Last Updated on July 20, 2023 by Jeremy
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When you think of Pittsburgh's music scene, your first thought is likely not about the North Side. If you do consider this side of the city, it is likely about the concert venue Stage AE or even one of the stadiums when big named musicians come to town.
But the North Side has far more than just these if you're looking to take in a live performance. In Deutschtown, for example, the music scene thrives on Wednesdays thanks to the Pittsburgh Banjo Club's free practice at the Elks Lodge and bluegrass night at Fat Cat.
If you time your visit appropriately to hit both, it ends up being a lovely night out with great beer, an array of musical styles, and an overall experience you just can't get anywhere else in the city.
Bluegrass at Fat Cat
If you have made your way over to the North Side for music in the past, you may be familiar the standing bluegrass night series with Shelf Life String Band. This bluegrass group was a staple at nearby Park House Tavern and Allegheny City Brewing's beer garden over the years- playing a fairly set schedule of Wednesday night performances for many years.
The trend of bluegrass on Wednesdays continues with a permanent series in the music venue space on the 2nd floor of Fat Cat Lounge on East Ohio Street, with Shelf Life String Band being a prominently scheduled band, typically from about 8ish to 11pm (but, as always, confirm prior to visiting).
So roll up to Fat Cat, enjoy a libation, and listen to free bluegrass for a bit before heading over to the Elks Lodge just around the corner for the Pittsburgh Banjo Club!
Pittsburgh Banjo Club at the Elks Lodge
If bluegrass at Fat Cat is what we consider a normal music outing, Banjo Night is the exact opposite- this one is unique. On Wednesday evenings, The Pittsburgh Banjo Club comes together at the Elks Lodge #339 on Cedar Avenue to practice their iconic four (and sometimes five) stringed instruments. As the group is available to be hired for events and parties, you can imagine that they have to have regular practices to stay on top of their craft.
But rather than having these practice sessions be private, they open them up to the public, free of charge, from 8 to 11 pm on Wednesday nights!
You really have to experience this one for yourselves to appreciate it all, but Banjo Night is one of those events that is so distinctly Pittsburgh. There are the folks that have been going weekly since the club was founded in the 1980s, there are the transplants who only recently moved to the city, and just about every other category in between. Everyone gets along, talking and listening to the fantastic banjo players. A 50/50 raffle makes its way around to raise money for charity, and the cheap beer at the bar is the cherry on top (they offer a healthy mix of domestic staples as well as craft beverages for an incredibly respectable price point).
Over the years this group has gathered somewhat of a cult-like following, and shortly after the beginning of their practice at 8 pm the lodge is always completely full of attendees of all ages listening to the music, dancing, singing along (lyrics are available by the entrance), drinking, and having a grand old time.
But just a word of warning before you go- grabbing a seat even just for two after practice starts can be tricky. We normally get lucky together squeezing in at a table with new friends or at a bar, but if you are going with any appreciable group size beyond that reservations are strongly encouraged. Otherwise, don't be surprised if it is standing room only. As such, although we typically hit Banjo Night after bluegrass, we could see switching it up to visit this one first, too!
Overall, whether you hit up the North Side on Wednesdays for the Pittsburgh Banjo Club at the Elks Lodge, bluegrass at Fat Cat (when the band is scheduled, of course), or take in a bit of both like we do (as well as many, many others), you've got some great options to consider in this unassuming stretch of Deutschtown!
Elks Lodge #339 is located at 400 Cedar Avenue and hosts the Pittsburgh Banjo Club every Wednesday from 8pm to 11pm. Fat Cat is located at 520 East Ohio Street and regularly hosts bluegrass bands like Shelf Life String Band on Wednesdays from 8ish to 11pm as well; however, this one may not be as consistent as the banjo club so we recommend re-confirming the schedule prior to visiting the brewery for music.
For more live music in the North Side, check out MCG Jazz!
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