Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Funhouse at Mr. Smalls is a Treasure

The small, second venue above the Millvale hall is one of the city's best rooms for live music.




Photo by Sean Collier
 

Mr. Smalls is a good concert venue.

Since 2003, the converted church towering above Millvale has been one of the city’s most consistent and welcoming homes for live music, hosting a diverse slate of acts in a memorable space. It has charm. It has character. There’s a They Might Be Giants song about it.

It’s a good venue.

The Funhouse at Mr. Smalls — its smaller, upstairs sibling — is a great venue.

I’ve been there a few times, but it wasn’t until Monday night when I realized what a gem the room is. A sort of reach-out-and-touch intimacy is essential to a good rock club, and that’s the defining characteristic of the Funhouse; while you’re free to spread out back toward the bar if you’d like, you can easily move toward the stage for the proximity of a house show.

I can remember no proper club in Pittsburgh that has offered this level of intimacy, outside of some of the short-lived, underground venues that only existed until the zoning authority noticed. Bygone college favorite Club Laga was too cavernous; the erstwhile Metropol, which still may or may not be operational under a worse name on whatever day you’re reading this, had a dreadful layout, making the view bad and the path crowded for all but a few patrons.

At the Funhouse, you walk in and can move around freely. The bar is at the back, with swift service; the bathrooms are near the back wall. You can head downstairs to an outdoor patio if you need some air, and unless the show is woefully oversold, you can probably stand in the exact part of the crowd you prefer without much hassle.

You can get a bite to eat, or you can get a beer without going broke. (You can’t really park, but it’s Millvale, so you already knew that.) The sound is quite good, too; it’s powerful without being washed out or overwhelming. Unlike numerous hip venues I could name — I won’t, but let’s just say the smoky dive is an anachronism for a reason — the Funhouse doesn’t appear to be actively trying to deafen you.

Admittedly, all of the above are very old-guy reasons for liking a concert venue: convenience, comfort, acceptable volume. Fundamentally, however, the true measure of a club is always the bands it books — and in this regard, as well, the Funhouse excels.

I was there Monday to see the excellent and woefully underappreciated California punk outfit Bad Cop Bad Cop. While they’ve been through town recently as part of package tours, this was their first headlining show in the area. They were joined by War on Women, a ferocious and fearless act out of Baltimore as engaging as they are enlightened.

Bad Cop Bad Cop and War on Women are excellent bands — and the exact sort that should be staples at clubs in a city like Pittsburgh. The same could be said of other upcoming artists on the calendar, such as latter-day shoegaze band Spirit of the Beehive and ethereal songstress (and former Grimes opening act) Nicole Dollanganger.

We’re fortunate to be a market where you can see Cher or Paul Simon in an arena. But it’s a larger testament to the city that we’re a market where you can see Bad Cop Bad Cop in a great little room. Mr. Smalls is good; the Funhouse is a treasure.
 

 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

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

The Latest

The Summer Movies in the Park Are Awesome This Year

The City of Pittsburgh's annual Cinema in the Park series returns with another summer of free outdoor movies for all.

7 Storylines Which Will Define and Determine Steelers' Season

An unfamiliar underdog status may help the Steelers get back to the playoffs and beyond.

Can't Miss Concerts in Pittsburgh in June

This month's lineup includes Ariana Grande, Hiss Golden Messenger and a full slate at the Three Rivers Arts Festival.

June 2019: Best of Culture in Pittsburgh

Check out some of the finest plays, dance performances and exhibits taking place this month in Pittsburgh.

Joe Morrison Takes the Director's Chair at Pittsburgh Filmmakers

After years of uncertainty, the cinemas of Pittsburgh Filmmakers now have a leader with experience building and engaging audiences.

Unlock Special View of Pittsburgh for a Limited Time

Attention all boaters! The locks on the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers will open most summer weekends, allowing you to visit sights you couldn’t get to before.

Get To Liberty Magic to See the Excellent Billy Kidd

The British magician's new show, "Bridging the Gap," brings theatricality and surprising performance to the parlour-magic stage.

The 400-Word Review: The Perfection

Netflix's troubling new thriller stars Allison Williams and Logan Browning.

Undercover: What We're Reading in June

Reviews of “I”: New and Selected Poems by Toi Derricotte and Regular Hauntings: New and Previous Poems by Gerald Costanzo.

What Are You Doing to be Like Mister Rogers on 1-4-3 Day?

Pennsylvania names May 23 as 1-4-3 Day to celebrate its favorite neighbor.

The 400-Word Review: Aladdin

Disney's live-action remake of the '90s hit stars Will Smith as the iconic Genie.

Sharing Knives Grows into Sharing Farms

For its third season, the collaborative dinner series at Ace Hotel will celebrate the region’s growers.

A Slice of Pizza Kept Sean McDowell Going in the Early Days

After 41 years in the business, the legendary rock DJ on WDVE has announced his retirement.

This New App Will Help You Track Upcoming Cicada Swarm

Follow Brood VIII, which is expected to have three species of periodical cicadas emerging from the soil as early as this month, on the Cicada Safari App.

Best Restaurants in Pittsburgh in 2019

Our annual roundup of Pittsburgh's Best Restaurants covers a lot of ground. The list of 30 includes everything from fine dining at a resort hotel to a scrappy, farm-to-table breakfast and lunch counter in Bloomfield.