38 places to catch live music in Madison
Barrymore Theatre Barrymore Theatre More Madison Magazine
Over the past few years, a plethora of new music venues have opened in Madison to the delight of local music makers and fans. The expanding scene is tapping a creative vein. According to the Madison Booking Bible — an online spreadsheet maintained by Ty Christian, the lead singer of Lords of the Trident, Madison Area Music Association board member and an occasional booker of bands — there are 570-some Madison musicians and bands and 40-odd venues in the city to host them. For Madison music lovers with wildly diverse tastes, there’s a venue for seemingly everyone.
Listed here are the newest spots on the Madison music scene.
Art In at 1444 E. Washington Ave., is a small venue (capacity about 50 people). It includes an art gallery, pinball machine arcade and show room, all of which is intended to be LGBTQ friendly and an inclusive safe space. The adjacent bar, The Parched Eagle, leases space from the Art In owners. Art In has hosted many genres of live music, including hip-hop, since opening in 2015.
Arts + Literature Laboratory
For the past four years, the nonprofit Arts + Literature Laboratory has operated a combined exhibit and performance space at 2021 Winnebago St. Jazz, folk and chamber musicians have found a home there. But ALL could soon be occupying a much bigger and newer space. In September, the Madison City Council agreed to lease to ALL a space next to the South Livingston Street parking garage and loan the organization $500,000 to pay for building improvements. The new digs would accommodate a larger music stage and art gallery. Stay tuned.
Where the small, dark and much-loved rock club The Frequency once stood at 121 W. Main St., is now BarleyPop Live. More than that has changed. The front room is brightly lit, the bar — with 50 craft beer taps — is significantly longer and the stage in the back room is now partly taken up by pinball machines. Since BarleyPop Live opened in April, it has hosted a variety of live local music acts. Since the club can accommodate fewer than 200 people in the back room, the space still favors up-and-coming musicians.
Communication, a nonprofit which opened in the Darbo-Worthington neighborhood in July 2018, champions local artists early in their development. The venue includes an art studio, retail store and performance space (no alcohol served or allowed) that is especially welcoming to experimental and innovative artists of all ages. This has put the former Milwaukee Street warehouse on the radar of music fans on the lookout for exciting and boundary-pushing shows.
The nightclub Crucible opened on Madison’s east side on Jan. 1, 2019, and quickly established itself as a home for burlesque, drag shows and electronic music. The venue has one of the largest stages among the independently owned and operated venues in town.
Hamel Music Center
In late October, after years of planning and delays, the Hamel Music Center finally opened its doors next to the Chazen Museum of Art. A facility of the University of Wisconsin–Madison Mead Witter School of Music, the venue will primarily meet the needs of student musicians for performance and practice space. Groups not affiliated with the school may get to play there, too.
Madison Youth Arts Center
Construction of the Madison Youth Arts Center, a well-funded space for arts organizations to engage young people, is underway on East Mifflin Street. The four-story building — with $20 million from Pleasant Rowland and $500,000 each from the Madison Community Foundation and Evjue Foundation — will house Madison Youth Choirs, the Children’s Theater of Madison and other grassroots arts groups. The center is expected to open in the fall of 2020.
Since opening in early 2018, The Sylvee has exposed the city to a plethora of nationally known artists — Bon Iver, Kacey Musgraves and Greta Van Fleet among them. More than 28 shows at the new venue, which holds 2,500 people (most of which are standing room spots), have sold out.
When it first opened in February 2018, The Winnebago functioned exclusively as a cafe. But within a few months, the space had become a restaurant and small-scale music venue catering to indie, funk, jazz, soul and more. The Winnebago recently announce it will be renamed in January 2020.
Yahara Bay Distillers
By 2016, Yahara Bay Distillers had outgrown its original location in Fitchburg and moved into a 20,000-square-foot facility on Nesbitt Road previously occupied by a yoga and Pilates studio. The new location for the distillery and tasting room included a large room for events. Yahara Bay now hosts live music every Friday night.
Madison’s Mainstay Venues
Alliant Energy Center The Annex @ The Red Zone Barrymore Theatre / Bos Meadery Breese Stevens Field The Brink Lounge Brix 340 Cafe CODA Crescendo Espresso Bar + Music Cafe The Crystal Corner Bar The Edgewater’s Grand Plaza Essen Haus and Come Back In Harmony Bar & Grill High Noon Saloon The Ivory Room Piano Bar Kohl Center Liquid Memorial Union Terrace and Der Rathskeller Majestic Theatre Monona Terrace Mills Hall North Street Cabaret Orpheum Theater Overture Center for the Arts Prism Red Rock Saloon The Sett @ Union South Tip Top Tavern The Wisco