Pass the Aux. Image courtesy of Art Like Us.

When it comes to nightlife, Pittsburgh boasts a surprising array of events that go beyond the usual Top 40 club scene. Whether it’s the throwback theme nights at Belvederes Ultra-Dive in Lawrenceville or Strangeways and Second Skin, two multi-genre nights where goth, New Wave and post-punk are the noise du jour, there are so many to choose from. But while those are certainly excellent options, we focused on events that showcase unorthodox approaches to a great night out.

Pass the Aux. Image courtesy of Art Like Us.
Pass the Aux. Image courtesy of Art Like Us.

For the control freak: Pass the Aux

Ask any DJ what their biggest pet peeve is and you’ll likely get the same answer: requests. It’s an understandable grievance considering how much time they invest in curating the right blend of songs. But at Pass the Aux, you and your fellow dancers get to control the music.

The concept lets people play DJ with a few stipulations: if the audience likes the song you pick, you get to finish it. If they don’t like it, you must “pass the aux”in other words, let someone else have a turn.

Chancelor Humphrey of Keep Pittsburgh Dope and Ryan Brown of farESH Brand came up with Pass the Aux as a way to cut out the middle man.

“Every time we go out people always have a request for the DJ,” says Humphrey.

The event launched last March at Spirit in Lawrenceville to a warm reception.

“We received a lot of great feedback from attendees,” says Humphrey. “Simply, they loved having the opportunity to control the vibe of the party and to see how the music they liked made other people move.”

While Pass the Aux is in its infancy, Humphrey says they plan to host another one this summer.

Also good: Silent Disco

Silent discos have popped up all over the country for music lovers who would rather dance to the beat of their own earbuds. The phenomenon found its way to Pittsburgh where venues like the Carnegie Museum of Art, Andy Warhol Museum and Pittsburgh International Children’s Festival have hosted such nights for adults, kids and people with special needs. Keep an eye out for the next one.

In Bed by Ten. Photo by Matt Dayak.
In Bed by Ten. Photo by Matt Dayak.

For the early bird: In Bed by Ten

DJ nights and dance events usually pop off at 10 p.m. or later. But when local DJ Matthew Buchholz managed to wind down a rollicking Commonwealth Press Beer Barge party by 9 p.m., he wondered if late hours made it hard for everyone to join in on the fun.

“That’s not feasible for people with kids or people like myself who just can’t stay out that late anymore,” says Buchholz, a professional freelance artist who runs the company Alternate Histories.

In 2015, he joined forces with Design Crush blogger Kelly Beall to launch In Bed by Ten, a dance party for those unable to kick it into the wee hours of the morning. Each month, the event packs Spirit with people looking for a crowd-pleasing music mix defined by Prince, Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson and other pop hit makers from decades past and present.

“We actually didn’t even know if it would be more than a one-time event, but by the end of the first dance party attendees were pulling us aside to ask when the date of the next one would be,” says Beall. “Matt and I realized we were filling a gap in nightlife events and took advantage of that.”

She says the event has recently “blown up” with the last few In Bed by Ten nights hitting capacity within the first hour.

The duo also added a philanthropic element to the event by using it a way to raise money for various organizations, including the ACLU, Girls Rock! Pittsburgh, and the Center For Victims. As opposed to paying a cover, dancers are encouraged to drop a small donation in a jar placed on the DJ table.

“Both Matt and I are big advocates of many local charitable causes, so I think it seemed like a natural way to give back to the community for us,” says Beall, adding that Spirit also kicks in a percentage of the night’s bar intake. “It’s an amazing combination to pull together people looking to unwind on the dance floor and a great cause.”

In Bed by Ten will celebrate its two-year anniversary with a special event on May 26.

Also good: Let’s Move! Family Dance Party

A few times a year, families take over the Kelly Strayhorn Theater in East Liberty for the Let’s Move! Family Dance Party. The all-ages extravaganza gives everyone a chance to enjoy beats spun by some of the city’s best DJs. Best of all, everyone is home in time for dinner.

Amanda Waltz

Amanda Waltz is a freelance journalist and film critic whose work has appeared locally in numerous publications. She writes for The Film Stage and is the founder and editor of Steel Cinema, a blog dedicated to covering Pittsburgh film culture. She currently lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and oversized house cat.