How to Piano Bar

Usually I use this space to tell you about bands that are new and exciting. I tend to focus my musical energies on discovery and spend most of my time listening to more “challenging” albums. When I listen to music I want to think, to digest, to process.

But sometimes I don’t want to think. I just want to feel something that can only be expressed in power chords. I want to sing at the top of my lungs to a song I’ve known for years, with friends I love and people I’ve never met before in my life.

DSCN2049This weekend I spent four nights in a row at Jellyrolls, a dueling piano bar at Disney’s Boardwalk Inn & Resort, where Lauren and I, along with our friend Kristin, got our classic rock and pop groove ON. What is dueling pianos, you ask? Dueling pianos is an all-request show performed by rotating duos of pianists performing on stage together. And it is the absolute best.

It’s more than just singalong (and dance-a-long!) fun–a dueling piano bar is the embodiment of music’s central role in our shared human experience. The piano bars I have been to have really attracted a diverse clientele, by both age and location, and it’s pretty incredible to look around a room full of people who couldn’t look like they have less in common with me and realizing that hey, maybe we do have nothing in common but we do all know the words to “Hey Jude” and “Brown Eyed Girl.” And that is something. (Even if some of us want to stab our eyes out every time the latter gets played, which is guaranteed every single night.)

A good piano bar request is a song that everyone knows and loves. Simple as that. If you enjoy Billy Joel, Elton John, Queen, Journey, or the like, you will be in heaven. In my opinion, the very best requests are songs that are outside the genre of “piano rock”–my personal taste tends toward top 40 pop, i.e. “Baby” by Justin Bieber or “SexyBack” by Justin Timberlake. We requested “Call Me Maybe,” which prompted one of the piano players to ask who let in the 16 year old girls, but once they started playing people just ate it up. Because, let me fill you in on a little secret: all of us, I am convinced, want nothing more than an excuse to drop all our pretenses of cool and just allow ourselves to really enjoy a fun song. Rap can also be great, if you get the right performers. This weekend we saw a fantastic rendition of “Gold Digger” by Kanye West, in which one pianist played and sang the rap parts while the other performed the Ray Charles sample. It was kind of perfect.


Without further ado, I present my playlist of songs we requested and got played on this particular trip. I share it with you now for foolproof suggestion ideas on your next trip to your local piano bar (or Jellyrolls, if you find yourself in the WDW/Orlando area)!


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