ShareThis Page

VIA puts down Pittsburgh nightlife roots at 6119

| Wednesday, July 18, 2012, 4:44 p.m.
Toy Selectah
Toy Selectah
Toy Selectah

For the past two years, the VIA Music & New Media Festival has helped put Pittsburgh on the map for ambitious, forward-looking new music.

While plenty of other festivals spend all year building up to their main event (and have staff working on it year-round), VIA isn't content just sitting and waiting for it to roll around again.

Instead, VIA actively presents one-time events at venues all over town, all year long. Now, they're opening a permanent venue for smaller events (and parts of the festival) in East Liberty, called 6119 (“sixty-one nineteen”).

“It's BYOC — Build Your Own Club,” says Lauren Goshinski, who runs VIA with partner Quinn Leonowicz.

“We're not interested in running another bar or straight-up club. It's intended to be more like a ‘Gallery 2.0' — with some of the amenities of a club,” she says.

VIA has become synonymous in town for a certain hard-to-define kind of music, not limited to a specific style or genre. They've staked out a sort of imaginary middle ground somewhere between the gallery and the club, art school and house parties, the instantaneous ether of the Internet and cracked pavement of Pittsburgh. Their signature presentation — pairing music with cutting-edge visual/video artists — also sets VIA events apart.

The grand opening for 6119, on Friday and Saturday, brings two VIA favorites back — French hip-hop producer Onra and Mexican beat-maker Toy Selectah, who missed the last VIA Festival because of illness.

Onra creates humid, hazy, nocturnal hip-hop out of samples ranging from vintage funk to '60s Chinese and Vietnamese pop. Toy Selectah blends hip-hop, moombahton (combining Dutch house and reggaeton), reggae, traditional Mexican/Columbian cumbia and other rhythms ricocheting through the Mexican club scene. Later this week, VIA is hosting another show at Gooski's in Polish Hill, featuring psychedelic drone-rockers Blues Control with locals Fogged Out and Gangwish.

Although East Liberty has gone through an amazing transformation in recent years, attracting new residents, restaurants and stores, the traditional main drag on Penn Avenue is still plagued by vacancies. 6119 is between and above several abandoned storefronts, inhabiting a long-empty upstairs space with a checkered history as “all kinds of seedy clubs,” Leonowicz says.

The last VIA Festival took place on nearby Broad Street — indoors and outside. East Liberty Development Inc., which owns 6119, pitched the space to VIA as a possible venue.

They had already been thinking about just such a move.

“We were getting tired of carrying our sound equipment up the stairs (at other venues),” Goshinski says.

6119 is a long, slim room with a stage/dancefloor area at one end, and a bar along one wall. Big, newly painted white walls ought to be perfect for video projections.

It's a fairly rough, no-frills space, but it took a lot of effort just to get it into this condition. When they first checked it out, it smelled terrible, and had a decade-old drink sitting on the bar.

“It had dark-purple walls with glitter everywhere,” Leonowicz says.

6119 has a catering license instead of a regular liquor license, which enables alcohol to be served up to 52 nights a year. Bar nights will be presented by the Round Corner Cantina. The space will be available to other promoters, artists and organizations for rental.

“It's going to be half-club, half house party,” Leonowicz says.

Michael Machosky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 412-320-7901.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.