Ernie Bigg's Dueling Piano Bar

So my pals Chambord, Weston and Natty Light (Chambord’s sister) invited me out last night to a place I’d only recently heard of. My initial reaction was “A NEW PLACE! BRIGHT AND SHINY NEW?! I was excited and nearly wet myself. I began to drool. I’ve heard spectacular things about this place and I was wound tighter than a clock with anticipation just to be included in this new bar adventure! “This place” is called Ernie Biggs Dueling Piano Bar and is located in Westport between Buzzard Beach and Panera. I guess it had been the Cactus Café in its previous life…? I don’t really remember, as I never went to the Cactus Café.

We met some more of Chambord’s friends at Ernie’s and pulled some tables together in the center of the room. We wanted to have a good, clear view of the pianists once they began their routine at 8:00 PM. There was a very large space for tables (which could possibly be set up as a dance floor) and surrounding that central area were some giant, comfy-looking booths. What really pleased me however were the three fully-stocked bars and the abundance of waitstaff. They were well-prepared for the onslaught of people about to descend upon Westport this Thursday evening. What a spectacular bar! If Howl at the Moon (coming to downtown Feb. 8th) is THIS COOL, I may have to buy a year membership.

We all ordered beer which was HALF-PRICE, and had plenty of it thanks to the SALE! Three pianists took turns throughout the night hammering away at their baby-grands. It’s quite a racket, really. You see, people write down songs they want to be performed and then attach some money to the request. The piano players totally raked in the dough; everyone was literally throwing cash at them so they’d play their song! The bar was packed and the people NEEDED MUSIC! Every time someone walked through the front door, the pianist would yell “HEY! Look who’s here!” to which the audience would look toward the door and respond with a boisterous, “Holy shit!” HILARIOUS.

Behind the pianos were two mirrors. Painted in shoe polish on one of the mirrors was the sentence “Phrase of the Night.” It was not long before people were writing short messages to the pianists and attaching a payment in order to have their phrase written on the glass (by offering more money with your phrase, you would have the previous phrase wiped from the mirror). CLEVER! Yes, another way for the musicians to bring home the bacon. In my next life, I’m going to earn a living by playing the piano. Here were some of the phrases (up until we left anyhow):

$5 – Wow Geenie! Your boobs look great tonight! (I assume Geenie was someone in the audience?)
$6 – Brady is God! Go PATS!
$7 – I’d give Favre HEAD – Go Packers!
$8 – Mizzou – Cotton Bowl what?

As the night wore on, the songs got a little DURTIER (which I reveled in). Weston submitted his favorite song “Bitches ain’t S***” along with some cash. Talk about audience participation! A little later, the whole bar was singing along to “F*** her Gently” by Tenacious D (whom Weston and Chambord won a trip on 96.5 FM to go see in NYC—but that’s a whole different post). I think that I, as moral and grounded as I am, was the only one in the bar who didn’t know the words to that particular song. If it’s not on NPR…I probably haven’t heard it.

Another fun surprise was how the pianists knew all of the regional fight songs. They were sneaky by starting off singing the Arkansas Razorbacks team song, much to the displeasure of the audience. “Hey, if you want us to change to YOUR school’s theme, you’ll need to pay us.” The money came flying once again. First, someone “bought” the K-State theme song, followed rather quickly by KU’s and then finally Mizzou’s. Get some drunks in a bar and bribe them with a fight song! Boy, that’ll do it.

I overheard a guy behind me, talking to one of his buddies, “This is gonna be one of those nights where we get piss-ass drunk and call the cops on ourselves.” That’s about when the Violent Fem’s song “Blister in the Sun” turned the bar into a virtual riot of singing. Our waiter brought Chambord’s friends a literal FISHBOWL of booze (literally—a fishbowl), straws sticking out of the middle of the concoction. And then the pianists made the entire bar stand up. We did the hokey pokey which somehow turned into the “Hope he pokes me” song.

It was time for us to go (hey, it was a work night) and the waiter brought out the checks. We were all stunned to see such tiny tabs of $7, $8, etc… We’d been drinking all evening long and were sure we’d spent three times that much on our cervezas. We’d saved a bundle and didn’t even switch to Geico! Completely had a BLAST at this bar. I recommend that you take all of your friends for a fun experience, but leave any conservative parents, grandparents, friends at home who are easily offended. If not, then bottoms up!

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