Where the Pittsburgh music scene is...
It was about one year ago today when I found myself more ticked off than I had been in quite some time. Like many, I had just moved to Pittsburgh to start my budding career as a first-year at Carnegie Mellon. Move-in was sweaty, orientation was a whirlwind, and the meals in Baker Tent were spotty. Despite all the rush of being away from home, there was still one thing getting to me: Where were the concerts? The answer took some time to find, but, believe it or not, the city of Pittsburgh has some great places to see music. Here are three standout venues you must visit while you’re here.
Mr. Small’s Theatre
Who knew that Pittsburgh’s hottest music spot would actually be an old church? Mr. Small’s fits around 650 at capacity, creating a great opportunity to see your favorite bands up close. Because of its small size and sexy hardwood floors, Mr. Small’s also has great acoustics. It is the stopping point not only for alternative and “indie” rock groups but also hip-hop, jazz, and jambands, too. Audiences at concerts represent an amusing amalgam of hipsters and hippies, jocks and punks. This past year saw performances by They Might Be Giants, Keller Williams, Ghostface Killah, Galactic, OK Go, The Misfits, G. Love and Special Sauce, and many, many others.
Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild
Although Pittsburgh has plenty of local jazz to soak up in places like Dowe’s on Ninth (located in downtown Pittsburgh) and Gullifty’s (located in Squirrel Hill), “MCG” is the hotspot for world-famous jazz musicians. MCG has made Pittsburgh a hard-to-miss city for touring jazz musicians. Big names like the Dave Holland Quintet, Dave Brubeck, and the Derek Trucks Band have all made their way through MCG in recent years. Last year I was lucky enough to see Terence Blanchard here and was amazed by the great acoustics of the auditorium. Unfortunately, this auditorium-style setup makes it less intimate than your average jazz club. In addition, the average age of MCG audiences is far older than your average jazz club; many concertgoers here are well into their 40s and 50s. Finally, despite the fact that MCG organizes many concerts throughout the city, only 12 events are scheduled at MCG this year, making trips to MCG relatively infrequent (though always worth it). The great music and fabulous sound make you forget about its problems.
Garfield Artworks was a pleasant surprise when comparing it to New York City venues. Although the Big Apple has its share of music venues, movie theaters, and art galleries, it’s rare to find a place where all three fuse into one entity. Located on the venue-heavy Penn Avenue, Garfield Artworks has live concerts of underground groups (mostly national, but the occasional local group), art exhibitions, and movies. Unlike MCG, Garfield Artworks attracts a young crowd of high schoolers, college kids, and young adults alike.
Sure, the Pittsburgh music scene isn’t world-renowned, but it’s often underestimated. These venues are havens for some of the finest music in town and they give Pittsburgh the cultural boost it so desperately needs.