Y’all straight people are crazy sometimes. Just when I thought I knew everything about your culture and mating rituals, because umm well its been in my face for the last 35 years, you go and throw something new my way. And right when I least expect it. Last night, I accidentally discovered the concept of dueling piano bars. Holy f’ing shit! Here’s a taste.
All night I longed to go home and Google this concept. Just as I guessed, dueling piano bars are a thing that people do. They go to an establishment and listen to two piano players sing the hits of the 60s-today that their audience suggest, while aforementioned audience gets plastered on cheap booze including (I kid you not) Jello shots and spring break style over-sized novelty drink glasses, while singling along and dancing between tables.
I know, right!?
It all started because my pal Jen and I found ourselves with free tickets to see the Eagles, of all things. I know, it sounds like we’re middle aged with much disposable income. Whatevs. We got’em for free! After debating whether we wanted to brave the crowds and the late night, we were tentatively kinda psyched for the show. The naysayers can stab us with their steely knives but they just can’t kill the beast! I really wanted to shout that in the parking lot. We figured what the heck and trooped off with our $185 Eagles tickets.
We thoroughly pre-partied and got to the show right on time. Only to be handed a flier saying that the show was rescheduled due to illness. Denied! What the heck? I know! You crazy middle aged Eagles! Maybe they had a bout of restless leg syndrome? Regardless, Jen and I were all amped up with no place to go. So what to do? We wandered around Queen Anne, trying to find a bar to kill time in and see what would become of the night. It made sense at the time. Anyway, finding a bar that you would want to enter is not an easy task in this area, friends. I just wanted a crappy old sportsbar where I could nurse a Budweiser for an hour or so. At first we thought that was what we’d found when we wandered into a place called Chopstix: A Dueling Piano Bar. I just figured some old dude would wander out at some point and tinkle the old ivories, play a little Frank or something, and Jen and I would never even remember what bar we went into. How wrong was I, friends? Let me count the ways.
I have to ask, did everyone in the world know about the dueling piano bar concept except us, and just not tell us about it? For others who’ve somehow missed out on dueling piano bars, let me try to explain. I christened it lazy karaoke. Do you ever want the atmosphere of a karaoke bar, the screaming, the wooing, the drunken dancing, the singalongs, but don’t wanna be bothered to either, 1) Sing yourself, or 2) Listen to bad singers? If so, you might wanna gather up your posse and head to Chopstix, or perhaps your city’s dueling piano bar, this weekend.
Here’s how it went down. I was about halfway through my Miller Lite (Don’t ask) when two young dudes head to the pianos. There are two pianos, and they sit face to face. I’m like no big whoop, until they bust out into a heartfelt version of a hit from the 90s. And I immediately knew what would be today’s forgotten song. From 1994, Live’s “Lightning Crashes.”
When it’s 8pm and a still sunny Thursday night in Seattle and you’re drinking a cheap beer at Ladies’ Night prices, about the last thing you’re expecting is a really loud version of a song about a woman giving birth to a still born baby or dying in childbirth. I never knew which one. But either way, buzzkill!
At this point, I’m at my bar table, mouth agape. Then more and more mildly popular (terrible) mid 90s songs are rolled out by these two dudes, like this one that I’m sure you forgot or wished you had.
I’m in a tizzy at this place by this point. What the heck! Why are people here? Jen and I are playing that game where you try to predict the story of your fellow diners or guests. Why were people sitting right up next to the piano? Why!? Who goes to this place? We would soon find out.
So the hosts introduce themselves and the concept. The hosts are total cheesemongerers with those Top 40 radio DJ voices, introducing themselves and then getting the audience to bond with them. Todd: “Say ‘Hi Todd.’” Audience: (Including yours truly, I’m only human) “HI TODD!!!”
We’re actually enjoying this at first. My pal Jen said, and I quote, “Oh my god, I’m never leaving here again.” I’m thinking of all the friends I have to bring to this place. I’m picture Double S loving the singalongs. In theory Double S would love lazy karaoke, as she loves the sing along aspect of karaoke. How little I knew at this point. I’m thinking I’m gonna open up people’s minds to this awesome concept that it seems like only middle-aged white people know about, based on the crowd. I’m gonna be an innovator.
We are told that we can make requests and they will sing whatever we request. Then they sing Britney Spears until you do so. Ha Ha Ha! Britney sux! How cheesy is this? It’s like your dorky 6th grade teacher back in the day embarrassing you by singing Push It or something. It seemed wholesome enough at first. That’s what they all say.
However. And I’ve gotta say it. It was so fun at first you guys! They’re playing great songs that you love to hear at karaoke and blearily sing along. I’m talking this!
SO GOOD! SO GOOD! SO GOOD!
And then the shit hits the fan. By now, the once empty seating area is packed. People are dressed up and are being turned away at the door. And the crowd is…interesting. It seemed pretty much entirely straight, white, and suburban. We were sticking out, friends. It didn’t feel like we were in Seattle anymore. To help our minds process what we were seeing, we pretended that we were on a road trip to pick up Jen’s granny’s antique trunk in Bremerton, and we wandered into this bar in our travels. It was all we could do to allow our brains to process our surroundings.
So the place, once it hits capacity, basically turns into a cheesy wedding reception with 90s versions of the wedding singer and jokes that only straight people find funny. Or maybe a raunchy high school assembly? A freshman Orientation Week at a mid-sized Midwestern state university? Ladies night in Anytown, USA (suburbs)?. I’m not really sure which analogy I wanna go with here. Maybe this will give you a full description: We were in a place so straight (How Straight Was It?) that there are multiple bachelorette parties going on in our midst. As Jen pointed out, the place was full of woo girls. Ya know, like this:
Boy, we’re they excited when their request came on! I’ll give you two seconds to guess. Oh, why bother. Yeah it was “I Will Survive.” WOOOOOOOO! At least a few of said bachelorettes were wearing those novelty paper bride’s headdresses. Is headress the word I’m looking for? Quick, I need a consult from a straight woman! Stat! Of course, as the evening progress, the lucky bride to be is brought up to the piano and serenaded with “Going to the Chapel.” So original! Our rotating slate of hosts has taken a turn for the worst, as the raunchiest of the three takes over, and has a deep andvaried repetoire of tired sex jokes dick and HIGH-larious straight humor about the horrible hell that is marriage. The host had “manly men” volunteer from the crowd to dance while the bride-to-be was being serenaded. The host has the men get on their knees. And, like lockwork, there commences the dick jokes and oh so hilarious blowjob humor. Hee hee hee! This was like a blue junior high assembly skit for adults. I’m serious that later in the evening a portly gentleman turning 21 was brought up and serenaded to the tune of “Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini,” but the words were so hilariously changed to reflect his weenie, which the hosts guessed to be quite small. Hardy har har!
I didn’t take this video, but this is pretty much exactly what I’m trying to describe.
Oh and this is actually from the place where we went!! And that’s the raunchy guy!
Happy Friday folks! I’d love to hear about your experiences at dueling piano bars! Was I the last to know? And ladies’ night is Thursday folks! 3 dollar (water) wells! I got ladies’ night prices, which is always a crapshoot. Ya gotta experience it! Leave before it goes down hill. Or better yet, there simply has to be a place where gay men do this. I mean come on!