The summer music calendar is like a sonic salad bar, with enough variety that you can sing along, dance or head-bang your way through the season. Our music critic picks his top 20 shows.
Note: Shows are listed chronologically.
1. Aretha Franklin
June 3, Riverside Theater
While “Respect” and “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” might not have been written for the queen of soul, they sure do sound like it.
2. The Avett Brothers
June 10, BMO Harris Pavilion
Part bluegrass hootenanny, other part alt-country melancholy, the Carolina-based folk outfit can start a dance party one moment and yield tears the next.
3. Blondie with GGOOLLDD
June 12, Pridefest
One way or another, the closing night of Pridefest is gonna get you – either with the bouncy, synth-pop of GGOOLLDD or the supremely catchy new wave of Blondie.
June 12, Company Brewing
Wisconsin’s best-kept secret scored an art-rock masterpiece with 2015’s double album Predatory Headlights, an avant-garde juxtaposition of minimalistic movements and anthemic punk tunes.
5. Flight of the Conchords
June 18, Riverside Theater
It’s business time again for New Zealand song-parody artists Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement – musical comedians who are often the funniest guys in the room.
6. Built to Spill
June 19, Turner Hall Ballroom
Sprawling, guitar-heavy ’90s indie rock, perfect for a long car ride or a historic concert hall.
7. Steve Gunn
June 21, Cactus Club
It’s not about the destination but the journey, and the former guitarist for Kurt Vile’s band takes you on quite the trip, one with warbled guitars and glazed eyes.
8. David Bazan
June 25, Back Room @ Colectivo Coffee
The former Pedro the Lion frontman’s break-up with God was well publicized, but that public intimacy is not out of character. The singer-songwriter often plays acoustic shows in fans’ living rooms.
9. Selena Gomez
June 29, Marcus Amphitheater
The most followed person on Instagram brings her mature electro-pop dance tunes to the Big Gig – a far cry from her Disney days.
10. Pabst Street Party
July 2, Burnhearts
Forsake Summerfest for this super-hip Bay View block party that features local musicians and artists, as well as craft booze.
11. Paul McCartney
July 8, Marcus Amphitheater
The Marcus Amphitheater feels cozy compared to Macca’s 2013 performance at Miller Park – a concert that broke the non-baseball attendance record. This will be the year’s hottest Summerfest ticket, with good reason.
12. Dead and Company
July 9-10, Alpine Valley
Last summer the Grateful Dead bid fans adieu, but it’s since been reincarnated by founding members Bob Weir and Bill Kreutzmann, who resurrected the group under a new moniker with new performers, including John Mayer.
13. Sting and Peter Gabriel
July 10, Marcus Amphitheater
Our friend Merriam-Webster would define this as a “mega-bill.”
14. John Carpenter
July 18, Pabst Theater
The cinematic visionary behind the ominous Halloween score slashed film directing in favor of recording a collection of stand-alone musical compositions entitled Lost Themes.
15. Wye Oak
Aug. 2, Turner Hall Ballroom
The Baltimore indie-rock duo transformed from the squealing guitar of earlier albums to softer synthesizer tones on 2014’s audacious left-turn, Shriek.
16. Those Darn Accordions
Aug. 5, Shank Hall
With song titles like “First Bratwurst of the Summer” and “Glass of Beer Polka,” the San Franciscan accordion rock ensemble will have no trouble relating to a Milwaukee crowd.
17. White Lung
Aug. 5, Turner Hall Ballroom
This screeching, sonic-speed punk four-piece from Vancouver will not apologize for what will surely be a rowdy evening.
18. Salt-N-Pepa with Color Me Badd, Coolio and Rob Base
Aug. 12, Wisconsin State Fair
Adjust those butterfly clips and get ready for ’90s night, featuring pop stars that burned bright and then quickly faded, much like that fashion trend.
19. Beach Boys
Aug. 14, Wisconsin State Fair
Surf’s up, dudes. The ’60s California pop legends bring back their good vibrations.
20. Milwaukee Punk Fest 6
Aug. 19-21, Aug. 26-27, multiple locations
The five-day DIY festival champions more than just a whopping 59 punk bands. It also showcases a handful of local comedians and visual artists.