Who knew?

by Jenna Schnuer on April 16, 2012

At the start of their show at the Rex Theater, the Punch Brothers’ Chris Thile got right to it: “Why has it taken us so long to get to Pittsburgh?”


I was glad I wasn’t the only person in the room who was late in adding Pittsburgh to her life. This place. This place! For the quick route to deep deep like, do as I did (though I’m not enough of a planner to have done this on purpose): make your first drive into the city as the sun is setting and the skyline is backed by pink. That’s all it takes. I know I’ve seen a million photos of Pittsburgh in the past but I don’t think I really could have picked out the city’s skyline from a lineup. That’s changed now.

I chose Pittsburgh as my first stop because the Punch Brothers were playing here. It was that simple. Ever since my friend Margaret introduced me to their music a few years back, they’ve been in regular rotation on my earphones and my car stereo. (If you want to see a grown woman cry, play Alex for me. That’s all it takes.) I wanted some thread to tie this trip into other parts of my life, and the band has played a role in both my NYC life (where I’ve seen them play several times) and my road trip life (they’ve kept me company for hundreds of miles).

So, Pittsburgh.

Within a few seconds of talking to a Pittsburgher—my first one was the bartender at the hotel—I started to understand that there’s something really solid about this place and its people. Perhaps that’s the legacy of all that steel. I, unfairly, expected Pittsburgh to be a little sad sack. (Is it the name? It must be the name. And with a last name like Schnuer, you’d think I wouldn’t fall into those traps.) Anyway, it’s not. Instead, this city is anchored by pride for its three beautiful-again rivers, by its devotion to sandwiches topped with french fries and coleslaw, by buildings that look stunning against a pink sunset.

imageAnd it has a yellow bridge. A beautiful yellow bridge that spans the Monongahela River to connect Downtown to the South Side. A yellow bridge you can walk over (which I did on the way to and the way from the concert). Every city should have a yellow bridge.

The only sad thing about this city right now is me: I’m leaving tomorrow. (Yes, that “I like to go but I hate to leave” I mentioned yesterday can even grab hold after I’ve spent just 48 hours in a city.) I’ll stop by the Andy Warhol Museum, maybe the Mattress Factory, and then I’ll be off.

For now.

Pittsburgh is now on top of the list of places I want to get to know better. As Chris Thile added later in the show, “Pittsburgh. Who knew? Now we know.”


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