Club Cafe

I started the idea of doing venue revues over at the blog I share with Matt. We have ideas for that blog, but for now, this is my expanded haven for musical posts and more. This is my attempt to continue the venue reviews over here. I remember when I first started going to shows in Pittsburgh. I thought it was useful if I could figure out if there were food options or if a venue was BYOB or booze-free. And as I age and having gone through some medical shit it’s nice to know when seating is an option as well.

Relevant Facts

  • Ages: 21+
  • Booze: Yes, full bar
  • Cost: $8-$25
  • Cash/Credit? Credit ok
  • Seating? Varies. There are always ~8 to 10 bar stools plus sometimes tables

The Space Itself – A

I’ve been to many shows at Club Cafe over the years. I have mixed feelings on the set up from show to show, but I really appreciate the intimate setting and the generally solid acoustics. It’s a small general space without easy access to a “back stage” (stage and back area are on opposite sides of the main bar room) so everyone including band members largely mixes to some extent. This helps add to the intimate ambiance of Club Cafe.

Some shows are set up with a lot of sit down tables. This is perfect for a low key show but can stifle high energy shows. The tables are largely gone for high energy shows though so they seem to have worked that out. I can’t be sure if it’s always been that way or if they are just hosting more and more high energy shows or what. I just have a recollection of early shows (for me) there feeling awkward with too many sit down tables that left standees in an awkward row along the walking space and behind the tables. I haven’t experienced that in some time – though part of that might be my willingness to sit as I age and post-surgery last year.

Space Amenities – A

Club Cafe serves booze and food during shows. As noted, many shows have limited seating which limits the value of this option during those shows, but it certainly has proved useful at times. And they have options that my vegan self can eat which is greatly appreciated. They went through a period without  a kitchen and they allowed a friend and I to fetch food from Kassabs at a show at that time. In fact, the staff there is always super courteous which, in and of itself, is an amenity.

There are no super cool space extras beyond that but the bathrooms are reasonably clean for a bar which is definitely a nice feature. My sources tell me that the ladies room is adequate (“I mean it’s no Warhol Museum but it certainly wasn’t the Brillo box”). There is only one stall in the men’s room and like at most shows, it gets used as a urinal after a bit which tends to result in less than ideal conditions for an emergency. But, it’s a feasible option all the same.

It’s hard to argue with a show bar that has serves food, has a full bar, and has a reasonably clean bathroom.

Conclusion – A

Overall, shows at Club Cafe are a good experience. They are affordable, there is good sound, the setting is intimate, and there is a full bar with quality draft beers and bottles. The shift between low and high seating for shows with different target audiences is a nice touch. And damn, i’ve seen some great shows here from Sebadoh to Frontier Ruckus to Erin McKeown’s Anti-Holiday spectacular. So they do a great job booking shows as well. Club Cafe is a worthwhile experience.

Andy Warhol Review (2015)

This is an archived post from Migrating here to ensure that it is searchable along with other venue reviews.

Luna was pretty great Wednesday night at the Andy Warhol Museum. I was standing in the museum, enjoying the show but thinking about how when I first came to Pittsburgh when I was curious about a venue I would google to see what I could learn about it. You know, is it BYOB? How are the bathrooms? Is it a good venue for a show? So, let’s make this post a venue overview.

The Space Itself. A

I’ve been to the Warhol Museum for several shows now. Vivian Girls and the Beets, Harper Simon and Emily Rodgers, Karl Hendricks, Times New Viking, etc… Every show up until Luna had been in the Theatre. Great decision to move the shows into the lobby space of the museum. That was always an under-utilized space in some ways. I know it got a lot of use at receptions, but making it functional for shows really adds to it’s utilization. And this show had more energy than any other show i’d ever been at at the Warhol Museum. I have always found shows in odd places (museums, schools, etc…) to be slightly awkward at times. I think it’s the big vacant feeling the building around the show emits after hours. But I really like seeing a show against the backdrop of the Warhol Museum which is definitely one of the highlights of Pittsburgh’s arts scene.  The venue is handicap accessible which is nice. I did think it would have been difficult for anyone with disabilities to get a good viewpoint. Perhaps off to the side. In any case, the space overall is a solid A. I’d give it an A+ but for the vacant feeling and the completely understandable inability to bring your drink to the bathrooms. I don’t think they can have that policy any other way but it is a nuisance having to coordinate your drinks and bathroom trips in that way. If you have a handy friend willing to hold your drink that’s fine but sometimes I go to shows solo.

Space Amenities. B-

The restrooms at the Warhol are clean and spacious and they are handicap accessible which is a solid plus. It’s not often that you have bathrooms solid enough to take a comfortable shit at a show if you needed to. But you totally can at the Warhol. And I assume they meet the needs for ladies though I obviously don’t know that for sure.

The Warhol sets up two mini bars for this show. I think in the past there has only been one that I recall, so that’s a plus. There may have been two at the last show I was at there but I can’t recall for sure. But there are two negatives for the Warhol last night. Not shockingly alcohol selection is limited. That’s always been the case but it’s never bothered me because they had a good beer selection. Wine is a solid choice and the selection was fine for show fair. The liquor selection was limited but that’s to be expected for a makeshift bar. But my issue is that I prefer to drink beer at shows and the selection was crap (Bud Lite, Miller, Stella, and some other crap corporate beer). In the past they’ve always had at least one good beer from a mid-sized brewery such as DogFish 60 minute IPA. So that’s a ding from my perspective. And the bar is cash only so that is just something that you have to prepare for and we stupidly didn’t (I swear they took cards last time). Fortunately the gift shop broke our $100 bill so hooyah to the good folks (and in general you aren’t going to find better hosts than the good people at the Andy Warhol Museum).  And one more ding actually. I don’t remember the Warhol ever doing this in the past, so maybe they had an incident. But wasting a plastic bottle by pouring the bottle of beer into a plastic cup. I’m not sure why this is necessary but a definite negative compared to past shows there.

Overall, an A+ for the restrooms but a C- for the bar. Add in no food (not that we’d expect it there) and we’ll call it a B-. And let’s face it, other than the issue with the beer selection and plastic cups, the rest of the issues here are simply museum limitations. So well done overall.

Space Extras. A+

The open gift shop is a nice bonus to the show. I don’t know if it was open on previous shows because it was previously located off to the side and I really didn’t bother checking. But it was great to be able to meander through the store before the set. And they didn’t limit your ability to take your drink in (so I was very, very careful!). And they made change for us! So an A+ here as far as extras.