Beer and wine is for sale before the performance, and the wine comes in a little “Library Music Hall” sippy cup that you can take home with you. Most people sit for the performance but it really just depends on the performer. For longer shows it might be better to stand, given the state of the aging wooden seats throughout the theater, some of which still have a wire frame underneath where a gentleman may store his top hat.
In the heart of Oakland, the Carnegie Music Hall is part of the larger Carnegie Institute and Library complex that also houses the art and natural history museums. The venue hosts concerts irregularly, but they’re not to be missed: indie rock legends Neutral Milk Hotel, The Pixies, and Wilco have all played the nearly 2000-seat venue in the past few years.
Carnegie Library Music Hall of Homestead, 510 E 10th Ave in Munhall
11/8 Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues. $35
Carnegie Music Hall, 4400 Forbes Ave in Oakland
Benedum Center for the Performing Arts. 237 7th St. Downtown
Byham Theater. 101 6th St. Downtown
Heinz Hall. 600 Penn Ave. Downtown
New Hazlett Theater. 6 Allegheny Square East. North Side.
Located on the North Side, nestled snugly between PNC Park and Heinz Field, Stage AE gets its own category because it is both a 2400 person club-style venue and a 5000 person outdoor amphitheater.
Before Stage AE opened in late 2010, Pittsburgh lacked a mid-range venue that could accommodate bands that were either too big play at Altar Bar or Mr. Smalls yet not big enough for a stadium show; played music unsuitable for a seated theater venue; or, were touring in the winter, when seasonal venues like First Niagara Pavilion and the now-defunct Trib Total Media Amphitheatre at Station Square were closed. In 2014 alone MIA, St. Vincent, Jack White, and the Arctic Monkeys have all played Stage AE. A few years ago Pittsburgh would have been passed over, and we would have been left to road trip to Cleveland.
Or perhaps Columbus. Not only is it modeled after Columbus’s LC Pavilion, Stage AE is operated by the same production company, Promowest. (The majority of Stage AE shows are co-promoted with Opus One.) Promowest bills themselves as “the largest full-service, independently owned and operated entertainment company in the Midwest,” but all that matters for fans is that they have the pull and the purse strings to bring in acts like Queens of the Stone Age, Modest Mouse, and MGMT to Pittsburgh.
During outdoor concerts bars and merch tables are positioned along the building’s exterior and a nice big lawn awaits those who want to spread out rather than cram up front next to the stage. As for the indoor shows, expect all the modern amenities: shiny new bars, big flat-screen TVs, and most importantly, a state of the art sound system. There’s also a VIP area upstairs with a separate lounge and seated front and side balconies, and a newer club space for more intimate gigs of a couple hundred. And while it can get extremely crowded in the pit, both indoors and outdoors, it’s not especially worse than a sold-out show at any of the city’s other venues. Fortunately, Stage AE has excellent sightlines, especially indoors, so there’s no need for to feel like you must choose between feeling claustrophobic and not being able see the show.
Ticket prices are generally pretty reasonable, although the average show is closer to $30 than $20. Another benefit is that the T lets off a block away from the venue. For those of us who don’t live near a T station (read: anyone outside the South Hills), the General Robinson Street garage costs just $4, or less than half of the on-site parking lot. You can also get away with parking for free at the casino most nights, but you didn’t read that here.
Stage AE, 400 North Shore Drive on the North Side
11/4: Jeezy. $29.50
11/7: Gov’t Mule. $26
First Niagara Pavilion. 665 Route 18. Burgettstown.
If you’re seeing a show at the Consol Energy Center, its bound to be a world-class musician, likely one that can trade off a single-word name: Springsteen, McCartney, Cher. I wrote in part one of this guide that, when in comes to live music, there is usually a tradeoff between ticket price, venue intimacy, and artist quality. Here, you get to see a world-class performer – a living legend! – but from 50 yards away, and for a large percentage of your paycheck. But that’s why they make binoculars, and Groupon. My girlfriend and I bought a pair of faraway seats to see Arcade Fire in March for around $50, and it was probably the most fun I’ve had at a concert all year. We spent the entire night dancing and singing and making friends, and we left for home ecstatic and invigorated. It’s what I hope to feel after any show, regardless of venue.