I went to a birthday party of sorts last night at Howl at the Moon, a bar in Boston’s financial district. Last night (and maybe most nights?) it featured “dueling pianos”, which turned out to be a misnomer for what was actually a long string of piano duo performances. I find myself still in awe of the musical talents that were displayed. Audience members (the bargoers) write whatever song they’d like to hear, by name and original performer, on a slip of paper, and then the musicians play it … and sing it. From memory. Without even 10 seconds to recollect. I’ve tried to estimate how many songs they must know, and know well: the chord progressions, lyrics, and song structure all must be reproduced. (I haven’t even mentioned the raw musical performance skills, instrumental and vocal, necessary to make the whole gamut of songs sound good.) I can’t put a number on it, but I expect they can play from memory more songs than I can identify by ear.

For particularly popular songs, members of the waitstaff would take a few minutes off to play drums or guitar, or sing and dance (even on top of the pianos). Thus, the “dueling” pianos would be transformed momentarily into a full band, with the musical waitstaff assisting the pianists.

Despite all this talent, I rate Howling at the Moon at zero stars overall … because it was simply far too loud. I met a very interesting fellow guest at the party and could not hold a conversation because the sound was too loud. By the time we left my ears were distinctly ringing; even now they feel sore.

I feel sorry for the staff, spending every night in that room full of amazing, deafening music.

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