Rock The Steel City The Ultimate Guide To Experiencing Pittsburgh Live Music

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Hello there, fellow music lovers! Are you tired of the same old playlists on the radio or the endless streaming of digital music? Are you craving the energy and excitement of live performances? Well, Pittsburgh has got you covered! In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into Pittsburgh’s vibrant live music scene and explore the city’s unique offerings.

By the end of this article, you can expect to be introduced to some of the best live music venues in Pittsburgh, discover new local bands and musicians, and get an insider’s view of the music scene in the city. You’ll learn about the history of Pittsburgh music, the current trends, and what makes this city’s music scene so special.

Whether you’re a lifelong Pittsburgh resident, a music enthusiast planning a visit, or just someone looking for a new experience, we promise to deliver a comprehensive guide to all things live music in Pittsburgh. So, sit back and get ready to be blown away by the impressive talent and dynamic energy of Pittsburgh’s live music scene.

Top Pittsburgh Venues for Live Music

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is a city that loves its music. The Steel City has a rich musical history, ranging from Jazz greats like Billy Strayhorn to Rock legends like Donnie Iris. Countless local musicians and bands have emerged from Pittsburgh over the years, and the city continues to foster a thriving live music scene. From small bars to large arenas, there are plenty of venues across the city to enjoy live music. Here are the top Pittsburgh Venues for Live Music:

1. Stage AE

Stage AE is a 5,000-capacity outdoor amphitheater located in Pittsburgh’s North Shore neighborhood. Opened in 2010, it is one of the most popular venues in the city for live music, hosting concerts throughout the year. Here are some key highlights of Stage AE:

  • Indoor and Outdoor Stages: Stage AE consists of both an indoor and outdoor stage, which allows for concerts to take place year-round, with indoor shows during colder months.
  • Spacious lawn area: The outdoor area of Stage AE features a large lawn area for outdoor shows, where guests can spread out and enjoy the music under the stars.
  • VIP Balcony: The indoor portion of Stage AE features a VIP balcony section, with great views of the stage.
  • Big-name acts: Stage AE has attracted many big-name acts over the years, including The Black Keys, Weezer, Snoop Dogg, and many others.

Stage AE is also home to many festivals, including the popular Three Rivers Arts Festival, which features a range of visual and performing arts. In addition, the venue has multiple food trucks and bars on-site, making it a great destination for a night out.

Pros Cons
Great for outdoor shows during warmer months Outdoor shows can be weather-dependent
Modern facilities with high-quality sound system No seating for outdoor shows can be uncomfortable for some guests
Hosts a wide range of musical acts Crowded parking lot can be difficult to navigate during peak times

Stage AE is a must-visit destination for music lovers in Pittsburgh. Its large capacity, indoor/outdoor stages, and high-profile acts make it one of the best venues in the city for live music entertainment.

The History of Live Music in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh is known for its rich cultural heritage and has been an epicenter for various music genres, including jazz, blues, and rock. The city has produced many legendary musicians over the years, and its music scene has played an integral role in shaping the city’s identity. In this article, we will delve deep into the history of live music in Pittsburgh.

1. The Origins of Pittsburgh’s Live Music Scene

The history of live music in Pittsburgh dates back to the early 19th century when the first opera houses and theaters were established in the city. However, it was not until the 1920s when the jazz scene exploded in Pittsburgh, making it a hotbed for top-notch jazz musicians.

  • Pittsburgh’s jazz scene was birthed in the Hill District, a predominantly African American neighborhood, whose thriving nightlife attracted many jazz musicians to the area.
  • The Savoy Ballroom, one of the premier jazz venues in the city, hosted some of the greatest jazz musicians of all time, including Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and Ella Fitzgerald.
  • Pittsburgh’s vibrant jazz scene continued to flourish in the 1930s and 1940s, with the emergence of pioneers such as Erroll Garner, Stanley Turrentine, and Billy Strayhorn

2. The Rise of Rock and Roll in Pittsburgh

The 1950s saw the advent of rock and roll music, which revolutionized the music industry and changed the music landscape in Pittsburgh. The city quickly became a hub for rock and roll music in the region, and several local bands and musicians rose to national prominence during this time.

  • The legendary radio disc jockey, Porky Chedwick, played an instrumental role in promoting rock and roll music in Pittsburgh during the 1950s and 1960s.
  • Local bands such as The Del Vikings, The Skyliners, and The Marcels gained national fame during this period, and their music continues to be celebrated to this day.
  • The Beatles, arguably the most influential band ever, performed at the Civic Arena in Pittsburgh in 1964 as part of their first U.S. tour.

3. The Evolution of Pittsburgh’s Music Scene

The 1970s saw the rise of new music genres such as disco, punk, and new wave, which changed the music landscape in Pittsburgh. The city’s music scene diversified, and several new venues and clubs were established to cater to the changing tastes of the audience.

  • The Electric Banana, a popular underground club, hosted many punk and new wave acts throughout the 1970s, including The Ramones and Blondie.
  • The Civic Arena, Pittsburgh’s premier concert venue, hosted many iconic rock bands, including Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and The Rolling Stones.
  • The emergence of local music festivals, such as the Three Rivers Arts Festival and the Pittsburgh Folk Festival, provided a platform for local musicians to showcase their talents.
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4. Live Music in Pittsburgh Today

Today, Pittsburgh continues to remain a thriving music hub, with a diverse range of music genres and an active music scene. The city boasts of several music venues and clubs, which host live music performances throughout the week.

  • The Stage AE, an outdoor music venue, hosts several concerts throughout the year, featuring top artists from around the world.
  • The Mr. Smalls Theatre, a former church turned music venue, hosts several local and international acts throughout the year, and its unique ambiance makes it a popular venue among music lovers.
  • The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, founded in 1896, is one of the world’s top orchestras and continues to enthrall audiences with its classical music performances.
Pros Cons
Rich musical heritage and diverse music scene Competition from other music hubs across the country
Several music venues and clubs catering to different music genres Difficulty in establishing new music venues due to high costs
Promising opportunities for talented musicians to establish themselves Perceived lack of support for local musicians from the city

In conclusion, the history of live music in Pittsburgh is a testament to the city’s vibrant cultural heritage and its important role in shaping the music industry. Today, Pittsburgh continues to remain a hub for musicians and audiences alike, with its diverse music scene and active live music scene.

Best Live Music Bars and Pubs in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh is known for its diverse music scene, with live music venues catering to all tastes and genres. Whether you are a fan of rock, jazz, blues, or country music, Pittsburgh has something for everyone. In this section, we will explore the best live music bars and pubs in Pittsburgh.

1. Club Café

Club Café is one of the most beloved live music venues in Pittsburgh, located in the city’s South Side neighborhood. This intimate, 200-seat club offers a diverse range of musical acts, from nationally-renowned artists to local up-and-comers. In addition to live music, Club Café boasts a full-service dining experience, with a menu of classic American fare.

  • Pros
    • Intimate Atmosphere: Club Café’s small size allows for an up-close and personal concert experience.
    • Great Acoustics: The venue’s sound system is top-notch, providing excellent sound quality for performances.
    • Outdoor Seating: During the warmer months, patrons can enjoy live music on the outdoor patio.
  • Cons
    • Tight Seating: Due to the venue’s small size, tables can be cramped.
    • Pricey Ticket Prices: Some shows can have steep ticket prices.

2. Mr. Smalls Theatre

Mr. Smalls Theatre is a converted church located in the Pittsburgh suburb of Millvale, just a short drive from downtown Pittsburgh. The venue can hold up to 800 people and has a reputation for hosting unique and innovative musical acts from across the country. In addition to live music, Mr. Smalls also hosts regular events such as comedy shows and film screenings.

  • Pros
    • Incredible Architecture: The venue’s repurposed church building gives it a unique and iconic atmosphere.
    • Diverse Lineup: Mr. Smalls hosts a range of musical styles, from hip-hop and rock to electronic and punk music.
    • Affordable: Tickets are reasonably priced, especially considering the caliber of performers who play there.
  • Cons
    • Location: Mr. Smalls is located in a suburb, making it less accessible without a car.
    • No Food Service: The venue does not offer any food or dining options, though there are nearby restaurants.

3. Howlers

Howlers is a dive bar located in the Bloomfield neighborhood of Pittsburgh. This quirky and eclectic venue prides itself on its “no-frills” approach to live music, with a rotating lineup of local talent playing everything from punk and metal to indie and folk music. Howlers also serves a selection of beer, wine, and cocktails to enjoy during shows.

  • Pros
    • Casual Atmosphere: Howlers’ dive bar vibe makes for a laid-back and unpretentious concert experience.
    • Local Talent: The venue is a breeding ground for up-and-coming musicians and bands with a focus on showcasing the Pittsburgh music scene.
    • Affordable: Admission prices are affordable, with some shows being free.
  • Cons
    • Limited Capacity: Howlers is a small venue, so shows can quickly sell out.
    • Smoking Allowed: Smoking is permitted inside the bar, which can be uncomfortable for non-smokers.

Comparison Table

Criteria Club Café Mr. Smalls Theatre Howlers
Capacity 200 800 Small
Music Genre All Genres All Genres Punk, Metal, Indie, Folk
Food Service Full-Service Dining No Food Service Bar Food and Drinks
Affordability Pricey Ticket Prices Affordable Affordable/ Some Shows Free
Atmosphere Intimate Iconic Church Setting Dive Bar Vibe
Accessibility Easy Accessible Location outside the city Less Accessible without a car

In conclusion, Pittsburgh’s live music scene is vibrant and eclectic, with a range of venues catering to all tastes and genres. Club Café, Mr. Smalls Theatre, and Howlers are three of the best live music bars and pubs in the city, each with its unique atmosphere and charms. Whether you are looking for an intimate night of music or a larger than life experience, Pittsburgh has something to offer.

The Ultimate Guide to Pittsburgh’s Live Music Scene

If you’re a music lover in Pittsburgh, there is always a show to catch, whether it’s an intimate performance at a small venue or a packed stadium show featuring a world-famous artist. In this article, we’ll take you through the ultimate guide to Pittsburgh’s live music scene. Let’s dive in!

The Best Live Music Venues in Pittsburgh

If you’re looking for the best live music venues in Pittsburgh, then we’ve got you covered:

  1. Mr. Smalls Theatre: Known as one of Pittsburgh’s most beloved venues, Mr. Smalls Theatre hosts both local and national acts, ranging from indie to metal.
  2. Mr. Smalls Theatre opened in 2003 and has since become a staple of the Pittsburgh music scene, hosting everyone from local indie bands to internationally acclaimed acts like The National and Portugal. The Man. The venue is notable for its impressive sound system, stunning stage design, and welcoming community of staff and music lovers.

  3. The Rex Theater: The Rex Theater is a Pittsburgh music institution, having hosted countless landmark shows since the 1990s.
  4. The Rex Theater has been a hub of Pittsburgh’s live music scene for decades, hosting everyone from up-and-coming local bands to established national acts like The Black Keys and Arctic Monkeys. One unique thing about The Rex is its close relationship with the city’s comedy scene, regularly hosting both live stand-up shows and screenings of classic comedies like Caddyshack.

  5. The Stage at Karma: If you’re looking for a smaller, more intimate venue, then The Stage at Karma is the perfect spot.
  6. The Stage at Karma is a relatively new addition to Pittsburgh’s live music scene, having opened in 2017. But in just a few short years, it has already earned a reputation for its cozy atmosphere, top-notch acoustics, and eclectic mix of music genres. From folk to funk, you’re bound to find something that suits your tastes here.

  7. Club Cafe: Located in the heart of Pittsburgh’s South Side, Club Cafe offers a unique combination of live music, cocktails, and delicious food.
  8. Club Cafe has been a beloved Pittsburgh institution since 1994, hosting hundreds of lively shows in its intimate space. In addition to its music lineup, the venue offers a rotating menu of tasty small plates and craft cocktails.

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Venue Capacity Genres Pros Cons
Mr. Smalls Theatre 1800 Indie, metal, rock Great sound system, big stage, welcoming community Tends to sell out quickly, limited parking
The Rex Theater 1000 Rock, punk, indie Historic venue, great sightlines, comedy shows Can get hot and crowded, limited parking
The Stage at Karma 150 Folk, funk, soul Great atmosphere, top-notch acoustics, eclectic lineup Small space, limited parking
Club Cafe 200 Indie, folk, Americana Good food and drink, intimate space, laid-back vibe Can get crowded, limited parking

Pittsburgh’s Annual Music Festivals

If you’re looking to really immerse yourself in Pittsburgh’s live music scene, then these annual music festivals are a must:

  • Three Rivers Arts Festival: This 10-day festival takes place in early June and features a diverse lineup of music, art, and food.
  • The Three Rivers Arts Festival has been a Pittsburgh tradition for over 60 years, drawing over 500,000 visitors each year. The festival is renowned for its eclectic music lineup, which has included everyone from Smokey Robinson to The Flaming Lips.

  • Ribfest: Held in late August, Ribfest is a carnivore’s dream come true, featuring live music and some of the best BBQ around.
  • Ribfest has been a beloved Pittsburgh event for over 30 years, drawing visitors from all over the city and beyond. In addition to its delicious food offerings, the festival hosts a variety of musical acts, ranging from classic rock to country.

  • JazzLive International Festival: Held in late June, this festival celebrates Pittsburgh’s rich jazz heritage with an impressive lineup of both local and international jazz artists.
  • The JazzLive International Festival has been a cornerstone of Pittsburgh’s music scene for over 10 years, showcasing the best and brightest jazz talent from around the world. The festival takes place in Pittsburgh’s Cultural District, making it the perfect opportunity to explore some of the city’s other cultural attractions.

The Best Local Bands in Pittsburgh

Finally, if you’re looking to support Pittsburgh’s thriving local music scene, then these are the bands you need to know:

  • The Commonheart: Led by charismatic frontman Clinton Clegg, The Commonheart has been wowing Pittsburgh audiences with their soulful rock sound since 2014.
  • Meeting of Important People: This indie rock trio has been a fixture of Pittsburgh’s music scene since the late 2000s, earning a loyal following with their infectious hooks and high-energy shows.
  • Jack Swing: If you’re looking for a retro-inspired funk sound, then Jack Swing is the band for you. With smooth grooves and catchy melodies, they’re sure to get you dancing.
  • Sierra Sellers: This up-and-coming singer-songwriter has been drawing attention in Pittsburgh and beyond with her soulful voice and introspective lyrics.
  • Choir of Babble: This experimental rock outfit pushes boundaries with their genre-blending sound, incorporating elements of jazz, prog rock, and psychedelia to create a truly unique sound.

No matter what kind of music you’re into, Pittsburgh’s live music scene has something for everyone. From world-famous acts to up-and-coming local bands, you’re sure to find your new favorite artist at one of these great venues or festivals.

How Pittsburgh’s Live Music has Evolved Over the Years

Live music is an inseparable part of Pittsburgh’s cultural identity. The city’s vibrant music scene has been influenced by its unique history, its diverse population, and the many talented musicians who have called Pittsburgh their home. Over the years, the city’s live music scene has evolved significantly, with new genres and venues emerging to meet the changing tastes of the audience. In this article, we will explore the different phases of Pittsburgh’s live music scene, and how it has evolved over the years.

1. Early Days of Pittsburgh’s Live Music Scene

The live music scene in Pittsburgh dates back to the early 20th century, with the emergence of jazz and blues clubs in the city’s Hill District. During this time, musicians such as Billy Strayhorn, Mary Lou Williams, and Earl Hines began their careers in Pittsburgh before moving on to become legends in the world of jazz music.

The Great Depression brought about a decline in the live music scene, but the advent of the World War II brought it back to life. With the sudden influx of workers into the city, new music genres such as swing and big band became popular, bringing in a new era of live music performances.

Interesting Facts:

  • During the 1940s and 1950s, Pittsburgh was known as the “Gateway to the West,” and musicians often stopped here on their way to other cities.
  • The city’s Hill District was home to several famous jazz clubs, including The Crawford Grill and The Hurricane.

2. The Rise of Rock n Roll

The 1950s saw the emergence of rock n roll, a new music genre that shook the entire world. Pittsburgh played a significant role in the rise of this new movement, with the city’s popular radio stations such as KDKA and WAMO introducing the music to a new generation of listeners.

During this time, Pittsburgh became a hub of activity for touring rock n roll bands, with the city’s Civic Arena and Syria Mosque frequently hosting concerts by artists such as Elvis Presley, The Beatles, and The Rolling Stones.

Interesting Facts:

  • In 1964, The Beatles played their first-ever concert in the United States at the Carnegie Mellon University Field House in Pittsburgh.
  • During the 1960s, Pittsburgh became known as the “Little Liverpool,” due to its significant influence on the American rock scene.

3. The Emergence of New Genres

The 1970s and 1980s saw the emergence of new music genres such as punk, new wave, and alternative rock. Bands such as The Electric Banana, The Iron City Houserockers, and even Joe Grushecky & The Houserockers became popular names in Pittsburgh’s live music scene.

As the city’s cultural landscape continued to evolve, new venues emerged, such as the Club Laga, which opened in 1990, and became known for featuring alternative rock music.

Interesting Facts:

  • The Electric Banana, a popular Pittsburgh band in the 1970s, was the first to perform a “Punk” show in Pittsburgh.
  • Pittsburgh’s underground music scene in the 1980s played a significant role in shaping the alternative rock movement.

4. The Renaissance of Pittsburgh’s Music Scene

The 2000s saw a resurgence of Pittsburgh’s music scene, with new genres such as indie and electronic music gaining popularity. The city also saw a surge in new venues such as Mr. Smalls Theatre, Stage AE, and Club Cafe.

In recent years, the city’s music scene has continued to thrive, with new festivals such as the Three Rivers Arts Festival and the Pittsburgh JazzLive International Festival drawing in thousands of music lovers every year.

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Interesting Facts:

  • Pittsburgh has produced several world-famous musicians, including Christina Aguilera, Wiz Khalifa, and Mac Miller.
  • The Three Rivers Arts Festival has been running for over 60 years and is the largest outdoor arts festival in the United States.

5. The Impact of Technology on Pittsburgh’s Live Music Scene

Advancements in technology have had a significant impact on the live music scene in Pittsburgh. With the rise of streaming services and social media platforms, musicians can now easily reach new audiences and promote their music online.

In recent years, Pittsburgh has seen a surge in music startups, such as Songbird Artistry, which provides artist services, event promotion, and musical workshops. These companies are using technology to transform the way musicians connect with audiences, and are helping to create new opportunities in the music industry.

Table: Pros and Cons of Technology in Pittsburgh’s Live Music Scene

| Pros | Cons |
| Easy access to new audiences | Overreliance on streaming services may hurt sales |
| New opportunities for artists | Rise of piracy may decrease revenue for musicians |
| Enhanced promotion for events | Live music streaming may reduce ticket sales |

Interesting Facts:

  • The Pittsburgh Technology Council’s annual Tech 50 awards include a music category that honors tech startups in the music industry.
  • The rise of music streaming has led to increased revenue for the music industry, with the global music streaming market expected to reach $22.5 billion by 2027.

In conclusion, Pittsburgh’s live music scene has come a long way since its early days in the Hill District. With the emergence of new genres and the rise of technology, the city’s music scene continues to evolve, providing new opportunities for musicians and music lovers alike. Through its unique history and cultural diversity, Pittsburgh has created a legacy that will continue to influence the world of music for generations to come.

FAQs for Pittsburgh Live Music

What are the best venues for live music in Pittsburgh?

The best venues for live music in Pittsburgh include Mr. Smalls Theatre, Stage AE, Rex Theater, Spirit, and Club Cafe, among others. Each venue has its own unique atmosphere and hosts live music throughout the year.

What types of music are popular in Pittsburgh?

Pittsburgh has a vibrant music scene that includes various genres such as rock, jazz, hip hop, and country. There are also many music festivals throughout the year that showcase different musical styles.

How much do live music tickets cost in Pittsburgh?

The cost of live music tickets varies depending on the venue, the artist, and the type of show. On average, tickets can range from $10 to $50. It’s best to check the venue’s website for specific details on ticket prices.

Are there any free live music events in Pittsburgh?

Yes, there are several free live music events in Pittsburgh. Some examples include the Three Rivers Arts Festival, the Deutschtown Music Festival, and the Pittsburgh JazzLive International Festival.

What is the best time of year to attend live music events in Pittsburgh?

The best time of year to attend live music events in Pittsburgh is during the summer months when many festivals and outdoor concerts take place. However, there are also live music events throughout the year, so it depends on your preferences.

How can I find out about upcoming live music events in Pittsburgh?

You can find out about upcoming live music events in Pittsburgh by checking out the websites of local venues, reading local publications such as Pittsburgh City Paper or Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, or following event listings on social media platforms such as Facebook or Twitter.

Can I drink alcohol at live music events in Pittsburgh?

Most venues in Pittsburgh allow alcohol consumption for those who are of legal drinking age. However, each venue has its own policy regarding alcohol consumption, so it’s best to check with the specific venue or event organizer.

What should I wear to a live music event in Pittsburgh?

What you wear to a live music event in Pittsburgh depends on the venue and the type of show. Dress code can range from casual to dressy, so it’s best to check the venue’s website for specific dress code requirements. It’s also important to wear comfortable shoes as you may be standing and dancing for a few hours.

Is Pittsburgh a good city for live music?

Yes, Pittsburgh is a great city for live music. It has a thriving music scene that includes a variety of genres and venues. The city also hosts many music festivals and concerts throughout the year, making it an ideal destination for music lovers.

What is the biggest live music event in Pittsburgh?

The biggest live music event in Pittsburgh is the Thrival Music and Innovation Festival. This festival takes place annually and features a variety of musical acts, along with tech demonstrations and innovation showcases.


In conclusion, Pittsburgh has a thriving live music scene that offers a variety of genres and venues. There are many festivals and concerts throughout the year, as well as free events that showcase Pittsburgh’s musical talent. To stay up to date on upcoming events, be sure to check out venue websites or follow event listings on social media. After attending a live music event, consider exploring Pittsburgh’s culture and nightlife, or checking out other interesting articles on travel and entertainment. Thank you for reading!