While record stores and labels struggle, two local musicians open shop in a different area of the music business 

New music venues cropping up around Lawrenceville means more musicians hanging around. And with musicians comes the need for repairs, strings, instruction and tempting new gear. That's some of the thinking behind Backstage Guitars, a new music-equipment shop located at 4123 Butler St., across the street from Your Inner Vagabond.

"The more questions we asked, the more people we asked, it seemed like this area needed a store," says manager Jason Deutsch.

Over the last year, Deutsch helped plan the April 1 launch with Jake Miclot, the 23-year-old owner. Miclot, a touring musician originally with local hardcore band Deathright, and Deutsch, a singer-songwriter, met while Deutsch was working at another music store in the North Hills.

The guitars that hang along the walls sparkle just as brightly as the newly renovated storefront -- same with the basses, drum equipment, keyboards and recording supplies, and even a few banjos that Deutsch decided to take a chance on. But when you look a little closer, many of the instruments are by unfamiliar or unusual makers. Ever heard of Recording King acoustic guitars? Neither had I, but Deutsch suggests they're a much better deal than guitars with comparable features.

In choosing the lines they carry, they were "trying to make sure that we catered to not only new musicians, but gigging musicians," says Miclot, as well as introducing gear that's new to Pittsburgh. "A lot of the reps have come in and been really excited about the store," he says.

Partly that's because the lesser-known manufacturers are more eager to work with a new, hungry business, he agrees. And someone who simply wants a Fender Stratocaster won't find it here, a potential drawback. The flipside, Miclot says, is that they're able to carry boutique gear, made in small quantities, and provide full repairs and service, as well as offer some more familiar equipment by the likes of Dean, Fernandez, Bad Cat and Hiwatt.

The back half of the spacious building contains three lesson-rooms, where Backstage will offer music lessons on guitar, bass and drums, as well as singer-songwriter tutoring with Deutsch. There's also a larger space dedicated to the Rock Band Academy they operate -- an eight-week, School of Rock-type program in which they match kids by age, interest and skill to form beginning bands, Miclot explains.

A show featuring the groups from the Rock Band Academy is in the works for June at the Hard Rock Café. Deutsch, who released his album Peaceful Oblivion last year, will be opening for Bill Deasy at the Strip District's Altar Bar on April 24. For more info on Backstage Guitars, call 412-235-7765 or visit www.backstageguitars.com.



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