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 entertainers, 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 Riverwest FemFest, the return of a comedy festival, local release shows, and a movie screening from yours truly. There’s so much to do, but here are some shows Milwaukee Record is especially excited to see this month. Check our calendar for more listings.
Wednesday, May 1
Trapper Schoepp @ Anodyne Walker’s Point Roastery
Milwaukee troubadour Trapper Schoepp made big news in the waning days of 2018 when it was revealed that he had a.) taken some unfinished 1961 Bob Dylan lyrics for a song called “On, Wisconsin” and put them to music, and b.) received the blessing of Dylan himself, leading to an impossible-dream Dylan co-writing credit. Whoa! “On, Wisconsin” appears on Schoepp’s new album, Primetime Illusion. Tonight’s show, meanwhile, doubles as Schoepp’s birthday party and a U.S. tour sendoff.
Thursday, May 2
P!nk + Julia Michaels, DJ KidCutUp @ Fiserv Forum
It’s P!nk! On her Beautiful Trauma world tour! At Fiserv Forum! What more do you need to know? (Well, okay: the show starts at 7:30 p.m. and tickets range from $59 to $250.)
Friday, May 3
Stomata + B~Free @ Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts
Get ready to sit comfortably or dance beautifully in The Harris Theater at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts in Brookfield. Milwaukee’s own Jay Anderson returns from New Orleans to join forces with his mighty jazz trio, Stomata, and the one-and-only queen of Milwaukee R&B, B~Free. The concert also serves as a very special album release show (Stomata’s Crawfish And High Life) that will showcase the amazing sounds of both bands in one of the Milwaukee area’s premier music venues.
Monday, May 6
mewithoutYou + Cursive, and The Appleseed Cast @ Turner Hall
Teenage you thinks this lineup is incredible. Adult you has no reason not to agree with that. This is going to be great, no matter how old you might be.
Thursday, May 9 to Sunday, May 12
Cream City Comedy Festival @ various locations
The donation-based comedy festival returns for a fourth year from May 9-12 with close to 70 local and national comics. Comedians include Carmen Lagala and Langston Kerman, as well as local standouts like A.J. Grill, Dana Ehrmann, Elijah Holbrook, Regan Niemela, and Carter Deems. Kainalu, Immortal Girlfriend, Caley Conway, and Yung Zucchini will provide the music.
Friday, May 10
Tacocat + Sammi Lanzetta @ Cactus Club
The musicians behind feminist pop-punk outfit Tacocat are neither tacos nor cats, though their music is just as delightful as both. Almost nine months to the day since they last played at Cactus Club (and a week after the release of their forthcoming This Mess Is A Place), they’ll return to the Bay View venue to share a bill with Sammi Lanzetta.
Bad Cop/Bad Cop + War On Women, and Walt Hamburger @ X-Ray Arcade
Fat Wreck Chords’ own Bad Cop/Bad Cop comes to Cudahy to head up an all-ages affair at X-Ray Arcade. Tourmates War On Women will also play, with punk-tinged Wisconsin singer-songwriter Walt Hamburger slated to open things up. And if you’re deliberating between this and Tacocat on the 10th, note that this is supposed to end around 11, meaning you can catch parts of both shows.
Wednesday, May 15
Carrot Top @ Potawatomi Northern Lights Theater
Some people don’t think Carrot Top is very funny, but you gotta give him…props. Get it? Anyway, the polarizing comedian will be in Milwaukee on May 15.
Saturday, May 18
Canni Fest @ The Cooperage
Last September, Milwaukee got its first hemp and CBD specialty shop when Canni Hemp Co. opened a retail store on 5th Street. In the handful of months since Canni came to Walker’s Point, a number of other hemp and CBD retailers (and cafes) have popped up all around town and in Milwaukee’s suburbs. With awareness and availability of hemp and cannabidiol in Milwaukee at an all-time high, there’s reason to celebrate.
On May 18, Canni Hemp Co. will host an all-day event centered around entertainment, education, and advocacy. From noon to midnight, the inaugural Canni Fest will take over The Cooperage. The event will include performances by Immortal Girlfriend, Moon Rats, Genesis Renji, Shle Berry, Christopher Gold & The New Old Things, Isiah Joshua, Valerie Lightheart, and DJ sets by Elechronic.
Wednesday, May 22
Milwaukee Record presents Mars Attacks! @ Avalon Theater
Join us and the rest of your favorite Earthlings for a very special screening of the 1996 sci-fi delight, Mars Attacks! Tim Burton’s dark and zany screen adaptation of the “Mars Attacks” trading card series pays homage to campy science fiction movies of the 1950s and ’60s, while still offering some nice action sequences and oodles of hilarity. Visitors from Mars make their first communication with Earth, followed by their first visit. Americans react about how you’d expect them to react, and eventually Tom Jones has to get involved. Everything about this movie is fun and icky and well-acted and you really, really need to see it.
The main characters are played by Jack Nicholson, Glenn Close, Annette Bening, Pierce Brosnan, Danny DeVito, Martin Short, Sarah Jessica Parker, Michael J. Fox, and Rod Steiger. Also, Natalie Portman, Jim Brown, Christina Applegate, Pam Grier, Jack Black, Joe Don Baker, Lukas Haas, and Ray J. Oh, and Tom Jones and a ton of Martians.
Saturday, May 25
Frühling Fest @ The Brewery District
The Brewery District will be alive with food, art, music, and beer when Pabst Brewery & Taproom, Milwaukee Brewing Company, and Glass + Grill host the inaugural Frühling Fest. In addition to rare tappings of special beers from the breweries, food from local vendors, live art, a makers market, and a Preservation Park beer garden, the block party will host tons of bands from 12-7 p.m. Performers include Sneaks, Nickel & Rose, Klassik, Shle Berry, Copper Box, Surgeons In Heat, Faux Fiction, and more.
Sunday, May 26 to Sunday, June 2
Riverwest FemFest @ various locations
The fifth annual Riverwest FemFest benefit once again celebrates the power of feminine empowerment with a week’s worth of music, visual art, film and video, comedy and poetry, arts and crafts, and workshops. This year’s fest benefits Diverse & Resilient and the Milwaukee Women’s Center.
Monday, May 27
METZ + Mister, and Ex Nuns @ Cactus Club
METZ isn’t a particularly difficult band to understand. Amid a modern music landscape that’s rife with clunky sub-genre descriptors and acts haphazardly piling 10 pounds of influences into five-pound bags, the Canadian outfit more than gets by on the simple principle of playing incredibly loud and immensely good rock and roll songs that occasionally careen violently into the peripheries of punk and noise rock.
Since the last time the trio played in Milwaukee (an unforgettable Monday night show at Cactus Club in the summer of 2015), the band chased its excellent II with their outstanding third full-length, Strange Peace, in 2017. In the three-plus years that followed METZ’s last Milwaukee stop, the hard-working group has traversed the globe…a few times, performed on television, and has seen their notoriety increase tenfold. On Monday, May 27 (aka Memorial Day), the band will return to Cactus Club for what’s sure to be a show for the ages.