Anyone who knows the Pittsburgh scene knows the importance of James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy. Thanks to General Manager Kevin Saftner and his team, the venue has become one of the most diverse and happening performance spaces in the city. From a wide range of local events and concerts, to its key role in festivals such as Deutschtown, to hosting this very website’s “Best Of” Awards Show two years in a row, its active role in this community is obvious. But now, Saftner aims to solidify and increase the extent of that role, with the launch of his official production and promotion company: Sound Beacon Productions.
“With how things are going at James Street and the Pittsburgh music scene in general, right now is the perfect time for us to expand beyond the North Side,” explains Saftner. “We’re not currently able to book and produce every show we’d like to at James Street, so the time was right to look for new venues with which to partner.”
Expanding that roster of spaces available for booking will enable the team to participate even more fully in this scene—and not just on the local level. “Our goals are the same as they are at James Street,” Saftner says. “We want to continue to be an integral part of the local music scene by working very closely with local musicians, bands, and production/promotion companies. [But] with Sound Beacon Productions, we are also looking to take a leap into bringing more regional and national acts to the city.”
This initiative is not surprising. Since Saftner officially took over booking in March 2015, James Street has had events occurring in both the Speakeasy and the Ballroom most nights of the week. Even when faced with setbacks, such as the noise complaint and remodeling issues we reported on last summer, their patrons quickly rallied to raise the funds necessary for renovation, and kept the music going. That loyalty and support has been earned, and the launch of this company appears to be a natural next step.
The current crew of Sound Beacon, aside from Saftner, includes Dhruva Krishna (Assistant Venue Manager), Brando Martin (Sound Tech and Live Audio), Tom Versharen (Lighting), and Jake Bellaire (Graphic Design/Website.) Saftner is very conscious of the role James Street plays, both in the lives of its employees and in the broader community, and affirms that it “will always be priority number one to me.” Its day-to-day operations shouldn’t change; the company only consolidates what it was already doing, while increasing its scope. “When the show/event is right, we will be able to book any venue in the city without causing issues elsewhere,” he continues.
We’ll have to be a bit patient to see the first shows officially put on by Sound Beacon. “Everything is currently in the very first steps,” says Saftner. “We have spoken to other venues and production companies, and are currently working on ways that we can help each other out by sharing a common long-term goal—creating more events for local artists, while working our way towards bringing in more touring acts.” Still, it seems like the wait will be worth it. With the team’s extensive knowledge of and participation in the Pittsburgh scene; regular hosting of themed events (such as the sold out Great Gatsby party on March 31st); and their determination to network and apply those skillsets towards regional and national acts, Sound Beacon Productions will stand out as a triple threat.
The team’s particular dedication to, and passion about, their mission is also obvious. “We want everybody to know that the only reason Sound Beacon Productions is a thing is because of what they are doing,” Saftner enthuses. “We are all connected in the pursuit of making Pittsburgh the best music city in the world. It is all of our dreams. It is all of our hopes.”
“We want to be the group of people everybody feels welcome around,” he concludes. “We want to be the company where you can come sit down and talk about your goals, and we help you achieve them.”
Official website and social media links for Sound Beacon should be live in the next week or so. In the meantime, make sure you’re keeping up with James Street on Facebook and Instagram (@jamesstreetgastropub.)