photo courtesy of j3ku
A friend's birthday leads me to Howl At The Moon.
I don't go downtown to the Riverwalk nearly enough considering how much I enjoy the area. If you've never been the the Riverwalk, I suggest you go. You'll love it. Gorgeous scenery and lots of bars and restaurants all in once convenient location. This past weekend, since it was my friend's birthday, she was able to choose where we were heading. So we gathered our friends and wound up at Howl At The Moon. I had never been to one, although I had heard of them before and seen a few in my travels. They're a chain (I believe there's 11 sprinkled throughout the US) and the premise is "dueling piano bar." Two pianos sit on a stage in the center of the bar and live music plays all night long. A combination of oldies, new songs, classic piano hits, TV show theme songs, and a bit of comedy all in one. Behind the piano players sits two large mirrors (you can see them in the photo above) on which various phrases are written. The idea is, you tip the piano players the current going rate (the prices go up as more people "bid") and you can have them write your phrase up on the mirror. When we went there were several military groups in the bar, so a lot of the phrases revolved around who was better - Army vs. Air Force. Each mirror has its own price, one being higher than the other as the phrase stays on there longer.
The bar was a fun, upbeat place with lots of people having a good time. Sing-a-longs were constantly going on and several spontaneous dance floors were created by people wanting to enjoy the music a bit more. I felt the band could have been a bit louder as there were times I could barely tell what song they were playing over the noise of the crowd, but much louder and it would have been too much like a rock club. Its all about the balance I guess. They did charge a $10 cover to get in which I can't stand, but of course, I'm cheap.
My beer was always only lukewarm, which was a huge let down for me, especially considering the price. When I'm buying overpriced beer, I like to at least know they'll be ice cold. I hate going downtown for the prices. There really is no need for $4-5 domestic bottles or a shot of tequila (the birthday girl loves tequila) for $8, I don't care how good it is. I'm cheap like that though, so please ignore me if you find those prices "normal." I'm grew up in an area where we could still find 75 cent draft nights though, so blame it on upbringing. The bar staff were all really friendly and quick to get drinks (I hate waiting too!), so that was a plus.
I already mentioned the low volume, but that's just me...I like it loud (probably because I'm half deaf from 14 years of playing guitar at ear-splitting volume). Overall, I was pretty let down by the musicians. One of the piano players looked miserable the whole time, another was a terrible singer, and none of them seemed like they had practiced together on a lot of the songs (missed melody changes, people stopping playing and looking confused, bad notes). It was just a bit too sloppy I thought. They also skipped a lot of the idea of dueling pianos and it was more tandem pianos. I've been to a few dueling piano bars in my life and the fun was always the back and forth between the two musicians, not just that they played together.
Not my favorite (I'd rather go have a few beers on the patio of the Hard Rock Cafe), but I can see why people love it. Its fun, different, and upbeat. Most people probably wouldn't notice some of the musical things I did - I tend to be a little over critical when I see bands play (old habit from nightly thinking about what I messed up onstage). The lukewarm beer was pretty inexcusable, but its not the first time I've gone and experienced it. My call - if you're looking for something interesting, different, and to have a good time - go visit the piano players at Howl At The Moon. If you hate it, just go downstairs to the Hard Rock Cafe. If you love it, then stick around and sing-a-long.
Howl At The Moon