Hot Picks from The Guys!


Venues come and go, they morph into restaurants. Programming changes, owners disappear (or go to jail), new ones take their place. Great shows happen, once, in some unusual but marvelous space (and there's many of those littering the post-industrial landscape in and around Pittsburgh). How do you keep track of it? It's hard, let me tell you.

Here's a list of venues that consistently book shows that are of interest to The Guys, or are otherwise distinguished by their amenities or ambiance. We're focused on the combination of live music and dance; so we're not going to tell you about the Suburban Room (but if you like Frank, you know already), or about the Linden Grove (a dance hall at the end of the trolley line; alas, the dance floor is history).

Dancing for us is couple dancing, in all its variety, and these are the place we go looking for it.

Follow the links to find more information, particularly for directions on how to get there.

[Last updated: 5 March 2004]

31st Street Pub
3101 Penn Ave.
Strip District (near the uptown end)
Mostly they do hard rock variants (coarse, loud). Bu they will occasionally book national rockabilly acts. Owner has started booking strippers to boost traffic. Sub-cultural clientele; go for the people show. No real dance floor, but you can sometimes elbow some room to dance (on the cement floor). 

The Bulgarian Club (BMBA) 
449 W. 8th Avenue, West Homestead
(412) 461-6188 
A truly great wooden floor. Cajun Dances First Saturday of every month, with occasional out-of-town acts. 

Club Cafe
56 S. 12th Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15203
South Side
Fabulous room, no dance floor (well, except maybe for that space between the bar and the WC; make a point to stay out of the way of the servers). National acts in an intimate setting. Can easily become your regular hangout.

Club Laga
3609 Forbes Ave
Pittsburgh PA 15213
(412) 682-2050
Largish room with an ok dance space (tatty linoleum over concrete); programming primarily focused on the local college crowd. Got Goth? Occasionally books national acts. 

Dowes on Ninth
121 9th Street
Pittsburgh, PA
Nightclub with excellent live bands throughout the week. A nice but maybe hard dance floor. Draws a broad clientele (spans high-class club to pickup joint); dancer's Siberia to the right of the stage (well, stage left). You're part of the show, look sharp. 

Edgewood Club
One Pennwood Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15218
East End
Excellent wooden floor and home of the Sunday Night swing dances (currently 2nd & 4th Sundays of the month). Only dance in town with exclusively live bands. Once-a-month Salsa Dance. Occasional national acts. 

The Emerald Room
501 Chartiers Ave
McKees Rocks PA 15136
McKees Rocks, about 8 mi from town, down the Ohio on Route 51
A supper club from a by-gone era (balcony, sunken dance floor, big stage: the real deal). Pleasantly seedy, depending on your esthetic. Dance floor has industrial carpeting but it has enough slip if you have the right shoes. They book rock, comedy, minor-league wrestling, anything. Rust-belt Americana; check it out. Occasional national acts. 

James Street Tavern & Restaurant
James and Foreland Street
North Side
Regularly books jazz and blues; two spaces, basement and main. If the Jazz is on the main floor or downstairs, it's just dinner music - no dance space; owner focused on the dinner trade. Fabulous upstairs dance hall, but seemingly booked only sporadically.  Five Guys Named Moe appear regularly; Boilermakers have been showing up (go Paul!). 

M (formerly Metropol)
NOTE: this club has been sold; wait and see what new owners do...

1600 Smallman Street
Pittsburgh, PA
"The Strip District" near Downtown
Your typical weekend/party-hard disco/danceclub/bar/pickup space. Stretch Limos. Industrial Dancing. Out of towners. DJs with funny-sounding names. Occasionally books notable national acts. Same ownership as Rosebud (below).

Moondogs Pub
378 Freeport Rd
Blawnox, Pa. 15238
Up the Allegheny, on the north bank
Once in a, uh, blue moon books a Zydeco band. They let you push back the tables in front of the stage for dancing.

Mr. Small's Planet
400 Lincoln Avenue
Millvale, Pa 15209
P: 412.821.4447
Across from Laurenceville; take the 43rd Street Bridge from town
Nice modern space; converted church (and they say America is religious). Wood floor in the bar area with room to dance. Front of room is tables & seating. Very pleasant space.

Nooners (upstairs)
4104 Penn Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA
A neighborhood bar with a dance hall upstairs. Nice wooden floor. Lots of atmosphere, whether you're up for it or not. Unbelievably cheap drinks. Currently has a regular Thursday night tango event (DJ'd) and a 2nd Saturday LIVE Tango band. (Ignore Nooners' website; the darts crowd is history. Don't argue with the drunks, be nice to the cops.)

The Palisades
501 Water Street
McKeesport, Pa 15132
412 678 6979
Way East - McKeesport, up the Monongahela
A large dance hall with a varied program usually geared to long-time local dancers; ballroom, country. Purpose-built dance floor with great surface, used to be a skating ring.  Occasionally hosts national acts. Hurry up: building is city-owned and they're looking to sell if off to a "developer".

Quiet Storm Coffeehouse
5430 Penn Avenue
Pittsburgh PA 15206
Bloomfield/Garfield, in the East End
Former neighborhood nightspot turned into a funky coffeehouse but with undertones of a bar. Coffees, teas, light food; vegan sushi. Bandstand and a (linoleum) dance floor.
NOTE: they're in financial trouble and are looking for shareholders: go there, they deserve to stay.

NOTE: this club has been sold; wait and see what new owners do...
1650 Smallman Street
Pittsburgh, PA
"The Strip District" near Downtown
Nightclub/showbar with excellent medium sized (though hard) dance floor. Bring your earplugs. Books national acts, varied types of music, though tending to the sit-on-your-butt stuff. Irritatingly early shows (~7pm), apparently so they can cater to the regular night-time bar crowd that start trickling in at ~10pm. Regular Salsa dances during the week. 

Swisshelm Park Community Center
1050 Windermere Drive
Pittsburgh PA, 15218
East - Swisshelm Park
Community center in a residential neighborhood. Good sized wooden dance floor, somewhat rustic atmosphere. Getting there is an adventure in urban navigation; understand driving directions before striking out. Mostly traditional community dance (i.e., contras; where the heck are the squares?)

Wightman School Community Building
5604 Solway Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15217
East - Squirrel Hill
Former school gym, with up-to-date sound treatment; excellent wooden floor, and air-conditioning too. Home of Bobby Ds’ Swing City. Swing dances every Saturday night. Ballroom dances on alternating Friday nights. All ages. It's mostly DJ music but Bobby's been working in live bands. A good place to start your swing-dance career (along with Edgewood)

<your favorite venue here>
Did we miss your favorite live music & dance spot? Sorry.
But, hey, we're open-minded. Drop us a note and we'll check it out.

Do-It-Yourself Dance Halls
Bars and dancers have always had a difficult relationship. The reality is that bars need a drinking clientele to make money. Dancers, as a group, tend not to drink since it tends to degrade their dancing. Still, a dance crowd tends to attract a general clientele. It's a fun place if people are dancing, right? How to co-exist? Minimally, buy something (like a soda) and tip well. Club owners are your friend, be nice to them.

Another hint: Clubs with DJ's that aren't attracting people will be more than happy to play anything that brings people in. Tell them what you want. Bring your own music. They will do whatever you want. Just buy stuff.


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