, Mike Mogis, and Nathaniel Walcott—returned with a long-awaited album, Down In The Weeds, Where The World Once Was, in August of 2020. This spring, the band will hit the road in belated support of that 10th studio album, with a total of 13 U.S. shows booked between March 23 and April 10. The second concert in that abbreviated run will take place at Milwaukee’s own Riverside Theater. For that show (and every other show on the tour), Bright Eyes will be partnering with Plus1 and will donate $1 from every ticket sold to the Downtown Women’s Center in Los Angeles.
Christone “Kingfish” Ingram @ Pabst Theater
At just 23 years of age, budding blues guitarist Christone “Kingfish” Ingram has recorded with Buddy Guy and Keb Mo, performed alongside Tedeschi Trucks Band and Samantha Fish, and released two well-received albums on Alligator Records. The latest of those albums, last year’s 662, earned the axe-wielding wunderkind a Grammy nomination. Ingram will make his way to Pabst Theater on March 24 as part of his “662 Juke Joint Live” tour.
Thursday, March 24 to Saturday, March 26
Hari Kondabolu @ The Laughing Tap
Comedian Hari Kondabolu has amassed an impressive reel of TV appearances, released two chart-topping albums, and been called “one of the most exciting political comics in stand-up today” by the New York Times. In late 2017, Kondabolu became a household name and changed the way we watch television (for the better), when TruTV released his Simpsons-centered documentary, The Problem With Apu. Socially-impacting documentary aside, he’s one hell of a comic. Following performances at The Underground Collaborative and The Back Room @ Colectivo in recent years, Kondabolu will return to Milwaukee March 24-26 for three performances at The Laughing Tap.
Nick Thune @ Milwaukee Improv
Way back in 2014 and later in 2017, comedian Nick Thune performed sold out shows in a shopping mall basement at The Underground Collaborate (R.I.P.). Since then, Thune has been the face of numerous national ad campaigns, he’s amassed countless film credits and late night appearances, and put out a special. Thune will take the stage in the basement of Brookfield mall this time around, when he performs a total of five sets at Milwaukee Improv March 24-26.
Wednesday, March 30
Milwaukee Record presents ‘Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping’ @ Avalon Theater
If you’re unfamiliar with this box office flop-turned-beloved cult comedy, allow us to get you up to speed. Pop Star: Never Stop Never Stopping is basically The Lonely Island’s take on This Is Spinal Tap. The film stars Lonely Island’s own Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, and Jorma Taccone as members of “The Style Boyz,” and traces the rise, fall, and exploits of that world-famous fictional pop group. The movie also features Tim Meadows, Sarah Silverman, Maya Rudolph, Bill Hader, and Joan Cusack. And there’s a cavalcade of cameos from musicians like Mariah Carey, Michael Bolton, 50 Cent, Snoop Dogg, Usher, Ringo Starr, Miley Cyrus, Seal, and many more. Tickets to the 6:30 p.m. screening are ON SALE NOW. We’ll see you there!
Friday, April 1 and Saturday, April 2
Margaret Cho @ Milwaukee Improv
Influential comedian, actor, and anti-racism activist Margaret Cho has amassed an astounding career that’s spanned 30 years. Along the way, her unique perspective and inimitable voice has made the leap from comedy club stages to the realms of film, television, and animation. Cho will make her way to nearby Brookfield, where she’ll take the stage at Milwaukee Improv for a total of four stand up shows April 1-2.
Saturday, April 2
Elton John @ Fiserv Forum
If it feels like Elton John’s “Farewell Yellow Brick Road” tour has been going on forever, it’s because it has. If it feels like Elton John’s “Farewell Yellow Brick Road” tour has been coming to Milwaukee forever, it’s because it has. (It was originally scheduled for February 2019, moved to April 2020, then moved again to April 2022.) But this is Elton John we’re talking about, so we’re happy to have him around for as long as possible.
Friday, April 8 and Saturday, April 9
Charlie Berens @ Riverside Theater
Affable actor, writer, comedian, and Emmy-winning host Charlie Berens has made a name for himself throughout Wisconsin (and far beyond) with his “Manitowoc Minute” segments and other hilarious videos that are rooted in Midwest-themed humor. In addition to making content that has garnered millions of views, hosting his great CripesCast podcast, writing a Midwestern guide book, and joining forces with Adam Greuel of Horseshoes & Hand Grenades to release an album full of Wisconsin-centric songs, Berens has also adapted his web-based material into a sidesplitting long-form theater show. The multi-faceted performer will treat Riverside Theater to a total of four shows in his Midwest Survival Guide Tour. Keep ‘Er Movin’ and buy those tickets now.
Sunday, April 10
WMSE’s 20th Rockabilly Chili Fundraiser
Hey! WMSE’s beloved Rockabilly Chili Fundraiser is set to return to MSOE’s Kern Center on Sunday, April 10. It’ll be the event’s 20th installment, following a 2021 event that was takeout only. “Attendees will once again determine which place has the best: Meat, Heat, Veggie, and Unique chili, and who has the hottest display,” says a press release. “This is the event that kicks off springtime in Milwaukee!” Also: “You must show proof of vaccination if you are 12 years or older.” Advance cost $15. Day-of tickets are $20. Wanna get eight tickets for $100? You can totally do that. All tickets come with four chili sample tickets. Get them HERE.
Thursday, April 14
Milwaukee Day Showcase with Fox Face + Shle Berry, Devils Teeth @ Company Brewing
Join us at Company Brewing on Thursday, April 14 to celebrate Milwaukee Day with a loaded lineup of local entertainers. We’ve done our part by assembling an all-star cast of Milwaukee bands. Performers include Fox Face, Shle Berry, and Devils Teeth. Company’s Milwaukee Style Lager will be available. We’ll also have some new T-shirts and Fungible Tokens (not pogs!) available for purchase. The 21+ show—sponsored by Gruber Law Offices—starts at 8:30 p.m. sharp (doors at 8 p.m.). Tickets are $10 in advance ($14 doors). There are so many great ways to celebrate Milwaukee on April 14, but we’re pretty excited about this one. We hope to see you there!
Saturday, April 23
Spoon + Margaret Glaspy @ The Rave/Eagles Club
Fresh off the release of the band’s 10th studio album, the excellent Lucifer On The Sofa, Spoon will play songs from that well-received record and various other celebrated songs from its extensive catalog at The Rave on April 23. Joining the veteran indie rock outfit on the Milwaukee tour stop is opener Margaret Glaspy.
Tuesday, April 26
Big Thief @ Pabst Theater
We’re not even halfway into 2022 and some people have already declared Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You—the latest and greatest from Big Thief—to be the album of the year. The Brooklyn-based indie folk quartet will treat Pabst Theater to live renditions of that celebrated record, and cuts from other albums when they come to the Milwaukee venue April 26.
Thursday, April 28 to Saturday, April 30
Bobcat Goldthwait @ The Laughing Tap
Bobcat Goldthwait is coming to The Laughing Tap! Yes, the legendary comedian, actor, director, and documentarian will perform a total of five shows at the cozy Walker’s Point comedy club April 28-30. Tickets to all five shows are on sale now. All shows are 18+ and proof of COVID vaccination or a negative test are required to attend. If you want to see Bobcat perform in an intimate Milwaukee venue, we highly recommend you act soon because tickets are going to move fast.
Friday, April 29
Letterkenny Live @ Riverside Theater
Since being brought to Hulu in 2018, Letterkenny—a Canadian television program about the “hicks, skids, and hockey players” in the eponymous 5,000-resident town—has caught on with American audiences in a big way. Now that the endlessly quotable, uproariously hilarious, and surprisingly progressive show has reached “cult comedy” status stateside, its cast and creators are ready to bring the show on the road. Letterkenny Live! will offer fans an opportunity to enjoy an evening with the likes of Wayne, Daryl, Miss Katy, and other characters. And yes, Puppers Golden Lager is a presenting sponsor.
Good Land Records “11-Year Anniversary Party” @ The Cooperage
Instead of celebrating a decade as a label last spring, Good Land Records decided to hold off until this year to properly commemorate the milestone. Label founder Jon Phillip and Good Land Records co-owner Christopher Johnson have assembled a stacked lineup of label for a pair of “11-Year Anniversary Party” shows, which will take place in two cities over the course of two nights in late April. The first show will take place in Milwaukee, with The Figgs, Limbeck, Joseph Huber, and Rx Drugs taking the stage at The Cooperage on Friday, April 29.
CONVERT (record release) + Rexxx, Guerrilla Ghost @ X-Ray Arcade
This jam-packed X-Ray Arcade bill doubles as an album release show from CONVERT, who will release its debut album SAVES that same day. The Milwaukee supergroup will be joined by lauded locals in Rexxx and Guerrilla Ghost (who will be just two weeks removed from its own album release).
Friday, April 29 to Sunday, May 1
Midwest Gaming Classic @ Wisconsin Center
After two years at the new venue, Midwest Gaming Classic took 2020 off due to the pandemic and decided to move last year’s convention (which typically takes place in spring) to November 5-7. With that return installment in the books, organizers are now planning to return to Wisconsin Center this spring for what they’re calling “the biggest MGC ever.” This year’s convention will take place at the sprawling downtown venue April 29 through May 1. Like previous installments, the 2022 Midwest Gaming Classic will feature pinball, arcades, table top, table top RPG, trading card games, cosplay, air hockey, computers, home consoles, claw games, a vendor hall, rare collectibles, meet and greets, panels, and so much more.
Sunday, May 1
Carol Burnett @ Riverside Theater
There will never be another Carol Burnett. After a few pandemic-related show postponements, the groundbreaking and timeless comedian, writer, singer, and The Carol Burnett Show namesake will finally be able to delight Riverside Theater with “An Evening Of Laughter And Reflection Where The Audience Asks Questions” which will be…well, the event name pretty much says it all.
Okilly Dokilly + Steaksauce Mustache, Nasty Boys @ X-Ray Arcade
In 2019, Okilly Dokilly, “the world’s only Nedal band”—a.k.a. a Ned Flanders-themed metal band—helped unofficially christen Cudahy’s newly-opened X-Ray Arcade when they headlined an unforgettable show at the young venue. Just over three years removed from the last time the Phoenix, Arizona-based band delighted the all-ages arcade with original music that was loaded with “direct Ned quotes” during a performance that “weaved together comedy and brutality,” Okilly Dokilly will return to X-Ray Arcade for another show. Steaksauce Mustache and Milwaukee’s own Nasty Boys will play in support.
Monday, May 2
Anthony Green + Laura Jane Grace, Tim Kasher, Mikey Erg @ The Rave/Eagles Club
Four noted names in punk and emo are combining forces in an unorthodox format of expression and collaboration known as “The Carousel Tour.” On Monday, May 2, The Rave will serve as the site of this spectacle, with Anthony Green (of Circa Survive), Laura Jane Grace (Against Me!), Tim Kasher (Cursive), and Mikey Erg (The Ergs!) playing some solo songs and sporadically sitting in on each other’s sets over the course of what’s sure to be an unconventional and unforgettable evening.
Wednesday, May 4
Aimee Mann @ Pabst Theater
You know her. You love her. She’s Aimee Mann and she’s coming back to Milwaukee (the city that inspired her and Ted Leo to start The Both). It’s going to be great.
Saturday, May 7
Joe Mande @ The Laughing Tap
Comedian Joe Mande might not be a household name, but you’re certainly aware of his work. He’s written for Parks & Recreation, Kroll Show, The Good Place, Delocated, and Master Of None, along with sparing on-camera roles on those first two shows, as well as minor parts on Modern Family and Hacks. More than five years removed from his last Milwaukee headlining appearance (at the now-closed Underground Collaborative), Mande will swing by The Laughing Tap in Walker’s Point for a one-night performance on Saturday, May 7.
Wednesday, May 11
Pom Pom Squad @ The Back Room @ Colectivo
Approximately two months after earning the superlative of Most Memorable Performance when opening for Fenne Lily and Illuminati Hotties at The Back Room @ Colectivo, Pom Pom Squad will return to the East Side venue/cafe to headline this time around. If you missed them in March, make sure to catch the Brooklyn indie rock band when they come back to Milwaukee as part of their “Death Of A Cheerleader Tour” on May 11.
Friday, May 13
J.E. Sunde + Christopher Porterfield @ Cactus Club
A potent pair of Midwestern songwriters—Minnesota troubadour J.E. Sunde and Field Report bandleader Christopher Porterfield—will join forces for an intimate outing at the Cactus Club. This one could be something special.
Thursday, May 19
Valerie June + Chastity Brown @ Turner Hall
Tennessee’s own Valerie June expertly straddles the boundaries of folk, Americana, bluegrass, gospel, soul, and country. No matter what type of music you think she plays, we can all agree it’s nothing short of astounding. Narrowly removed from the release of her wonderful The Moon And Stars: Prescriptions For Dreamers, June will take to Turner Hall to head up a show that also features Chastity Brown opening.
Tuesday, May 24
“Weird Al” Yankovic + Emo Philips @ Marcus Performing Arts Center
The incomparable, inimitable, and indefatigable Yankovic is setting out on “The Unfortunate Return of the Ridiculously Self-Indulgent, Ill-Advised Vanity Tour” and that six-month, 133-show 2022 tour includes a stop at Milwaukee’s own Marcus Performing Arts Center on Tuesday, May 24! And Emo Philips is opening!
Wednesday, June 1
Sigur Rós @ Riverside Theater
Icelandic art rock trio Sigur Rós is hitting the road again and making an all-too-rare trip to the Midwest, including a June 1 stop at Riverside Theater.
Friday, June 3
The Dollop @ Turner Hall
In case you’re not one of the show’s millions of listeners: The Dollop is a popular podcast wherein comedian Dave Anthony reads a story from American history to his friend, Gareth Reynolds, who doesn’t know what the topic is about. Only time will tell what locally focused topic they discuss during their Turner Hall return, but it’s sure to be informative, entertaining, and likely to draw parallels between how bad things were throughout history and how terrible the world continues to be today. The show is also a homecoming of sorts for Reynolds, a devout Packer Backer who originally hails from Brown Deer and who got his start at ComedySportz.
Orville Peck + The Nude Party @ Pabst Theater
Masked country music up-and-comer Orville Peck will come to Pabst Theater June 3, where he’ll treat Milwaukee to live versions of songs off Bronco, his just-released sophomore album. The Nude Party will open, and we’re not discounting the very real possibility of a Trixie Mattel cameo at some point as well.
Monday, June 6
PUP + Oceanator @ Turner Hall
A couple months after the release of Pup’s fourth album, THE UNRAVELING OF PUPTHEBAND, the Canadian pop-punk quartet will return to Turner Hall to play in support of that new record and dip into rousing selections from the band’s three can’t-miss predecessors. Oceanator will play in support.
Saturday, June 11
T-Pain’s “Wiscansin Fest” @ The Rave/Eagles Club
In “Put you in the mansion somewhere in Wiscansin” news, T-Pain is launching an 18-date “Road To Wiscansin” tour in San Francisco on May 10. It’ll culminate June 11 at The Rave, at the so-called “Wiscansin Fest.” T-Pain will be joined by “very special guests,” who will be announced as the show date approaches.
Wednesday, June 15
Jeff Rosenstock @ Turner Hall
After postponing his January show, prolific ska-punk troubadour Jeff Rosenstock is coming to Turner Hall in June. If you know Jeff Rosenstock, you’re probably well aware of this and you’ve already bought your ticket. On the off chance you didn’t know about this, now you do.