The last few years have been filled with announcements about new concert venues coming to Milwaukee. Most of those proposed venues have yet to materialize, but on Tuesday night, a previous announcement became a reality. The all-ages, 450-capacity Vivarium opened at 1818 N. Farwell Ave. (You know, in that strip mall with the Ethiopian Cottage and a Domino’s Pizza, across the street from Pizza Shuttle.) The venue comes courtesy of the Pabst Theater Group, and essentially replaces PTG’s Back Room @ Colectivo, which closed in December 2023.

If Vivarium’s high ceilings, skylights, and exposed metal beams seem familiar, that’s by design: the space is meant to evoke the vibe of The Back Room. But Vivarium has its own bigger-and-better identity, too, thanks to some lovely brick and woodwork, plenty of plants, and a fully appointed backstage area. Hell, even the bathrooms are nice.

A friends-and-family shindig opened the venue Tuesday night, followed by a free show from local stalwarts Wave Chapelle and ADORNER. The locally sourced entertainment was no accident (but apparently a little loud for some folks on the Milwaukee Next Door subreddit).

“We don’t do shows in Des Moines. We don’t do shows in Alaska. We do shows in Milwaukee,” said Gary Witt, CEO of the Pabst Theater Group, on Tuesday night. “This venue is going to be a place, just like tonight, where you’ll find a lot of local area musicians playing.”

The already stocked Vivarium calendar features plenty of shows from national acts, too. The venue officially opens February 22 with a show from Nashville “pop-funk goddess” Molly Grace. Future shows include Charlie Parr (March 7), The Verve Pipe (March 30), Mason Jennings (April 7), and Laura Jane Grace (May 10).

“A lot of people say that when they come to a city like Milwaukee it’s good to have small venues, because it’s the first place that they discover a band,” Witt said. “But the idea behind building this venue was that this is also the first place for a band to discover Milwaukee.”

Welcome to the neighborhood, Vivarium. And yes, we drove, and the parking was fine.

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Pabst Theater Group introduces new 450-seat venue, to be named Vivarium

A look inside the future home of Pabst Theater Group’s upcoming East Side concert venue

Pabst Theater Group opening new East Side venue, leaving Back Room @ Colectivo

The Back Room @ Colectivo closes its doors with show from Chicago’s Bitchin Bajas