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Looking ahead to Pittsburgh music in 2018

Music writer Meg Fair rattles off fresh ideas for the scene

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The Childlike Empress plays a benefit show for Planned Parenthood at The Glitter Box Theater in 2017, left; The Mr. Roboto Project, right
  • The Childlike Empress plays a benefit show for Planned Parenthood at The Glitter Box Theater in 2017, left; The Mr. Roboto Project, right

As far as I’m concerned, 2017 was an awesome year for Pittsburgh music. I can rattle off more EPs and albums that blew my mind than I can count on my fingers and toes, and there were so many memorable concerts within Pittsburgh’s incredible music community. But now that 2017 is in the rearview, I’d like to join in with a little game of More Please, Less Please to signal what would be even more awesome this year.

More Please

Benefit Shows

Some of the best shows of the year were put on for a good cause. It’s not hard to turn a successful gig into a benefit of some sort, especially if you plan and promote well. There are still many people in Puerto Rico and Mexico who are recovering from hurricane damage; Planned Parenthood is constantly in need of support (thanks, Trump!); and there are amazing hyper-local spaces like Pittsburgh Action Against Rape, Persad and the GLCC that would appreciate the help. Even putting a small portion of a show’s profits (if you’re more than breaking even, of course) can go a long way. 

These benefit shows are also great because they are well suited for all-local shows. Rather than worrying about a guarantee, promoters can book some of the best local talent on one show, support those bands fiscally and grow a community-based scene that doesn’t just come out to see cool touring bands. Additionally, local bands generally do (and should!) support causes in the city, anyway. Everybody wins! 

Community Venues

The Glitter Box Theater is not specifically a music venue, but it is a venue that is home to music. It’s a great spot with amenities that make it accessible to a much wider swath of the community, and the affordable room fee is helpful for folks booking all-ages and benefit shows. It feels cozy and comfortable, and that makes it a perfect home not just for shows, but also for workshops, meetings and collaborative events. 

The fine folks at WelcomBak are also doing notable work at the intersection of education, art and music. Combining creativity and education brings people together, and to see spots like this pop up is very reassuring. 

For years, the Mr. Roboto Project has been a hub for all-ages shows and community gatherings. Its membership model encourages engagement, but it would be even better if more high schoolers could become members, and if its regular performers got involved. It’s the kind of place where mentorship could be easily fostered. But that’s difficult to establish if people aren’t interested in getting engaged, and the staff is overworked as it is. 

The city’s ordinances about venues and noise are troublesome and complex, especially once liquor gets involved, so I understand the hesitation, but there are many empty storefronts just begging to be transformed into outlets for creativity. If there are any wealthy folks out there who claim to want to make Pittsburgh a model city of the future, I urge you to put your money into the arts, because without them, the city is nothing. As big corporations move in, it’s important that as a community we make sure to protect and grow our scene and its spaces. 

All-Ages Shows That Everyone Goes To

Again, I know the Liquor Control Board’s rules are pretty crazy around these parts, but we have to find a way to book all-ages shows that will foster friendship and engagement between the younger and older members of our community. I understand that for legal reasons a lot of venues doing all-ages shows have to fence off the drinking part of the room. But often that means the 21-and-older crowd will hide in the back or on the side all night and not interact with anybody new. 

On the other hand, it’s time for the drinking crowd to nut up and just go to shows that are dry. If you can’t go three hours without a beer, there’s a bigger problem. (You can always drink a little before you roll up to a dry space.) Be innovative, be respectful, and stop being a baby. Good music doesn’t just exist in bars! It’s silly to miss out on an entire pocket of the scene because of your commitment to PBR, however admirable that is. 

Less Please

Venue Shutdowns

James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy closing this year created a blow to the scene, since James Street accommodated many different musical genres and events in its multiple rooms. As it is now, we have to protect what venues we do still have, while fostering a diversity of sounds at those venues. Eliminating the niches will open up the community and connect different scenes to one another.

Shows With Too Many Bands

If there are more than four bands on your bill, it will take everything in my power to motivate myself to get to that gig. Unless each band is a blistering hardcore band or noise artist whose set will take 15 minutes or less, you are imposing an evil form of cruel and unusual punishment by making people show up for a show that won’t end until past midnight, because there are seven bands playing half-hour plus sets. (This is especially bad when punk-time has these gigs starting an hour after they’re supposed to.) Even if all the bands are awesome, it’s just too much of a good thing. It’s better to leave the crowd wanting more, than having folks lose steam and bail early. I’m personally a huge fan of the three-band gig. Short, sweet, sick. 

Ego

It’s not that often that Pittsburgh bands act self-important, or are rude to others, but the few that do are hard to forget. We live in a city full of incredible talent, but as a community, we’re nothing if we don’t help each other out. Theoretically, a rising tide should life all boats, but that’s of little use if bands are poking holes in each other’s ships. 


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