Intimate, Up-Close, and Entertaining — Duelling Pianos at Rockhouse

By Andrew Domenis

There is a pleasant charm to Duelling Pianos. The event is fairly new to Thunder Bay, first appearing at Rockhouse in late 2016, and it has quickly become a popular choice for Friday night entertainment. Each Friday is hosted by the wonderfully talented Danny Johnson and features a revolving door of guest musicians that he invites. Although performers traditionally take turns playing songs, collaboration is just as important. Johnson and his crew prefer to set up right in the middle of the dance floor. Doing this allows for an experience that is intimate, up-close, and entertaining.

Danny Johnson performing at Duelling Pianos, photo by Emily Kohne

The night is all about facilitating fun through inclusivity. The atmosphere is close to home and thrives on the truth that even strangers can enjoy music together. Dancing is encouraged and an extra microphone is set up for participating patrons to sing the songs that they had requested, whether it be as the lead vocalist or just as a harmony. The more participation there is, the more fun the night becomes.

Tips are encouraged as an incentive for the musicians, as well as the open challenge for audience members to test which songs can or cannot be pulled off. Johnson is very open about receiving unfamiliar song requests, and in the past has learnt requests on the fly—all part of the fun and excitement. When there are no requests to be fulfilled, the musicians take turns playing songs by some of their own favourite artists (for example they can play classics from Billy Joel and Elton John with ease but might stumble their way through Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber tunes).

With all of the events happening around town, Duelling Pianos is a promising addition to the nightlife of Thunder Bay. There is a simple yet exciting pleasure in hearing professionals play the songs that we enjoy or grew up listening to. This is especially true when we are encouraged to sing along and be a part of the fun.

Duelling Pianos takes place on Friday nights at Rockhouse. Visit our music listings for details.