Between the gradual increase of daylight, the return of baseball, rising temps, a fever pitch of Aaron Rodgers-related drama, 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 Monday, 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, Rockabilly Chili, and much more. And that’s not even counting large multi-day spring happenings like Milwaukee Film Festival, PrideFest, Midwest Gaming Classic, Milwaukee Metal Fest, and Locust Street Festival. There’s so much to look forward to in Milwaukee in the coming months, but here are 25 local events we’re especially excited about this spring.
Thursday, March 23
Peter Mulvey + SistaStrings @ The Back Room @ Colectivo
Almost two years since the co-release of their dual live album, Live At The Cafe Carpe, Peter Mulvey—a Milwaukee-born musician who now calls Massachusetts home—and SistaStrings—a Milwaukee mainstay who are enjoying tremendous amounts of success following a move to Nashville—once again collaborated on a joint album. A few months removed from the release of Love Is The Only Thing and a handful of weeks after last taking the stage in Milwaukee in support of Ani DiFranco, Mulvey and SistaStrings will return to their hometown to perform songs from their two albums.
Friday, March 24 and Saturday, March 25
Chris Fairbanks @ The Laughing Tap
Over the course of the last two decades, comedian Chris Fairbanks has delighted audiences all over the country and he’s amassed credits on Comedy Central, TruTV, TBS, and a variety of other platforms along the way. Don’t miss the comic, actor, and podcaster when he comes to The Laughing Tap for a total of three performances March 24-25.
Sunday, March 26
Future @ Fiserv Forum
When Grammy-winning singer, rapper, songwriter, and chart-topper Future comes to your city, you see him. Milwaukee will have the chance to do just that on Sunday, March 26, when Future comes to Fiserv Forum as part of his “One Big Party” tour.
Wednesday, March 29
Milwaukee Record presents ‘Mortal Kombat’ (1995) @ Avalon Theater
Mortal Kombat is the feature film complement to the arcade hit and subsequent Sega Genesis smash by the same name. The Paul W.S. Anderson-directed vehicle features fighters with diverse skill sets competing against one another in a high-stakes tournament in order to save the world…or something like that. With a modest budget of just $20 million, this cult classic earned an astonishing $122 million in theaters while entertaining gamers and non-gamers alike in the process. We’re screening it on Wednesday, March 29. Get over here and join Milwaukee Record at Avalon Theater.
Sunday, April 2
Turner Hall Tiki Takedown @ Turner Hall
Following successful installments in 2019 and 2021, Turner Hall Tiki Takedown will once again be bringing warm vibes and cool island cocktails back to the eponymous downtown ballroom in early April. From 1-4 p.m. on Sunday, April 2, Turner Hall will host mixologists from a variety of local bars and restaurants, each of whom will be serving up their own unique tiki cocktail creations using Cutwater Spirits as they compete for the coveted Tiki Takedown Trophy and Tiki Master title. Stay tuned for a full list of participants.
Wednesday, April 12
Sam Jay @ Milwaukee Improv
Saturday Night Live staff writer and Bust Down co-star Sam Jay is also a remarkable standup comedian with numerous late night TV credits and her own Netflix special that was released in 2020. Don’t miss Jay when she drops by Milwaukee Improv in nearby Brookfield for a single-night engagement on April 12.
Thursday, April 13 to Saturday, April 15
Hari Kondabolu @ The Laughing Tap
Comedian Hari Kondabolu has amassed an impressive reel of TV appearances, has released some chart-topping albums, and has 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. Beyond his socially impactful documentary aside, he’s one hell of a comic. Following performances at The Underground Collaborative and The Back Room @ Colectivo in recent years, Kondabolu returns to town April 13-15 for five performances at his new go-to Milwaukee club, The Laughing Tap.
Sunday, April 16
WMSE’s 21st Rockabilly Chili Fundraiser
The 21st installment of WMSE’s wildly popular and delicious Rockabilly Chili Fundraiser event will kick off at 11 a.m. More than 50 different chilis from various Milwaukee restaurants, cafes, and caterers will duke it out for awards in three categories: Meat, Veggie, Heat, and Unique. Will there be an award for Best Display? Yes. Will Chicken Shack DJ Johnny Z and Saturday Morning Cartunes DJ Dietrich spin tunes throughout the afternoon? Yes. Will there be a “new, special edition, very hot” hot sauce from A&M Provisions called Hellraiser? Oh, we have such sights to show you…
Wednesday, April 19
Bikini Kill + Soup Activists @ Miller High Life Theatre
The bad news: After releasing four albums, revolutionary Washington punk band Bikini Kill disbanded in 1997. The good news: They’ve thankfully decided to reunite for occasional tours since 2017, and the current/rescheduled Bikini Kill tour includes a stop at Miller High Life Theatre on Wednesday, April 19. Don’t miss it! Soup Activists open.
Thursday, April 20
Daikaiju + Devils Teeth, Fight Dice @ X-Ray Arcade
While its members call Texas and the Pacific Northwest home, Daikaiju is something of a frequent visitor to metro Milwaukee. The multi-genre musical spectacle known for its fondness of fire will return to X-Ray Arcade for the third time since September 2021. Milwaukee surf rockers Devils Teeth and local D&D-themed band Fight Dice will play before things (literally) heat up in Cudahy.
Friday, April 21
Sunny Day Real Estate + Appleseed Cast @ Pabst Theater
Bands like Sunny Day Real Estate don’t come along very often. Fortunately for us, Sunny Day Real Estate decides to reunite and tour from time to time. The influential emo stalwarts will swing by Milwaukee on April 21 to head up a Pabst Theater outing that also features support from the experienced likes of Appleseed Cast.
Sunday, April 30
Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls + Smoking Popes, Scam Likely @ Pabst Theater
Frank Turner has done it all. The English punk singer-songwriter has played thousands of shows over the course of his nearly 30-year musical career. During that over-quarter-century span, he’s released nine excellent albums under his own name, published books, founded a festival, shared the stage with some legendary acts, and earned acclaim from fans all over the globe. About nine months after the well-traveled troubadour’s amazing solo afternoon performance at X-Ray Arcade, Turner will bring his Sleeping Souls bandmates to Pabst Theater for a headlining set that also features Smoking Popes and Milwaukee’s own Scam Likely.
Wednesday, May 3
Alice Cooper @ Miller High Life Theatre
Thursday, May 4
Humbird + Long Mama @ Cactus Club
Humbird—a Minneapolis-based experimental folk project fronted by Siri Undlin—makes its way back to Milwaukee for another Cream City performance in belated support of 2021’s excellent album, Still Life. Further cementing this event as a can’t-miss outing is opening support from Milwaukee’s own Long Mama, which put out a pretty damn great album of their own in late 2022.
Thursday, May 4
The New Pornographers + Wild Pink @ Turner Hall
Fans of Canadian supergroups who have been crafting impeccable pop-leaning indie rock for more than two decades take note: The New Pornographers will play Milwaukee’s Turner Hall Ballroom on Thursday, May 4. Made up of A.C. Newman, Neko Case, Kathryn Calder, Todd Fancey, John Collins, and Joe Seiders, The New Pornographers are one of those bands that have never made a bad album. Seriously: everything from 2000’s Mass Romantic to 2019’s In The Morse Code Of Brake Lights is great. (Brill Bruisers, from 2014, is an all-timer.) Oh! And they have a new album coming out on Merge Records on March 31! Wild Pink opens.
Wednesday, May 10
Samiam + Size 5’s, Overhand @ X-Ray Arcade
Samiam has done it all. Since starting out on Gilman Street in the late ’80s, the legendary punk band has released eight influential albums and a mess of excellent EPs. They’ve toured extensively, played all over the world, spent time on a major label, and shared the stage with some of the planet’s biggest bands. Though the band has experienced some lineup changes and members have become involved in lots of other bands along the way, Samiam is still going strong. After a long-awaited return to Milwaukee in 2019, the band will come back to the region again to head up a May 10 show at Cudahy’s X-Ray Arcade that also features local support from Size 5’s and Overhand.
Tuesday, May 16
Lizzo + Latto @ Fiserv Forum
Let’s get down to business: Lizzo is coming to Milwaukee’s Fiserv Forum as part of the second North American leg of the “Special 2our.” The worldwide sensation is no stranger to Milwaukee, having last played here during Summerfest 2019. (There were issues.) It goes without saying that she has come a long way since opening for Sleater-Kinney at The Riverside in 2015. As if you’re somehow on the fence about attending this, Latto opening should be enough to change your status from “Interested” to “Going.”
Friday, May 19 and Saturday, May 20
Laurie Kilmartin @ The Laughing Tap
Back in October, accomplished comedian, longtime Conan staff writer, and best-selling author Laurie Kilmartin headlined Milwaukee Comedy Festival’s 2022 finale, which took place at Shank Hall. This time around, the veteran comic will set up shop at The Laughing Tap for a total of four shows spread over two nights.
Saturday, May 20
Patti LaBelle + Jeff Bradshaw @ Riverside Theater
Roughly six months after some piece of shit called in a bomb threat that forced Patti LaBelle to be escorted off the Riverside Theater stage partway through her holiday performance, the absolute legend will return to the downtown Milwaukee venue to finish what she started. Once again, Jeff Bradshaw will open.
Sunday, May 28
Janet Jackson + Ludacris @ American Family Insurance Amphitheater
Oh hell yeah! Janet Jackson (Miss Jackson if you’re nasty) will play Milwaukee’s American Family Insurance Amphitheater on Sunday, May 28. The global icon will be preceded by a performance from Ludacris! Miraculously, there are somehow still tickets available for this.
Friday, June 2
Bad Cop / Bad Cop + The Last Gang @ X-Ray Arcade
Tirelessly touring and insanely awesome Fat Wreck Chords’ act Bad Cop / Bad Cop returns to X-Ray Arcade for the third time to head up a June 2 show that also features The Last Gang. Yes!
Saturday, June 3 and Sunday, June 4
Taylor Tomlinson @ Riverside Theater
You’d be hard-pressed to find a modern comedian whose ascent has been faster than that of Taylor Tomlinson. The jump from clubs to multi-night theater residencies is well-deserved, as the young comic has out in the work in order to craft well-written, identifiable, and uproariously funny material that finds her on the verge of mainstream stardom. Tomlinson will be coming to Milwaukee in early June for two shows at Riverside Theater in as many nights.
Saturday, June 10
Chicken Shack Rye Release and Bluegrass Bonanza @ Great Lakes Distillery
Great Lakes Distillery and WMSE are joining forces for the second consecutive year to release Chicken Shack Rye. This June 10 bottle release event will double as a full-fledged Bluegrass Bonanza, as Horseshoes & Hand Grenades and Chicken Wire Empire will perform in the distillery’s parking lot. There will also be food, Central Waters beer, and a wide range of craft cocktails on hand during this outdoor affair.
Tuesday, June 13
The Flaming Lips @ Riverside Theater
Along with 1999’s Soft Bulletin, 2002’s Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots elevated The Flaming Lips from quirky ’90s oddities to (still-quirky) 21st century stars. It’s easy to see/hear why: “Fight Test,” “Do You Realize??” “All We Have Is Now,” and the title track are all gorgeous psych-rock creations, and among the best songs ever devised by Wayne Coyne and company. So wouldn’t it be great to hear the band play Yoshimi live in concert? Well, it’s happening, on Tuesday, June 13 at Milwaukee’s Riverside Theater.
Friday, June 16 and Saturday, June 17
Sam Tallent @ The Laughing Tap
Colorado comedian Sam Tallent has toured relentlessly across North America and Europe, amassed TV credits on Comedy Central and Viceland, and his debut novel (Running The Light) has garnered favorable reviews from literary critics and inspired kind words from fellow comics like Marc Maron and Ron White. Tallent also holds the distinction of headlining The Laughing Tap’s first weekend in business. Now, he returns to the Walker’s Point club he helped christen in very early 2020 for a trio of performances running June 16-17.