Sunday, June 24, 2012

Spotlight on NYC Dueling Pianos

In the armpit of Times Square, on a nondescript, mostly deserted block, you will find NYC's only (as far as I know) dueling pianos bar, Tobacco Road.  On Friday and Saturday nights at 10pm, skulk past the divey-looking bar at the front, and make your way into the small back room where exposed brick peeks out over two juxtaposed keyboards and a drum set, just itching to be played.  Tickling the ivories for the "[a]ll-request rock & roll sing-along" are performers who can play a repertoire of 1000s of songs, like a "human jukebox," as the audience is told.  Although touted as a rock show, the whiter-than-you "Shake Rattle & Roll Pianos" performers will play anything from rock to country, showtunes, and even hip-hop, for the right price.

In addition to a $12 per person cover, and a two drink minimum, the audience is encouraged to make song requests accompanied by varying tip amounts.  Although the night can certainly get pricey fairly quickly, it is fun to know that any one person can use the power of the purse to control what songs are played.  If someone requests Britney Spears with a $15 tip, and you would rather hear Kanye West, request your preferred song with a $20 tip, and according to the unwritten rules of dueling pianos, Britney must immediately yield.

Each show lasts nearly three hours, during which time it becomes clear that the seemingly doofy, amateurish musicians running the show are actually quite talented.  Of course, when a song the whole room can sing along to comes up, the energetic, if not somewhat eccentric vibe of the show really picks up.  Some of the artists paid tribute to in a single night at "Shake, Rattle & Roll Pianos," may include Afroman, Billy Joel, Bon Jovi, Cee Lo Green, Eric Clapton, Guns & Roses, Jerry Lee Lewis, Journey, Lil' Wayne, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Meat Loaf, Poison, Spice Girls, The Who, TV Theme Songs, Broadway Showtunes, and whatever else the almighty $1, or $20, can conjure up.

WGINY tips: Reservations are recommended, even if you buy tickets in advance.  If you or your group are celebrating a special occasion, make sure to make it known, so that you can be embarrassed on stage or, at the very least, receive a free shot and a celebratory strong.  Keep in mind though, weak drinks at this show are served in small plastic cups at big prices, so pre-game at home, or at another bar, and you should be set with your obligatory two drinks.

Tickets for the Friday and Saturday night ongoing dueling pianos shows can be purchased here.


  1. Love, love, love your blog!

  2. Glad to hear it! Thanks for the kind words :)