The Evolution of Dueling Pianos in Chicago
Updated: Aug 7
Since its inception, dueling pianos have always focused on audience participation - singing along, clapping, drinking and bits ranging from children's songs with hand motions to adult humor - and dueling pianos in Chicago is just the same. The goal has always been to make the audience feel like "the star of the show." Players would come up with new bits, learn new songs, and create new toasts to engage the audience and keep them drinking and entertained.
Over the years, several clubs have kept this style of the show but added elements such as showtimes where the servers dance on stage, incorporating band sets during the changeovers, and using "call downs" for people celebrating birthdays, bachelorettes, or just having a date night free from the kids. Other bars have changed their format to almost entirely focus on the band sets, incorporating drums and bass as often as possible.
This latter style has drifted from entertaining the audience with humor and having them sing along to becoming more focused on the performance element. While music is the catalyst for the show and there are many monster musicians in the dueling scene, some dueling bars have strayed away from the slapstick or childish humor of changing lyrics to make them dirty or silly and the call downs and other bits, which tends to lose some of the entertainment value that classic dueling pianos had. Although times have changed and many of the jokes from even 10+ years ago have gone out of style, there's still a lot of fun and goofiness in getting a bunch of drunk adults to do the Chicken Dance or the hand motions to Baby Shark and absolutely love it.
At Lo-Fi Jukebox, we try to incorporate as much of a balance between the two. In certain instances, especially weddings, we focus more on dance songs and singalongs. At corporate events, though, we like to include bits that, while sometimes they are silly, will make people laugh and add a fun element to the show. This is one of the biggest components that makes dueling pianos unique from other live music performances and such a great fit for weddings, corporate events, and fundraisers.
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Known for its vibrant music scene, dueling pianos in Chicago has found a welcoming audience. Piano bars and entertainment venues began hosting shows where skilled pianists would engage in a friendly rivalry, taking song requests from the audience and performing a wide variety of songs spanning different genres. These shows often had an interactive and engaging atmosphere, with audience members encouraged to sing along, dance, and even participate in humorous skits and games.
Bars in Chicago featuring dueling pianos, like in other cities, became popular destinations for birthdays, bachelorette parties, and other celebrations due to the lively and participatory nature of the shows. Some well-known dueling bars in Chicago include:
Howl at the Moon: This chain of "dueling" bars has a location in Chicago and is known for its energetic and interactive performances.
The Redhead Piano Bar: A historic bar in Chicago that has been around for decades, known for its elegant atmosphere and talented pianists.
Zebra Lounge: Another notable bar, offering live music and an engaging dueling pianos in Chicago.
These venues and others helped establish dueling pianos in Chicago, attracting both locals and tourists looking for a fun and memorable night out.
Lo-Fi Jukebox brings the music to you - a perfect fit for any event, party, celebration that your guests will not soon forget. Give us a try!