Pittsburgh has nurtured famous musicians such as Christina Aguilera, Billy Eckstine, Steve Moore, Wiz Khalifa and many more. The city is a wonderland place when it comes to music, and there’s something for everyone. Our guide offers options ranging from the best bars with live music to festivals and stores where you can pick up your favorite sounds on vinyl.
Must-visit music bars and venues
Howl at the Moon
Howl at the Moon is exactly what it insinuates. Musos can dance the night away, and howl as loud as they want as they let loose in a high-energy club-vibe bar in the heart of Pittsburgh. Every night is a new experience, as they hold a range of events with many different kinds of music. The best part is the buckets of your favourite cocktail, including Howlin’ Mule, Big Apple, Sex On The Moon and many more.
The Smiling Moose
The next must-visit music bar is one that welcomes with bright red neon lights spelling out The Smiling Moose in Pittsburgh’s Southside neighborhood. This bar/restaurant is popular for its acclaimed cuisine, excellent live entertainment and regular weekly events such as karaoke, trivia nights, DJ performances and theme nights.
As the official home of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra you might be expecting a stuffy venue with classical concerts for elite audiences. This is Pittsburgh, however, a city that prides itself on inclusivity and providing entertainment for all – and as such this venue has a fantastic line-up of events suitable for every type of music fan. It’s a fun destination which is often one of the liveliest parts of town and you can find things happening here once you leave the main attraction.
Carnegie Music Hall
Carnegie Mellon University has a great music programme for undergraduates and graduates, as well as certificate programmes and summer preparatory school programmes for students looking to pursue a profession in music. Guests can visit the alumni concert hall to listen and watch rehearsals, recitals, and performances. The Carnegie Music Hall is also an exceptional space and is the main public performance venue of the CMU Philharmonic and Wind Ensemble, which is a sight to see.
Millvale Music Festival
With more than 300 musical acts and 60 visual artists, this takeover of Millvale takes place over 26 stages. There’s a great blend of outdoor performances and indoor concerts, so you get a sense of an all-encompassing musical extravaganza.
Pittsburgh Black Music Festival
Music lovers get ready for the Pittsburgh Black Music Festival at Point State Park and Market Square in Downtown Pittsburgh. This free festival recognises Pittsburgh as a world-renowned hub for jazz music, but more on that below…
Pittsburgh International Jazz Festival
The Pittsburgh International Jazz Festival has become one of the highlights of the jazz calendar thanks to its stated mission to ‘preserve the legacy of jazz and elevate and amplify the creativity of artists sharing their stories through music‘. The joyous atmosphere here is palpable throughout the city with the epicentre being the outdoor Highmark Stadium. Check out this one in mid-September.
They say everything is better when it’s free, so here are a few free concerts for all music lovers in Pittsburgh. First stop is Jazz Live at the Katz Plaza and The Cabaret at Theater Square. Listen to some of the region’s finest jazz musicians in a relaxed atmosphere. The second stop is the Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival at Point State Park, where British soul singer Michael Kiwanuka brought the house down in 2017. Once a month, specifically every third Thursday, the WYEP community broadcast center invites locals to enjoy live music with 91.3FM. This monthly happy hour is on a first-come, first-served basis. Doors open at 6.30pm and performances start at 7pm. Thirdly, Hartwood Acres holds concerts starting at 7.30pm from June to September, featuring music of all genres including the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.
Must-visit music stores
Records are making a comeback and Pittsburgh’s Jerry records is a one-stop shop situated in the historic Squirrel Hill neighborhood. Named one of Rolling Stone’s best record stores in the USA, Jerry’s houses some of the world’s finest vinyl, from rock and pop to metal and soul genres. They also have an extensive selection of blues, older R&B, ’50s rock, compilations and a “weird section,” which is always fun to peruse. Attic Records is another great record store where visitors can discover some music treasures and Dave’s Music Mine is a gold mine for vinyl collectors with its well-curated selection.