Pittsburgh’s large performance spaces draw diverse lineup


Mr. Small’s Funhouse

400 Lincoln Ave.


Mr. Small’s more than makes up for its quaint size with an awesome, earsplitting PA sound system. Shows are often filled to bursting at a 650-person capacity, and it can get cramped and hot inside, especially when the metal, hardcore and thrash bands get their sets going. Mr. Small’s can easily be identified as “the big yellow church across from the big red church” — it was long used as a banquet hall before Mike Speranzo, a formerly sponsored professional skateboarder, bought and converted it into a live music venue. Tickets range from free to about $20, depending on the show. Mr. Small’s’ biggest selling point is that it tends to recognize famous bands before they’re famous. Some of its early visitors include Rusted Root, My Chemical Romance, Wiz Khalifa, Anti-Flag, Muse, Fall Out Boy and Avenged Sevenfold. The venue also hosts movie and Steelers game screenings.

Altar Bar

1620 Penn Ave.

Strip District

In many respects, Altar Bar has a lot in common with Mr. Small’s: the same 650-person capacity and the same design of a church-turned-venue. Many of Altar Bar’s bands are former Mr. Small’s players, but Altar Bar also hosts some more party-oriented bashes, like last New Year’s Eve where Against Me! played all night to celebrate. Unfortunately, the place gets even sweatier and more claustrophobic than Mr. Small’s does. The bouncers here are very strict about standing nicely on the staircase — the only place where you can both see and get some air — so be careful and arrive early. The verticality of Altar Bar makes it difficult to see anything when you’re in the back. As noted, Altar Bar features a lot of the same bands and crowds as Mr. Small’s, so some of the artists to expect here include Four Year Strong, Gallows, Hit the Lights, The Menzingers, Whitechapel, Asher Roth, Blood on the Dance Floor and Black Flag.

Stage AE

400 North Shore Drive

North Shore

Managed by Promowest and sponsored by American Eagle, Stage AE is easily accessible and only a short walk from Heinz Field. Stage AE uniquely offers concerts both indoors and outdoors in an amphitheater that is opened up during the summer months. It’s better to go to the indoor shows, because Stage AE is incredibly roomy, has a nice bar and bathrooms that haven’t been trashed. Outdoor shows tend to get washed out by ambient noise, and it’s no fun when the music doesn’t sound good. Stage AE’s size allows it to host a much wider variety of musicians, including Brand New, Austin Mahone, 311, Arctic Monkeys, A Day to Remember, Mac Miller, Hall & Oates, Social Distortion and Coheed and Cambria.

Consol Energy Center

1001 Fifth Ave.


Consol isn’t only the home of the Pittsburgh Penguins — though be sure to catch a game via Student Rush if you can — but it also transforms into an arena capable of seating between 15-20,000 depending on how much of the ice is turned into standing room. Tickets come at a price, the cheapest running around $35, and those prices are matched by gargantuan concession costs, so make sure to come prepared. Nonetheless Consol definitely presents some of the most well-known and exciting acts ever to go onstage: both Katy Perry and Lady Gaga, the pop divas at the top of their world, will have played there this summer, as well as Miley Cyrus, Rod Stewart and Paul McCartney. In the past, Consol Energy Center hosted Cher, Bruce Springsteen, Arcade Fire, Green Day and Billy Joel.

First Niagara Pavilion

665 Route 18


First Niagara has had about as many names and owners as concerts, but the venue remains a stable part of the Pittsburgh music scene as a massive outdoor amphitheater. It’s the city’s sole haven for classic rock and country tours, but that doesn’t mean it neglects the younger generations — it’s also the longtime home of the Vans Warped Tour and Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival. Unpredictable weather might make choosing a seat difficult, but on late summer afternoons when the haze and sun dissipate, it really is awesome to lounge on the lawn in a chair or on a blanket with like-minded fans. This summer alone, acts will include Fall Out Boy and Paramore, Backstreet Boys and Avril Lavigne, Journey and Steve Miller Band, Zac Brown Band, Toby Keith, Mötley Crüe and Alice Cooper, Lady Antebellum, Kiss and Def Leppard, Rascal Flatts and Sheryl Crow and Wiz Khalifa and Tyga.