With tonight’s Rolling Stones show, Summerfest has (unofficially) arrived. The Big Gig gets into full swing come Wednesday, bringing more than 800 acts to 11 stages—not even counting those weird side stages near the lake—and an estimated 900,000-plus people through the gates for 11 days of music, activity, and edible things on a stick. Occurring at the same time as what’s billed as the “World’s Largest Music Festival,” venues across Milwaukee tend to either significantly slow their concert schedule or absolutely vacate their stages during the colossal cluster of concerts at Henry Maier Festival Park.
Though many Milwaukee music promoters take late June and early July off while Summerfest does its thing, traditional venues around the city aren’t exactly hurting for shows. For those who need a night or two away from the Big Gig, Milwaukee Record scrounged up 15 recommendations for shows happening outside the Summerfest umbrella.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 24
De La Buena at River Rhythms (Pier Marquette Park)
Summer is De La Buena’s time to shine. Between June 24 and July 5, the local favorite will play three shows. If you can’t make it to the Pabst Street Party or their July 5 Summerfest gig, make sure you don’t miss this free show.
THURSDAY, JUNE 25
Winter Bear + Rabbit Holes, Kia Rap Princess, and Piles at Cocoon Room
A year to the day removed from our post dubbing Winter Bear’s “Take It Back” as Milwaukee’s new “summer jam” of 2014, the band, which hasn’t played out since last October, will wake from its lengthy hibernation Thursday to play its only Milwaukee show of 2015 (and one of just two shows overall). Rabbit Holes, Kia Rap Princess, and Piles will open this eclectic and all-around awesome all-ages show.
FRIDAY, JUNE 26
The Violet Hour on Milwaukee Boat Line’s concert cruise
With a recently released record, a new music video (composed largely of 1956 public domain film footage), and a building show schedule, The Violet Hour is among the busiest bands on Milwaukee soil in the last month. This weekend, the bustling band will take its songs to the water, as they’ll play a two-hour set on the Vista King’s upper deck. Come for the shoegaze, stay for the waves and dangerously strong house margaritas.
SATURDAY, JUNE 27
Burnhearts’ 8th annual Pabst Street Party (Outside Burnhearts)
Each summer of Burnhearts’ existence, the Bay View beer bastion has simultaneously celebrated summer and one of the most iconic (formerly) Milwaukee-made beers with the annual Burnhearts/Pabst Street Party. The seventh such block party was the biggest and best one yet, as Sylvan Esso, GGOOLLDD, Collections Of Colonies Of Bees, and more took the stage at the corner of Logan and Potter avenues last June. Though that one will be tough to top, the bar has rounded up an eclectic cast of local talent to supply the musical accompaniment on Saturday for the eighth annual event. Beyond the veritable river of Pabst and local food vendors (Classic Slice, Goodkind, Vanguard, Honeypie), De La Buena, Klassik, Platinum Boys, Light Music, Soul Low and DJ Why B will perform this time around.
SUNDAY, JUNE 28
Jaill (album release) + Group Of The Altos, Sugar Stems, and Head On Electric at Just Art’s
Due to vinyl pressing delays, Jaill’s old/new label Burger Records was forced to bump the release of the band’s long-awaited Brain Cream from May 19 to Tuesday, June 30. To make up for the delay, Jaill told Milwaukee Record they plan to unveil Brain Cream in an extra-special way. On Sunday, the band will host a free outdoor show and barbeque in the parking lot of Just Art’s Saloon, an iconic Walkers Point tavern. Jaill will be supported by Group Of The Altos, Sugar Stems, and Head On Electric. If that great lineup and an early crack at buying Brain Cream isn’t enough to get you out to the parking lot, surely the allure of free hot dogs and corn dogs is.
TUESDAY, JUNE 30
David Liebe Hart + Crappy Dracula 2, Soup Moat, and Iron Pizza at Borg Ward
Best known for freaking the shit out of Dr. Steve Brule with his “Pruppets” on the John C. Reilly character’s eponymous Adult Swim program, R-list comedian David Liebe Hart quietly booked a show at the Borg Ward. Joining the Tim And Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! bit character is the musical accompaniment of Crappy Dracula 2, Soup Moat, and Iron Pizza—three bands who don’t seem to take themselves too seriously.
American Legion Band at Chill On The Hill (Humboldt Park)
Ring in Independence Day in a lawn chair on a hill with a cooler full of beer and charcuterie as the American Legion Band plays national standards at Chill On The Hill. U-S-A! U-S-A!
WEDNESDAY, JULY 1
The Weirdos + Ramma Lamma, and The Hullmen at The Metal Grill
Los Angeles punk rockers The Weirdos originally formed in 1975. Following the band’s 1981 breakup, they returned to the stage sporadically in the 1980s, ’90s, and ’00s (oftentimes with a slightly different cast when members joined the Dickies, Circle Jerks, and Red Hot Chili Peppers). Joining the bill for the umpteenth Weirdos reunion are Milwaukee’s own Ramma Lamma and The Hullmen.
Various Small Fires + Bright Kind, and Amanda Suckow at Tonic Tavern
Synth-pop trio Bright Kind made their presence truly known in town with last year’s excellent self-titled debut. The Jeanna Salzer vocal clinic will be bookended by Various Small Fires and Amanda Suckow. An even more specific recommendation: ride Tonic’s shuttle to Summerfest, then return in time to enjoy this free show.
Obnox + Dogs In Ecstasy, and Drugs Dragons at Quarter’s Rock ’n’ Roll Palace
There’s a national buzz building behind Cleveland punk outfit Obnox. See the band Pitchfork, Noisey, and (insert your favorite music blog, probably) are touting, and two incomparable Milwaukee commodities for good measure.
THURSDAY, JULY 2
The Underground Railroad To Candyland + The Obsoletes (reunion), Polish Gifts, and Holy Shit! at Bremen Cafe
It’s going on five years since The Obsoletes played a show. The pop-rock trio was a sort of all-star cast of Wisconsin musicians, featuring members of The Benjamins and seminal Fox Cities acts The Screwballs and Yesterday’s Kids. While The Obsoletes only managed one release—the timeless Is This Progress?—before members branched off to join Limbeck, Tim Schweiger & The Middle Men, and Trapper Schoepp & The Shades, the band will be back for (at least) one show when they revive the project to play in support of The Underground Railroad To Candyland, Polish Girls, and Holy Shit! in a cover-charge-free holiday weekend precursor. If you miss The Obsoletes or you just plain missed their first run, don’t miss this.
Mega Ran at 42 Lounge
Raheem Jarbo (also known as “Mega Ran”) specializes in 8-bit hip-hop. Along with producer K-Murdock, the seasoned Arizona rapper comes to Milwaukee’s premier geek bar at the tail end of his Forever Famicom fifth year anniversary tour.
FRIDAY, JULY 3
Growing Power Benefit Show with The Fatty Acids + Ladders, and Heavy Leaves at Cactus Club
Cactus Club is only having one show during Summerfest, but oh boy, is it a good one. Not only that, it’s for an even better cause. The Fatty Acids will head a benefit show for Growing Power, which also includes Ladders, Heavy Leaves, and a speech by Growing Power CEO/Smoothie namesake Will Allen.
Bockenplautz on Milwaukee Boat Line’s concert cruise
In all honesty, we know nothing about Bockenplautz. While we can’t attest to the quality of the Milwaukee band’s acoustic power-pop, it’s hard to beat the view from the deck of the Vista King. That is, unless you’re watching fireworks from the deck at the same time, which is the case for this show.
SATURDAY, JULY 4
Blax + Lex Allen, Skotty Benz, and Siren on Milwaukee Boat Line’s concert cruise
About five years ago, Fresh Cut Collective co-founder Adebisi Agoro up and moved to New York. After a few enjoyable years there, he returned to his hometown with new perspective and a new alias. Now known as Blax, he’s made great strides to let people know he’s back and better than ever. Days after a Riverwest Public House show, Blax will board the Vista King with Lex Allen, Skotty Benz, and Siren for what’s sure to be an unforgettable holiday voyage.