Listening to live music at a dive bar can have its drawbacks, like not being able to hear your friend's band, or more importantly, not being able to hear if your friend's band sucks. Doing something about it is Cole's (2338 N. Milwaukee Ave).
Opened by a Chi native who's bounced around with various bands for the past decade (The Splendid Ape's his latest), Cole's aims to create that unassuming dive bar experience -- mismatched vinyl chairs and old barstools, stark green/white walls and dim lighting -- without assuming that you wouldn't like to know if the band is lame before you start in on the drummer's ironic 'stache.
To beef up the sound quality, the blue lit intimate backroom stage is backed with a theater curtain, outfitted with quality stage monitors; they eschewed overmiking every corner as the venue's cozy size doesn't really call for it, so you won't pick up annoying background noise during the week's acoustic/jazz/folk/comedy acts (the likely suspects during the week), or the more rock heavy shows they're booking on weekends (though as Loverboy will tell you, everybody's workin' for them).
Enhancing the listening experience is a quartet of draft beers ($3 pints of Leinie's along with Bell's Oberon, New Holland Mad Hatter IPA, and Goose Island Matilda) and a selection of 30 bottles (they'll eventually winnow it down to around 15) from $2 PBR to $8 Delerium Tremens, which actually sent you to the chill out tent at your last concert.
They're soft-opening Friday and really blowing things out next weekend during the Milwaukee Arts Fest with a full line-up bluegrass, rockabilly, DJs, electro-folk, and also a not-for-the-kids interactive art exhibition called The Black Market, where your friend should consider moving a kidney, seeing as Splendid Badger ain't gonna pay the rent.
Read more at Thrillist.