Last Updated on August 16, 2022 by Jeremy
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There was a time in the not-so-distant past that if you brought up the Pittsburgh music scene, odds are good the response you'd get from others was “it is terrible, [city] is better”.
For a while, we thought that too.
But in recent years, the popularity of live music in Pittsburgh has really exploded both for bands that make stops into the city and for our music venues outright. So in this one, we thought we'd round up some of the best Pittsburgh concert venues, what you can expect when visiting, and more!
We've also decided to arrange this one by capacity (from smallest to largest, roughly), just for fun. As with everything on this site, this list only features venues we've personally visited. As we take in more shows in the area, we'll update this guide accordingly!
We often like to describe Club Cafe not as a music venue, but as a bar with a stage attached. That is because this South Side gem is so incredibly small that the bar is (almost) bigger than the stage itself!
But what this one lacks for size, it makes up for in its ambiance as it provides an intimate viewing experience for some world-class musicians- some you may know, and others you definitely should know for the future. Oh, and as a bonus, their bar list is pretty respectable too (as it should be)!
Club Cafe is located at 56 S 12th Street in South Side.
If Club Cafe is a bar with a stage attached, then we can keep that theme going with Con Alma– a restaurant with stage attached! In fact, Con Alma has two restaurants in Pittsburgh- one in the Cultural District downtown (serving a traditional food menu) and one in Shadyside (serving a vegan food menu), each serving up delicious food and incredible live jazz.
While you may visit other venues in this guide because an act you like is in town at a specific location, Con Alma is the kind of place you should simply check the music calendar, make a reservation, and show up regardless of who the band is. They have such a regular live music schedule that it is really hard to visit here without having music in some capacity (but still check all the same).
Likewise, it is worth noting that Con Alma has several requirements for guests who wish to take in music, including items like cover charges during music hours, food purchase requirements for tables, table time limits, and possibly even set seating times (as was the case at Shadyside at the time of publishing). As such, you'll do well to review all their terms before visiting to have the best experience!
Con Alma has two locations- one at 613 Penn Avenue Downtown and one at 5884 Ellsworth Avenue in Shadyside.
Manchester Craftsmen's Guild
If there is any Pittsburgh music venue on this list that could be classified as a hidden gem (extreme emphasis on the word hidden), we'd say it is Manchester Craftsmen's Guild for the MCG Jazz series.
This North Side music hall feels like it is more in the auditorium of a former library over being a spot for premier live music, but this one brings in some of the world's top jazz musicians for its incredibly limited performance calendar.
So while you may not notice this one when driving around the North Side in the slightest, any fan of jazz will do well to pick up tickets to a show when they are available- the caliber of jazz is unrivaled here!
The Manchester Cratfsmen's Guild is located at 1815 Metropolitan Street in Manchester.
Thunderbird Cafe & Music Hall
Lawrenceville is also home to a music venue we'd classify as a hidden gem, Thunderbird Cafe & Music Hall! If you haven't been to this one, you've likely seen signs for it when walking past on Butler Street and not paid much attention to what otherwise looks like an incredibly small venue.
It isn't until you enter the stage portion of the building beyond the bar that things really open up in what could only be described as taking up three buildings side-to-side in Lawrenceville, excavated down to the basement and all the way up to the roof.
Not only is this one surprising for its size, but it also has a pretty amazing sound! Throw in a regular rotation of musicians of many styles and you have a reason to return to this one again and again. We do!
Thunderbird Cafe & Music Hall is located at 4053 Butler Street in Lawrenceville.
The Elks Lodge #339
While other music venues in this guide host an array of acts either in a single genre or across several, The Elks Lodge #339 in the North Side is a bit different. This hall is notable for featuring one act on Wednesday nights every single week- The Pittsburgh Banjo Club.
This group, almost exclusively composed of banjo players, is hired to play at events and festivities around the city, but opens up their weekly practice night for visitors to enjoy, for free, every Wednesday at the Elks Lodge. While the venue itself feels, well, like what you'd expect an Elks Lodge to be, it makes for a stellar night out with Pittsburghers of all ages for good old-time music, absurdly cheap alcohol (their beer list can be pretty good at times!), and more.
Suffice it to say, Banjo Night at the Elks Lodge is truly one of those only-in-Pittsburgh experiences you have to check out at least once!
The Elks Lodge #339 is located at 400 Cedar Avenue.
Mr. Smalls Theatre
There was a time when Pittsburgh's music scene was predominantly found in old churches-turned-theaters. Many of these have since closed, but Mr. Smalls Theatre in Millvale has remained a staple for mid-sized acts when they swing through the city.
This venue is one of the perfect spots for music as no matter where you are, either in general admission on the floor or in seats in the balcony, you are rather close to the stage and can enjoy a great view!
For those who want seats, Mr. Smalls has an interesting promotion in that you typically buy a balcony seat after purchasing your general admission ticket. The cost of this seat is then applied to a kitchen and bar tab at 100% conversion and makes for a great way to improve your concert experience all around. Even better is that we've been lucky to snag last-minute upgrades when we weren't feeling standing in general admission, too! (But, as with all things, reconfirm the exact details for this one before booking as things can always change.)
As a bonus, Mr. Smalls has a smaller performance space upstairs, aptly named the Funhouse, for live comedy, smaller acts, and more!
Mr. Small's Theatre is located at 400 Lincoln Avenue in Millvale.
Carnegie Music Hall of Homestead
Did you know that the Carnegie Library in Homestead has a music venue attached to it, aptly named the Carnegie Music Hall of Homestead?
This venue is on the smaller side but is starting to take our guide into traditional theater-style seating with built-in seats in both the orchestra and balcony levels. Much like others of this size, it attracts mid-tier acts (including many Grammy award winners) and offers reasonably priced tickets for the quality of the performers.
While the amenities of this one are sparse, we do have to admit we love that you have to walk through the library to reach the (limited) bar and that the concession-style snacks are actually reasonably priced. Library perks!
But just be warned- as this is an older theater (founded in 1898), we have to admit that the seats aren't that comfortable, and in the middle of summer the venue felt pretty hot as well. That being said, we'd gladly buy tickets here whenever a great act is in town!
The Carnegie Music Hall of Homestead is located at 510 E 10th Avenue in Munhall, PA.
The Byham Theater in Pittsburgh's Cultural District is another older performing arts venue (built in 1903) and is known for attracting large musical acts plus local/touring plays, other styles of shows, and more.
While slightly larger than the Carnegie Music Hall of Homestead, many of the same visiting logic applies- namely expect older, somewhat uncomfortable seats and modest amenities. That being said, you're also just steps away from great restaurants and bars in the Cultural District for a pre or post-show treat. So when taking in a show at this one, snag a dinner reservation first and plan for a great night out downtown!
The Byham Theater is located at 101 6th Street in downtown Pittsburgh.
The Roxian Theatre in McKees Rocks was a vaudeville-era theater (opened in 1929) that was only restored to its former glory in 2019. And what a theater it is!
As far as medium-sized venues go, the Roxian checks a lot of boxes for us, namely great sound, a good view practically everywhere in the arena, and attracting a wide range of talent from up-and-coming bands to Grammy award winners that have us going back again and again. Whether standing in the pit or taking in the views from the balcony, we always have an amazing time when taking in a show at this one.
The Roxian Theatre is located at 425 Chartiers Avenue in McKees Rocks.
The Palace Theatre
The Palace Theatre in Greensburg is another classic theater in the Pittsburgh metro area. This Greensburg gem opened in 1926 and rivals that of the Roxian and Byham Theaters for their size, ambiance, and overall experience.
Music acts here can run the spectrum from cover bands to old-school bands you may be surprised to find out are still touring, the Westmoreland Symphony Orchestra, and everything in between. So odds are good you're going to be able to find a show at this stunning venue that you'll be interested in!
The Palace Theatre is located at 951 Old Salem Road in Greensburg, PA.
Heinz Hall is another music venue in Pittsburgh that primarily features one act throughout the year- the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra!
If opulence is something you enjoy when going out for live music, Heinz Hall (opened in 1927) delivers this and then some. From the ambiance to the sound to the quality of the symphony at large (truly a world-class group if there ever was one), it is really hard to go wrong here!
While you'll likely be visiting this one for the PSO, which plays classic symphonies all the way to movie scores and even live shows with musicians, it is worth noting that Heinz Hall does periodically feature other musical acts and events without the symphony as well.
Heinz Hall is located at 600 Penn Avenue in downtown Pittsburgh.
The Benedum Center
You likely know that the Benedum Center is the premier performing arts venue in downtown Pittsburgh, featuring performances from the Pittsburgh CLO, Opera, and even nationally touring Broadway shows to name a few.
While this one features far more production-style performances in any given year, The Benedum Center does have a periodic concert calendar you will want to keep in mind as it is truly hard to beat shows of any kind in this iconic venue! Many of the performers that wind up at the Benedum Center are known for being quite large or culturally significant, with the likes of Mannheim Steamroller, Straight No Chaser, Nick Mason, and some larger cover bands rocking the theater over the years.
The Benedum Center is located at 237 7th St in downtown Pittsburgh.
Stage AE is an indoor/outdoor combination performance venue located on the North Shore right between PNC Park and Acrisure Stadium. This medium-capacity venue attracts star talent across many music genres and generally is known for its outdoor stage more than indoors (particularly for sound and views from the gently sloped lawn).
That being said, visitors to this one should keep in mind the venue's strict security policy (which most major theaters have nowadays but is enforced quite hard here), North Shore parking can be hit or miss, and while the theater offers indoor and outdoor events for year-round shows, outdoor shows are not transferred inside in the event of rain.
Oh, and if you have to use the facilities during an outdoor show here, go inside instead of using the mobile trailers at the back of the lawn. Trust us there.
Stage AE is located at 400 North Shore Drive in the North Side.
PPG Paints Arena
Like big-named, internationally touring bands that pack the largest venues a city has to offer? The remaining venues in this guide are for you. First up, we have PPG Paints Arena– located in the heart of downtown Pittsburgh.
Traditionally the home of the Pittsburgh Penguins, PPG Paints Arena is a mixed-use space that frequently has concerts from some of the biggest bands in the world. While this one can really pack in the crowds, the sound is hit or miss for us, so you'll do well to be a bit more opportunistic when it comes to picking seats closer to the stage if at all possible.
PPG Paints Arena is located at 1001 Fifth Avenue in downtown Pittsburgh.
The Pavilion at Star Lake
Star Lake is often considered to be Pittsburgh's premier outdoor amphitheater for the varied list of world-class performers it attracts each and every year. But if you are taking in a concert here, be prepared for a bit of a drive (and a lot of frustration) as this one is located in Burgettstown, PA, about 40 minutes west of downtown Pittsburgh.
While we've never had a bad experience with regards to the actual performances here (the sound is great, seating is generally good, and so on), many visitors experience frustrations here whether it is due to long lines for entry, nickel and diming for things like premium parking and expensive drinks, and long waits to get out of the exits.
As such, those who splurge for VIP parking or early tailgating access (when offered and within your budget) will have an all-around better experience for some of these concerns. But unless you want to be stuck in the back of a long line of traffic at the end of the night, we almost always recommend leaving before the start of the final encore. Such is life when visiting Star Lake.
The Pavilion at Star Lake is located at 665 PA-18 in Burgettstown, PA.
Our last two arenas of note typically do not feature regular concerts the way others in this guide do. Instead, these arenas only host a handful of shows per year often with some of the most popular, megastars on the planet.
While guests who sit in the stands at this one are likely not going to have great direct views of the bands (we always spend the entire show watching the big screens), we have to admit the sound was great and it is hard to beat a concert with having the Pittsburgh skyline as a backdrop. Sadly, the revenue from these shows still does little to improve the Pirates chances of making the playoffs.
PNC Park is located at 115 Federal Street in the North Side.
Acrisure Stadium (Heinz Field)
Much like PNC Park, concerts at Acrisure Stadium are often limited to mega performers, with only two or three shows taking place each year. Performers that have visited here in the past include the likes of U2, The Rolling Stones, Taylor Swift, Beyonce, and Kenny Chesney- the kind of stardom needed to pack the ~65,000 capacity venue (which, we admit, is significantly reduced for concert setups).
Views at Heinz Field can be quite poor depending on where you sit (with tickets often increasing in price substantially for better views), and the sound quality is variable pending seats as well. But if you want to see one of the biggest performers in the world as they roll through Pittsburgh, sometimes you take what you can get!
Acrisure Stadium is located at 100 Art Rooney Avenue in the North Side.
A Final Note – Music Popups and Annual Events
Before ending this one, we should note that there are many, many more great places for live music in Pittsburgh. This guide was written to only focus on dedicated venues that host regular (and often ticketed) music throughout the years.
Many of our area bars, distilleries, wineries, and even restaurants have regular music from both local and nationally touring acts that we highly recommend you check out and support.
Likewise, there are many musically themed annual events in Pittsburgh we'd be remiss in not mentioning. Things like the Three Rivers Arts Festival, the Deutschtown Music Festival, the Millvale Music Festival, Vine Rewind, Kayafest, Barrel & Flow Fest, and many more prominently feature live music as well.
As such, while this article focused on music venues, you really are truly never that far away from great music in Pittsburgh. So get out, explore, and find a new favorite joint for music today!
Do you have a favorite concert venue we haven't been to yet? Comment below to share!
Looking for tickets to an upcoming show at some of the above venues? Check out options on Ticketmaster or Stubhub.