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The big town DOES send its riffraff out

October 30, 2013

Dave, Aliza and I spent the weekend visiting our friends Alia Musica and the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership. In between late-night sets of Dominion and introducing Miss Simons to Dave and my old stomping grounds, we had some productive chats with Federico Garcia and Matt Aelmore of Alia Musica about the plans for Perfect Lives Pittsburgh as part of Alia’s Hear/Now Festival. Crossing two states, and getting just slightly detoured by a bathroom stop at Hawk Mountain, we only managed to be a few minutes late to our meeting with Jeremy Waldrup and Russell Howard (respectfully the P and VP of the Downtown Partnership).

First, the big picture.

We’ve had a unique experience of having 80-100 people following us around for most of the day when we did PL in Manhattan and the Catskills, with a hundred or so more coming in and out, or staying for a few episodes at a time. At all the venues (except for, say, the supermarket, where commerce is a-flowing as per usual) our performance was the main attraction. There would be, f’r instance, no particular reason to get to Washington Square Park at 11am on a Sunday except that we were kicking off a 12-hour event there.

For Pittsburgh, we have the opportunity to do it big, but to get a completely new audience; to expose Perfect Lives to a mass of folks who may have been passing by for other reasons (the supermarket effect for each episode); to be in the middle of things in a busy downtown area; maybe even to get a few innocent bystanders to become bona fide Explorers.

F’r instance, for the Park episode, we noticed that Market Square (next to the giant gothic glassle, PPC palace) holds an 8,000 person weekly farmers’ market, and we happen to be there on Thursday, the day of the event. If shoppers and 9-to-5ers can stay the 20 minutes and catch a little bit of opera, there’s a good bet, they’ll come to some later episodes.

1pm, we’re looking at the gorgeous, stone-lion-guarded Dollar Bank on 4th Ave. This might be the jackpot, baby. This would be IN the bank. Fingers crossed. Then, we thought we might cross the river to the North Side for a romp through the closest Giant Eagle. If you’ve spent any time in the Steel City, you’ll know all about this supermarket. Then, back across another bridge (why use the same one, when there are hundreds to choose from) for a 5pm service at Trinity Episcopal Church. Huge. Organ. Piano. PA presumably.  Open.  Lots of seating.  Centrally located, right by a lot of bus stops.  Hot dog shop in the basement called Franktuary.  No shit.
Here’s where we might have to leave the downtown area entirely:
7pm Backyard/ 9pm Living Room/ 11pm Bar
There are tons of great neighborhoods in the ‘Burgh, so we’ll bid adieu to Downtown for the last part. I think the goal is to locate a willing and adequate living room in either the North Side, Strip District, Lawrenceville, Friendship, Garfield, Squirrel Hill, Oakland or Shadyside, and then find a nearby bar and backyard to suit.
Though, we must report our North Side bar crawl find:
Saturday night, between a coma-inducingly yummy dinner at Dave’s childhood friend’s place and a low-key costume-optional Halloween party, we checked out a potential North Side backyard and hotel lobby (Living Room), and three Bars. The emptiness of the North Side in its peak bar-hopping hours led us to believe Thursday night in this neighborhood might not be ideal, but the

Park House, oldest running bar in PGH, was a treat. As DR puts it: “Bar ass bar. Real nice. There was a blues duo playing, the PA sounded good, there’s nice room in the back for musicians. Great looking space, very long.  Practical concern: TVs.  I’m told it’s a hockey bar. The Penguins are good this year. Late May would be prime playoff time. 11pm the game should be over, but if it’s a hockey bar and there’s playoffs, people will be PISSED that we are taking their space. More pressing: it was pretty dead on this Saturday night.  Everyone mentioned it, but it ended up being quiet in a bar town on a bar night.  We’d be bringing the crowd.  Also: tables/bar is probably danceable.  There were peanut shells on the floor.”

After a very busy Saturday eve, Sunday morning was luxuriantly laid back. A morning breakfast meeting with Matt Alemore to talk about musicians and rehearsal space… arrangement details to come, but the short of it is there are plenty of musicians around and, as we discovered, choirs too.
Hot diggity, oh boy. We can have choirs?
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