10 Under-the-Radar Music Venues to Visit in Milwaukee

See a live show at one of these hidden gems.

Milwaukee may have a population of less than 700,000, but Brew City boasts a thriving music scene. Home to several historic music venues — the Pabst Theater, Turner Hall and the Riverside Theater, as well as the cutting-edge Fiserv Forum — the city offers plenty of places to enjoy live music of all genres, from rock to jazz, reggae, hip-hop and EDM.

Read on for some lesser-known music hotspots.

Circle A Café

932 E. Chambers St., (414) 562-5927

With framed punk posters on the walls and a black and white TV with a fuzzy picture, Riverwest establishment Circle A Café brings to mind no-frills independent rock clubs of the 1970s. Circle A showcases music from a variety of local artists, from folk to rock to African music.

Club Timbuktu

520 E. Center St., (414) 265-7000

Both restaurant (with a West African menu featuring dishes such as Mogadishu fish soup and worala) and nightclub with a spacious, red-lit dance floor, Club Timbuktu hosts DJs playing reggae, dancehall and hip-hop Friday nights. The club also features live punk, hardcore and African music.

Frank’s Power Plant

2800 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., (414) 763-1177

Now under new ownership, Frank’s Power Plant, a biker-friendly Bay View corner bar decorated with plenty of motorcycle and vintage Milwaukee memorabilia, serves up lots of cold beer and fun. Frank’s regularly hosts live performances by singer-songwriters, rock bands and country music artists.

Gold in the Fridge

2525 E. Crawford Ave., St. Francis

Milwaukee artists Bucko Crooks and Lulu Rader, along with engineers William Pariso and Michael Francis Cook, opened Gold in the Fridge in January 2019, in a former St. Francis business. With colorful rugs, bowls of snacks and a comfortable, basement-like atmosphere, the DIY venue hosts rock, experimental and electronic musical acts, along with exhibits by local artists.

High Dive MKE

701 E. Center St., (414) 763-0729

Riverwest’s former Impala Lounge and Riverhorse Tavern hosts local, regional and national indie, rock and punk bands several times a week. With a retro-cool vibe, complete with arcade games like Ms. Pac Man and Star Trek: The Next Generation pinball machines, High Dive boasts a wide beer selection and cocktails (mojitos!) made with organic and locally-sourced ingredients.

In addition to live music, High Dive MKE has retro arcade games and pinball machines; photo courtesy of High Dive MKE

Kochanski’s Concertina Beer Hall

1920 S. 37th St., (414) 837-6552

Milwaukee staple Kochanski’s has been hosting polka, rock and heavy metal bands for more than four decades. The bar, which still boasts the same nostalgic vibe it has for the last 40 years, proudly embraces Polish culture with a variety of Polish beers (along with local and domestic brews), a weekly Wednesday polka open mic, and events such as the annual Polish Pileup, a summer party featuring a classic car show, pinup pageant, food and live music. According to owner Andy Kochanski, the establishment also features the only Bonzini foosball table in Milwaukee, possibly Wisconsin. One note: The bar is not air-conditioned and can get a bit overheated in warmer months. However, Kochanski’s does offer guests a spacious patio.

Florida band Holy Miss Moley performs at Kochanski’s Concertina Beer Hall.

Mamie’s Bar and Grill

3300 W. National Ave., (414) 643-1673

Located in Milwaukee’s Silver City neighborhood, Mamie’s, an unassuming and quintessential corner bar, hosts an open jam for local musicians every Tuesday night, and live blues music every Friday night. Mamie’s offers daily drink specials, as well as dollar hot dogs on Mondays and $1.75 burritos and $1.50 tacos Wednesdays. Note: Mamie’s is a cash-only bar, with an ATM on the premises.

The Miramar Theatre

2844 N. Oakland Ave., (414) 239-8039

This intimate venue and bar, located just down the street from UW-Milwaukee, offers live music by hip-hop and EDM artists, singer-songwriters and rock and heavy metal bands. The theater also hosts a number of special events, including Dead Man’s Carnival, a group of circus-inspired performers.

Up & Under Pub

1216 E. Brady St., (414) 276-2677

Brady Street mainstay Up & Under Pub showcases a wide variety of music by local blues and reggae musicians, rock bands and more. Up & Under hosts an Open Mic night every Monday, and Karaoke Night every Wednesday. The bar’s atmosphere is casual and sporty, with large TVs and neon Schlitz signs.

Walker’s Point Music Hall

538 W. National Ave., (414) 573-0614

This DIY space with a chill warehouse vibe opened in November 2018, with a focus on supporting local artists and musicians in Milwaukee. Point Hall presents all genres of live music, open mic nights and game nights and donates a percentage of its proceeds to a different community cause each month.