May in Milwaukee usually serves as the calm before the storm that is summer festival season. By this time next month, we’ll be gearing up for block parties, weekly concerts, and a massive wave of occurrences bearing the “Fest” or “Days” suffix. If you thought this month would grant you a brief respite from staying out late and seeing top-tier musicians and comedians, think again. A staggering batch of tremendous indoor events will unofficially launch Milwaukee into its bustling run of great shows that should sustain the city through September.
This particular May boasts the now-expected helping of touring bands, but also includes a Pabst Brewery block party, the return of a new comedy festival, local release shows, and a movie screening from yours truly. There’s so much to do, but here are 13 shows Milwaukee Record is especially excited to see this month. Check our calendar for more listings.
Friday, May 4 to Saturday, May 5
Milwaukee Psych Fest VI @ The Cooperage (Friday) and Company Brewing (Saturday)
Since 2013, Milwaukee musician Andrew Shelp has given the city a loud, fuzzed-out, and reverb-drenched gift every spring: Milwaukee Psych Fest. Returning for its sixth year, the psych-celebrating blowout will once again assemble a dizzying array of talent from around the globe. Want to lose yourself while listening to local acts like Calliope and Slow Walker? You’ve got it. Want to hear groups from across the U.S., Canada, and even Chile? Milwaukee Psych Fest VI has you covered.
Saturday, May 5
Buffalo Gospel (album release) + Joseph Huber @ Anodyne’s Walker’s Point Roastery
Buffalo Gospel has kept a fairly low profile since releasing its outstanding full-length, We Can Be Horses in 2013. In the four-plus years following that well-received record, bandleader Ryan Necci has cycled in a new cast of collaborators, some of whom contributed to the two-song Waiting For The Lights To Go Out EP in 2015 and played on the Milwaukee country outfit’s forthcoming 2018 album. The country outfit will release that long-awaited record, On The First Bell, at Anodyne. Joseph Huber will play in support.
Modest Mouse + Mass Gothic @ The Rave
With 25 years and six critically-acclaimed albums to the band’s credit, Modest Mouse has nothing left to prove. Still, the veteran outfit isn’t slowing down in their old age. A few years removed from Strangers To Ourselves, Modest Mouse returns to Milwaukee for must-see show on Cinco De Mayo. Mass Gothic opens.
Tuesday, May 8
Sarah Shook & The Disarmers + Wood Chickens @ Club Garibaldi
Chapel Hill, North Carolina’s Sarah Shook and her Disarmers bring their bold blend of outlaw country and punk rock sensibilities to the Bay View bar roughly a month after the release of Years, Shook’s latest and greatest effort on Bloodshot Records. Wood Chickens open.
Wednesday, May 9
Trixie Mattel @ Turner Hall
Milwaukee-born drag queen Trixie Mattel first came to national consciousness by finishing sixth on season seven of RuPaul‘s Drag Race. Since the reality show put her on the map in 2015, she’s kept busy performing throughout the world, acting (including a cameo on FX’s American Horror Story), releasing a country album, and co-hosting The Trixie & Katya Show on the Viceland network.
Despite her packed schedule, she opted to return to the show that helped launch her career by competing in season three of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars, which pitted the local legend against nine other past participants. Once the dust (and glitter) settled, Mattel was victorious. Fresh off her the finale in March, the accomplished local queen returns to Milwaukee for a stop on the “Now With Moving Parts” tour.
The Breeders + Dorth Nakota @ The Rave
Since forming in the late 1980s, The Breeders have survived numerous hiatuses, a steady stream of lineup changes, and an absolute reinvention of the musical landscape around them. Kim Deal and company will come to The Rave this month, with none other than Dorth Nakota providing local support.
Thursday, May 10 to Sunday, May 13
Cream City Comedy Festival @ various locations
In its first two years, Cream City Comedy Festival staged a total of 25 shows with more than 100 comedians from Milwaukee, Chicago, Madison, and New York for a few days each May. The donation-based comedy festival will return for a third year with close to 70 local and national comics performing 17 shows at 15 different venues from May 10-13.
This year’s Cream City Comedy Festival features Adam Cayton-Holland from truTV’s Those Who Can’t, Comedy Central’s Casey James Salengo, and accomplished Chicago comedian Kristen Toomey in its ranks. Adding to the stacked bill are local standouts like A.J. Grill, Dana Ehrmann, Ton Johnson, Ryan Mason, and Carter Deems. Like last year, cover for all shows will be on a donation basis. There’s a $5 suggested donation for each show. This time around, proceeds will be given to COA Youth & Family Centers and Wisconsin Humane Society.
Friday, May 11
The Mr. T Experience + Direct Hit! @ Kochanski’s Concertina Beer Hall
When you get a chance to see a band like Mr. T Experience at a place like Kochanski’s you don’t waste that opportunity. Factor in that Direct Hit! is opening for the Berkeley punk rock royalty, and you should be smashing that “purchase” button.
Tuesday, May 15
David Byrne + Benjamin Clementine @ Riverside Theater
You know the enigmatic Talking Heads front man. You probably love him. Hopefully you already bought your ticket to see him because this show is sold out.
Yonatan Gat + Storm Chaser, Soup Moat, and Q The Sun @ Cactus Club
Yonatan Gat is a Tel Aviv and New York City project with roots in legendary Israeli live band Monotix (known for playing their instruments while being carried by audiences and taking their show into the streets). Add in Storm Chaser, Soup Moat, and Q The Sun, and you have a spring show for the ages.
Wednesday, May 16
Milwaukee Record presents Can’t Hardly Wait @ Avalon Theater
Join us at the Bay View’s Avalon theater on Wednesday, May 16 to see Preston Meyers (Ethan Embry) try to win the favor of Amanda Beckett (Jennifer Love Hewitt) at the graduation party of the century in 1998’s Can’t Hardly Wait. This underrated comedy—which grossed more than $25M during its theatrical run, compared to just a $10M budget—also features Seth Green and Peter Facinelli, along with cameos from Donald Faison, Jason Segal, Jerry O’Connell, Jamie Pressly, Melissa Joan Hart, Jenna Elfman, Selma Blair, and countless other ’90s notables. If you missed it the first time around or you want to see it again, it’s safe to say this 20th anniversary screening is your one chance to watch Can’t Hardly Wait in theaters. Does it hold up? We’ll find out together!
Thursday, May 17 to Sunday, May 20
Gloss Weekend @ various locations
For the past four years, Gloss Records has been responsible for producing and promoting some of the finest groups and artists Milwaukee has to offer. The small-run vinyl and cassette label has worked with everyone from NO/NO and Dashcam to Lorde Fredd33 and Marielle Allschwang. Now, for the third year in a row, Gloss is celebrating its stacked roster with the equally stacked Gloss Weekend.
From May 17-20, a total of 15 performances will be hosted at four Riverwest clubs (Linneman’s, Club Timbuktu, High Dive, Mad Planet). There’ll also be plenty of DJs (Dripsweat, Luxi, Luvseat, Uncle JBYRD), food and drink specials, merchandise, a ticketed raffle, AND a “surprise reunion of one of Milwaukee’s most renowned bands of the 2010s.” Oooh!
Friday, May 18
Wye Oak + Palm @ The Back Room at Colectivo
About six weeks after the release of their outstanding new record, The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs, Wye Oak takes to intimate confines of Colectivo’s Back Room. The indie rock duo should be playing (and has previously played) at a larger space in Milwaukee, so don’t miss your chance to see them in the comparably quaint coffee shop setting. Palm opens.