Arts and Culture

There's live music and movies every night of the week in Madison

So what are you doing tonight?

Celebrate Madison's beautiful summer weather by attending outdoor concerts and films. No matter the day of the week, there's free or low-cost entertainment to be had throughout the summer.


"Movie Monday" is every Monday over the summer at the Memorial Union Terrace. This summer, the theme is “15 Degrees of Samuel L. Jackson.” Inspired by the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” game, each film connects actors from film to film to the one and only Samuel L. Jackson. Some of the films include "The LEGO Movie," "22 Jump Street" and "Coach Carter." Free, 9-11 p.m., May 29-Sept. 4


Almost nothing is better than summer at Olbrich Botanical Gardens. While no incentive is really needed to enjoy these gardens, the Summer Concert Series is definitely a reason to visit. Each week camp out with lawn chairs and blankets while listening to a variety of music, including jazz, folk, blues and more. Make it even better by bringing a picnic basket or indulging in the brats, hot dogs and ice cream available at the gardens. $2 suggested donation, 7 p.m., June 20-Aug. 8


The Concerts on the Square remain one of the top things to attend in the area. The capitol lawn floods with people eager to hear the Madison Chamber Orchestra’s performances. Blankets start unrolling on the King Stree corner of the lawn at 3 p.m., so get there early to stake out the best spots. Free, 7 p.m., June 28-Aug. 2

From there head to the Memorial Union Terrace for Open Mic Night. Every week brings a new group of performers. From singing and instrumental performances to poetry readings and stand-up comedy, Open Mic Night helps everyone unwind on hump day. Free, 8-11 p.m., May 31- Aug. 30 


Look one direction and there is the shining Capitol dome. Glance the other way toward the waters of Lake Monona. The location of Concerts on the Rooftop could not be more ideal. The Monona Terrace and convention Center offers a space for mingling with friends and strangers while jamming out to great music. Enjoy local favorite bands like the LoveMonkeys and Madison County or theme nights such as The Boy Band Night and The Boogie Men costume dance party. Free ticket required for admission, 7-9 p.m., June 1-July 20

Take time for chill drinking and good bands during the Summer Patio Series at High Noon Saloon. Sit out in the sun and just enjoy the weather for a couple hours. Each week features different genres, so there is bound to be the perfect group for you. Show up early and enjoy happy hour specials before the concert. Free, 6-8 p.m., June 1-Sept. 28

Every other Thursday watch the sunset over Lake Monona and the Capitol Skyline from the East Side Club. The Sunset Music Series brings musicians from across the country and even one performer from Paris. Enjoy the lake as a backdrop while listening and eating from some of Madison’s favorite local food carts. $5 for adults, free under 16, 6-9 p.m., June 8-Aug. 24


Get away from busy downtown Madison and head to Wisconsin Brewing Company’s backyard in Verona. Each week, the bar there serves up a wide variety of Wisconsin Brewing Company beer and non-beer options during weekly live music. Brats and hot dogs from Miller and Sons are available for purchase with the proceeds benefiting local charity. Free, 6-9 p.m., May 26-Sept. 29 

During June, spend the night under the stars at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. The Rooftop Cinema series brings unique avant-garde and alternative films to Madison. This summer, the theme is “Dystopian Futures.” Break away from the traditional blockbuster films for one of the most unique experiences in Madison. Free for MMoCA members, $7 for non-members, 9:30 p.m., June 2-June 30

For the past 10 years, the Majestic has hosted Live on King Street on its doorstep. Top-notch, nationally touring artists perform for free on the streets of Madison. Performers this year include the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Shakey Graves and Against Me! Enjoy summer nights, live music and beer. The concerts are not every week, so make sure to check the calendar before heading down there. Free, 7 p.m., June 23-Sept. 29


Almost every single Saturday enjoy free music on the Memorial Union Terrace. Grab a pitcher (or two), a scoop of Babcock ice cream and a group of friends. Each week promises something new from a variety of local and national groups. Free, 9-11:55 p.m., May 27-Sept. 2


If looking for a calming Sunday, enjoy classical music courtesy of the Wisconsin Union Theater. Every other Sunday relax with some of Madison and the Midwest’s finest groups, such as Isthmus Brass, the Willy Street Chamber Players and Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society. The Summer Serenades series helps attendees ease into another manic Monday. Free, 5 p.m., June 18-Aug. 13

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