Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

After Dark Hall of Fame: Stage AE

The North Shore concert hotspot is the latest inductee in the After Dark Hall of Fame.




Photo by Sean Collier
 

The After Dark Hall of Fame has no entry requirements. I’ve inducted a bowling alley. A street. A loosely organized class of establishments. Two local chains. A yinzer bar. A hipster bar.

On slow weeks, I’ve considered inducting a sandwich. (I haven’t gotten there. Yet.)

But concert venues have remained conspicuous by their absence in this entirely fictional hall of local nightlife institutions. The reason is simple: Until recently, Pittsburgh didn’t have a great concert venue.

To be sure, Pittsburgh had plenty of great concerts. But a truly perfect venue?

PNC Park and Heinz Field are limited because stadium concerts, y’know, sound terrible every time.

Star Lake Amphitheatre — which recently changed its name yet again, prompting the entire region to collectively declare, “Nope, we’re not learning this one, we’re just going back to calling it Star Lake” — holds a lot of nostalgia for me and other locals. But the experience of getting there is a maelstrom of traffic and overpriced parking and they’ve never figured out how to serve decent food or drink at a reasonable price.

I do like Mr. Smalls — it’s a great space and hosts a number of excellent acts — but it’s not quite worthy of induction. And there are plenty of bygone nightclubs (Club Laga, The Decade, the Electric Banana) that might well make the cut if they were still standing.

Since late 2010, however, Stage AE has proven itself as versatile as it is amenable — and it looks, and sounds, great. Modeled on a game-changing predecessor in Columbus, Ohio, the venue has brought music to the North Shore that would have otherwise had to dig deep for an appropriate setting.

Seriously — a few months before Stage AE opened, the Avett Brothers played the Ches-A-Rena. Y’know. The thing in Cheswick.

You know, Cheswick? It’s up the river a bit? Let’s move on.

The indoor/outdoor stage is the stroke of genius, here. During the warmer months, Stage AE is a more manageable replica of the traditional outdoor amphitheatre, eschewing rows of seating for a sizable pit (even during sold-out shows, it’s not a challenge to get close to the stage if you’re so inclined) and a sprawling lawn (big enough to spread out, not big enough to feel like you’re in an untamed free-for-all). When the weather turns, the indoor version of the club offers excellent sound and uninterrupted sightlines.

You can get a hot dog without sticker shock, and the prices for beer are lower than those at a Steelers or Pirates game (and thus significantly lower than those at Star Lake). It’s not even hard to park; most of the time, you can find street parking if you look hard enough.

In the interest of full disclosure, Stage AE has hosted a number of Pittsburgh Magazine events in the past — I assure you that I have no sway on where and when we host parties, so there’s no bias here — but even that speaks to the versatility of the venue. This is not a place that either hosts a band or shuts its doors; in fact, many of my favorite trips to Stage AE have been for pro wrestling events.

Somehow, Stage AE is also the best venue in town for pro wrestling.

The proof of a great venue, ultimately, is in the bands that play there, and the variety and quality is staggering in that regard. Acts capable of filling much larger spaces (I’m thinking of the sold-out 2015 set by Weezer or the forthcoming guaranteed sell-out by Portugal. The Man) choose this venue when they come through town. And while some spaces skew towards a certain genre, Stage AE is the place where I’ve seen Marilyn Manson and Lyle Lovett. Snoop Dogg and Fiona Apple. Anthrax and Girl Talk.

We needed a place like this in town. Then it arrived.

 

Previous Inductees
Eat'n Park
East Carson Street
Western Pennsylvania Social Clubs
​Nied's Hotel
Arsenal Lanes
The Sharp Edge chain
Kelly’s Bar & Lounge

 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit Module Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Latest

Adda Coffee and Tea Expands to a Second Location

The coffee house brings its international focus and welcoming atmosphere to the North Side.

The 400-Word Review: Mortal Engines

Another attempt to start a dystopian franchise can't deliver on its strong premise.

Do You Know Uber's Top 10 Pittsburgh Destinations in 2018?

The rideshare company collects data on just about every aspect of the rider experience, including the most frequently visited locations.

Steelers’ Finishing Stretch Smells Like a Tomlin Referendum

In a season that remarkably could still go either way as Christmas approaches, we’re about to find out if Mike Tomlin still has the coaching chops that have allowed him to succeed at such a high level for so long.

The 400-Word Review: The Favourite

The quirky period drama starring Emma Stone is one of the year's best films.

My Favorite Room with Heather Abraham

Each issue, HOME goes inside the room of one of our favorite Pittsburghers.

Look Inside a Home That's a True Gateway to Pittsburgh

After 50 years away, Dick and Vicki Mallary returned to Pittsburgh and spent years painstakingly remodeling a condo in the heart of Downtown.

This Old Pittsburgh House: A Ghost in the Library

It's said that the mischievous spirit of Amanda Bayne Balph still haunts the red brick Victorian home in Bellevue.

“Trocking” Along: Living the Art-Filled Life in Pittsburgh

Patricia Sheahan’s home in the Brewhouse Art Lofts on the South side doubles as a gallery space showcasing her collection of art, antique finds and roadside treasures.

Down to Earth is the Hottest Trend at High Point Market

Get the scoop on the furnishing and decor trends to come out of the influential High Point Market trade show, including a return to natural materials.

Winter 2019: Things We Love

Here are the local gems worth obsessing over.

The Best New Restaurants in Pittsburgh in 2018

Our dining critic picks the eight top openings of 2018 and suggests one more to keep an eye on.

A Guide to Under-21 College Nightlife in Pittsburgh

Guest blogger Sarah Connor helps college kids head out at night, whatever their birth year.

The 400-Word Review: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

The animated wing of Spider-Man's movie world proves to be a groundbreaking step in animation.

New Venue To Serve as Downtown's Home for Magic

The intimate venue will offer close-up, "parlour" magic shows for small audiences beginning in February.