January 18th, 2004

buzzed, B&W

(no subject)

So Friday night, Matt and I went to Ernie Biggs, a "Chicago-style dueling piano bar." It's pretty new to Springfield, and from a cursory google search, it appears it's the second, with the original being in Little Rock, Arkansas. The setup has a stage with two baby-grand "pianos" facing each other, and a drumset in the middle. I put "pianos" in quotation marks because they were really keyboards, in shelves designed to look like baby-grands. Anyway, they had 3 players, who rotated through, with each person on for an hour, then getting a half-hour break.

All 3 were very talented, since they had to be able to sing, play, and entertain the crowd. The diversity of the music was amazing, from the expected Billy Joel songs, all the way to Sir Mix-a-Lot's Baby Got Back. They had the songs memorized, and one player would play the accompaniment while the other sang and played the melody. There were even improv moments, where they'd bridge into a nice little solo, with eye-contact being the way they knew to bridge back to the song. I was surprised that no one requested any REM.

The economics of the place were interesting as well. $5 cover, which isn't a biggie, but the dueling pianists work off of requests, and it seemed that it averaged about $5 a song (they'd taunt when they'd get $3 requests and things). One thing that made it fun was that if you didn't like the song being played, you could tip so they'd stop (you just had to outbid the requester). All of this was illustrated when someone requested Bohemian Rhapsody. They originally offered $3, at which point the player spoke into his mic saying something like "$3 for a 7 minute song? you've got to be kidding me!" The girl came back, this time with a 20, at which point he started the familiar intro to the song. On the other side of the room though, $26 dollars was quickly collected, and the song was stopped. Lots of money right? The oldest player, probably 40-ish, slightly bigger worked the crowd the best, and at one point his rant went along the lines of: "Look at me now! All you football players back in high school had all the girls and popularity, and I was playing piano . . . but now I got a nice car, house, and the ladies love me!" (The ladies did love him, with the older ladies flirting with him, sticking his tips under his ass, etc.) The players probably make a good $250 a night in tips, plus their hourly and whatever take they get from the bar sales.

I kept making fun of Matt, saying that that could be him up on stage. (He originally went to school as a piano major on scholarship, but quit and would up in the Air Force.)

It's a slightly older crowd, but there was a noticeable age gap between genders. The women were college-age or recent graduate age, while the men were slightly older. Matt and I, being the arm chair sociologists that we are decided this made sense - the 30-ish men want the nubile young 20-somethings, while the women want the established men with maturity.

Anyway, the whole place was just very entertaining, and Matt and I had a great time. It's live entertainment, the players know how to work the crowd, getting them to sing, and they play off each other well.
buzzed, B&W

Books

So, I just started reading Road trip Nation today. It's the tale of two college guys who during their junior and senior summers, toured the country in an RV, interviewing leaders. I've just started it today, but some of the people they talked to were the founder and CEO of Clif Bar, the CEO of North Face, a guy who works for ILM and won academy awards for special effects in Star Wars, and tons of other people. They just cold called all these people, telling them what they were doing, and getting in. It's a much more inspiring book than What Should I Do With My Life.

So far, the common threads seem to be that everyone says do what you love, that you can't take the safe road if you want to accomplish something meaningful (i.e. getting degrees, standard jobs, etc), and a lot of them took time off between school and "the real world." Of course, most of the people are of the generation where it was the norm to go backpack around Europe, but still, the idea of exploring is sound. The book has me so psyched up to really try and start a coffee house, to be an entrepreneur. Whether I succeed or fail, the experience will be worth it, even if it throws me into debt.

Both books debunk the idea that earning money first so you can do what you want is the way to go. They suggest that by doing that you'll never do what you want. Reminds me of something Matt was saying a while ago. He was telling me how he's bungee jumped three times. He did it literally once, but leaving the military was a huge plunge for him, and I forget the third one. Leaving the military was a big deal, as he was well established, and was even getting personal calls from generals or some other high ups asking him what it would take for him to stay, offering him any post he wanted. Maybe going back to school was the third one? In either case, all the signs are there telling me to jump, that taking the job of an engineer to be an engineer isn't going to cut it. And really, teaching is the same thing - it's not a jump, it's a cushy path to stability, but I don't think that's going to make me happy.

I'm going to have to research what it takes to start a business. I'll have to talk to the Quires (they used to own a Ben and Jerry's, and now a Chinese restaurant). Maybe I'll try and find out how the guys who started the Mudhouse did it. Drew might have contact information for them. I'll have to find someone to talk to about coffee and such drinks.

Man, that book just has me so jazzed.