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Saturday, May 28, 2022

Start your semester in a local music venue

Dear freshmen, transfer students and classmates who never had the chance to explore Madison’s music scene: Welcome to Madison, a city known not only for its top-notch university, but also dozens of amazing concert venues. 

Growing up outside Chicago, I didn’t think Madison’s music scene stood a chance against a major city that’s home to major performers ranging from the Styx to Chance the Rapper. For once, I was glad I was wrong. If you’re willing to take a step out of your comfort zone and a few steps off campus, you’ll see there are opportunities to experience live music in Madison nearly every night (and no, that doesn’t count that annoying guy on your floor who brags about playing “Wonderwall” on his guitar.)

WUD Music: So if you don’t want to take any steps off campus to go to a concert, check out the Wisconsin Union Directorate’s calendar. The Sett at Union South is the mothership of WUD concerts, at least while the Rathskeller at Memorial Union is under construction. It holds around 500 people, to a large student demographic and offers free tickets to students. 

Members of the WUD Music Committee communicate with music agents to book a variety of musicians, including touring acts like Vince Staples and student bands. A short walk down State Street offers an even bigger selection of music. 

State Street/Capitol Square Area Venues: The newly installed Orpheum Theater sign can guide you to the venue like an urban lighthouse dropped right on campus. It’s one of the oldest theaters in the city built in 1926, but after a total renovation it now houses a mix of concerts and comedy shows. 

By the time you hit the Capitol, you can find a concert venue on almost every block. The Majestic Theatre in Madison features a set up great for both die-hard moshers and chill concert goers who sit at tables in the back. In the past, the Majestic offered a large variety of genres, such as EDM artists like Robert DeLong and Minneapolis hip-hop artist Lizzo. Throughout the summer the Live on King Street concert series draws in thousands of college and community members for free shows. The venue also hosts Brew ‘n View, featuring classic films like “Rocky Horror Picture Show.” 

Around the corner from the Majestic is the Frequency, that hosts local, national and international acts seven nights a week (and serves up Emil’s pizza.) The Frequency partners up with the Majestic to bring high-quality music to Madison. 

Eastside Venues: OK, I get it. Why would you want to bus across town during an impossibly cold Wisconsin winter night to go to a concert? I bet that frat guy’s rendition of “Wonderwall” is sounding a lot better right about now. But to get the full experience of the Madison music scene, it’s worth the trip. The Brink Lounge and High Noon Saloon are located in the same building on East Washington. High Noon’s rustic music hall offers not only a large bar, but a stage that supports local musicians. 

If you keep heading east up the isthmus, you’ll eventually run into the Barrymore Theatre, which draws in national musicians and comedians alike. 

Now I completely understand the first-day-of-school “I’m going to get straight A’s and make the Dean’s List” optimism that might make you hesitate spending time walking around the city going to concert after concert. But if you want to cling onto that last glimpse of summer, then I’d encourage you to venture out this semester. Grab some friends and head over to the amazing concert venues just down the block. With cheap-to-nonexistent ticket prices, you might as well blow off some steam and learn about new artists.

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