Chart: The Best Milwaukee Music Venues and What Each is Known For

From club to castle, these are the top MKE spots to catch a show

 Overall VibeStereotypical PatronMemorable MomentUpcoming Must-Sees
Fiserv ForumA sleek, shiny new arena that features much better acoustics and food options than its predecessorDad who listens
to Top 40
Fittingly, Milwaukee’s
own Violent Femmes

opening the new digs
in September
FEB. 19 — Elton John

APRIL 15 — Ariana Grande
Miller High Life TheaterA grand and often forgotten room that hosts under-the-radar performances’90s R&B fanLeonard Cohen dazzles the then Milwaukee Theater in 2013FEB. 21 — Tyrese and Ginuwine

MARCH 15 — Mariah Carey
The RaveResembles an edgy, DIY venue except its multiple rooms hold thousands and the bar gouges on drink pricesHigh school student with a nose piercingJack White’s sold-out performance in 2014MARCH 1 — DJ Pauly D

APRIL 5 — Laura Jane Grace & The Devouring Mothers
The Riverside TheaterThe Pabst’s more expansive and equally elegant cousinDoesn’t mind dropping triple digits for a concert ticketBon Iver’s two-night tour kickoff in 2011, the sonic equivalent of a bear hugFEB. 8 — John Mellencamp

APRIL 19 — Steve Martin & Martin Short
Marcus Center for the Performing ArtsA highbrow space for the more cerebral forms of live performanceScholarly, theater-going typeThe start of the local, multidisciplinary Fringe Festival in 2016APRIL 20 — Black Violin
The Pabst TheaterMajestic and comfortable, without a bad seat in the houseCollege student drinking a tallboyA 2012 show by the famously solitary Neutral Milk Hotel singer Jeff Mangum – his first tour in 14 years MARCH 22 — Punch Brothers

APRIL 23 — Valerie June
Turner Hall BallroomThe Pabst’s cooler (and thriftier) younger sister, who doesn’t much mind that her ceiling’s falling inMusic snob who saw that band before they were coolIconic local indie rockers Decibully reunite for inaugural Milwaukee Day party in 2014FEB. 27 — John Maus
Shank HallFew frills – it’s essentially a bar and stage – for touring singer-songwritersTheir best days were in the ’90sThat time Corey Feldman broke a tooth onstage in 2017MARCH 1 — Jonathan Richman
Cactus ClubThe hippest place in the city to see bandsLocal music obsessivesThe White Stripes play one of their first shows here in 1999FEB. 14 — Milo

“The Venue Diagram” appears in the February 2019 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Buy a copy at or find the issue on newsstands, starting Jan. 28.

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Kevin is a freelance writer residing in Milwaukee. He’s contributed to The Shepherd Express, Third Coast Daily, Pop Matters and the sadly now-defunct A.V. Club Milwaukee. He looks forward to forging a deeper connection with the city’s impressive music scene during his gig as a Music Notes blogger. His talents include music criticism, riding a bicycle, drinking tasty beers and a crafty croquet swing. His weaknesses comprise Jean-Claude Van Damme movies, professional wrestling and his ever-growing record collection. He’s in desperate need to find more physical (and hard drive) space for the exceptional albums Milwaukee musicians keep churning out.