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I haven't been to every live music club in town... but I'm working on it. :o) I've been to quite a few, from the tiny Quarters on Center Street to the ever-enduring club known as Shank Hall (formerly Teddy's... back in the 80's.) I really do miss the clubs from the 80s sometimes - Century Hall, The Palms, Stone Toad, Unicorn, Zak's, etc... with local bands Colour Radio, those X-Cleavers, Kafka, Take Me, the Johnnies, Kojo, Couch Flambeau, The Two Felipes... (I'd have to dig up my poster collections to drudge up more names...) I know many of those musicians are still around. (Couch Flambeau recently played the Cactus Club, I believe, and members of those X-Cleavers in 19 t-shirts...)

But hey! I can move on... out of the 80s, even the 90s, and love and appreciate what's going on musically now (see "music"). And I think my wardrobe has possibly improved since then (who's paying attention?) - I haven't ripped a neckline off of a sweatshirt in over a decade (of course, I don't wear sweatshirts anymore)!!

This will go beyond music clubs. I can't do a site and not at least mention At Random or Bryant's.... but music will be the main focus. So... where to start?? Size? Area? Nah... I've got to start with my favorites.

Linneman's - Locust Street, Riverwest

The first time I was in Linneman's was in, I think, December 1999, to meet a blind date, who was the featured artist for the acoustic open stage on Wednesday night. (PBoy - if you ever read this, I am ETERNALLY grateful for you introducing me to this place...) Outside, it was dark, and maybe a less adventurous spirit would have not gone in. But for me, it was an immediate fit - a perfect little place for live music!! An angled, raised stage with the bar off it... Unpretentious (as is much of Riverwest) and friendly. The first night I was there, hanging from the ceiling were maybe 100 silver glittery stars, which apparently a band from a previous evening had put up, and they decided to keep them up. (They're still there today!) There is original artwork on the walls, and you'll find some pretty cool Woodstock memorabilia in the back room, along with an excellent jukebox and a pool table. This is, by far, my favorite place. Jim Linneman, the owner, is a true lover of all things music, and this IS his baby - along with wife, Marty. Small as it is, Linneman's has a great reputation - must have to get the likes of Bodean's Sammy Llanas to want to play there on his birthday, when he could easily draw a crowd at a larger club. I've been in there when there were barely 15 people in the place to see the great talents of Melanie Jane and the Danglers, and when it was so crowded there was barely room to breathe - like Sammy. But my favorite time to go is Wednesday night, for the acoustic open stage. Musicians of all types and talents sign up to play 3 songs or 15 minutes at a shot, have an opportunity to have their performance recorded, and they get exposure to a rather intimate crowd of fellow musicians and a smattering of others like myself, just there to listen and hopefully discover. The "featured performer(s)" get ½ hour and their name on the calendar and the web page. :o) not a bad deal!! It's inspiring to see the seasoned musician who hasn't played in a while getting back up on the stage just to play for someone, but nothing is cooler than watching a musician / singer / songwriter sitting who's never been on stage before sitting nervously, alone (don't want to make a fool of yourself in front of friends!), waiting for his/her turn, anxiously sipping a beer... and then getting on stage and shining!! They come off the stage with a confident smirk on their face to hear "great job" from those who weren't too busy chatting to listen.

Shank Hall - Farwell Avenue

I've always loved this place. I don't remember even having a bad experience at this club in the 18 years I've been going there. (yikes. I'm old) Okay, there was that time last year at Frank Black and the Catholics, where I was basically too short to see through the crowd and ... well... even that was a pretty good night!! I've seen so many bands at Shank (formerly Teddy's, and I believe there was another name in between), I couldn't begin to think back on all of them!! Remodeled and roomier since the 80's, this is that nice middle-ground between smaller clubs and the Rave. The bar is at the back by the entrance, complete with a wonderful fireplace. Depending on the show, there are plenty of tables, and a lot of standing room. On the left side wall, there's a ledge where you can rest your drinks in lieu of a table. (I actually prefer this, as I can never sit still and "chair dancing" doesn't cut it.) And on both the north and south walls are hundreds of autographed photos of artists who have played there; you'll probably see one or two and say "Awww MAN!! When did they play here?!?! I can't believe I missed that!!" My wish is to once again visit the "back stage" and see if it's how I remember it back in "the day."  :-)  OH - and if you know where the name "Shank Hall" comes from (and no, it's not Mike Shank), brownie point are awarded to you!

Up & Under Pub - Brady Street

One of the more established places in town, and a nice haven on Brady. U&U is Milwaukee's self-proclaimed (I think) home for the blues. I really love this club/pub. Every time I go to U&U, I have an experience that I could write about... either musically, or just in my interaction with someone I've met. Maybe that's why I like it so much. :-)  It's got a raised nice stage with room to see bands from both front and back, if you don't mind peeking around some amps and railing. You can play pool if you want and still see the back of the stage and hear the music. It lends itself to some rather TIGHT dancing if you're so inclined. Great place to hear great music... and when the live music isn't on, it's a nice place to sit and have a drink or 3. As home of the blues, they should stick to playing the blues on the CD player, though, and not cave to the wants of the college crowd. :-) They've got the whole gamut of blues artists, from Muddy Waters to Susan Tedeschi. They have pretty great bartenders too.

Franks Power Plant
S. Kinnickinnic, Bayview

This place feels so much like the south side I imagine my mother grew up in (she was raised in South Milwaukee). Very working class, basic... bar on one side, bands on the other, with folding chairs and tables set up... Saw the Rust Belt Boys, a Milwaukee Rockabilly trio, there... It was a great venue for that kind of band. Wonderful "retro" feel without trying to BE retro... you know?? Would be interesting to see a different genre of music there.

Y-Not II - Lyon Street

Neighborhood bar next to the Soap Opera (?) laundromat, I always thought I'd hang here if I ever lived in the area, and have a few drinks while doing my laundry. A small carpeted stage is nuzzled in the back, this is kind of a nice, intimate place to catch a band. You can sit on the side of the stage and listen to the band up close, play some pool right on the other side, or sit at the "other" end of the bar by the front door if you're not interested in the music. There is also an area that is off to the west side of the bar, which is where it "wraps" around the laundromat (if you've ever driven by, you'll know what I mean). A mish/mosh of styles, Y-Not II cannot be pigeonholed. It has large, bright neon drink lights on the wall (martini, etc...), and a purple florescent lighted "ledge" with bar stools on the west wall that feels very much like a dance club. But it is far from it!! YNII has a nice old, long, wood bar, old band posters on part of the ceiling, and vinyl seats that are moments away from being repaired with duct tape. The jukebox has a pretty cool mix of everything from the Pixies, to Tom Waits, Billy Holiday to Sade, as well as local artists and "special occasion" songs. . .

Reed Street Station
2nd Street, Walker's Point

If you want to see a band and they're playing at Reed Street - GO. I say that only because I think it's a really great little club, on 2nd Street in Walker's Point, just north a few blocks from the Hub of 2nd & National. I was really sad when this place closed under it's previous name, The Filter Inn, and I'm hoping Reed Street stays around. It's a really charming, smaller club with great "cream city brick," a nice bar, a small raised stage... Decor has a bit of a biker feel to it, but it's not overwhelming. It's got a really great "feel" and there's no reason why it shouldn't succeed!!  They're getting some more well known local bands lately, so hopefully people are going and they'll stay around!!!

Thai Joe's - Prospect Avenue

There's no sign from the outside, but don't worry - you can be confident when you walk under the Bangkok Orchid awning and in the door you'll see Thai Joe's downstairs... "underground."  Very cool spot, and really cool club. (Mr. Fen - you were right... there's no place like it in town...) This was a lot bigger than I thought. First impression was "wow." Beautiful and colorful butterfly kites were suspended from a black ceiling. Large bar, with two "sides" to it - one on the side where the music was playing, and if you wanted a little less crowd and perhaps a quieter moment you could sit on the other side, which is painted with bright colors, and has ample tables and elbow room. The stage is a slightly raised large square area in the north west corner. No tables near the stage - there were some against a mirrored west wall, and quite a few tucked in the east corner which had a wall painted with sky/clouds, but still seemed quite dark. (I'm not sure if the table thing was the venue I went to or a common thing). The floor in front of the stage was vast and wood - prime for dancing.

For the most part, Thai Joe's is pretty cool (the underground and black made me long for the Unicorn)!! However, I think I really need to stop in again, perhaps for a different type of venue, as the clientele and overall "vibe" the night I went was one I can't say had a positive impact on me at all.

The Rave - 27th & Wisconsin

The Rave actually has several venues (4) within this incredible building. Check out their site. I'm up to 3 now!! 

The Rave Bar, is basically that. A nice, big, dark bar, with what looks like entangled vines with hot pink colored Christmas lights on them hanging from the ceiling illuminating the more open areas. Tile flooring, a low but good sized unfinished wood stage. The stage viewing area wraps around the stage (in a kind of backward L shape), which can make for a limited view if there is a crowd and you're sitting on the side, but still a good view in an intimate and friendly setting. And the side view gets chairs. Front view sits on the tile floor in front or stands in the back. You can sit on the stools at corner of the bar off to the side, but there's a chance someone will stand in front of you. Toward the back of the Rave Bar, there appears to be large windows looking outside, but upon closer examination, they look out to the side stage and floor of the Ballroom!! It would be very cool to watch a bigger show from the smaller bar area!!  Their jukebox is really cool as well!  

The Rave Basement is in... well... the basement - what a great place! Underground, dark, and very spacious, illuminated glass bricks with various bric-a-brac on and among them, light the side walls. There are long colorful bubble lamps throughout which were very cool in the mostly black room. Large bar areas, and in the center of the room is a large wooden dance floor that - if there was ever room at a show - would be amazing to just let loose on!!

The Rave Ballroom, formerly the Eagles Club ballroom, is still a pretty cool place to go. Black walls with red trim and accents, high ceiling, the upstairs wraps on the sides and back, the floor has a spacious area to stand in a crowd, and I seem to remember the stage being a little less "open" but a little more raised, :-). Would still like to see it up a little, but I think I had a pretty decent view considering I was toward the back and I'm a mere 5'3". There's always the opportunity to be up front and personal if you get there early enough. Always cool!!

Downfall of this place?  Those like myself who are vertically challenged, get to the show early, or be sure to strategically place yourself between or in front of tall people, or be prepared to defend your right to see the stage!! Drink prices. $5.00 a cup for a large plastic cup of *blech* Miller Genuine Draft or Miller Lite beer, $3.00 for the same size soda. My suggestion - drink before you get there, don't worry about drinking anything, or if you're truly wealthy and can afford to get truly liquored up at the Rave, e-mail me!! We'll talk! :o) However, in the Rave's defense, the Rave offers free passes for certain shows and the "catch" is a 2 drink minimum (much like comedy clubs do). Not "no-name" acts either. Saw Vertical Horizon with a pass - $12 w/ 2 drink tickets. What a deal!! ;-) And for the "less than mellow" shows, allow an extra 3-5 minutes to get through security. You'll be "patted down" (whoo hoo!), scanned with a handheld metal detector (ala Spinal Tap!), and if you have a bag/purse, its contents will be examined with a flashlight. But it's cool. At least you feel secure!

G-Daddy's BBC - Farwell & North

You've heard "it's a thin line between love and hate."  That's the BBC. The thin line being the stairway that leads from the downstairs (a large, television infested sports bar filled with GAP and Abercrombie collegiate types, pool tables and baseball hats - a.k.a. my personal hell) to the heaven upstairs! Don't arrive early for a show. Wait until the doors open (good luck finding the door in that crowd!!), so you can climb the steep stairs to the place where there is just one TV!!  There's a relatively small bar in the back, stage in the front, and stools and tables filling the long somewhat narrow gap between them. It's slightly dark, with carpeted cream city brick walls, stucco ceilings, and windows that look out to the the corner of Farwell & North... the windows catch and bring in a sparkle of light from the busy intersection, which is something you just don't get at a ground-level club. The acoustics are good, the stage is fairly large. Definitely worth wading through the sheep to go see some good music! :-) 

The Globe - Farwell & North

I'll confess. I don't' like this place. At all. Been there twice now, and always have kind of a bad "vibe" there. Not a bad time, mind you - in fact that last time was pretty cool. But it's just a really uncomfortable setup for my taste (one other person I know concurred). The stage is decent, but there's limited seating, and the bar takes up a huge amount of space on the right side of the club from the back toward the front, so you basically stand around the left side of the bar... There's a little "loft" in the back where you can watch from up high... which is always cool... there's a little room up front... but, I would never go to this place unless it was for a band I really wanted to see.

Lakefront Brewery

What a beautiful place!! Primarily, this is a brewery, so they have a really cool selection of unusual beers (I had pumpkin). I've was there for the WMSE Halloween Show. It's a really large, restored building, with beautiful cream city brick, and (if I remember correctly) hard wood floors. It had a really great "dance hall" feel to it. I'm not sure if they have live venues often. Might help to check out their site. I'll have to go there again on a better night. (don't ask)

Quarters - Center Street

This place is really small & basic, but kind of interesting. Wooden flooring, a multileveled seating area coming off the "dance floor" (if that is a proper term for it ) - basically, it's an area of wooden floor in front of the stage without tables or chairs occupying it. There's a small raised stage well suited for the band I caught the last time I was there. A nice bar on the side... Simple, basic, no frills. (notice the sign!)

Sande's National Pastime
Near the baseball stadium!

Small and unassuming, this is a great little place to hear blues. My friend and I won tickets for a show just after Halloween, and saw Dr. Hector and the Groove Injectors. There were about 15 people in the place, a sad showing I thought, but it was a little pricey... The band was really great, though, and in such a small place, it's really conducive to interacting with the band, and chatting with them after the show. We had a great time. Again, like Linneman's, you know this place is a labor of love for the music. A really friendly place to hang out. I'll get there again - some day.

Place to have deep, or not-so-deep
chats over drinks...

Sadly, I won't be going to most of these places for at least a long while. . . but they deserve a mention!

At Random & The White House

Check out this link!! Guide to great places in Bay View!! (some I've covered before finding this link!!) These are 2 of my favorites, especially At Random. I'm not going to say anymore.

Bryant's - on Lapham

At Random's less pricey and less "decorated" brother. :-)

Von Trier - Farwell and North

I've never been in there. Trust me. But I've heard it's cool.


Around the corner from Quarters off of Center Street. Dark on the outside. Tries to be "dark" on the inside.

Hi-Hat - Brady Street

Hip and trendy place to grab a bite to eat, and have a nice drink. Very current "loungy" feel, dark and romantic lighting, nice music

Home | Me | Clubs | Music | Eats | Stores | Misce
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