March Nightlife Guide: St. Patrick’s Day, NCAA March Madness, Comedians Owen and Shoemaker

The Pittsburgh Police Emerald Society Pipes and Drums unit in action.

The Pittsburgh Police Emerald Society Pipes and Drums unit in action at the 2015 Pittsburgh Irish Festival. Photo: Rick Handler.

As winter’s permadark starts to give way as we progress into March, fun activities are on the increase. The mainstays of every March are St. Patrick’s Day and the NCAA Division I basketball tournament, aka March Madness. This year the turn of the calendar puts St. Patrick’s Day on a Saturday so the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and St. Patrick’s Day proper are on the same day. That leaves only one good tribute and party day, right? Maybe not, as those enterprising lads and lasses at Mulllaney’s Harp & Fiddle are having a St. Patrick’s Kickoff Celebration exactly one week prior to the big day. That way we can all be sure that our elbows are good and loose and there are no holes in the bagpipes or loose fiddle strings. Very smart!

March Madness is an event where we’re not honoring a saint and culture but celebrating our reverence for college hoops. Could the game’s inventor James Naismith ever have imagined that we would gather around big-screen electronic hearths, drink pints of super hoppy beer, and eat fried, bony little pieces of meat from chickens, as men put inflated bladders through metal hoops? Probably not. You can also see some first- and second- round NCAA tournament games live at PPG Paints Arena this month.

Not all that into Irish culture and basketball? Well the Pittsburgh Improv has two especially funny comedians onstage this month: Gary Owen and Craig Shoemaker. Whatever you do, have a blast, and “May the road rise to meet you and the wind be always at your back”!

St. Patrick’s Day Events

The Parade

If your neighborhood seems a little quiet the morning of March 17, it may be because over 200,000 Pittsburghers and visitors are downtown for The St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Having begun as early as 1869 and billed as one of the oldest and largest St. Patrick’s Day parades in the country, it includes bands, Irish organizations, Miss Smiling Irish Eyes, and just about every politician in Allegheny County.

This year’s parade theme, as always, is “A Just Peace in the North of Ireland.” Each year brings something slightly different, although who could forget the 1993 parade? It continued despite a blizzard, the worst that the city had seen in over 100 years. (Hopefully no snow this year.) Additionally, this year welcomes the Express Employment Professionals Clydesdales, who will also appear 4 to 7 p.m. on Friday, March 16 at Donaldson Park in North Fayette. This free event includes food trucks, wagon rides, and other activities.

Dennis Doyle playing the harp.

Dennis Doyle playing the harp at the Pittsburgh Irish festival in 2015. Photo: Rick Handler.

The parade begins at the intersection of Liberty Avenue and 11th Street, proceeds to Grant Street, and turns right onto the Boulevard of the Allies. Then it marches down the Boulevard to the parade reviewing stand at Stanwix Street and ends at Commonwealth Place.

This year marks something unique and extra celebratory—a dedication to a single individual, none other than the late, great Dan Rooney, who was not only the former Pittsburgh Steelers chairman but also a United States Ambassador to Ireland. Look for Rooney family members and Steelers representatives in the parade.

Remember, anyone who wants to be Irish—is Irish—on St. Paddy’s Day! Parade starts at 10 a.m. Downtown. (RH, CM)

St. Patrick’s Day Bar Happenings

St. Patrick’s Day is a good time to have a taste of Ireland’s native waters. (Guinness, Harp, and Murphy’s brews are some good ones as are Tullamore D.E.W. and Jameson Irish whiskies.) Have an old Irish toast, such as “May you be in heaven a full half hour before the devil knows you’re dead,” in any of several happenin’ Irish pubs including Mullaney’s Harp & Fiddle, McArdle’s, Murphy’s Taproom, McFadden’s, Riley’s Pour House, or Claddagh.  For those who don’t imbibe or are designated drivers (thank you!), enjoy a McDonald’s Shamrock Shake, a soft drink, or a cup o’ hot tea. (RH)

One of the most popular spots to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day is Mullaney’s Harp & Fiddle. With a tent connected to the pub, the celebration space is doubled. Irish bands and performers hold court all day and night in both spaces beginning at noon and going until about midnight. Mullaney’s will be featuring the top bands on the Pittsburgh Irish music scene including: Donnie Irish Band, Whiskey LimerickTullycavy, and Guaranteed Irish. There will also be a St. Patrick’s Day Kickoff Party at Mullaney’s on Saturday March 10 with Irish music starting at noon. Several South Side Bars are also having a warm up event on the 10th called St. Practice Day. 2329 Penn Ave., Strip District. (RH)

Think traditional Celtic music but with some extra beats per minute—that’s Bastard Bearded Irishmen. The local group is helping Pittsburgh usher in St. Patrick’s Day with its annual party at the Rex Theater. Their latest album, 2014’s Rise of the Bastard, features 12 originals, like the throttling “Tomorrow,” as well as three traditionals, like “Three Drunken Maidens.” A remixed version of their debut, Rebastard, was recently released with two bonus tracks. If the boys look a little tan for Irishmen, that’s because they will have just debarked from Train’s fifth annual Sail Across the Sun Cruise, which set sail earlier this month. Bastard Bearded Irishmen have also opened for Celtic punk heroes The Dropkick Murphys, and they were part of the 2016 lineup for the Thrival Music Festival. With the band officially sponsored by Jameson Whiskey it should be a fun and lively event. Gene the Werewolf and The Cheats open. 7 p.m. 1602 E. Carson St., South Side. (EC, CM)

Nestled next to the South Side Works multiplex, Claddagh is an Irish-themed pub and restaurant. Besides the expected Guinness, Harp, and Smithwick’s, the draft list rotates a bevy of local, national, and international beers plus wines and spirits. The food is solid, too, with Irish fare such as beef stew, shepherd’s pie, fish ‘n chips; and worldly cuisine such as fish tacos and the chicken & brie wrap. Events have included live music, some of it Irish, some of it pop. 8 to 10 p.m. Wednesday is trivia night through Pittsburgh Bar Trivia with gift cards going to the teams that place. Every month is a different trivia theme. Past themes were Harry Potter, Disney, “Friends,” and “Game of Thrones.” None other than EC contributor Christopher Maggio hosts. Claddagh is perhaps best known as one of the top spots in the city to watch rugby matches. St. Patrick’s Day is no exception. The restaurant will broadcast three Six Nations Championship rugby games live: Italy versus Scotland at 7:30 a.m., England versus Ireland at 9:45 a.m., and Wales versus France at noon. The revelry is sure to continue through the evening. 407 Cinema Dr., South Side. (EC)

Hard Rock Cafe is putting the rock in shamrock with (what else?) Sham-Rock. The live local music begins at noon in the Sham-Rock Cafe Tent in Bessemer Court with The Wild Geese, who play idyllic, mostly acoustic Irish music. Corned Beef and Curry, who go on at 1:45 p.m., aren’t a food fusion entrée, but the popular Pittsburgh Irish band consisting of John McCann, Brad (“Hamish”) Dindak, and Bob Banerjee. The Adorabulls aren’t an Irish band, but their covers of everything from ’80s music to hip hop, all on instruments such as the ukulele and suitcase percussion, should get attendees groovin’ into the evening. The tent closes at 7 p.m., but the party moves inside with a concert by The Clintones, a ’90s rock covers band, at 9 p.m. 230 W. Station Square Dr., Station Square. (CM)



Other Fun March Events

Friday, March 9 – Sunday, March 11

Once a Navy man, Gary Owen has toured as “Funniest Serviceman in America.” (At least since “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.”) He’s also been named by Ebony as Black America’s Favorite White Comic, and he delivers observations about sex, clubbing, and pop culture in the rapid-fire method perfected on BET’s “Comic View.” Owen’s movie roles have included playing Bennett, “The Happily Married Man,” in Think Like a Man and its sequel Think Like a Man Too. He’s appeared in the films Ride Along with Ice Cube and Kevin Hart, Daddy Day Care with Eddie Murphy, and Little Man with The Wayans Brothers. Owen has his own reality show on BET that follows him, his African American wife and their mixed race children at their affluent suburban home in Cincinnati. He’s had his own comedy specials and even hosted some for others. He can be serious for a few minutes too, having served in a presidential honor guard while in the Navy. Today, this cross-cultural marvel comes to the Improv to start a three-day stint. 166 E. Bridge St., Homestead. (EC, RH)

The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, aka March Madness, officially starts March 13 with the “First Four” play-in games and continues through April 2. Sadly our Pitt Panthers, Duquesne Dukes, and Robert Morris Colonials probably won’t be in the dance this year, but there are plenty of top teams and Cinderellas to root for. Head on out to your favorite sports bar, neighborhood pub, or wing restaurant. Some suggestions are Cupka’s Cafe II, Cappy’s, William Penn Tavern, Bigham Tavern, Quaker Steak & Lube, Mario’s East Side Saloonand The Saloon. It’s also time to play your office tourney pool. And you’re also in luck if you want to get out from in front of your TV set and see some games in person, as Pittsburgh (through Duquesne University) hosts the first and second rounds of the regional playoffs at PPG Paints Arena March 15-17. (RH)

Thursday, March 15 – Saturday, March 17

Comedian Craig Shoemaker takes the stage at the Pittsburgh Improv this month. Shoemaker is a purveyor of observational comedy, including relatable jokes about pop culture, parenthood, and nostalgia, as well as many other topics. He is especially known for his fun, raunchy, deep-voiced character The Lovemaster. The character was even made into a feature-length film. (Hey, if SNL can do it, why not Shoemaker?) A voice actor by trade, Shoemaker uses spot-on impressions (his coked-out Barney Fife impression is on point), and often engages the audience beyond the clichéd “what’s-your-name, where-you-from.” With a career spanning more than 25 years, Shoemaker has received numerous awards for his stand-up performances and even had his own special on Showtime. He has had appeared in a number of television shows, including “Parks and Recreation,” “Spin City,” “The Bold and the Beautiful,” “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” and in his first role, as an entertainment reporter on “Matlock.”  Film credits include Scream 2, Safe House, and National Lampoon’s Totally Baked: A Potumentary. Currently he is a writer for the Netflix sitcom “Fuller House.” A native of Philadelphia, Shoemaker attended Temple University and then transferred to California University of Pennsylvania where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree with majors in radio, television and theater. Shoemaker has an inspirational nonprofit called Laughter Heals which he founded in 2003. 166 E. Bridge St., Homestead. (EC, RH)

Rick Handler is the executive producer of Entertainment Central. Writer/editor Christopher Maggio also contributed to this guide.