Exploring East Liberty's newest performance space, 6119, this past weekend, I couldn't help but feel like I was walking between the blurring borders of two cultural hemispheres.
At one point, electronic artist Skinny Friedman was spinning a chopped and screwed version of Brandy and Monica's immortal "The Boy Is Mine," while local visual artist Di-Ay Battad projected a barrage of mind-melting images on the three walls surrounding Skinny, sequenced to the music in a chilling symbiosis.
6119 — at 6119 Penn Ave. — is operated by VIA, the show- and festival-promotion group, with help from the owners of Round Corner Cantina. While those familiar with VIA know that pairing avant-garde electronic music with visual media is its bread and butter, the fully stocked, permanent bar and cripplingly cool salon/lounge vibe provide an exciting new component. In a space with a history as a members-only social and dance club dating back to the 1960s, organizers hope to create a nexus of cultural scenes in Pittsburgh.
" is the Venn diagram where the club meets the gallery," said VIA organizer and venue operator Lauren Goshinski. "It's where the club meets the cultural institution."
The nondescript building sits within spitting distance of the monolithic Target at Penn and Penn Circle. It provides VIA with a permanent space to house performances and educational workshops, and will act as a central staging area for the group's signature event, the VIA New Media and Music Festival, the third iteration of which happens this fall. Goshinski believes 6119 and VIA (whose 2011 festival events focused on nearby Broad Street) can help East Liberty's growing reputation as a nightlife destination.
"It feels very good staying in East Liberty. We want to contribute to the neighborhood, because the weird needs to stay," said Goshinski. "I think we can provide a mixed-use space where people can come and be comfortable [to perform, book events or attend performances] ... We're the only one of our kind in Pittsburgh."
6119's second weekend of programming continues this Saturday with Colombian "explosive electro-tropical" group Bomba Estero, featuring support from Lungs Face Feet, Pandemic and Edgar Um.