The Thunderbird Café, located at 4023 Butler St., Lawrenceville, is Pittsburgh's home for straight-up American music. The T-Bird lineup runs the musical gamut, from karaoke to Slim Forsythe and Parkland Drifters, down-home funk to urban blues.
Every Monday night, musicians can join the open electric jam session. Tuesdays are set aside for karaoke night for wanna-be singers. On Wednesday nights, the volume drops for an acoustic open mike night. (Warning - any of these are subject to being bumped if there's a band in town.)
On Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, you'll get fed a steady diet of rock, blues, funk, and jazz - the Americana smorgasbord. The sound system is excellent, too. Most evenings you can just mosey on in; other nights there's a cover charge, depending on the band.
Play your cards right, and you may be lucky enough to run into one of the national acts that pop in every so often, like singer/songwriter Graham Weber, bluesman John Nemeth or funksters Aphrodesia, all playing at the T-Bird this month.
The cafe is split into three distinct sections, with the front area being the street level bar, with fairly limited seating outside the stools. Go up a half-flight of stairs to the mezzanine and you'll find the stage area. The stage itself is small, but the bands all manage to fit. There's some seating there, too.
Continue up the steps, though, and there's a second small bar with much more room than downstairs. It's dimly lit and overlooks the stage area, giving a great vantage point to groove with the band. These are the best seats in the house.
The crowd is friendly, laid back, and a cross section of the town. You’ll find standard bar-food favorites until 1 AM and a decent selection of brew. There's a pool table, too. After all, the place is a neighborhood bar during the day, and Lawrenceville is about as down-home as a Pittsburgh community can be.
So if you're looking for a little slice of Americana in da 'Burg, both musically and crowd-wise, the Thunderbird is your place. Visit it at My Space - Thunderbird Cafe.
Good Night States at the Thunderbird in 2009 doing "Killer Of The One"