Pittsburgh Emo Night

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Pittsburgh Concert Venues we miss - Altar Bar.

6 Pittsburgh Concert Venues We Miss (and 2 We Don’t)

Through the years, there have been some really great places to see a show in the area. Here are some Pittsburgh concert venues that we miss.

Club Laga

Located on the fourth floor of a former movie theater (a common theme of many older venues), Club Laga is remembered as one of the most iconic Pittsburgh concert venues. For many older Pittsburgh millennials, it’s where we experienced our first all ages concerts and learned about punk rock, hardcore, and emo music.

Club Laga was a 800 capacity venue on Forbes Avenue in Oakland that operated from 1996-2004 and hosted some iconic bands including My Chemical Romance, Wu-Tang Clan, Danzig, Fall Out Boy, and so many others. The floor below Club Laga operated as a venue and nightclub called the Upstage, which often created an interesting mix of post-show minglers.

Laga closed in 2004 and was turned into apartments.

Millvale Industrial Theater

If you’re too young to have attended shows at the Millvale Industrial Theater, you really missed something special. If you ever attended a show in the warehouse-turned-venue, you know that you’re lucky to be alive. Located about a mile from where Mr. Smalls Theater sits today, the Millvale Industrial Theater was tucked into an industrial park – accessible only via the inbound side of Route 28.

Winter shows were heated with industrial heaters and the decoration could only be described as “minimal” and getting to the venue via public transportation involved a walk along a dark, busy highway… but it was worth it.

MIT operated from 1998-2002 and hosted shows featuring Hatebreed, Alkaline Trio (their first in Pittsburgh), The Juliana Theory, Creation is Crucifixion, Pageninetynine, Sworn Enemy, and many others.

The industrial park was torn down and is now just a hillside.

Hatebreed at Millvale Industrial Theater – one of many defunct Pittsburgh Concert Venues

Altar Bar

Pittsburgh has a history of turning churches into music venues. In 2006, the Penn Avenue building that originally opened as St. Elizabeth’s Church in 1908 was turned into Altar Bar – an 800 capacity venue that quickly became one of the most popular in the area.

Over ten years, Altar Bar would typically host 20-25 shows every month and hosted a “who’s who” of 2010’s alternative, punk, and emo music: Yellowcard, Saves the Day, I Prevail, Code Orange, Avenged Sevenfold, and many other artists performed at the venue.

Pittsburgh Emo Night performed twice at Altar Bar – including a packed set at the Strip District Music Festival in 2016.

Altar Bar closed in 2016 and the building became a church once again.

Planet of the Apes

Not too many people know where Natrona Heights is – even lifelong yinzers look at you in confusion when you mention the suburb… but for nine months in 2002-2003, a converted mechanic’s garage called Planet of the Apes hosted some ICONIC shows.

The venue holds a special place in local scene history – on October 7, 2002, the pre-cursor to Pittsburgh Emo Night hosted the first Pittsburgh area concert by My Chemical Romance (one of their first shows outside of NY/NJ). Other shows included early shows from Underoath, Terror, Full Blown Chaos, and many more.

Planet of the Apes was not a legal venue and was closed by the authorities in 2003. The operator, AJ Rassau now operates Preserving Underground in New Kensington.

Underoath Perform at Planet of the Apes – one of many defunct Pittsburgh Concert Venues

Rex Theater

Before it was covered in frat bro vomit and the smell of regret, Carson Street was the home of a vibrant alternative community in Pittsburgh. In 2000, the Rex Theater – then a movie theater – began hosting concerts as a 600-capacity venue.

Over the next 20 years the Rex would host hundreds of shows including The Used, Avenged Sevenfold, Bullet for my Valentine, and many others.

The Rex theater closed in 2020 due to struggles related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Today the building is called Enclave now and still hosts concerts on occasion… but primarily operates as a nightclub.

Grafitti

Oakland in 2024 is nothing but students, chain restaurants, and hospitals. It’s hard to believe that 20 years ago the college-centric community was home to multiple Pittsburgh concert venues. Club Laga, The Beehive, The Decade, The Electric Banana, and dozens of house venues were packed with live music.

Graffiti Rock Lounge opened in 1983 and hosted early shows from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Green Day, Weezer, Nirvana, and The Offspring.

The building that housed Graffiti is a Porsche dealership today.

Dishonorable Mentions: Diesel & American Music Cafe

Diesel was a terrible nightclub on Carson Street that hosted shows over the years. While it was certainly a place to see a concert – and it hosted some really great shows… it was clear to anyone who attended that concerts were not the primary focus.

All-ages concerts felt rushed and had an extremely early curfew to make way for nightclub patrons later in the evening. Dress codes were strange and enforced selectively. Water bottles were sold at stadium prices.

Despite the crappiness, Diesel hosted some great shows. Avenged Sevenfold, Punchline, Lorna Shore, I Set My Friends on Fire, and many others played at the venue.

Diesel rebranded to Foxtail in 2018 before a viral water bottle incident led to the nightclub closing its doors. It’s expected to open as Avalon Social imminently.

American Music Cafe

The American Music Cafe is the worst venue in the history of the Pittsburgh area. Located on William Penn Highway in Murraysville, the family-owned venue doubled as a music store and a snack bar.

While the venue mostly served as a spot for local bands – including early 00’s favorites the Berlin Project, Punchline, and Distorted Penguins – the American Music Cafe hosted early early Pittsburgh appearances from Brand New, Yellowcard, and Bayside.

Unfortunately, the music store became notorious for selling items that touring & local bands had left behind and the venue became a “home base” for a terrible band called “Baghead” that featured a few of the owner’s children. Patrons would be kicked out for swearing or smoking cigarettes outside.

What Pittsburgh Concert Venues Do You Miss?

Pittsburgh has been home to hundreds of venues through the years and this post only covers a few. Is there a Pittsburgh convert venue that you loved that deserves mention? Got one you hate? Drop your opinions in the comments.

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3 Responses

  1. Club zoo was one of my favorite venues in high school and early college. Rex and Altar bar were great in my 20’s. These days Crafthouse is always a fun venue. They can only host smaller shows, but every one I’ve been to there has been great!

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