I’m always on the hunt for live music when I visit a new city. Not only is it affordable entertainment, but a free show is a great place to meet locals and learn what makes a community unique. I’ve hunted out some great places nearby the HI Madison hostel to see FREE live music this summer, but there’s always more to add to the list, so keep your ear to the ground as you walk our city streets!
1. Live on King Street
Visit Madison in summer and you might think we’re all a bit crazy about our love for restaurant patios, farmer’s market flowers, and of course, outdoor music. After months of a cold winter, we earned this right to excessively celebrate the sunshine! Majestic Madison gets us, and for years now they have been producing the Live on King Street series. This year, Ra Ra Riot is among the 2016 lineup of several impressive national acts. These free shows take place literally steps away from HI Madison, so head out for the free concert, and enjoy King Street flooded with people, food, drinks, and music.
What could be better after running a 10k than a brat and beer? Water maybe, but this is Wisconsin! Even if you’re not running your buns through the city this Memorial Day, head over to BratFest for free music all weekend across three stages. A quick bus ride from the hostel, in addition to live music, BratFest features a carnival, volleyball tournament, and brat tents for days.
3. Local shows
Outside of the popular places like the MMOCA and Orpheum Theater, Madison has a thriving local arts and music scene. I’ve been lucky enough to catch some amazing performances at unexpected places like converted software studios and co-working spaces, or gallery nights at local museums.
Even better, Open Mics here are (almost) as popular as bar trivia, and you can find one almost any night of the week!
Oh, and Gomeroke. Never forget Gomeroke.
4. Concerts on the Square
This concert series is the opposite of underground. In fact, it’s literally on the ground, on the beautiful capitol lawns. Join us for a hostel outing to these concerts this summer when we pack up some blankets and a picnic basket, and walk over to the capitol square to squeeze in with the masses of Wisconsinites that come out for summer.
5. Concerts on the Rooftop
When you get to Madison, you’re bound to mix up Lake Monona and Lake Mendota, but it’s less likely that you’ll mix up the terraces. You probably won’t miss the iconic Memorial Union, with the pier and those awesome chairs you’ve been seeing all over Google when you searched “Madison things to do” while planning your trip. You can definitely catch some great live music here (along with an epic Instagram pic), but take a minute to slow your roll and enjoy free Concerts on the Rooftop at Monona Terrace. A few blocks from the hostel on the South side of the capitol, the center was designed by our homeboy Frank Lloyd Wright, and provides gorgeous panoramic views of the lake as well as downtown. Relax, and enjoy local music and a local brew on a warm summer night amidst the rooftop gardens.
See full lineup.
Looking for more awesome music in Madison? Ian’s Pizza has even more recommends!
- Emily Blankenship, HI Madison