Milwaukee Record launched on April 7, 2014. That’s nine years ago today!
But enough about us. (We’ll save something big and ridiculous for next year.) Here are nine things that make Milwaukee great!
Let’s start with something that literally gives us life—and something that will make us look mighty attractive in the climate-ravaged near-future: WATER.
It’s everywhere! Lake Michigan is in our collective backyard. You can stare out at it, enjoy its beaches, and maybe even swim in it if you’re feeling lucky and/or it’s New Year’s Day. The Milwaukee River winds through our collective downtown. You can kayak on it, enjoy a concert cruise on it, and definitely not swim in it.
It’s hard to overstate just how important water is to Milwaukee’s past, present, and future. So cherish it! Here’s what Milwaukee Record contributor Brent Gohde had to say about this precious resource in a 2022 article titled “Sustainable Milwaukee: The shape of (our) water”:
The 414 is, in fact, the place for H₂O. Our Native predecessors and/or ancestors certainly appreciated the unique local waterways. They referred to this neck of the woods in “Milwaukee”-ish terms that are generally interpreted as, yes, “the good land,” and also “gathering place by the water.” Tribal councils in our region would meet up at the Milwaukee River, specifically at 5th Street & Wisconsin Avenue, to conduct business. Remember those blue City Edition uniforms the Bucks wore way back in their NBA Championship 2020-21 season? That’s what that was about!
Water—yep, it’s kind of our thing. No surprise our hometown is home to UW-Milwaukee’s School of Freshwater Science, The Water Council, Reflo, Milwaukee Riverkeeper, and other organizations that highly value our extraordinarily special place in the planet’s ecosystem.
Milwaukee isn’t called the “City of Festivals” for nothing. From roughly May through September, the city is absolutely stuffed with fair-weather blowouts. There are big fests (Summerfest, PrideFest, 8,000 cultural fests), medium-sized fests (Brady Street Festival, Locust Street Festival, Summer Soulstice), and even more medium-sized fests (Bay View Bash, Backyard BBQ, Riverwest 24). There are fests dedicated to music. There are fests dedicated to art. There are longest-running-in-the-country fests dedicated to Juneteenth. And then there’s the annual Milwaukee Film Festival, which, this year, runs from April 20 – May 4. That’s in a couple of weeks! BE THERE.
Last year, in the fading-but-still-present shadow of COVID, there were more than 120 entries in our summer festival guide. Hitting 150 in 2023 seems not only possible, but likely.
Speaking of 150, Milwaukee County is home to more than 150 parks! You’ve got 100-plus-acre parks like Lake Park, ridiculously tiny city parks like Kaszube’s Park, and everything in between. In addition to providing literal breaths of fresh air, many of these parks play host to the aforementioned festivals—Humboldt Park’s Chill on the Hill, Cathedral Square Park’s Jazz in the Park, etc. And when a park isn’t doubling as a festival grounds, there’s a good chance it’s hosting a traveling beer garden. And the money made from those beer gardens helps the parks themselves!
And speaking of helping the parks, the parks need some help. “Parks are deemed ‘non-essential’ by the Wisconsin State legislature,” explains the county’s Love Your Parks site, “so they’re often bottom of the list when it comes to funding support, and the shrinking funding Milwaukee County receives from the state is putting our parks in peril. Unless something changes, by 2027 Milwaukee County will not have any local dollars for local priorities, including parks.”
You can support the parks—via cash or volunteering your time—HERE.
For folks of a certain (middle) age, it’s easy to believe that the local music scene magically peaked when they were 25 years old. One of the (many) perks of running a website like Milwaukee Record is realizing that this is complete bullshit. The Milwaukee music scene has always been strong and will continue to be strong—in fact, it may be gearing up for its strongest era in years.
Young and wildly popular Milwaukee bands like Bug Moment and Social Cig are packing local clubs on a weekly basis. Milwaukee country-leaning outfits like Long Mama and Derek Pritzl are releasing incredibly strong albums. Milwaukee rappers like Certified Trapper are garnering tens of thousands of views in the blink of an eye. We could go on and on. Like we said, the next few years of Milwaukee music are looking very, very strong.
A lot of that strength is thanks to the city’s fantastic clubs. The Cactus Club is a proudly inclusive home for all musical genres. Linneman’s remains a proving grounds for budding singer-songwriters. X-Ray Arcade (yeah, yeah, it’s in Cudahy) is a hardcore haven. Promises rules. When it’s not hosting shows from national stars, The Pabst Theater Group is booking local stars like, well, Bug Moment and Social Cig. We could go on and on. Watch for big things and breakout acts in the years to come.
MILWAUKEE RADIO STATIONS
Another support system for Milwaukee music: Milwaukee radio stations. WMSE has been a cheerleader for the local scene for 40 years. The hardscrabble station includes local artists in all of its programming, and highlights them specifically via events like the Backyard BBQ and shows like Local/Live. Radio Milwaukee shines a light on the local scene, too, and goes even further by maintaining a local-only digital channel (in addition to a Black-focused channel) and hosting live shows in its very own Walker’s Point venue. Milwaukee music is lucky to have so much left-of-the-dial love.
MILWAUKEE BUCKS (AND GIANNIS)
MILWAUKEE BREWERS (AND UECKER)
Get your brooms out — Garrett Mitchell’s walk-off home run completes a 3-game sweep of the Mets to conclude Milwaukee’s first homestand of the year 🧹⚾️
— 620wtmj (@620wtmj) April 5, 2023
Milwaukee is the 31st largest city in the United States. For our money, that size is juuuust right. The city is big enough to be a city of national consequence (see: the upcoming 2024 Republican National Convention), but small enough to be able to be traversed from one end to another in about 20 minutes. That relatively compact size also plays into the city’s “Smallwaukee” vibe. Live here for more than five years and you’ll feel like you know everybody. Mention random local “characters” like Milverine and David Gruber and you’ll get nods of recognition. Hell, even a pile of snow and a treacherous bridge have become city-wide inside jokes (and nifty T-shirts).
On a personal note, we probably couldn’t run a hyper-local site like Milwaukee Record in a city that was much bigger or smaller. Want to carve out your own ridiculous niche? You totally can! Which brings us to…
Milwaukee is blessed with numerous media outlets that keep tabs on the city. Urban Milwaukee is a fantastic chronicle of the nuts and bolts of city government. OnMilwaukee is a go-to source for local food coverage and more. Breaking And Entering is a comprehensive repository of local music. The Shepherd Express will live on until the sun blinks out and the planet is plunged into a darkness pierced only by the light of dozens of “Best of Milwaukee” plaques hanging on the counter of Oakland Gyros.
On the more serious side of things, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel‘s deep-dive investigations are top-notch, and Dan Shafer’s Recombobulation Area and Kristin Brey’s As Goes Wisconsin are invaluable sources of political coverage that are energizing young voters and making real impacts on local elections. Many of these outlets are supported via subscriptions. Subscribe if you can.
As for us? We’ve got some big things planned for the near future, and we’re looking forward to our 10-year anniversary in 2024. Ten years! That’s kind of nuts, right?
Until then, a HUGE thank you to all our past and present sponsors and advertisers, all our past and present writers and contributors, and all our past and present readers and followers. That includes YOU. Yes, YOU. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU. We’ve had a great nine years. We can’t wait for the future.
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