By Daniel Cooper

To catch a good show in Pittsburgh you don’t need to spend $20 or more. For half the normal cost, you can find several small venues that cater to local and up and coming national acts. Below is a list of places to catch a decent show without breaking the bank.

(Photo Credit: Cindy Ord/Getty Images)

Garfield Artworks

4931 Penn Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA
(412) 316-2262
Hours: Most shows start around 9 p.m.
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With no a/c and cobwebs that cover the walls, Garfield Artworks isn’t your cheese and wine kind of place. Serving as a gallery for local artists during the day, the location opens at night to serve as a music venue. For a cheap show featuring up and coming national acts, it spotlights under the radar bands. Before Arcade Fire won Grammy Awards, they played at GA first in Pittsburgh. Bring your favorite beverage with you, as this is strictly a BYOB place. If you go, try and use the bathroom beforehand, this is one venue that cleanliness doesn’t apply.

(Photo Credit: Jemal Countess/Getty Images)

Howler’s Coyote Cafe

4509 Liberty Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA
(412) 682-0320
Hours: Mon to Fri – 3 p.m. to 2 a.m.; Sat to Sun – 6 p.m. to 2 a.m.
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In the heart of Bloomfield on Main Street, this venue features any and every band that comes through Pittsburgh. With seemingly no discrimination to who plays, Howler’s welcomes all local/national acts. Featuring a bar on one side and stage on the other, patrons can watch bands play via the interactive TV’s on the bar side without the earplugs. The stage rises four feet off the ground so every audience member can view the band. Howler’s also has a very good selection of microbrews in the fridge at a reasonable price.

Thunderbird Café

4023 Butler Street
Pittsburgh, PA
(412) 682-0177
Hours: Mon to Sat – 7 am to 2 am; Sun – 11 am to 2 am
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One of the most unnoticed venues in the city is the Thunderbird Café in Lawrenceville. While a small venue, it features both an upstairs and downstairs seating area. Venture to the second floor where the staff lets you stand, as long as you aren’t blocking the pathway. Thunderbird’s is well maintained with an elongated bar area that stretches all the way to a singular pool table before opening to the main venue. The staff and food are better than average and for a little extra ticket price; you can’t miss any show that comes through.

(Photo Credit: Daniel Cooper)


4104 Penn Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA
(412) 621-4900
Hours: Tue to Sat – 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.; Sun – 6 2 a.m.
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Separating a bar and venue by one fire hazard stairwell, this spot has been featuring some of the most buzz worthy bands for the past few years. While it hosts an overly hipster crowd on most evenings, when a danceable act passes through you can you will see a more diverse crowd. Presently being booked by Opus One Productions, the location dwells on the indie bands getting the most buzz on the blogosphere. Directly across from the new Children’s Hospital, parking is at a premium so get there early.

222 Ormsby

222 Ormsby Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA
222 Ormsby’s Facebook Page

It’s a nice change of pace to go to a show where the marquee is green sidewalk chalk on the stoop of a house in Mount Oliver that also serves as a venue most Friday and Saturday nights. If you are up for a not-so-quiet evening in a basement with graffiti walls, come to 222 Ormsby. You will not be disappointed; you may even be inspired to shave your head. Featuring most young post punk bands, it is a small venue where anything goes. Couches and abandoned furniture are used as decor; there is drinking in the back yard, less than 50 people attending, and a less than a desired sound system. It is also a venue where some of the most brilliant undiscovered bands and artists give great performances. It is certainly a place for young and upcoming local bands to get a foot in the door.

Daniel Cooper has resided in Pittsburgh for over 10 years. He enjoys a wide variety of music and arts. On most weekends he can be found enjoying the public parks of the county.