Despite its blue-collar reputation as a beer-and-sports-and-steel town, Pittsburgh has a rich and diverse arts and music scene, ranging from highbrow theater and art spaces to punk rock clubs and beyond. For those of you looking to get a taste of what the ‘burgh has to offer in the way of culture, here’s a quick rundown of what’s available and (reasonably) convenient.
After a decade-or-so dry spell at the end of the last millennium, there is suddenly a plethora of music venues to choose from, from larger venues pulling in huge national tours to smaller spaces hosting any number of local acts – and that’s just the popular music end of the spectrum. Let’s start big with Stage AE and Consol Energy Center, our two biggest concert spaces (excluding outdoor spots like Heinz Field and First Niagara Pavilion, which probably won’t be hosting anything in the middle of October). Stage AE opened a few years ago and quickly gained a reputation for being a top notch place to see a variety of big names making the rounds through town. Located between Heinz Field and PNC Park on the North Shore, it’s just a quick (and free!) ride on the T away from the Marriott City Center. Consol, meanwhile, is even closer, as in directly across the street from the hotel. More all-purpose than Stage AE (and home to our hockey team, the Penguins), Consol regularly features the very biggest tours as well as traveling productions and special events. Check the calendar in advance and see if anything sparks your interest.
Mid-size venues have really made a comeback in recent years. While Mr. Smalls in Millvale may be challenging for conference attendees to reach, Altar Bar in the Strip District, the Rex Theater and Club Cafe in the South Side, and Brillobox in Bloomfield are all within a bus ride and a walk from Downtown and regularly feature national artists. Smaller venues like Cattivo, the Thunderbird Café, Hambones, and Spirit Lodge (Lawrenceville), The Smiling Moose (South Side), The Shop, Howlers, Bloomfield Bridge Tavern, and Mr. Roboto Project (Bloomfield), Gooski’s and the Rock Room (Polish Hill), and the 31st St. Pub (Strip District) regularly host up-and-coming touring acts and promising local bands – though the focus is often on punk and metal acts.
If you’re looking for something outside of the popular music setting, Pittsburgh has got you covered. While our jazz bonafides are confirmed, see for yourself at The James Street Gastropub, Andy’s Wine Bar, or Little E’s. That there’s still not a great jazz or blues joint in the Hill District is a historic travesty that will hopefully be rectified someday soon. Heck, we’ve even got an Opera and a world-class Symphony.
Finally, we also have a handful of night clubs if you’d like to dance the night away, conveniently grouped together in three neighborhoods. In the Strip District you’ll find Static, Club Zoo, Xtaza, and Cavo; Buckhead Saloon in Station Square; and Diesel, Jimmy D’s, and Skybar in the South Side.
A final aside: for a visiting music lover and especially for anyone who collects vinyl, you may just find your mecca in Squirrel Hill. Jerry’s Records is a Pittsburgh institution and world-renowned treasure trove of thousands upon thousands of records, spanning the entirety of recorded music. It is a destination spot for a certain kind of music lover, so make sure you make it to Jerry’s, and make sure you give yourself plenty of time to explore.