Josiah Martin | Arts & Entertainment Editor
The Downtown Community Development Corporation (CDC) recently announced Music City Downtown, a new initiative to make live music in Downtown Pittsburgh more common and accessible.
At a press conference at the August Wilson Center on Jan. 16, John Valentine, the executive director of the Downtown CDC, explained that the organization “felt that there was a need for music Downtown.”
The organization currently has plans to use nine Downtown Pittsburgh locations as music venues. Many will additionally serve as restaurants and bars, such as Molinaro’s, which will take the place of the Greek restaurant Poros in PPG Place, and the changing-theme Pop-Up Bar in the former location of Pizzuvio on Forbes.
Another facet of the plan is to make the new venues available to female artists in the city, a plan which Valentine calls the “Female Revolution.”
“We had the opportunity to talk to a lot of female singers, who still felt like there wasn’t great opportunities for them to perform. So, that bothered me,” Valentine said. “We’re gonna promote, big-time, female singer-songwriters.”
Kevin Saftner, owner of the former James Street Gastropub, spoke about the importance of music in community development.
“I saw firsthand on the Northside, at James Street, we opened up in 2011, and when we closed in 2017, it was a very, very different place … part of that was absolutely music,” Saftner said. “Music is something that is accessible by anybody. All you have to have is the desire to play or attend, and that’s it.”
Gina Vensel, founder of LiveMusicPGH.com, spoke on the purpose of her website in the world of local music.
“I envisioned a community website where visitors can search for their favorite music by genre, find upcoming shows, and connect with local talent,” Vensel said.
Speaking on the importance of fostering a local music scene, Vensel added, “We are music city, and we have incredible talent here, but the musicians should not have to move out of Pittsburgh in order to make a name for themselves.”
Those musicians include local students. Wolfie’s Pub, at the former location of Pirata on Forbes, will primarily target and feature Point Park University students.
“We’ll be booking a lot of student acts with Point Park University’s Pioneer Records,” Valentine said. Pioneer Records is a student-run record label.
Bobby Wolfinger, Wolfie’s Pub’s namesake, said that he will be working “to bring many of the student’s that maybe don’t have a place to go play, [to Wolfie’s Pub.] My intention is to have music there five to seven days a week, and I don’t think there’s many places that do that Downtown right now.”
Valentine also discussed plans to distribute maps of the venues to visitors to the city, inspired by his trip to New Orleans. He said that through this effort, Pittsburgh “can start the process of becoming a music Mecca. So our domain is Downtown, and that’s what we’re gonna concentrate on.”