The Cabin’s Piano vs. Piano is now a weekly tradition
May 15, 2015
Six months ago, The Cabin, 825 Main St., began a dueling piano show every Wednesday called Piano vs. Piano with Rick Gerber and Mike Rogers.
The show is so successful that even during Mud Season, crowds come to sing, clap and bang the gong.
As with most dueling pianos performances, the gong is a requirement for Piano vs. Piano, Gerber told The Park Record.
"On nights when people at one or two tables realize that they can pay one dollar to gong us mid-song and request another song, things really start to flow," Gerber said. "There are other times when people won’t get up and gong and we’ll just end up playing requests."
On the nights Rogers can’t make it, Gerber has called Mitch Carter to perform.
"The audience participation is great," Gerber said. "On some nights, we’ll get an older audience who want to hear the classic stuff from the ’60s and ’70s. Other nights we’ll get a mixed crowd who want to hear new stuff like Kings of Leon."
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Gerber is relatively new to the dueling pianos format, although he’s played keyboards and guitar in rock bands for nearly 10 years.
"Piano vs. Piano is a whole other machine," he said. "When you play in a band, you don’t have to carry a tune by yourself. The bass lines and percussion is already taken care of. It’s so different when it’s just two pianos."
Gerber, who is the pianist and guitarist for the local Beatles tribute band Badfeather, was approached repeatedly by Rogers for Pianos vs. Pianos.
"The problem was I didn’t know if I really wanted to it," Gerber said. "I was nervous but I finally gave in and had a great time.
One rush is playing music that he has to figure out on the spot.
"Kids will ask me to play some modern songs or Walt Disney tunes and thankfully I’m good at playing by ear," Gerber said. "As I started to do the piano show, I would take my phone and, while the other pianist is playing, find a place where there wasn’t a lot of noise and listen to a song that I hadn’t heard before and then pull it up on the computer and play it."
Another thrill is the show’s intensity.
"We play anywhere from three to four hours straight, with no breaks, but it is a lot of fun and we make good money," he said. "Plus, playing with Mike is an honor. He’s an amazing musician and an amazing person. So there’s that."
In the past few months, Gerber has added a slew of songs to his catalog.
"Since I’m in Badfeather, I have all those Beatles songs I can cover, but I usually tell people that I have a 1,001 songs in my repertoire," he said.
The songs range from hits and rockers from the 1950s to the present.
"If I’ve heard the song my whole life I usually can play it, of course this is within reason," Gerber said. "There are certain songs that I have to get reacquainted with before I feel comfortable playing."
He found out one of those songs was "Touch Me" by the Doors.
"Someone asked me to play it the other night and I had to stop," Gerber said, laughing. "There is just so much going on in that song to just play it off the cuff. I just started and then went, ‘Oh, my God.’ Then I went home afterwards and learned it."
The most challenging song Gerber has ever covered is Queen’s "Bohemian Rhapsody."
"That song does not falter," he said. "It does not stop and there are seven to eight movements. There are something like four bridges, three choruses and it’s just insane."
Another time he was asked to play Black Sabbath’s "War Pigs."
"I didn’t think I could play that song on the piano, but I just went ahead and tried to do it," Gerber said. "Luckily it didn’t sound that bad."
After playing in bands for all these years, adjusting to the dueling-piano format was a shock, Gerber said.
"I had to step into a whole different mind frame because the pianos become the whole band," he said. "You have to be the percussionist, the bassist, the lead guitarist and the lead singer.
"Playing with Mike is such an inspiration, because he’s such a great musician and that helps me to up my game," Gerber said. "If I were to play the bass lines on my piano when I’m in my band, my bassist would strangle me."
That said, Gerber and Rogers encourage each other to work additional instruments into their performances.
"We have tambourines and harmonicas," Gerber said. "I’ll bring in my mandolin and acoustic guitar for when the songs call for that.
"The other night, we did Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ and it’s so much fun to have a guitar there, because that’s such a guitar riff-driven song," he said. "We just try to mix it up and make it interesting and usually, at The Cabin, everyone is there to party and have a good time."
It’s common for audience members and even The Cabin’s staff to get up and sing with the pianists, said Heidi Oswald, who owns The Cabin with her husband John.
"I’ve been guilty of this and there have been times when the shows have turned into a karaoke Piano vs. Piano experience," Oswald said. "These guys are always out there to make sure the audience enjoys the whole experience."
Although the Oswalds have previously owned two bars in California, they were first introduced to the dueling-piano concept when they opened The Cabin in Park City.
"Last November, Mike Rogers came in one night with Rick and told us about the idea," Oswald said. "John and I had never done anything like this, but we felt like this was something that wasn’t going on consistently on Main Street.
"The response of the Piano vs. Piano show has been overwhelmingly positive for us," she said. "The level of expertise Rick and Mike have, with not just the piano, but the other instruments, is just incredible. The show is really more than just two guys fulfilling song requests."
The Cabin, 825 Main St., hosts Piano Vs. Piano with Rick Gerber and Mike Rogers every Wednesday at 9 p.m. For more information, visit http://www.thecabinparkcity.com.
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