So, tonight yet another Piano Bar is closing in Los Angeles, and, well, honestly, this particular “piano bar,” wasn’t a full time piano bar, but twice a week, over the past year or two, the bar had pianists schlep their keyboards and mics in on certain nights and allowed them to play & invite guest singers to the microphone.
I haven’t been in the cabaret game or attending piano bar open mics very long, but in the three or so years since I was pulled, somewhat literally, from singing in my closet to singing on stage, by my friend Todd Sherry, I’ve seen several places close… The Vermont (Ron Snyder), Hollywood Studio Bar & Grill, The Other Side, MJ’s (Bryan Miller &Lori Donato), Holiday Inn Glendale (Tommy Dodson)… And I’m sure there’s been others…
To have a place to sing in public, to try out new material, to work songs out in front of an audience, to perform, to sharpen, to keep rust off, to test genres and styles I never thought I’d sing, and to see, hear, and learn from other singers (both to friends and pros… Has helped me immensely in my stage craft. I’ve also met so many talented pianists, musicians and singers… Too many to list.
Never, before entering the Other Side, two plus years ago, to sing with Greg Glienna (who I met at The Vermont), could I have imagined myself in a “gay” bar, but since, I don’t care what kind of bar is hosting a piano bar that will let me get up to the microphone and sing… I’ll go. Because on those nights, it’s about the love and passion for music.
So, what is killing off piano bars?
Some people feel it’s the competition for your eyes and ears… That people are staying home, or going to the movies, or watching Closet Singer videos on YouTube, or singing contest shows on TV… While others feel it’s Karaoke clubs, where people who love to sing can stand in front of a 27″ TV monitor and read the lyrics off the screen as odd videos play underneath. I’ve also heard that piano bars and the love of musical standards are a generational thing, and that generation is slowly disappearing… And then… It also could be that everyone is all so busy.
While I have enjoyed myself some Karaoke, I have to tell you, there’s nothing like singing with a live musician or band, making it happen LIVE… It’s so creative and such a ride. To give a pianist sheet music, and to describe how YOU want the music to sound, to express the feel, the tempo, the beat… To tell the story of the lyrics with your own pace, your own tone, in your own key… There’s an honesty to it all that you just won’t hear in a Karaoke bar where most people are doing their absolute best to mimic what we’ve all heard play on the radio, or see on TV where everything is filtered, or sung to impress, not to express.
Thankfully there are still a few venues I can sing at in Los Angeles (The Gardenia, Lyric Hyperion Theatre, Don’t Tell Mamas…), and hopefully a new one or two will pop up. If you’re interested in attending an open mic, or a piano bar, contact me, and I’ll let you know when the next one is, that I know of.
Truly, I have learned, that music isn’t about competition, as television would have us believe, and singing is just about sounding like a recording as Karaoke clubs have trained us. True music is about expression, and individuality… It’s not about sounding and being perfect (ask Bruce Springsteen, Tom Waits or Bob Dylan) And it is completely magical to hear the same song done completely differently by talented singers, who bring their own truth to the song.
– Quiche Out
The last song recorded at an open mic… (there’s a lot of them on YouTube)
A night “hosting” an open mic…
A few of the closet singer songs posted (there’s 70+ of them)…