It’s July and live entertainment is (safely) back! We could talk about how the large-scale return of concerts, comedy shows, and other forms of in-person enjoyment is the reward of an at least somewhat functioning society that selflessly decided to mask up, remain isolated, and get vaccinated in hopes of curbing a deadly pandemic. We could acknowledge the tireless work of scientists, medical professionals, and countless other essential workers who have done their all to get things back to something resembling normalcy again. We could stress how we should never ever take advantage of communal activities, shared experiences, and the ability to experience art in the company of others after everything we’ve gone through.

We should do all of those things, but we’re just so, so tired. As we re-enter society and go back to “normal” this summer, please let us never forget what has happened (and is still happening), who prolonged and worsened the nightmare in a time of grave need, who stepped up and sacrificed when times got tough, who hasn’t (and still isn’t) stepping up after all that has happened, and what it took to get us back to this encouraging point in human history. Let’s appreciate live entertainment, be generous with our time and our attention, and be good to one another. With all that in mind, here are some standout concerts, comedy shows, and dance parties happening in and around Milwaukee this month. You can find more “Record Recommended” events on our just-relaunched Calendar page.

Friday, July 9
Valerie Lighthart (EP release) + You Win !!!, Black Challenger, Dora Diamond @ Cactus Club
It’s been a while on account of the ongoing pandemic and whatnot, but can you remember those rare local shows where absolutely everyone on the bill was great in their own right and all brought something different and compelling to the table? Well, this is one of those shows. This stacked Cactus Club spectacle serves as a belated release show for motivated Milwaukee multi-hyphenate Valerie Lighthart, whose PT I: THE GODDESS EP came out June 18. She’ll be preceded by an eclectic and impressive group of homegrown talent that includes the in-person live debut of You Win !!!, a rare outing by Black Challenger, and an opening performance by Dora Diamond.

Horsegirl + Negative/Positive @ X-Ray Arcade
Teenage “nu-gaze” trio Horsegirl will drop by X-Ray Arcade for the venue’s first indoor/in-person show since March of last year. The up-and-coming Chicago trio will be joined by the Milwaukee-based music prodigies in Negative/Positive, who will kick off the show.

Saturday, July 10
Rhett Miller @ The Back Room @ Colectivo
Though you probably know him better as the singer of Old 97’s, Rhett Miller has plied his songwriting skills into a respectable solo career, too. The crooner will kick off a grouping of summer shows when he drops by The Back Room @ Colectivo to play material from his seven solo records and, with any luck, some stripped-down versions of Old 97’s classics as well.

The Get Down @ Mad Planet
The Get Down is back! After many months away, “Milwaukee’s Biggest Dance Party” is returning with a night of soul and funk music, dancing, and fun on the Mad Planet dance floor from 9 p.m. to close.

Friday, July 16 and Saturday, July 17
Sean Patton @ The Laughing Tap
Los Angeles—by way of New Orleans—comedian Sean Patton has performed on network television talk shows like Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and Conan, been a frequent fixture on Comedy Central stand-up showcases (including his own half-hour), released two outstanding comedy albums, and has likely been a memorable guest on some of your favorite podcasts. Patton has also become something of a frequent Milwaukee visitor, thanks to the fine folks at Milwaukee Comedy booking him in recent years. He’ll come to the Milwaukee Comedy-owned and -operated Laughing Tap in Walker’s Point for a total of three shows spread over the course of two nights.

Saturday, July 17
The Grovelers + Fox Face @ Milwaukee Boat Line’s Concert Cruise
Despite the dozens of festivals, block parties, and weekly outdoor music series taking place on Milwaukee soil (almost) every summer, Milwaukee Boat Line also sees fit to extend the city’s celebratory spirit to the water with its annual Concert Cruises. On Friday and Saturday nights in July and August, a variety of Wisconsin bands will board the Vista King to perform on the lake vessel’s poop deck while the beer and pre-mixed margaritas flow liberally for two hours. This July 17 pairing of The Grovelers and Fox Face is one of the best shows on the Concert Cruise schedule this summer, mateys.

Thursday, July 22
Masked Intruder + Special Guest TBA @ X-Ray Arcade
After roughly a year and half spent in solitary, Masked Intruder is making its way back to the stage to perform its winning batch of songs about love and crime. The Madison punk rock outlaws will headline a can’t-miss Thursday night show at X-Ray Arcade. They’ll also be joined by a “special guest” that has yet to be announced.

Saturday, July 24
Snag (album release) + Pleasure Thief, Social Caterpillar, and DJ Sahan @ Cactus Club
Milwaukee emotional hardcore band Snag will formally release its album, Death Doula, at Cactus Club as part of a loaded 18+ show that also features Pleasure Thief, Social Caterpillar, and bar room DJing by Sahan Jayasuriya.

Tuesday, July 27
Holy Pinto + L’Resorts @ Humboldt Park (Chill On The Hill)
After a year away, we’re pleased to report Chill On The Hill will be returning to Humboldt Park’s band chalet every Tuesday between July 13 and September 14. Among the first and, in our humble opinion, one of the best Chill installments in 2021 is this July 27 double bill that features Milwaukee (by way of England) troubadour Holy Pinto and the “tropical pop” stylings of L’Resorts. Break out the lawn chairs or blankets and bring along some snacks and beverages. Chill On The Hill is back, people!

Friday, July 30
Foo Fighters + Radkey @ American Family Insurance Amphitheater
There’s nothing funnier than people dunking on (or passionately defending) a perfectly serviceable, good-to-great legacy rock band like Foo Fighters. Actually, a bunch of anti-vax goons protesting a recent vax-only Foo Fighters show is probably funnier. Anyway, Foo Fighters have a new-ish, perfectly serviceable album (Medicine At Midnight), and this show is being billed as a “Grand Opening Concert” for the newly renovated American Family Insurance Amphitheater.

Brendan Kelly + Seth Gile @ The Cooperage
Chicago punk legend Brendan Kelly—whom you might know as a former Slapstick and Broadways member or from his modern day work with The Lawrence Arms, The Falcon, and his hilariously bleak Nihilist Arby’s Twitter account—is also one hell of a solo artist. Recently, Kelly announced his CDC-approved return to the stage in the form of his “Here Goes Nothing” tour. The 20-show summer jaunt will kick off right here in Milwaukee with a performance at The Cooperage on Friday, July 30. Seth Gile from Arms Aloft will play in support.

Friday, July 30 and Saturday, July 31
Jon Dore @ The Laughing Tap
Comedian and actor Jon Dore is no stranger to Milwaukee, having shared the stage as an opener for such noted comics as Nikki Glaser and The Sklar Brothers in somewhat recent stops. Dore will make his Milwaukee return by headlining four shows at The Laughing Tap in two nights, where he’ll treat the intimate club’s crowds to road-tested musings, his dry wit, and his Canadian charm.

Saturday, July 31
Buffalo Nichols @ The Back Room @ Colectivo
Carl Nichols—the Milwaukee-born musician behind the project Buffalo Nichols—brings his virtuosic guitar talent, his velvety voice, his eclectic musical background, and his poignant songwriting perspective to The Back Room @ Colectivo for a homecoming show after an extended stint playing all around the country. You won’t want to miss this one.