Nightlife Guide: Best Milwaukee Music Venues

Sit back and let the dulcet tones overtake you. Or get up and bust a move! Here are some of the best places in Milwaukee to catch a live show on any given weekend.

Best EDM

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This newly opened Third Ward nightclub (formerly Oak Lounge) has already become the city’s best destination to shake your tailfeather to some electronica, hosting notable DJs like electronic duo Zeds Dead, Rhymesayers collaborator DJ Abilities and house producer Shaun Frank. The club’s lax dress code promotes acceptance and a diverse clientele – though the club skews on the younger side. Open 9 p.m.-close on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday.
231 E. Buffalo St.

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Milwaukee Nightlife Guide: 56 Things to Do After Dark


Best Rock

Cactus Club

Look no further than the adorned walls of this venerable music venue to ascertain the history that’s passed through its intimate room. Bands like Death Cab for Cutie, Spoon and White Stripes stopped at this Bay View dive before hitting it big. But the club rejects resting on its laurels. Instead, over the past year it’s bumped up its schedule to host more great rock shows during the workweek, too. 
2496 S. Wentworth Ave.

Best Place for Sitdown Tunes

The Back Room @ Colectivo Coffee

Tired of standing for hours at a show or navigating through crowds to find a decent sightline? Select a seat at one of the cafe tables of this East Side landmark, enjoy a caffeinated concoction or a cocktail, and see national touring acts without the pain of sore calf muscles. 
2211 N. Prospect Ave.

Best Spot to Headbang

Frank’s Power Plant

Bring the earplugs to this Kinnickinnic Avenue bar because the decibels can test human-pain-threshold levels. It’s the perfect spot to take out some aggression fueled by listening to a local, supremely sludgy heavy-metal band. 
2800 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.

Best Jazz

Photo by Landre Photography
The Jazz Estate

This swanky, recently renovated East Side establishment captures all the comforts of a trendy supper club – slight twists on classic cocktails, a dimly lit windowless room, dressed-up servers – but rather than relish trays and copious amounts of meat, live jazz music is dished out for sustenance.
2423 N. Murray Ave.

Best Local Talent

Linneman’s Riverwest Inn

Any local musician will share endless praise about owner Jim Linneman, as his tavern has been the launching point for countless area singer-songwriters. During the Wednesday open mics, you might just see another talent born. Or come on the weekend, to catch some scene veterans.
1001 E. Locust St.

Best Free Listen

Bremen Cafe

Gauge the pulse of the hip Riverwest neighborhood by taking in a show at this underrated spot for live music and comedy. With no cover charge and nightly drink specials, the experience likely won’t affect your wallet, unless you can’t unclench your fingers from the controls of one of the five pinball machines.
901 E. Clarke St.

Best Blues

Tonic Tavern

Find solace from the impending work week on the first Sunday of each month at this trendy Bay View establishment’s music alcove. 3rd Coast Blues provides an afternoon of sweet, blue-collar relief in the form of chugging guitars, wailing harmonicas and oh-so-steady rhythms. 
2335 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.

‘MKE After Dark’ appears in the February 2017 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

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