"Life seems to go on without effort, when I am filled with music."
-George Eliot (1819-1880)
There is just something about live music. When a band or musician is really talented, energy just flows between artist and audience. Admittedly, each person has his or her own definition of what makes for good music, and what (cough, Britney Spears) does not. But, these days with the war on file-sharing raging on the Internet, and MTV's bubble-gum plaguing the airwaves, it is comforting to know that there are still some places where music lovers can go to get their fix live and in person, right here in Milwaukee. So, in no particular order, here are some of the best live-music venues in the city!
2022 E. North Ave.
Above a popular East Side bar, up a long, steep staircase is the open space at BBC that hosts mostly local music every week. It's the place to see some of the city's up and coming talent.
901 E. Clarke St.
Bremen features national and local acts in one of the most intimate settings in the city. Great prices on drinks and delicious sandwiches to boot, it's one of Milwaukee's best-kept secrets for live music.
2496 S. Wentworth Ave.
For those music aficionados who just can't wait until Saturday, The Cactus offers live music every day of the week. That's right Monday through Sunday! With cover charges ranging from $7 to $10 (the music room is separate from the bar, so if you just want a drink, you don't have to pay the cover), this premiere rock establishment features local as well as national and international acts, like Idlewild, Holly Golightly, The Kills and The Electric Six, to name a few! And, with Tuesday's Ladies Night and Thursday night's blended drink specials, you're bound to have throw-down good time.
Caroline's Jazz Club
401 S. 2nd St.
Just south of Downtown, music -- mostly jazz -- is the main focus at Caroline's. With an impressive slate of local acts such as Manty Ellis, Joe Arron, Kenny Goodwin and Annie and the Jazz Orphans (to name a few), Caroline's has also played host to some of jazz's most recognized names. Claude Dorsey appears at the club once a month, and Frank Morgan, Carl Allen and Ray Blue have all performed there, too. Located in the old warehouse district, this New York-style jazz club has vaulted ceilings, stained glass windows and vintage chandelier lighting. Live performances Wednesday through Saturday nights. Be sure to ask about the gourmet pizzas and extensive martini bar!
1339 E. Brady St.
On Saturday nights starting at 9 o'clock, Club Brady hosts a wide assortment of local bands of both the cover and original varieties. Admission charges range anywhere from three to five dollars and patrons can dance the night away on an intimate dance floor.
The Jazz Estate
2423 N. Murray Ave.
A jazz landmark here, The Estate has attracted internationally known acts since 1977. This '50s-style jazz club offers live music on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights and has played host to big names such as Cedar Walton, Harry Connick Jr., Clyde Stubblefield and Jill Henderson as well as local favorites like Berkeley Fudge, Dan Trudell and Jeanne Woodall. On Monday nights, patrons can partake in one of the many weekly drink specials.
The Mad Planet
533 E. Center St.
If you just gotta dance, be sure to check out this Center Street hot-spot, known for its retro-themed dance nights, alternative décor and live music performances on Saturday nights.
Milwaukee Ale House
233 N. Water St.
Winner of OnMilwaukee's prestigious "Milwaukee's Best: Eat & Drink 2003" poll awards for "Best Brew Pub", "Best Downtown/Third Ward Bar," and in this case most importantly, "Best Live Music," the Ale House certainly earned a name for itself as one of Milwaukee's premier live music providers! Hosting everything from jazz, bluegrass, R&B, pop, blues to rock bands, there is live music Wednesday through Saturday charging cover only on Friday and Saturday nights. With plenty of space to dance, the Milwaukee Ale House is a great place to go and see local house favorites such as the Love Monkeys, Hot Sauce and The Toys.
Points East Pub
1501 N. Jackson St.
Long one of the incubators of local bands, Points East has an intimate back room that provides a stage to Milwaukee musicians but also touring national acts still on their way to stardom.
2401 W. Wisconsin Ave.
With a number of rooms hosting music in the old Eagles Club, The Rave has one of the most action-packed live music schedules in town with touring bands from across the globe. Dylan's played there; so has Coldplay. There's hip-hop, metal, alternative and more on tap.
1434 N Farwell Ave.
Shank Hall attracts a diverse range of international and local acts throughout the year. Both venues are only open when there is a concert, and a small cup of Miller Lite at the Eagles Ballroom is around five dollars, so probably not the bar to go to just to hang out. Rock on.
735 E. Center St.
The former Onopa Brewing Co. has made a name for itself brewing its own beer, specializing in fine-crafted beers while providing a venue for bands, both local and national. With clientele ranging "from business men to crusty punks," Stonefly has hosted the likes of Sharon Jones, Antibalas and bands ranging anywhere from jazz singers to punk rock and funk acts.
The Up and Under Pub
1216 E. Brady St.
Nicknamed "The Blues Capital of Milwaukee," Up and Under has hosted some of the biggest names in blues (i.e. Jim Liban), as well as local favorites like Little Jimmy and the Blackbirds and Southbound. A nationally recognized establishment, Up and Under has branched out and now features reggae and rock artists every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night. But the heart of this 100-year-old Victorian building still belongs to the blues.
5036 S. Packard Ave., Cudahy
Vnuk's is one of the area's oldest live-music establishments, having hosted music for more than 50 years, with local bands sharing the stage with national and international acts in the heart of Cudahy.