Top Garage Rock Bands In Pittsburgh

September 8, 2011 6:00 AM

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Meeting of Important People live at Howlers Coyote Cafe on October 16, 2010

Photo credit: Brendan Sullivan

By Brendan Sullivan

Rock music can be classified and subdivided seemingly endlessly, but when you walk into a bar or club and you can hear the drums upstairs pounding the floor and the guitars and vocals are bursting through the doors and into your ears, you know you’re in the presence of some hard-hittin’ garage rock. The bands you’ll read about below span a variety of genres — classic rock, ’60’s psychedelic rock, folk rock, and so on — but they all have one common feature: they are awesomely loud, exciting, and fun to see live and in-person. You owe it to yourself to see one of their shows, and since they’re all Pittsburgh locals, you’ll have plenty of opportunities.

the cynics brendan sullivan Top Garage Rock Bands In Pittsburgh

(Photo by Brendan Sullivan)

The Cynics

“The Cynics” are a Pittsburgh rock ‘n roll institution. They released several albums in the late ’80s and early ’90s, then went on hiatus for awhile, but have burst back on the scene with a bunch of albums in the ’00s. Their latest, Spinning Wheel Motel, just came out in July 2011. Founding members Gregg Kostelich (lead guitar) and Michael Kastelic (lead vocals) have kept the band alive with various accompanying bassists and drummers, and their current incarnation features two native Spaniards, which might explain their popularity in Europe. Their songs are perfect examples of ’60’s psych-rock with a little bit of punk thrown in, and crafting album after album full of these gems just goes to show that these guys are pure students of the genre, and not mere copycats. When you think “Pittsburgh rock & roll,” you should immediately think “The Cynics.” Check them out on Facebook or follow them on Twitter.

Sample song: “I Need More”
Where you might see them: 31st Street PubBusiness Directory Listing

meeting of important people brendan sullivan Top Garage Rock Bands In Pittsburgh

(Photo by Brendan Sullivan)

Meeting of Important People

Formed from members of other local rock bands, “Meeting of Important People” have been playing their upbeat and catchy garage-pop tunes since 2008, and they have two albums under their belt. Their self-titled debut was actually re-released on vinyl earlier this year by Get Hip Recordings, which is run by The Cynics’ guitarist Gregg and his wife. The band’s music video for “Brittney Lane Don’t Care” features a sprawling cardboard city built by local artists. As a live act, this trio totally rocks. Singer/guitiarist Josh Verbanets bounces and jumps around onstage, Matt Miller pounds the drums, and Aaron Bubenheim fills in the bass lines and backing vocals. They also work in a few covers of rock staples by The Animals, Nirvana, and The Who. A “Meeting of Important People” show will be one of the funnest concerts you’ve ever seen, guaranteed. Keep up with them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter.

Sample song: “They Love Me In The City”
Where you might see them: Thunderbird CafeBusiness Directory Listing

guitar 117039575 Top Garage Rock Bands In Pittsburgh

(Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images)

Nik & the Central Plains

On their recordings, “Nik & the Central Plains” may fall more into the folk-rock style, channeling Neil Young and The Byrds with the pop sensibilities of The Kinks stirred in. As a live band, their songs are just as pretty and catchy, but they turn up the volume and reverb and really rock out. All three guys in the band–Nik Westman (guitar/vocals), Kraig Decker (bass), and Colin Bronnenkant (drums)–are seriously talented, and putting them together on one stage yields wonders. Lately, they’ve featured a trumpeter onstage for some songs, which makes them stand out even more amongst the other guitar-heavy bands of the city. Like them on Facebook.

Sample song: “King of the Bridge”
Where you might see them: Howlers Coyote CafeBusiness Directory Listing

the slow reel brendan sullivan Top Garage Rock Bands In Pittsburgh

(Photo by Brendan Sullivan)

The Slow Reel

Original songs in the classic rock vein — that’s what “The Slow Reel” does, and they do it really well. There’s a twangy tinge to lead singer/bassist Rob Collier’s voice that recalls John Fogerty and, indeed, the whole band’s sound fully embraces the best of ’70’s Southern rock, a la Lynyrd Skynyrd and Creedence Clearwater Revival. The band strikes a presence onstage, too, with five members, including drums, guitar, bass, keyboard, female vocalists, and some excellent beards. When you see “The Slow Reel” play, you just can’t help but tap your toe and dance along. Like their page on Facebook.

Sample song:“We Get Along”
Where you might see them: BrilloboxBusiness Directory Listing

Know of any other garage rock bands? Leave some comments and let us know. This is just one writer’s opinion, and he’s only seen so many bands in his life here in Pittsburgh, so make some recommendations!

Brendan Sullivan is a graduate student in mathematics and avid music fan/blogger. You can find more of his music writing at

View Comments
  • Drod

    Bridges Burned!!! We’re a bit newer than the bands above. But we have a few a great core set of songs and are bound to entertain…if you like punk/pop.

  • Who cares

    I get the Cynics, and The Slow reel
    Proof that pittsburgh loves Horrid music!
    What’s next an expose on Ratt, Whitesnake, and Cinderella?
    I cant wait till this trendy phase of privileged ,white, suburban,lounge rock is over!

    • Scott

      Who Cares- You are an IDIOT. WHY POST IF THAT’S ALL YOU CAN SAY.
      Cyinic are huge through out the world. They must have horrid taste IDIOT.

  • ????????????

    THE BOTCHED !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • johnny69

    Dave Minda and the Minda Brothers Blues Band…look it up on YouTube

  • Gail Hischar

    The Beauregards…check them out on Facebook!/TheBeauregardsMusic

  • Megan

    Yeah, the beauregards are pretty awesome! garage rock at it’s best!

  • yeah dude

    Dethlehem!!! Best band in Pittsburgh

  • rick seigfreid sr

    8th st rox is a good local band, they have been around for along time.

  • suzie

    the Triggers opened for Weezer and they were awesome. i had never heard of them before that night. Pittsburgh radio doesn’t support “NEW” local talent.

  • Genny

    Eatmyawes out of Beltzhoover is AMAZING.

  • karl starr

    The Hawkeyes – the new up and coming garage rock band from Pittsburgh – think if Keith Richards decided to join Crazy Horse and every show ended like The Who –

  • BoOmMaN

    Splendorfield! Why are they not on this list?!

  • Bob Lung

    I can’t believe you guys left off Pittsburgh’s prodigal sons, THE HAWKEYES!!! Of course, they may not be considered a garage band anymore after opening for Kenny Wayne Shepherd (Tri Media Ctr) & Lukas Nelson (Hard Rock Cafe) this summer, but come on!

  • Elizabeth Bentley


  • Cynthia Morris

    I’m feeling a little cynical after meeting with important people, it seems you are on a slow reel after hanging out in the central plains too long – how can you leave off one of Pittsburgh’s most up n coming bands? The Hawkeyes (Jay Wiley + members of Country Music Gas Station) are on the fast track after signing with Broad Horizon Records (Cincinnati OH) a few months ago. They just completed their summer tour & are about to head back out for their fall leg in support of their debut release. Double E (first single) is getting good reviews and the guys went over well in Columbus, Youngstown, Athens, Winston Salem, Nashville etc. Pay some respect to some good old fashioned American rock n roll.

  • Amy Lynn Snyder

    The Hawkeyes!!!

  • Marley Timmons

    The Sparrows. Trust me, should be on this list…but they’ll do fine without it. Peace.

  • Homer Havko
  • Loyal Fan

    The Hawkeyes!! – This is an amazing band, the lead singer has a very unique voice and the lyrics that are written by him are amazing —– take the time to sit and listen to the words ——- awesome!!!

  • K Lee

    The Hawkeyes! Incredible lyrics, driving tunes and great to watch!

  • Lou

    you guys the best way to get brendan to listen to your cousin’s band is to leave 20 comments about them.

  • Brendan Sullivan

    @Lou: Amen, brother. Keep ’em coming, everyone.

    Also, is this Brillo Lou? If so, HOWDY!

    • Bob Lung

      Brendan,you catch them live THURS at Thunderbirds with Thrift Store Cowboys before they hit the road again for a 10 day fall tour including stops in Lawrenceburg IND Athens GA Nashville TN & more
      I’d love to send you a CD to review

  • Craig

    Check out CHANCES ARE HIGH. They’re slowly getting some recognition around here. They play at Mr. Smalls or The Smiling Moose a lot.

  • Luther mcmillian

    Well,fellows,I know the theme is rock,but funk should have been mentioned due to the influence it has within all genre’s of music.

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