When I first heard that there was a new craze in Buffalo, called dueling pianos, I figured that it was just a couple of piano players duking it out before a live audience. Boy was I wrong. It turns out that the “dueling piano” series and one-off events are all different, depending on the venue and the orchestrator. In the case of DuelingPianos716 at Rec Room Buffalo, emcee Jessika Schreiber (of XOXO Pop Band fame) has taken the concept to an entirely different level.
Recently, two of Buffalo Rising’s cub reporters, Sarah Fae Bohn and Cassandra Whitney, attended a dueling piano session at Rec Room, where they were pleasantly surprised by what they encountered. Thanks to Jessika Schreiber’s boundless energy and talents, Sarah and Cassandra came away with an entirely new appreciation for this relatively new form of interactive entertainment in Buffalo.
“Jessika is the maestro,” said Sarah. “She has so much energy, jumping around the tables. She made it so much fun!”
Cassandra told me that the “dueling” part of “dueling pianos’ is because Jessika and the Dueling Pianos Band go back and forth with the audience. This lighthearted ‘duel’ with audience members is the perfect way to get people interacting with the singers and musicians.
“People request a song by writing it on a card, or through Venmo,” said Cassandra. “There’s a packet filled with all of the songs that you can choose from. We used Venmo to request our songs, and to send tips along to the musicians. Once the drinks got flowing, people got out of their seats and were dancing. I’ve been to dueling piano events before, but this was more interactive than most.”
“Yes, there were multiple instruments, with some musicians walking around and interacting with the audience,” Sarah told me. “The violinist was amazing. There were singalongs, a smoke machine, and really cool drink selections – like a smoking bubble shot… my favorite was the Birds In The Bush. It’s just as much fun for the guys as it is for the girls – everyone loved it. And it was executed to perfection. There’s nothing else like it in the region, mainly because of Jessika’s passion for it. It would be fun to bring a big group of people. Everyone gets a tambourine at the front door, and it sets the mood.”
Unlike other dueling piano events that Cassandra has attended, there was no heckling of audience members. “This is all about having fun” she said. “The variety of instruments – not just pianos – helps to bring the vibe up even more.”
Sarah agreed, while adding that the event series is still intimate and engaging.
After talking to Sarah and Cassandra about their escapades, I too had a greater appreciation for this type of entertainment, which, I must admit, I did not comprehend until our chat. And knowing Jessika, I can only imagine that words and photos do not do this particular dueling pianos justice. Maybe it’s time to experience the sensation firsthand?
Every Thursday • Doors 6:30pm • Show 7:30pm • 21+ Admitted w/ ID
Rec Room | 79 W Chippewa Buffalo, NY 14202 | 716.939.1279
Get connected: duelingpianos716.com