Where has rock n' roll gone in Pittsburgh? Not far - just to the Strip and Harry & Joel Greenfield's 31st Street Pub, beside the bridge. Their motto, "High Octane Rock and Roll," pretty much says it all about a place that crackles with more energy than Dr. Frankenstein's lab.
The Pub has featured live music for the past decade. It opened in 1962, when Harry, now 81, bought the bar to cater to the mill crowd. But when big steel went down, it was time to move on and find new fannies to fill the barstools.
Son Joel helped plot the bar's outlaw future. He turned the pub into a biker bar, bringing his Harley buddies in to fill the joint. Now it's home to indy, alt, punk and guitar abusing bands of all stripes. But the crowd isn't much different from the early days.
Bikers, spiked-and-studded punkers, long-haired metalheads, rockabilly cats with leather jackets and greased-back hair, garage rockers and a few music geeks show up. Despite their decidedly hide the women and children looks, the bar regulars are a pretty sociable bunch to party down with.
The beer's cheap, the room is small and smoky, and the cover is generally $5. The music is loud and grungy, like it was back in the glorious garage days. The Pub is everything a rock club should be. Heck, they even have free wifi.
The Pub doesn't push its' bands; it gives them a venue and leaves the rest to them. The group has to pass Joel's sniff test to get a job, and he makes them stop in and sell themselves before he unleashes them on Pub loyalists.
Then the band promotes the gig itself. So not only does the Pub provide a stage, it force feeds the fledging groups into learning Music Industry 101 ("How to Pack a House") before they unload an amp. The course grade is pass/fail. If you draw, you can come back. If not, see ya' later. The pay is the cover, minus the stage techie's cut.
The White Stripes played there twice in 2001, arguably the club's biggest moment. But the locals play it hot and heavy too - ATS, Anti-Flag, and Plastic Jesus have raised the Pub's roof. Don Cab will be there May 3rd, and the Midgetmen, indy punkers from Texas with CMU roots, will highlight the May 10th show.
And while you're there, don't miss "The Skull Room." Yep, there's a wall full of skull-shaped stuff, like mugs and candles, Mexican Day-of-the-Dead figurines, and what appear to be actual human skulls. Just a little touch of atmosphere to get you in the mood for the evening's festivities.
So if you're looking to check out the up and coming regional and national touring bands before they hit it big (and the price of a show is three figures), stop by the Pub. You'll enjoy the experience - and it is an experience.
(31st Street Pub My Space. It represents the Pub; where else are you gonna get greeted by Supersucker's "Pretty F****d Up, a great tune.)