Heading North performs at “Live from Oakland: Genesis” in Atwood Church on Saturday night.
Heading North performs at “Live from Oakland: Genesis” in Atwood Church on Saturday night.
Ethan Shulman | Visual Editor

Post Genre’s first Atwood church concert aims to transform the Oakland music scene

For concertgoers in Oakland, the feeling of a favorite DIY venue shutting down is a familiar one. Post Genre, an Oakland-based music project, is trying to lay the groundwork for a permanent musical fixture in the church on Atwood and Bates in Central Oakland. The building has sat dormant for years between sporadic stints as a barbecue restaurant and hookah lounge — but last Saturday, the space was packed with Oakland music fans for a sold-out show.

Post Genre and 8TRAK Entertainment held the first of three concerts on Feb. 3 in the Atwood church as a project sponsored by the Pittsburgh Innovation District, a nonprofit focused on developing arts and science initiatives in the Oakland area. The show featured live performances from three local bands, Heading North, Clay Coast and 9FiftySeven.

Adam Klenovich, one of the co-founders of Post Genre and a sophomore business and marketing major at the Community College of Allegheny County, created the project with Eli Alfieri, an Oakland resident, and Mark Riggio, a sophomore audio engineering and jazz performance major at Duquesne University, last year. They were the force behind the Oakland block party last September. 

The crowd at “Live from Oakland: Genesis” in Atwood Church on Saturday night. (Ethan Shulman | Visual Editor)

Though Post Genre’s presence in the church is a temporary arrangement, Klenovich said the group hopes to start a process of creating a permanent, professional venue to keep the local music scene thriving.

“Even last year, there were more venues than this year. It’s been limited even since I’ve come to Oakland,” Klenovich said. “It’s kind of been dwindling, and that’s not something you want to see, because when people give up the initiative to go and host concerts at their house, it’s very quick for the dream to die. Finding a permanent location for Oakland will help through these rough periods where venues aren’t as frequent for people.” 

Although Post Genre is a relatively new project, Alfieri has pushed to fill the vacant church on Atwood for over two years. But Klenovich said making a vision like that a reality took not only a lot of dedicated planning, but also larger support. Through their partnership with the Pittsburgh Innovation District, which leases the property from the Oakland Real Estate Company, Post Genre fulfilled that vision. 

Klenovich’s home doubles as the venue Black Lodge. He said funding small concerts at the house and larger shows like the Oakland block party often means contributing his own money. But with the Pittsburgh Innovation District, a nonprofit pulling in over $700,000 a year, now acting as a sponsor, Klenovich said the partnership has allowed the group to bolster both safety and overall production quality from the vibe of a DIY basement show to a professional music venue. 

Post Genre is itself in the process of becoming a nonprofit to garner resources and funding to support their mission. If it succeeds, Klenovich said Post Genre hopes to create a permanent student-centered venue space for live music and creative work at the church on Atwood. 

“We have decided to become a nonprofit to be able to use money from the state … to be able to operate this place in a type of manner where we don’t have to prioritize ticket sales or making a profit over serving the community … because that will go against what we’re trying to do here in Oakland,” Klenovich said.

Vocalist Sean Whitney and trumpet player Ethan Barnard of Clay Coast perform at “Live from Oakland: Genesis” in Atwood Church on Saturday night. (Ethan Shulman | Visual Editor)

The possibility of a permanent, well-funded music venue in Oakland could also avoid the typical pitfalls of house shows. Andrew Klepeis, WPTS Radio’s outreach assistant station manager and a senior political science major, said he feels a more permanent music venue in Oakland could offer a step in the right direction.

“Venues in Oakland — it’s one of those things where it’s so impermanent, and a lot [of] that is because these are people who are using their landlords’ basement basically to hold this community art thing,” Klepeis said. “If your landlord doesn’t like it, they will stop that very easily, or if your neighbors don’t like it, they can put a stop to that pretty easily.”

Klepeis added that he would like for Oakland to have a “non-hierarchical art collective” where creatives and musicians can come together. 

“We need more third places. Hanging out in someone’s basement — that’s cool, but there are ways that can become kind of cliquey,” Klepeis said.

On top of permanency, the church on Atwood street sits in a prime location for students who live on Pitt’s campus and young people in Oakland. For Dillon Johnson, a 19-year-old Oakland resident who enjoys the local music scene, the possibility of a permanent venue at the Atwood church is exciting. 

“It’s good to have what feels like a real venue within walking distance from here, instead of having to take a bus to the Government Center,” Johnson said. “It makes things a lot more convenient, and it’s kind of exciting to see what’s gonna come from this because you don’t really see a lot of the younger students going to shows anymore.”

While working with a larger organization may signal a step away from the DIY ethos of local artists rooted in underground music scenes, many students — attendees, organizers and musicians alike — say they feel larger partnerships offer more stability, safety and opportunity to the local scene. 

Bassist, guitarist, and vocalist Ryan Ali performs at “Live from Oakland: Genesis” in Atwood Church on Saturday night. (Pamela Smith | Contributing Editor)

In Johnson’s view, the potential opportunities for Oakland’s music scene from larger partnerships outweighs concerns of the scene getting too corporate.

“I think what matters is that they’re [Post Genre] providing a space in Oakland for musicians to actually perform with real setups,” Johnson said. “That’s something that doesn’t exist in Oakland — we didn’t really have before they started doing their live series, so, I think the end is much more important than the means.” 

Nicky Chiaro, a junior mechanical engineering major who attended Saturday’s show, said while he appreciates a more typical DIY show, the first Atwood church show signaled potential. 

“There’s definitely some character in being in some random person’s basement, but I could see this place really thriving far in the future,” Chiaro said. “This could be a staple for kids, as long as the right people are running it.” 

Alfieri said while Post Genre doesn’t aim to shed a negative light on house shows, a professional venue offers a greater experience for not just those who attend, but the artists themselves.

Members of the crowd at “Live from Oakland: Genesis” in Atwood Church on Saturday night. (Pamela Smith | Contributing Editor)

Mike Stolarz, a member of the band Heading North and a Pitt graduate, said while he appreciates what house shows offer to the local music scene, Post Genre’s vision for the Atwood church offers a greater professional opportunity for musicians and students. 

“I don’t want to just pretend like, ‘Oh, now that we have a new venue, basements or house shows aren’t a value,’ but I think there’s a sense of legitimacy that a venue, such as the church, provides to the Oakland scene,” Stolarz said. 

Alfieri said while some Oakland residents may feel wary about organizations like the Pittsburgh Innovation District making the local scene feel less genuine, the ability to mitigate that concern and stay true to the heart of local music lies in maintaining strong bonds with the community. 

“The most important thing to us is to maintain the authenticity, and to keep that hand on the pulse because it could easily go wrong, if it were to turn into a more corporate thing, which is the total opposite of what we’re trying to accomplish,” Alfieri said. “I’m sure there are people who have their doubts, and that’s fine — it helps hold us accountable.” 

For Johnson, this model of community involvement through the local music scene might be just as DIY as the basement or house show model. 

“I look at Post Genre, and I see an organization that is made up of community members and students … educating people about audio engineering, event organizing and lights, and I think using the resources that these community members are providing is the most DIY thing you can do,” Johnson said.

A previous version of this story said Post Genre had already received grant funding. The Pitt News regrets this error.