Musician Paul Cebar grew up in the blue-collar, working-class streets of Milwaukee, absorbing the sounds of R&B blasted from local radio stations.
After college, he moved to New Orleans, Louisiana, where the rich music and dance scene inspired him to bring that vitality back home. He returned to Milwaukee and began playing coffeehouses—and he still does today, leading the funky Americana group Tomorrow Sound.
Paul’s tour of Milwaukee inevitably includes the small rock club Shank Hall, which is best known for being featured in the film “This Is Spinal Tap.” A factory tour of the Pabst Brewery is popular with tourists, but Paul suggests also checking out the Pabst Theater, known to locals as “the Pabst,” which hosts about 100 events a year and is a landmark of Renaissance Revival architecture. Another worthy music venue, according to Paul: The Cactus Club. Located in Bay View, a neighborhood on the shores of Lake Michigan, the laid-back locale has an intimate listening room featuring home-grown and national indie acts. In the hip neighborhood of Riverwest, known as a breeding ground for artists and musicians, you’ll find Linneman’s, a cozy club with a turn-of-the-century charm and a weekly acoustic open stage known as an incubator of great local bands.
Over the decades, live music in Milwaukee has grown beyond marquee names and established venues into art galleries, brewpubs, and coffee shops. A great example is Colectivo Coffee, a hip chain where local and national acts perform regularly at its 300-capacity Back Room @ Colectivo. With locations in Bay View and Walker’s Point, Anodyne Coffee Roasting Company is a micro-roaster and retail cafe that hosts acoustic and electric sets, making it perfect for an intimate evening. And The Coffee House has been serving coffee and a night of homegrown music and poetry for more than 50 years.
Milwaukee is going through its largest building and renovation boom in four decades, evident in the rebirth of its historic waterways and venues. The RiverWalk is a continuous, two-mile pedestrian walkway along the Milwaukee River with access to some of the city’s best cafes and brewpubs. With an iconic Calatrava-designed art museum, a world-class symphony, one of the nation’s largest natural history museums and over 20 professional dance and theater companies, downtown Milwaukee is a magnet for arts aficionados. The historic Third Ward, formerly a warehouse district downtown, is Milwaukee’s arts and fashion district. That neighborhood's renaissance is anchored by many specialty shops, restaurants and art galleries, and is home to the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design.
Milwaukee hasn’t lost its blue-collar, brewing roots. But it is evolving to become a can’t-miss destination for music, food, art, and outdoor wandering. Old school meets stunning innovation in Milwaukee, a Midwestern city with renewed vitality and old-world character.