That's me! This past few weeks were great cause to celebrate, as it is my birthday, Chad's birthday, our anniversary, both of my niece's birthday, and about 20 other birthdays and holidays. It's been a crazy long time, but I got to spend a good amount of time writing new songs, thinking about what I want out of my life, and thinking about Pittsburgh from afar. This city is great in so many ways, but it also needs our elbow grease to make any kind of gears that move.
My niece Michelle has been practicing with her bands at a space called Band Stand Live. What an artistic utopia! An all-ages all-the-time venue that had art hanging, practice spaces, a recording studio, and supported local musicians. They pay musicians based on their draw, and sound like they can offer riders and guarantees to some touring acts as well.
Why not Pittsburgh?
The Creative Treehouse in Bellevue does a great job for artists, dancers, photographers and designers. There is one more floor that needs a bit of work to become fully functional as a performance space too. This is a good start though, and I suggest everyone check it out.
Mr. Smalls funhouse is a great stage with full a/v options, a recording studio, and artists lofts. There are practices spaces that are communal, you have a set time to practice every week, though most of the lofts are more studios anyways. It's just a nearly-inaccessible space for local musicians to perform at. However, I do believe in setting goals for yourself, and I have (twice) seen a local showcase pack the joint. I have seen many others who have fallen very short of that.
Smalls does have an interesting project with comcast to showcase the local acts on the television giant's "My Town" on-demand station. Artists get a short interview aired, followed by a few live songs. It's pretty neat to see these bands on TV, I will admit, having re-watched a Phat Man Dee / Celloforte / Ishtar / Bicicleta Blanca / Ana Vey show shortly after seeing the real deal. The interview was cute, and these acts may be the only 5 in Pittsburgh able to hold their own to a Q&A session. Props to Mandee for setting it up, and to Smalls for doing what they can.
Ultimatly, it is simply hard for fans to access the music. The radio stations in Pittsburgh play little local music (though some of them, WYEP as one instance, do have an end-of-the-year review that will feature a top-local-picks list. Bands often site the venues as being counterproductive or even discouraging, which I cannot entirely deny, but I say if a band is willing to do a lot of legwork, or find a friend or fan who will help out, the possibilities will open up. Bu fanst, with only a few places to read about music, hardly anywhere to hear it, and the ability to make their own with garage band or find good live shows on youtube, a band also has to be damn good. It's the combination of a damn good band and a talkative fanbase that is rare in this city. And unless you're getting reviewed in the City Paper (or your college's alumni magazine, like Cellofourte), you don't have me convinced that you're trying hard enough. And if you are, well, that still doesn't mean you're any good.
As a side thought, I realized recently how hard it was for people to get around this city. Pittsburghers hate going through a tunnel or a bridge to get somewhere, and avoid these places as much as possible, although at least one out of every three roads comes equipped with these barriers. Sigh. As the hours went by in Boston, I realized just how often I drove 45 minutes to get somewhere. Every day, many times a day often. And it was always worth it.
PS - I got Chad a bike for his birthday. He got me a unicycle and a poi practice video. Look for our traveling circus on a potholed street near you.