Chill on the Hill photo by Adam Ryan Morris
Each summer, thousands of Milwaukeeans and people from all around the world flock to town to witness the hundreds of musical acts taking the stage at Summerfest – called the “World’s Largest Music Festival” – and take in some entertainment with cream puffs and chocolate-covered bacon (briefly) in hand at the Wisconsin State Fair. However, there are numerous other festivals, block parties, one-day events and cultural celebrations happened around the city throughout the summer, helping to prove Milwaukee’s “City Of Festivals” moniker accurate. With so much happening, it’s easy to lose track of what’s going on around town. So Music Notes did the legwork and compiled the dates and details of some of the city’s seminal summer celebrations. Be sure to bookmark this so you can revisit it throughout the summer.
When: June 7-9
Where: Henry Maier Festival Park
What: Pridefest effectively kicks off the glorious four-plus-month window that is Milwaukee’s festival season. No matter your personal preference, the three-day event provides great food from a host of local vendors, fun for all ages and world-class entertainment. Among those performing this year are the Indigo Girls, Sophie B. Hawkins, Andy Bell, Dangerous Muse, Amanda Palmer, as well as respected locals Something To Do and Vic & Gab. Single day general admission tickets start at $13.
Locust Street Festival
When: June 9, 11 a.m.-8 p.m.
Where: On Locust Street (between Holton and Humboldt) in Riverwest
What: Calling itself “Milwaukee’s Best Street Festival,” Locust Street Festival has been a bastion of the city’s festival circuit for going on 37 years. A six-block radius of the major Riverwest causeway is blocked off for activities like a Beer Run, Scrabble contests and free herring samples. Best yet, there are six stages hosting some of the city’s premier bands, including Paul Cebar, The Delphines, The Fatty Acids, Sigmund Snopek, The Delta Routine and Sat. Nite Duets.
Summer Solstice Music Festival
When: June 22, noon to midnight
Where: North and Murray avenues
What: Marking the first day of summer and the longest day of the year (well, the closest Saturday to it), the Summer Solstice Music Festival brings food, drinks, crafts, lawn bowling, dodge ball and bike polo to Milwaukee’s bustling North Avenue. Obviously, with the word “music” in its name, the 13th annual fest made sure to book some great local acts, including Kane Place Records, Hugh Bob & The Hustle, De La Buena, I’m Not A Pilot, Hayward Williams and Evan Christian.
Pabst Street Festival
When: June 29, noon to 8 p.m.
Where: East Potter Avenue (in front of Burnhearts)
What: For the past five years, a chunk of Bay View’s Potter Avenue has been temporarily transformed into Pabst Street for a day of live music, locally made crafts and, of course, kegs upon kegs of Pabst. The sixth such Pabst Street Party will be more of the same, and also offer brandy slush and food from local vendors. As far as music goes, last year’s lineup included Juniper Tar, Hugh Bob & The Hustle and a surprise reunion set from Milwaukee emo legends The Promise Ring – setting a standard for this year’s event to match.
When: July 11-14
Where: Cathedral Square Park
What: About to celebrate its 32nd year, Milwaukee’s own Bastille Days offers up the fun, food, outdoor drinking and fancy-free of the city’s other festivals and all the 43-foot Eiffel Tower replicas of… well, I guess Bastille Days is the only festival in town with a 43-foot Eiffel Tower replica. The four-day French-themed fest features French and Cajun cuisine, a 5K run, wine tasting and an eclectic array of music. Stay long enough, and you’re bound to hear folk, rock, jazz, blues, world music and zydeco between trips to the crepe tent.
Brady Street Festival
When: July 27, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Where: Brady Street
What: Unless you’re trying to park on a weekend (or ever, really), Milwaukee’s vibrant Brady Street is always a fun place to be. Brady Street Festival is no different. For 12 hours, the nine-block stretch of Eastside entertainment becomes even more fun with awesome vendors, incredible bar specials and three stages worth of live music. The lineup has yet to be announced, but always includes some of Milwaukee’s best bands… and U2 Zoo.
When: August 15-18
Where: Henry Maier Festival Park
What: There’s no shortage of ethnical or other cultural festivals with events like Festa Italiana, African World Festival, Polish Fest and others occupying the Maier grounds virtually every warm-weather non-Summerfest month. Yet the most alluring such celebration in terms of music is Irish Fest. The four-day ordeal will find more than 65 Gaelic, Celtic, bagpipe and Irish-influenced modern music taking the stage, as well as Irish dance troupes and a variety of other entertainers, both local and international.
When: August 29-31
Where: Henry Maier Festival Park
What: After missing the mark with its biker clientele by booking Elton John for a previous anniversary celebration, motorcycle behemoth Harley-Davidson opted for a music lineup that has a broader appeal for mid-life crisis sufferers wishing to celebrate the company’s 115th anniversary. Looking at the acts populating the three-day event’s lineup, it might as well be called Summerfest Jr., as Toby Keith, Kid Rock, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Common, Chasin’ Mason, Yellowcard, Joan Jett, Dropkick Murphy’s, Blue Oyster Cult, Bret Michaels, Lupe Fiasco, Rx Bandits, ZZ Top, Buckcherry, The Gaslight Anthem and dozens more are slated to perform.
Bay View Bash
When: September 21, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Where: Kinnickinnic Avenue in Bay View
What: Unofficially closing out the festival season, Bay View Bash takes place in the heart of Bay View near the end of every September and offers up tasty treats, abundant beer, local vendors and – befitting of a bash – live music. There are three stages within the vicinity of the festival, and various other neighborhood bars and venues book Bash-oriented shows as well. The lineup isn’t announced yet, but past years have found folk acts, punk rock bands and an eerily convincing Prince impersonator.
Chill On The Hill
When: Each Tuesday, June 4 through August 27 at 6 p.m.
Where: Humboldt Park in Bay View
What: This weekly outdoor concert series is a cure for the mid-week doldrums, with an eclectic mix of area musical acts taking to the massive Humboldt Park amphitheater. Chill On The Hill was named the Best Outdoor Concert Series by something called Milwaukee Magazine in 2010. This year promises similar acclaim, with local favorites like middle east-inspired indie outfit Painted Caves, festival fixture Tweed Funk, and shticky lounge act 5 Card Studs and a bevy of other bands. Added bonus: It’s free and patrons can BYOB.
Jazz In The Park
When: Each Thursday, June 6 through September 5 (excluding July 4).
Where: Cathedral Square Park.
What: If jazz and outdoor wine consumption are you thing – I’ve found the latter helps the enjoyment of the former – make sure to head down to Cathedral Square Park on a Thursday to lay out a blanket, uncork some pinot and get lost in some local and national jazz. Started in 1991, the Jazz In The Park concert series is still going strong. This year, Tweed Funk, De La Buena, Extra Crispy Brass Band, Soule Monde, Snarky Puppy and others will take the stage.