In Bars & Clubs

Cactus Club defeated Milwaukee Ale House as the new king of the Best Live Music in a Bar category. (PHOTO: Cactus Club Facebook)

Milwaukee's best live music in a bar, 2017

"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!

Cactus Club

After voting Milwaukee Ale House for a four-year term as president of the Best Live Music in a Bar category, OnMilwaukee readers went a new way in 2017. Congratulations to Cactus Club, the newly crowned king of the bar room concert.

It was a tight victory for the Bay View hotspot, as it narrowly beat out the four-time champion Milwaukee Ale House by less than 20 votes. In fact, the entire top four in this category was highly contested, with less than 50 votes separating the tune-filled taprooms. The reopened Jazz Estate and Red Rock Saloon rounded out that final four, while Riverwest dance haven The Mad Planet completed this year's top five.

The OnMilwaukee editors, however, went outside the top five for their favorite bar to take in some suds and a song, selecting the recently opened Walker's Point jazz club Gibraltar.

OnMilwaukee editors' pick: Gibraltar

Runners up:
2. Milwaukee Ale House
3. The Jazz Estate
4. Red Rock Saloon
5. The Mad Planet

This year we also asked a variety of prominent Milwaukeeans to weigh in on their pick for specific categories. For this category, we consulted Michelle Rutkowski, program director and radio show host at FM 102/1.

Rutkowski's pick: Club Garibaldi

Garibaldi is one of my favorite bars in Milwaukee for live music. They book some really great bands – seeing Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats there last year was a show I'll not soon forget! – the room is unpretentious and the stage is set up in such a way that the audience feels like they're on the same level as the band, instead of gazing up and away at them. There's a distinct "watching a show in a friend's basement" vibe, but, like, it's perfect because it's your friend with the cool dad who happens to have neon signs and a disco ball in his basement.


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