"Bar Month" at OnMilwaukee is brought to you by Miller Brewing Company, calling Milwaukee home since 1855. For the entire month of March, we're serving up fun articles on bars, clubs and beverages – including guides, the latest trends, bar reviews, the results of our Best of Bars poll and more. Grab a designated driver and dive in!
Walking around Riverwest, you will pass building after building, all of them looking the same and looking like a typical city neighborhood. That is, until you hit Center Street, where you meet swirling blue galaxies, stars and planets painted onto the side of a brick building. There are no windows looking in, so the only way to figure out what's inside this intergalactic mystery is going in.
For 26 years, The Mad Planet has served as a dance club staple for the city, with visitors like Marilyn Manson, Arcade Fire, Jerry Harrison from Talking Heads, The Black Keys and more bringing even more star power to the venue. The club, however, is mostly known for their themed dance parties, including the famous "Get Down," where it busts out old 45s and funky vinyls, and its retro dance party.
When I originally reached out into the Facebook universe for Milwaukee Bucket List items, multiple people responded that these Mad Planet dance parties were vital for any Cream City clubber. So clearly I needed to get my booty to Mad Planet – and when I discovered they were hosting a Nuthin' But '90s party, launching me back to memories of Hanson, the Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears, it became even more essential.
When I first arrived, all I saw was the iconic space mural on the building – no people milling about outside of it. There were multiple doors but not really a clear way of how to get in, and I began to wonder if people even actually hang out here, or to quote a famous space-traveling character, it's a trap.
When I finally found the right door, I came inside to see a quirky bar. The whole place is filled with '60s and '70s-inspired psychedelic décor, knick knacks covered the bar and the paintings from outside continued throughout the inside of the club. Your eyes could look around the place for hours, and you would constantly find something new in the bar that you didn't notice before.
The decor isn't the only thing to appreciate, though. The drinks are cheap – or at least college-student-on-a-budget friendly – and the staff, who could certainly tell I was a newcomer because of all of my questions, answered every single one with a smile, making me feel very welcomed. Plus, when you walk up to the bar, there's a stash of Ho Hos that you can purchase to fulfill your sweet tooth. I hadn't even hit the dance floor yet, and I was already in love with this place.
Speaking of the dance floor, it completely exceeded my expectations. Unlike the crowded and stuffy dance floors I was used to, Mad Planet just had so much space. As I broke out my sprinkler, disco and cabbage patch, I got no judgment since everyone around was dancing just like me. Looking around, the other attendees dressed up in '90s wear, decked out in anything from grunge to denim to metallic outfits, adding to the fun of the event. Everybody, no matter their boogie-ing abilities, fits in under the colorful lights and disco ball at Mad Planet.
The DJ spun tunes from all across the '90s, hitting everyone's music taste buds no matter their genre of choice. I unfortunately missed hearing any classic boy band songs, B-Spears or the addictively angsty Alanis Morissette, but overall the DJ knew how to get everybody on the dance floor.
When I left, I couldn't help but smile. My first experience at Mad Planet exceeded my expectations and made me excited for any kind of dance party they'd throw in the future. I haven't across another bar that has the zany features of Mad Planet, both inside and out, and I'm not sure I ever will.
Fittingly for a place with stars and galaxies painted outside, Mad Planet was a trip through space and time – and I'm glad I stepped inside for the journey.