Cactus Club and some Milwaukee shows will now require masks, and proof of vaccination or negative COVID tests

Piet Levy
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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A few Milwaukee concerts, and a couple Milwaukee venues, are adding extra safety protocols with COVID-19 cases again on the rise in the United States. 

Indie-rock acts Japanese Breakfast, Bully and Valley Maker are now requiring people to wear masks at their shows, and to show proof of vaccination or of a negative PCR test taken within 48 hours before a show. 

That includes their upcoming Milwaukee concerts: Aug. 26 for Valley Maker at the Back Room at Colectivo Coffee; Aug. 30 for Bully at the Back Room; and Sept. 17 for Japanese Breakfast at Turner Hall Ballroom. 

They are the first concerts in Milwaukee to impose these requirements. Both the Back Room and Turner Hall are run by the Pabst Theater Group, which also operates the Riverside and Pabst theaters. 

Japanese Breakfast performs at the 2019 FORM Arcosanti music festival near Camp Verde, Arizona on May 10, 2019.

“As it stands currently, the Pabst Theater Group requests that customers comply with all CDC guidelines relating to masks,” a Pabst spokeswoman wrote to the Journal Sentinel. “Certain events, however, may have enhanced safety requirements relating to vaccinations, testing or masks based on artist requests, local guidelines or other outstanding conditions.” 

This week, Japanese Breakfast, the stage name for Michelle Zauner, wrote on social media she would implement new requirements for her tour due to rising COVID cases caused by the delta variant, and the Centers for Disease and Control's revised recommendations asking that everyone, even the vaccinated, wear masks indoors.

"We will be as transparent as possible about these shows and fight for this across the board," Zauner wrote on Facebook. "Please get vaccinated!" 

On Thursday, operators at the Cactus Club also announced on social media that they will be requiring performing artists and attendees to present proof of vaccination, beginning Monday. An indoor mask requirement was already in place at the Bay View club.

Masks are also required for the Cooperage, a policy implemented at the event venue beginning with a concert last Friday. 

"Let’s come together and make the easy choice to err on the side of caution 

to help stop the spread so we can keep these shows rolling!" the Cooperage staff wrote on Facebook.

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With vaccination rates rising, music venues across much of the country reopened this summer after closing down in March 2020 at the dawn of the pandemic, to mitigate the spread of COVID.

In Milwaukee, most venues have been following local safety guidelines, and have not required guests to wear masks or present proof of vaccination or a negative test.

Nearly no one was wearing a mask at Rauw Alejandro's sold-out show at the Eagles Ballroom at the Rave July 25, and most concertgoers went without masks for the Foo Fighters' concert at the American Family Insurance Amphitheater July 30, the first huge concert in the market since last year, with nearly 24,000 fans. 

But due to the delta variant, cases are again up across the country and in Wisconsin.

The seven-day moving average of cases is up 64.1% compared with the previous week — and up 480.1% from the pandemic's lowest point of new cases in the United States, recorded on June 19, according to the CDC. 

The seven-day average of cases in Wisconsin increased for the 23rd day on July 30, according to the state Department of Health Services, with hospitalizations reaching their highest point since May 27.

The rising cases have prompted indie-rock act Bright Eyes to postpone the indoor dates of their current tour, while country superstar Garth Brooks is holding off on putting tickets on sale for a planned stadium show in Seattle in September as his team reassesses whether they should proceed with touring plans due to rising COVID cases.

And some music venues around the country, including the famed First Avenue and its sister venues in Minneapolis, have begun requiring proof of vaccination or negative test results for all shows in recent days.

Contact Piet at (414) 223-5162 or Follow him on Twitter at @pietlevy or Facebook at

Piet also talks concerts, local music and more on "TAP'd In" with Evan Rytlewski. Hear it at 8 a.m. Thursdays on WYMS-FM (88.9), or wherever you get your podcasts.

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