Rockin' the ’Burgh

Market Square will come alive this Friday when the first ever Iron City Sound Downtown Live! starts, kicking off a summer-long series of nighttime concerts.  This week, the one and only Joe Grushecky will take to the stage, only with the help of the City of Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership and Pittsburgh Brewing Co.  Iron City Sound Downtown Live! will keep the Square in tune with legendary local performers as well as rising musical talents from the area.  As a great way to jump start your weekend, the Friday night concerts will keep the "heart of the city" humming throughout the night.

We promise you'll have a good time as you make your way to the front of the stage when Joe Grushecky brings his houserockin' band to the Square for this Friday's inaugural show.  The critics' favorite from the start, Grushecky's hard-driving, blue-collar brand of rock 'n' roll has earned him fans across the country, including a Jersey boy by the name of Bruce Springsteen.  Whether Joe and the Houserockers are "Pumping Iron" or crooning about a "Love So Tough," they're always true to their Steel City roots.  With a stage presence big enough to fill a stadium, Grushecky's shows still perform an upclose punch of an intimate show, just like down at "Junior's Bar."  The Long Time Darlings take the stage at 5 p.m. to warm up the crowd, while  Joe and his boys prove that rock is still alive in the ’Burgh around 6 p.m.

You won't have to search for that lost shaker of salt when you take a musical trip to Margaritaville with Tom Watt, who turns parrotheads around with his spot-on renditions of Jimmy Buffett classics. Though he may not be the son of a son of a sailor, Tom sails through the Buffett songbook with an ease that is sure to please the real deal's truest fans. Grab a cheeseburger from  one of the Square's eateries and find a bit of paradise right smack in the middle of Downtown  with the "Buffett Man" on July 13.

The city's very own soul man Billy Price gets to the roots of the rhythm on July 20. A true blues brother, when Billy wails about hard times and cheating hearts you can't help but smile. A mainstay on the Pittsburgh scene for decades, Billy takes a "Lickin' Stick" to the blues in a style that blends tradition with his own inimitable blue-eyed, East Coast delivery. Setting the stage for Billy and his band, Dream Job will open with the trio's unique indie folk rock sound.

Get ready to take off with Jeff Jimerson and Airborne. A high-flying act around the ’Burgh since the ’90s, Jeff lands his band in the Square on July 27. A mainstay at Penguins games singing the National Anthem, Jeff plays power-pop tunes that will have fans dancing in the streets around the Square. Getting things started on the right note will be Bear Cub, a local band that resonates with a sound reminiscent of the Avett Brothers and Josh Ritter.

http://images.clubzone.com/images/upload/22(121).jpgWhile the headliner for August 3 is surely a surprise to all of us, opening act Danielle Barbe will perform songs from her debut album. A newcomer from what she calls a "small town south of the city," Danielle's already made a big splash with songs that can be heard on major network TV shows and at the movies.

John McDonald holding a Macaw
Enjoy a little island escape with John McDonald and the Mango Men as the dog days of summer draw near.  The "trop rock" bank will be jammin' in the Square on August 10 with a refreshing mix of raggae, salsa, Latin and island infused sounds. Polished pros, the band has opened for the Beach Boys, Hall and Oates and other big name performers along the East Coast. Setting the tone for the evening, opening act Guaracha will spice up the evening with a lively mix of Cuban, merengue and other island sounds.

To close out the set on August 17, country act the Stickers will turn the Square into a high-energy, upbeat rock show you wouldn't even find on CMT!  These urban cowboys will have fans of all ages kicking up their heels to favorites such as "Girl in a Pickup Truck" and "She Don't Like a Thing" as these local faves bring a bit of Nashville to the Downtown Pittsburgh.

Mark your calendars for the rest of the summer today, and make sure you don't miss a single beat of this noteworthy Friday night concert series that will keep the Square rockin,' jammin,' and jivin' all summer long! 


Tiny Bubbles on the Square

It's true - there is something new in Market Square just about every day. And if you've been looking around the Square lately, you've noticed that something's going on in the space above Bruegger's. We've decided to give you an exclusive sneak peek at what is soon to be the latest hotspot in Downtown Pittsburgh when Perlé debuts in just a few weeks.

The dreamchild of NOLA on the Square partners Yves Carreau and Pete Landis, Perlé will open its doors to a more cosmopolitan Downtown crowd looking to literally rise above it all. With its champagne bar theme and decor, Perlé brings a sophisticated atmosphere to the Square for after work, get-togethers and late-night rendezvous. With muted hues and subdued lighting, Perlé's centerpiece will be a 24-foot long bar that stretches nearly the length of the intimate but spacious interior. While workmen are currently busy transforming the blueprints into reality, Perlé will soon be a chic refuge in the heart of the city.

With a bit of a twist, Perlé will be open for public and private events on a split schedule. The doors open Wednesday through Saturday to the public. The kitchen will serve an innovative tapas menu with a continental European flavor and will stay open past midnight most evenings, with even longer hours on weekends. From Sunday through Tuesday, Perlé will be available for private functions such as weddings or business meetings. Landis says that at least one wedding is in the works and several local corporations are looking to book the space.

And please pardon our French, but Perlé (per-lay) is how they say pearl in Paris. It's also a sly French reference to the tiny bubbles that will be served at the Square's newest and chicest destination. Stay tuned for details.


Wieners Take All!

Hey, isn't it cool that the Buccos are in first place? It's always great to cheer on a winner. Well, tomorrow at noon in Market Square — that would be Wednesday, June 13 — you can root for a whole bunch of wieners, uh we mean winners, when the regional round of Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest Qualifier returns to Pittsburgh at noon. Nearly as old as Major League Baseball, the Nathan's competition took its first bite out of the action in 1916, at the Original Nathan's location on New York City's very own Coney Island. And we're proud to say that our hometown is one of a few select cities chosen for qualifying rounds. That's the kind of ranking we really relish.

Now, a lot of games can have a lot of rules. But for this match up, the guidelines are simple. You gotta eat more frankfurters and buns than anyone else during 10 minutes. These big league eaters can help the dogs go down easier by dunking them in the beverage of their choice or chomp them down or bite by bite. But the only "no-no" in this wiener take all battle is that they must swallow every bite. There are no "put backs," if you know what we mean.

Judging by last year's event, the  2012 qualifier will be even more ferocious in this man bites dog battle. "Big" Brian Subich of Johnstown looms large in the men's field as a previous winner in North Carolina. But the rest of the pack will be nipping at his heels — and big piles of hot dogs — as they go for the title and a chance to win an  trip to chow down at the July 4 Championship, which draws 40,000 fans to the corner of Stillwell and Surf avenues, just a couple blocks away from Coney Island's famous Cyclone roller coaster. Along with a broadcast on ESPN that's viewed by almost two million fans, the men's and women's eating champs will pocket a cash prize big enough to keep them up to their necks in Nathan's dogs.

For the first time in Pittsburgh, a husband and wife will compete on the same stage when Theresa Subich sets her sight on the women's crown. And just what does it take to be the champ?  Well, it's a combination of a big appetite for Nathan's hot dogs, a cast-iron stomach and a determination to win. Last year's winners of the fast-and-furious franks fest in the Square each downed 28 dogs in 10 minutes. To put that into perspective, world champion eater Joe Chestnut consumed 68 Nathan's Famous dogs in the same amount of time — a record that actually might be hard to swallow for mere mortals.

Even though it's too late to compete in this year's event, it's never to late to begin training for the 2013 competition. You can start getting in shape, sort of, by visiting the Downtown Nathan's at the corner of Wood Street and Third Avenue. After all, everyone loves a wiener.


The Mysteries of Downtown Pittsburgh

We're not whistling past the graveyard when we tell you that some Downtown Pittsburgh workers, residents and visitors have experienced encounters with ghosts and orbs. After all, with such a rich and majestic history more than 250 years long, you can bet there are more than a few dispirited souls from the netherworld roaming the city's streets, buildings and imaginations.  While we're pretty sure that Market Square remains specter-free, aside from the annual ZombieFest, Tim Murray and his crew of ghost hunters will track down a phantom or two on weekly tours of Haunted Pittsburgh that start in the center of the Square.

A Downtown lawyer named Tim decided to chase down apparitions in his hometown after enjoying similar tours in other cities. And once he began researching local ghost stories, he discovered that Pittsburgh was blessed — or should we say cursed — with a treasure trove of such eerie tales. Many of those yarns from the dark side trace their shadowy origins to some of Downtown's most famous landmarks, including one prestigious hotel where the ghosts can check in anytime they like but they can never leave.

And then there's the story of the celestial child who saved the life of a noted steel industry magnate at his Downtown Fifth Avenue office. Despite suffering two gunshot wounds to the neck and a stab in the thigh, the industrialist managed to wrestle his would be assassin into submission. Years later the man of steel credited the miraculous appearance of a departed young daughter whose brilliant aura blinded the would be assassin. You could say the guy never had a "Frick"ing chance.

Broken hearts often turn into lost souls. When Kate Soffel fell head over heels for Ed Biddle, she should have known better. After all, she was the wife of the County Jail warden and Biddle was a notorious area criminal awaiting the executioner on death row. Still, Mrs. Soffel aided Biddle's ill-fated escape from H.H. Richardson's landmark structure. Not long after the jail break, Biddle was shot to death, and his star-crossed lover spent the rest of her life in prison. Rumor has it that the wailing ghost of Mrs. Soffel still roams the former jail's corridor. If you stand under the Bridge of Sighs on Grant Street, you might just hear her spine-chilling moans.

And there are even more things that go bump in the night, such as the curse of the Wabash Railroad Bridge, the dead judge who dons his robes to deliver verdicts from beyond the grave, the former brothel turned restaurant, PaPa J's Centro, where the ghouls are "boo-tiful" and otherworldly legends of a totally honest president who logged a night's rest at the western end of Smithfield Street.

While many of the stories will make the hairs nearly jump off the back of your neck, there's plenty to learn along the way about Pittsburgh's history and role in literally building an America that became a world power. Still, bizarre is the theme of these weekly, 90-minute spook search tours, which start  in the Square each Saturday at 7 p.m. for the next few weeks before switching to Fridays on July 7. It's such a shock to the system that you just might want to return to the Square to sit down with some friendly "spirits" to calm your rattled nerves.