Hundreds of tours come through Pittsburgh yearly. Whether you’re a fan desperately awaiting your favorite band or simply looking for a nice music filled night out, knowing which venues can satisfy your needs is hugely beneficial. For some that could mean the convenience of a full-service bar, comfortable seating, or mosh-worthy floorspace; any of these amenities could be the deciding factor when choosing which shows to see or pass on. We’ve compiled a list of some of Pittsburgh’s musical hotspots to help you decide where you’re most likely to find your venue bliss.
The Altar Bar is located in the Strip District at the former St. Elizabeth Church, hence the name. Its walls have seen some larger known acts since its refurbishment into a venue. The church interior still stands with stained glass windows and cross accents around the stage. With two bars, an upstairs level, and a capacity of 650 guests, it’s just the right amount of space to accommodate bigger bands, while still having the intimacy of a small venue. This venue has attracted big-name acts including the Misfits, Snoop Dogg, and Neon Trees. Whether fans in attendance seek a more intimate experience with an underground band or a sold out show with an internationally recognized artist, the Altar Bar is an excellent venue to get the best of both worlds.
Mr. Smalls is another repurposed church located in Millvale. Nestled in a residential neighborhood, the former 18th-century Catholic church was once home to St. Anne Church. With recent renovations that added an outdoor patio and balcony, the venue now fits 800 guests. The bar in the back, separating those 21-and-up from the crowd, isa spacious area to enjoy a drink. The venue also has a restaurant, screening room, living quarters, basement bar, and separate mini-venue used for after-show sessions with the performing acts. The quality of sound the venue has to offer is also superb, having recorded shows for bands like Gwar and CKY. Despite its location and lack of parking, Mr. Smalls’ mid-size venue has achieved local infamy.
The South Side’s Rex Theater was once home to vaudevillian acts on the strip. With multiple closings and refurbishments, the venue has been a Carson Street landmark for over a century. Over the last decade, it has hosted local and wider known artists in the EDM, metal, hip hop, and even burlesque category, keeping with the theater’s original roots. The full-service bar is available from the time doors open until the conclusion of a show, offering a variety of options. With the popularity of the location, it’s best to take public transit since parking is hard to come by on weekends.
The Smiling Moose is home to a bar, restaurant, and upstairs venue in South Side. The 200 person capacity establishment has walls adorned with movie posters, giving it extra appeal for those that want to take advantage of the bar. The venue is a tight squeeze, but with no barricade, security, or much distinction between the stage and floor, it’s one of Pittsburgh’s true punk venues. Smiling Moose caters to hardcore, punk, and metal acts, also serving as a spot for local bands to play. Even though the small area can be a hassle for crowds when bands need to maneuver their equipment past them, it’s hard to beat tickets that average out to be around $10 each.
Stage AE is the newest venue on our list, having only been open since 2010. It is located between Heinz Field and PNC Park and the venue was modeled after Express Live in Columbus. Both spots are the only indoor/outdoor concert venues in America. It holds 2400 people indoors, 5000 outdoors, and also has another club area for smaller gigs. This venue is the perfect middle ground for bands that aren’t large enough to play arenas like CONSOL or First Niagara Pavilion but are too mainstream to play smaller venues in the city. Acts like Arctic Monkeys, Brand New, and Sleater-Kinney have all held sold out concerts here. Stage AE is a venue surrounded by some of the most famous landmarks in Pittsburgh and is an ideal spot to catch big production shows any time of the year.
Every major city has its fair share of venues, but none compare to the ones you can find in the City of Steel. The city is responsible for repurposing old buildings to maintain their architectural value and historical significance as well as constructing entirely new establishments catering to year-round concert experiences that showcase our cities spectacular skyline. These are just some of the ways that demonstrate music is here to stay in Pittsburgh for years of future tours to come.