What’s this? A list of shows? A list of live shows? A list of live summer shows? Yep! After 8,000 years of awfulness, live events are back! Here are just a few to look forward to in the next few months.
Wednesday, June 23
Rose Of The West + Caley Conway @ Tosa Tonight
Since 2000, the Tosa Tonight summer concert series has brought free and family-friendly live music to Rotary Performance Pavilion in Wauwatosa’s Hart Park. Like most large-scale events in and around Milwaukee, the series was canceled in 2020. However, Tosa Tonight plans to return from that one-year hiatus with a total of eight concerts in 2021. Among the first and one of the best of the bunch is a June 23 concert featuring two Milwaukee music mainstays, Rose Of The West and Caley Conway. You can check out the whole Tosa Tonight lineup HERE.
Friday, July 9
Valerie Lighthart (record 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 comes 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 set by Dora Diamond.
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 summer tour 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.
Friday, July 30
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. Last month, 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
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.
Sunday, August 1
Zelo Pro Wrestling @ Turner Hall Ballroom
The afternoon immediately following WWE Supershow’s stop at Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee we host another pro wrestling event will take place right across the street from the arena. Zelo Pro Wrestling returns to Turner Hall for an event that combines an indie spirit with recognizable wrestlers like Jordynne Grace, Colt Cabana, Chelsea Green, the homecoming of Wisconsin’s own Swoggle.
Thursday, August 5 — Sunday, August 15
Wisconsin State Fair @ Wisconsin State Fair Park
Come hell or high water, the Wisconsin State Fair is determined to deliver all the fun, food, and edge-of-your-seat pig racing that you know and love, and that you missed in 2020. As for musical entertainment, the Main Stage headliner feels as comfortable and familiar as an old pair of pre-pandemic jeans: Billy Idol, Foreigner, Boyz II Men, The Beach Boys, and more. Click HERE for the whole thing.
Thursday, August 5 — Saturday, August 7
Eddie Pepitone @ The Laughing Tap
Grizzled and grumpy stand-up comic/actor/documentary subject Eddie Pepitone makes his Milwaukee return with three nights (and four total performances) at The Laughing Tap. Joining the “Bitter Buddha” during this weekend in Walker’s Point is feature comic JT Habersaat. Don’t miss this opportunity to see a low-key comedy legend in a cozy club setting.
Friday, August 6
Ratboys + Telethon @ Cactus Club
Even though Ratboys only managed a few shows in support of last year’s wonderful Printer’s Devil before touring halted, the Chicago indie-folk outfit saw the album earn oodles of positive press, and awareness of the hardworking band that’s been around since 2011 increased in the process. Happy Birthday, Ratboy—the excellent Ratboys 10th anniversary surprise album the band released April 1, 2021—found the band treating listeners to new versions of college-era demos and songs from its original EP. It’s safe to say Ratboys is bordering on breakout, so you won’t want to miss this 18+ outing with them and an opening set by the incomparable Milwaukee pop-punkers in Telethon.
Friday, August 6
Fox Face (record release) @ X-Ray Arcade
Milwaukee’s excellent Fox Face released their second full-length album, End Of Man, way back in January. Now, roughly seven months later, they’re finally celebrating with a live, real-deal record release show. End Of Man is a blistering assault of pissed-off, socially conscious rock and roll, complete with a classic cover (“There’ll Be Some Changes Made”) originally arranged and performed for our Public Domain video series.
Saturday, August 7
Devils Teeth @ Milwaukee Boat Line
Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. For Milwaukee garage-surf outfit Devils Teeth, our current extraordinary times call for—what else?—a self-recorded “spaghetti western garage rock operetta inspired by the character Chong Li from the martial arts film Bloodsport.” (You know, the one with Jean-Claude Van Damme.) Hear tracks from the excellent La Leggenda Di Chong Li when Devils Teeth take to the high seas for Milwaukee Boat Line’s annual Concert Cruise series.
Tuesday, August 10
Built To Spill @ Turner Hall Ballroom
Is there a finer two-album run in ’90s indie rock than Built To Spill’s Perfect From Now On (1997) and Keep It Like A Secret (1999)? Maybe (we’re looking at you, Guided By Voices), but gee whiz, those records are amazing. Doug Martsch and company haven’t released a new album of BTS music since 2015 (a Daniel Johnston cover album was released in 2020), but it’s great to see this stellar live band back on the road again.
Saturday, August 21
Modest Mouse @ Riverside Theater
Have you heard that new Modest Mouse song, “We Are Between”? From the group’s first new album in six years, The Golden Casket, due June 25? It’s pretty good! And there’s another new song called “Leave A Light On.” It’s pretty good, too! Anyway, it’s good to have Modest Mouse—and the band’s forever-fascinating frontman Issac Brock—back after such a long drought. This Milwaukee show is part of a full Modest Mouse U.S. tour that includes appearances at Lollapalooza in Chicago, the Life Is Beautiful Festival in Las Vegas, and the Austin City Limits Music Festival in, well, Austin.
Monday, August 23
The Mountain Goats @ Pabst Theater
This show was originally announced in 2019; since then, The Mountain Goats have released not one, not two, but three new albums. (How did you spend the pandemic?) Sure, one of those albums (2020’s Songs For Pierre Chuvin) was just frontman John Darnielle singing into a boombox, but still. Expect plenty of fan favorites and even more deep cuts plucked from Darnielle and company’s 17—er, make that 20—studio albums.
Monday, August 30
Bully + Pom Pom Squad @ The Back Room @ Colectivo
The return of shows is incredible. Something else that’s incredible: the return of sold-out shows. Yep, this Back Room Bully show is sold out, folks. Congrats if you already have tickets, and good luck if you don’t!
Wednesday, September 1 — Saturday, September 18
Summerfest @ Henry Maier Festival Park
The World’s Largest Music Festival is mixing things up in 2021, moving to September and staking out three Thursday-Friday-Saturday blocks instead of the traditional 11-day run. (Oh, and there’ll be a few “Wednesday Kick-Off Concerts” at the American Family Insurance Amphitheater, too.) As for the lineup, it’s pretty damn stacked: Megan Thee Stallion, Chance The Rapper, Jonas Brothers, Myley Cyrus, Dave Chappelle, Green Day, Weezer, Fall Out Boy, and Guns N’ Roses are some of the big amphitheater names, while Black Pumas, Run The Jewels, Kesha, Wilco, Liz Phair, and Pixies are just a few of the grounds stage highlights. Find the full lineup HERE.
Friday, September 3 — Sunday, September 5
Melissa Villaseñor @ Milwaukee Improv
In case you missed the news, metro Milwaukee is getting a new comedy club! Milwaukee Improv will open August 20 at The Corners of Brookfield in a 13,049-square-foot space in the shopping center’s lower level. The Brookfield-based venue will be the national Improv chain’s 25th location. Highlighting Milwaukee Improv’s first wave of performer announcements is Melissa Villaseñor. The accomplished actor, impressionist, voiceover professional, and SNL cast member is also road-tested stand-up veteran who has performed all over the country. You can see Villaseñor at Milwaukee Improv September 3-5.
Sunday, September 12
Armand Hammer @ Cactus Club
The year isn’t even half over, but it’s safe to assume Armand Hammer is responsible for making one its best albums. The rap duo joined forces with The Alchemist to make Haram, an otherworldly effort that takes their already cerebral creations to exciting, inspiring, and altogether enjoyable new territory. Celebrate a Packers Week 1 victory by heading to Cactus Club to see Armand Hammer headline this 18+ show.
Friday, September 17
Japanese Breakfast + Luna Li @ Turner Hall Ballroom
Michelle Zauner is having a year. On top of releasing Crying In H Mart, her incredible (we know: we’re currently reading it) best-selling memoir, Zauner released another Japanese Breakfast album earlier this month. That record, Jubilee, takes the indie rock project all across the board stylistically and has earned every bit of the praise it’s getting from listeners and critics alike. Japanese Breakfast will face off against Summerfest with a September 17 show at Turner Hall. Luna Li opens.