Best of the 'Burgh 2010: Arts & Entertainment
Our editors pick the best of the best in Pittsburgh arts and entertainment.
Best Band: Perfect performance by every member of a rock band is something we’re woefully unfamiliar with. But the members of 28 North—Mike Lindner, Alex Stanton, Jonathan Colman and Tyler Bond—are masters of their instruments, playing with furious, precise passion. The band’s unique sound often turns out like big ’60s rock mixed with gritty blues (think The Who going down South). It’s irresistible, infectious and infinitely refreshing. 28 North tours nationwide, but Pittsburgh iss home; they’ve become favorites of WDVE, having hosted the radio station’s Christmas party. Go to a show. Now. Concent info: 28north.net. — Sean Collier
Readers’ Poll: Best Museum: Andy Warhol Museum, 117 Sandusky St., North Shore; 412/237-8300, warhol.org
Best Viral Video: When Snowmageddon rocked the ‘Burgh in February, most people waited out the storm on their couches, swaddled in Snuggies. But instead of hiberating like the rest of us, seven friends from Mt. Lebanon went “Pittsburgh Urban Skiing.” Led by Colin Sander, a 22-year-old film producer from Los Angeles who had returned home to Pittsburgh to work on the Russell Crowe film “The Next Three Days,” the crew grabbed their skis and a digital camcorder and set out to answer a simple question: “Can we ski down Mount Washington?” More than 100,000 YouTube views later, the answer is, incredibly, yes. Watch the video on YouTube. — Sean Patrick Conboy
Readers’ Poll: Best Local Dance: Bodiography Contemporary Ballet Co., 5824 Forbes Ave., Squirrel Hill; 412/521-6094, bodiographycbc.com
Photo courtesy of Fairmont
Best Opening Gala: It was a debutante ball for the youngest and fairest new hotel in town, Fairmont Pittsburgh. And she was dressed up for the big event: Guests stepped gingerly across a temporary walkway that resembled a garden under glass and then made their entrances into the stunning main lobby, which glittered amid a sea of champagne and ball gowns. The evening was rife with surprises: An Andy Warhol lookalike sat at the bar, trapeze artists twirled from the ceiling and a guided tour of rooms featured startled hotel guests (actors!) in bed or bathrobes. The international buffet was fabulous, but the miniature desserts stole the show. Guests left with a hot cup of coffee in a Fairmont travel mug and discovered a breakfast treat in their valet-parked car. 510 Market St., downtown, 412/773-8800; fairmont.com. — Betsy Benson
Readers’ Poll: Best Movie Theater: AMC Loews at the Waterfront, 300 W. Waterfront Drive, Homestead; 888/262-4386, amcentertainment.com/waterfront
Best Unexpected Nightlife Combo: Duke’s Station, just outside of South Park, is a surprisingly fun spot any night of the week. Drink specials are generous, the food is cheap and there’s karaoke seven nights a week. This makes for an unlikely double-header on Mondays, though. Local comic Aaron Kleiber hosts a stand-up open mic starting at 8 p.m., leading up to the start of karaoke at 9:30 p.m. In practice, this means up-and-coming comics can bust out their favorite hits on a microphone they used to work out new material 30 minutes ago. Crazy fun. 5981 Baptist Road, Bethel Park; 412/835-0697. — S.C.
Readers’ Poll: Best Jazz Venue: Cabaret at Theater Square, 655 Penn Ave., downtown; 412/325-6766,
Best Sunset Picnic Spot: At the top of a hill of broad, sloping lawn at the Schenley Park Overlook, adjacent to the Schenley Skating Rink and Disc (Frisbee) Golf Course, people gather every warm night with blankets and lawn chairs for a spectacular combination of sunset and skyline. With an ideal angle of the sun setting behind downtown in the distance and the Cathedral of Learning and Oakland in the foreground, the Overlook makes for a picture-perfect stage. Bring your camera. Schenley Park Overlook, 1 Overlook Drive, Squirrel Hill; pittsburghparks.org/schenley. — J.W.
Readers’ Poll: Best Local Comedian: Gab Bonesso, gabbonesso.com
Readers’ Poll: Best Local Artist: Daniel Teadt, danielteadt.com
Best Underground Art Space: Shhh. Let me share a secret: Sometimes, the most engaging art galleries aren’t the ones with cheese plates and French wine. If you don’t want to be distracted by sterile hobnobbing and pretension, visit Artspace 105 in Homestead for exhibitions of photography, sculptures, woodworking and mixed media that brim with youthful energy and ethnically diverse subjects. 105 E. Eighth Ave., Homestead; 412-480-7246, steelvalleyarts.org. — S.P.C.
Readers’ Poll: Best Classical Music Venue: Heinz Hall, 600 Penn Ave.; 412/392-4900, pittsburghsymphony.org
Photo by Chuck Beard
Best Pitt Stop (and Start): If you don’t know about Fort Pitt (and its fortified predecessors) and the genesis of our history at the forks of the Ohio, then how can you understand our city and region? Fortunately, there’s the Fort Pitt Museum, which is the Pittsburgh 101 course for everyone, especially newcomers to the region. The museum reopened this spring with such familiar attractions as the incredible scale model of Fort Pitt and its environs, as well as refurbished exhibits and some new ones, too, making the point that everything old (even really, really old) can be new again. Point State Park, downtown; 412/281-9285, heinzhistorycenter.org. — Mike May
Readers’ Poll: Best Pop Music Venue: Mr. Small’s, 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale; 412/821-4447, mrsmalls.com
Best Place for a Halloween Party: The Evaline Party is not just the best Halloween party in town—it’s one of the most creative parties ever thrown. Hosted by the residents of 426 Evaline Street in Bloomfield, this one-night event converts an ordinary Victorian mansion into a thematic madhouse. In the past, the cellar became a submarine with a fully functional periscope, used to spy on people upstairs. A bedroom served as a mini-planetarium. And last year, the party found inspiration in 2001: A Space Odyssey and featured a full-sized replica of the movie’s space-pods. In the house’s expansive yard, there’s even a functional rollercoaster, homemade by the Evalinians. There’s only one hitch: The line to enter this party stretches around the block. 426 S. Evaline St., Bloomfield. — Robert Isenberg
Readers’ Poll: Best Performing Arts Venue: The Benedum Center, 803 Liberty Ave., downtown; 412/456-6666, pgharts.org
Photo by Chuck Beard
Best Free Entertainment: The Pittsburgh Banjo Club gathers every Wednesday night around 8 p.m. at the Elks Club on the Northside’s Cedar Avenue. Where else can you find 20 or more banjo players strumming along to golden oldies like “Heart of My Heart” and “Carolina in the Morning?” This is not the five-string bluegrass banjo of “Deliverance” and “Hee Haw.” The Pittsburgh Banjo club celebrates the four-string banjo and a repertoire that goes from the Gay ‘90s through the Roaring Twenties. They’ve been entertaining audiences of all ages for more than 20 years in Pittsburgh and raising money for local charities. Wednesdays are supposed to be rehearsals, but it looks and sounds like too much fun to be work. The full band plays until 11 p.m., but stick around for an after-hours jam around the piano. Allegheny Elks Lodge #339, 400 Cedar Ave., Northside; 412-321-1834. — Chris Fennimore
Readers’ Poll: Best Theater Company: Pittsburgh Public Theater, 621 Penn Ave., downtown; 412/316-1600, ppt.org
Best Eccentric Holiday Celebration: A Festivus Party requires three major rituals: First, the raising of a Festivus Pole; second, celebrants “air their grievances;” finally, they demonstrate “feats of strength.” Ever since that legendary “Seinfeld” episode, urban hipsters have thrown Festivus parties on Dec. 23. In Pittsburgh, this tradition is revived now and again—last year by the Scoot’n Yinzer Scooter Club and in 2006 by the Quiet Storm. It’s just the kind of weird, secular holiday that disaffected youth can get behind—even if the main activities are arm-wrestling, paper-football and lots of loud griping. If everybody is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, then Festivus makes us all a little Costanza. — R.I.
Readers’ Poll: Best Summer Festival: Three Rivers Arts Festival, artsfestival.net
Photo by Chuck Beard
Best Place to Spend a Few Quiet Hours: You don’t need to smoke cigars or drink coffee to fall in love with Leaf & Bean in the Strip District. The vibe is so deliciously mellow and the space so wonderfully stuffed with an eclectic mish-mash of vintage décor that you’ll come for the caffeine but stay for the atmosphere. Best part: The air quality is reasonable, even when several customers are puffing away. If only Leaf & Bean had evening hours. The schedule varies, but most days, the shop closes by 6 p.m. If you use Google to find the establishment’s website, don’t be confused—several coffee houses around the country are named Leaf & Bean but have no relation to this Strip District favorite. 2200 Penn Ave., Strip District; 412/434-1480. — Melissa Rayworth
Readers’ Poll: Best Walking/Riding Trail: Montour Trail, montourtrail.org