rom intimate lounges to big arenas, Wisconsin’s largest city is a popular stop for musicians when on tour. It’s also a city that nurtures homegrown talent, whether it’s weekly jazz nights or acoustic songwriters at a local cafe. These seven venues are all open year-round, booking acts on weekends and weeknights alike. Visiting Milwaukee during the summer months? Be sure to check out the Summerfest schedule (shows are at the Henry W. Maier Festival Park along Lake Michigan in downtown Milwaukee), held in late June through early July each summer. Major musical acts stop here while on tour and for a daily admission you can see up to 10 bands in one night.
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Snagging a seat inside this historic venue — built in 1895 by beer baron Frederick Pabst — is a treat due to the glam period details; Pabst built the theater to mimic a European opera house. Most of the shows are touring big-name musicians — Arlo Guthrie, Amos Lee, Graham Nash and Buddy Guy all performed here in 2017 — but it’s also known nationally as a platform for politicians, commentators and comedians, such as Lewis Black, Garrison Keillor and Rick Steves. Occasionally, the Milwaukee Ballet will host a performance here as well. 144 E. Wells St.
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Another downtown building with a rich history, acts at this century-old, two-story, 7,000-square-foot venue are diverse. In just the last two years, the Old 97’s, Shawn Colvin, Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Matisyahu and Luna have all performed here. There’s a restaurant in the building, too, which makes it easy to grab dinner before the show. On the menu are eats like burgers, salads, hot and cold sandwiches and a Friday Fish Fry. The space is massive, a fact that’s not gone unnoticed by craft-fair vendors and the local storytelling series Ex Fabula and the Present Music series (shows are often hosted here). 1040 N. 4th St., Milwaukee
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A small, intimate place along North Farwell Avenue on the East Side, this is where you’ll see acts with a cult following but not necessarily known to the masses — think Rhett Miller, frontman for the Old 97's. It’s also a popular venue for really good cover bands like Super-Unknown (a Soundgarden tribute band) and Animation (a Rush tribute band). 1434 N. Farwell Ave.
04 of 07
Big-name acts — think Norah Jones, Steve Martin, Aretha Franklin and Hillary Clinton — typically stop at Riverside. Built in 1928, the nearly 2,500-seat theater n the heart of downtown Milwaukee is full of historical detailing; the designers of the Palace Theater in New York City also built this gem. Renovations back in 1984 have kept the sound system up to date and the seating comfortable. 116 W. Wisconsin Ave.Continue to 5 of 7 below.
05 of 07
Quite a few now-famous bands started out here before they were household names — Death Cab for Cutie, The White Stripes, and Interpol among them. Tucked into a residential area of the Bay View neighborhood, the club is a few blocks from Lake Michigan. Musicians perform on a stage and a U-shaped bar gives the place some neighborhood character. 2496 S. Wentworth Ave.
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Also home to the Milwaukee Bucks and the Marquette University Golden Eagles NCAA Men’s Basketball team, concerts at this downtown-Milwaukee venue are the ones that have the ability attract thousands of fans, including Katy Perry, Roger Waters, Lorde and Guns N Roses. Within the 55,000-square-foot arena are 14 concession stands as well as four merchandise stands. 1001 N. 4th St.
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This venue near Marquette University, just a five-minute drive west of downtown Milwaukee, attracts both gritty, edgy acts and big-name musicians (think: Bob Dylan, The Flaming Lips, KMFDM and Jason Mraz). It consists of the 25,000-square-foot Eagles Ballroom and the more intimate Rave Bar, plus the Rave Hall, a stop on one of John Mayer’s tour. 2401 W. Wisconsin Ave.