Milwaukee Music Scene over the Decades

Milwaukee Music Scene over the Decades

Like a nice whiskey, the Milwaukee music scene continues to improve with age. Milwaukee has a long history with burgeoning musicians, some of whom went on to garner significant levels of acclaim and celebrity. Though important musical acts of Milwaukee emerged well before this time, the scene saw a serious upswing in the 1980s. And things have only continued to get better over the ensuing decades.

1980s Punk

As to be expected when looking back on the past through the lens of the present, it’s sometimes easy to spot patterns and themes. One of the themes of 1980s music scenes across the United States was a special brand of punk rock. Milwaukee made major contributions to the scene, both locally and on a grand scale.

The most striking example of Milwaukee’s 1980s punk scene is the Violent Femmes. Their status as punk cult icons stands to this day, and they emerged from right here in Milwaukee.

1990s Alternative Rock and Metal

Music is a fluid thing, and Milwaukee is no exception. So while punk continued on well beyond the 1980s as one of the constant threads of important genres, Milwaukee’s music scene of the 1990s transitioned to one of more alternative-rock and metal.

Wisconsin as a whole saw a huge surge in hard rock and heavy metal, beginning in the 1990s and continuing today. This was part of a fairly broad trend that saw a mass transition from punk to metal.

2000s and Beyond

Milwaukee continues to have a significant rock and metal scene that has endured well beyond the 90s. But music genres have shifted and blended into something of a melting pot of music on the local and national scenes. Punk, metal, alternative rock, hard rock, emo, indie, electronica, R&B, etc. all have a place on the scene. Scarcely a night goes by when there aren’t live bands playing at some of the dozens of varied venues sprinkled across the city, and there is usually something for any musical preference. As for the weekends? They are absolutely packed with live events; it’s a matter of trying to figure out what you want to see. Locals regularly miss out on performances because they can’t go to all of them in one night.

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