It’s undeniable that Pittsburgh is a great city for shows.
From acts that will pack a large-scale stadium to your hipster roommate’s garageband, this city has a stage for everyone. This means, of course, that there’s a show out there for all concertgoers, regardless of budget or genre choice — especially if you’re armed with this guide to venues in around Pittsburgh.
Take a look, consult your calendar, and snag your tickets to the best shows at the best venues in town.
Simply walking into Heinz Hall is an experience unto itself. Gilded columns rise to an arched ceiling laden with chandeliers. Inside the concert hall itself, red velvet seats spill across the floor in neat rows. Home to the Pittsburgh Symphony, Heinz Hall features a number of classical music events, but also plays host to some big-ticket names. In the last year, the hall has hosted Sufjan Stevens, an orchestral rendition of the music of Final Fantasy and a Mark Knopfler concert. The acoustics in the massive hall are unmatched, and as long as you remember your glasses, there isn’t a bad seat in the house.
Interested in getting dressed up for a night of high-class music at Heinz Hall? Why not channel your inner Tobias Bluth and check out the Blue Man Group in late February? If you’re an indie fan, stay tuned for the latest FUSE symphony event, in which the Pittsburgh symphony combines the music of famous composers with the music of alternative crooners. Tickets can reach into the triple-digit range, so budget accordingly.
Carnegie Library Music Hall: Homestead
Though not quite as grand as Heinz Hall, this venue in Homestead features excellent acoustics and such an impressive guest list that it’s almost preferable. And, since it’s right up the street from the Waterfront, you can easily grab dinner and drinks before or after your show. However, if you’d like to get a good view, it would be best to try and get seats either in the first few rows or in the upper tiers, since the tilt of the floor is very gradual. This year, the Hall played host to the sold-out podcast Welcome to Night Vale, harpist and songwriter Joanna Newsom on tour to promote her new album Divers, and The Mountain Goats, also on an album-promoting tour.
In the upcoming year, Finland is taking over Homestead on Feb. 24, when Nightwish, the most commercially successful Finnish group worldwide, plays at 8 p.m. If old-school alt-country is your thing, Gregg Allman will be playing a show on April 5. Guitarist Joe Satriani will be making an appearance on April 12. Tickets are often pricey (and shows sell out) at the Music Hall, so get them as early as you can.
New Hazlett Theater
Located in the historic Carnegie Free Library of Allegheny, the New Hazlett Theater is a venue rescued from oblivion in 2004 (hence the “New”), restored and turned into a space that aims to help local art thrive on its home turf. It features a beautiful lobby that fuses modern style with the decorative elements of Pittsburgh’s gilded past. One of its main selling points is the size of the venue — it’s not tiny, but it’s certainly intimate. When taking in a show at the New Hazlett, you’ll be up close and personal with the performance, even if the seats are a bit uncomfortable. Additionally, unlike many downtown spots, there’s lots of close (and free!) parking.
Coming up in April 2016, The New Hazlett Theater will host The Silent Spring Project, described on the site as an “immersive musical experience” based on the works of Rachel Carson (who is, incidentally, from Pittsburgh) as interpreted by composer Mark Stanley Fromm and performed by the Trillium Ensemble.
Consol Energy Center
Okay, you won’t need to break out Grandmother’s pearls for this one. You will, however, need to shill out the big bucks to get hold of a ticket. The massive events center, completed in 2010, is the go-to spot for every big name passing through the burgh — and for good reason, since it seats over 19,000 people. In the past two years, it’s been the stopping point of pop superstars like Ed Sheeran, Miley Cyrus and Katy Perry. It’s also the place where old rockstars show they still have strong crowd-pulling power: Joan Jett, Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel have all made an appearance at Consol.
In 2016, Bruce Springsteen and his E Street Band are coming back to Consol as part of their world tour to support the re-release of The River. Janet Jackson’s Unbreakable world tour will be making a stop in Pittsburgh on Feb. 6 as well, and tickets are selling quickly, so get yours soon. And, on July 13, Justin Bieber, whose latest album was released to surprising critical acclaim, will make an appearance at Consol.
Mr. Smalls’ Funhouse
Ah, Mr. Smalls. The youth of Pittsburgh flock to this venue — not for the acoustics, which, to be fair, have improved significantly in recent years. It’s not the set-up, either. Chances are good you’ll spend part of the evening trying your best to peer around the tallest person in the room who is invariably leaping up and down excitedly directly in front of you. It’s the sheer quality of the acts that pass through that keep the crowds coming. Every alternative band you could possibly dream of has visited Mr. Smalls. You can always bet on an excellent yearly lineup that has included of Montreal, Beach House, Anti-Flag, Dan Deacon, The Antlers … you get the idea.
Coming up is, unsurprisingly, a veritable cornucopia of great acts. On Feb. 22, Kurt Vile and his band the Violators (a show which will likely sell out, so act fast) will perform here. Just a week later, on Feb. 28, Neko Case, presented by WYEP, will play Smalls. On March 16, Carly Rae Jepsen will bring her ‘80s-inspired album to the ‘Burgh. Additionally, tickets generally range from $10-$20, so if you can resist the urge to buy yourself a $7 beer, you can have a relatively cheap night out enjoying some great tunes.
Did you know that Stage AE is only the second indoor-outdoor venue in the country? It’s That fact, combined with acoustics that have been widely lauded by concertgoers, makes for a pretty cool place to catch a show. It’s generally a genre-mixer, as big names as well as smaller bands share the stage here. Over the last few months, Mac Miller has played the venue, as have Purity Ring and Modest Mouse. There’s always something for everyone at Stage AE, and though it’s generally slightly more pricey than Mr. Smalls or the others listed in this category, it’s worth a trip.
Kacey Musgraves, whose widely lauded album Pageant Material was included on many year-end best-of lists, will play Stage AE on Feb. 27. On March 8, the Dropkick Murphys will bring some good old Irish energy to the venue, and on March 16, WYEP favorites Dr. Dog will visit Pittsburgh once again.
There’s no doubt that Cattivo is one of the hippest spots in Pittsburgh — it’s in Lawrenceville, after all. But it’s also becoming one of the best places to see your favorite bands. The stage is small and raised only a few feet off the floor, guaranteeing an intimate experience at any show. Best of all, there’s a checkered dance floor, so you can stay in motion while enjoying your favorite tunes. The bar always has great specials. Plus there’s pizza and beer. Need we say more? Over the last year, Cattivo has hosted Waxahatchee, A Place to Bury Strangers and a stop on the much-beloved Pittsburgh Skull Fest.
This year, Cattivo is beginning to host some fairly well-known names. On Feb. 2, GIVERS will perform at the venue. On Feb. 9, Caspian will stop by (with O’Brother as an opener, no less). And, on March 20, the venue will play host to Titus Andronicus. Tickets are all affordable, but act fast — the bar is small.
Andy Warhol Museum
The Warhol is more than just a museum. It’s also a popular sit-down venue that offers an experience similar to that of the Carnegie Music Hall, just at a lower price and on a smaller scale. The theater is dark providing a hushed, intimate setting to see some of the most fascinating acts out there. The Warhol generally holds a series of musical events under the Sound Series label, and has featured Aesop Rock and Neutral Milk Hotel, among others. This past year, Perfume Genius and Jenny Hval shared a bill on a sold-out show at the venue.
This year’s Warhol Museum Sound Series will feature GABI along with Sleep Experiments on Jan. 16, and later in the year, Disappears on Feb. 23. Legendary composer and musician George Lewis will also be playing the Warhol on Feb. 27.
While the layout leaves a lot to be desired, Brillobox has a lot to offer when it comes to the food it serves and, more importantly, the bands that come through. It’s also an experience in and of itself.The decor is consciously quirky and provides a picturesque backdrop for the bands on stage. Tickets are generally inexpensive. Recently, Brillobox has featured Bully, Will Butler of Arcade Fire fame and Screaming Females
Upcoming acts include Protomartyr with openers the Gotobeds on Feb. 11 and Astronauts, Etc. on March 29. Keep in mind, though, that Brillobox shows run notoriously late, so if you’re out on a work night, be prepared to be out until 12 or 1 a.m.
Mr. Roboto Project
Located in the Penn Avenue Arts District in Garfield, Roboto offers a truly unique setting for smaller bands, many of them local. Originally located in Wilkinsburg, the venue was designed as a space “for the community, by the community,” and after moving to Garfield in 2010, it has amassed quite a following. Much like Cattivo, the stage is only a foot or so off of the main floor, which is great if you’re up front. The shows can get quite crowded, so make sure to get there early to secure a spot near the stage. (And don’t pour any coconut water down the drain of the water fountain.) This year alone, Roboto has hosted Girlpool, Frankie Cosmos and Beach Slang.
If you’re interested in a cheap night out in a fun, welcoming and intimate space, Roboto is the place for you. Upcoming shows include CityCop, Phased Out and Standard Broadcast. Keep checking their website for more listings.
There’s no doubt that Spirit took the Pittsburgh bar scene by storm. Everyday’s a party here. The huge facility plays host to dance parties, craft cocktails, events that occasionally include a school bus, art installations and, of course, live music. If you’re looking to go out, have a few drinks and dance the night away, Spirit is the place for you. Those who run the show at Spirit are very supportive of the local music scene, and it’s a great place to get a handle on who’s who in Pittsburgh, and many bands have album release parties here. In 2015, bands that have graced the halls of this ultra-hip Lawrenceville bar include Diet Cig, Black Milk and Host Skull.
This spot is definitely worth checking out! Whether you’re there for one of the plethora of events or for a show, you’re bound to have a good time. Local band Some Kind of Animal, produced by Tyler Watkins of Margot & the Nuclear So & So’s, will be performing their debut show on Jan. 10. On Jan. 14, Honduras will be performing. Keep an eye on the venue’s calendar for more.