Vivarium is alive and thriving on Milwaukee's East Side. After a week of excitement featuring performances by Molly Grace, Wave Chapelle, The Wonderlands, Adorner and many more, the Pabst Theater Group's latest project has taken root to the glee of music lovers across the city.

Turning a new leaf from the recently closed Back Room @ Colectivo, the space is more than double the size of its homey precursor. Yet, for its expanded 450-fan capacity, the concert hall feels very much a natural progression from the local favorite. The greenery, the skylights revealing the night sky and the incomparable energy of live music all make the venue feel like the next step in the evolution of the Pabst Theater Group's most recent venture.

Molly Grace

Every detail has a thoughtful design featuring Milwaukee and Wisconsin-made fixtures. From the custom lighting fixtures proudly emblazoned with the Vivarium's "V" logo to the sound and lighting rigs, the wood paneling on one wall, to the exposed Cream City brick on the other, the venue feels like a natural addition to the neighborhood.

It was designed as a developmental venue for up-and-coming artists, and incubator where the stars of tomorrow establish themselves in Milwaukee. Small venues like Vivarium are "where fans discover artists," said Gary Witt, CEO of the Pabst Theater Group, "and, even more importantly, it's where artists discover Milwaukee."

As a founding member of the National Independent Venues Association (NIVA), Pabst Theater Group specializes in a range of historic independent venues. The latest addition to its stable of venues closes the gap between smaller independent venues such as Shank Hall, just blocks away, and the Cactus Club in Bayview and the midsize concert halls such as Turner Hall Ballroom. Pabst Theater Group fosters an ecosystem, offering spaces for artists as they grow from up-and-comers to main stage headliners.

Wave Chapelle

The first week of performances perfectly encapsulates the vision for the new space. With a first-look show on Tuesday, February 20, local groups Radontae Ashford, aka Wave Chapelle, a hip-hop/rap artist accompanied by live instrumentation, and Adorner, a psychedelic pop-rock group, took to the stage. Playing their music for a group gathered to witness the beginning of a new era of music in Milwaukee, the wonderful juxtaposition of genres suited this new vision, exposing the crowd to new music.

An energetic and optimistic first look at what's to come in the venue, "This is what it's all about," announced a beaming Wave Chapelle, between songs at the energetic opening. Looking out at the crowd, lifelong Milwaukeean Ashford said proudly, "Don't let anyone tell you Milwaukee ain't great."

The first ticketed show in Vivarium also happened to be the first stop on Molly Grace's first headlining tour of her career. A promising pop artist based in Nashville, Grace's performance was a family affair, drawing family members from across the country to Milwaukee to witness this landmark occasion.

Nashville band The Wonderlands

Opened by another Nashville-based rock group, The Wonderlands, the show proved to be the band's first trip to Milwaukee. "I don't know what the rest of Milwaukee and Wisconsin is like," frontman Miles Jena mused towards the end of the group's set, "but this is a beautiful spot right here."

Vivarium, the "place of life," has taken root on the East Side. With an already-loaded slate of shows, get your tickets to discover your next favorite band today.

Pay homage to Vivarium's Prospect Avenue predecessor with our Requiem for The Back Room @ Colectivo.

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