hairylunch (hairylunch) wrote,

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.

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