I just finished a three-day Dueling Pianos stint with the infamous Brandon Kent, another piano player on the circuit. The gig was a series of events in different small to mid size cities: Kingsport, Tennessee, Aurora, Indiana, and Rock Island, Illinois. Responsible for organizing and booking these events was Jason Scarcelli, a major booking agent for dueling pianists and owner of the agency Dueling Pianos International (duelingpianoshows.com). Scarcelli also joined us in our travels.

The gig was a total blast. Each event was a totally new experience for me and brought out some parts of the entertainer and musician in me that hadn’t had a chance to shine before. Working with Brandon, as anyone who has worked with him in the past can attest, is a phenomenal experience. He has already singlehandedly raised the bar for the presentation of Dueling Piano shows worldwide. His gear includes QSC speakers, Nord Stage keyboard, handmade piano shells, pedal-controlled lights, and a Line 6 Stagescape soundboard. Stagescape’s app allows him to control every aspect of the show’s sound in real time wirelessly from his iPad. Any self-respecting sound technician would look at Brandon with a sense of mixed jealousy, awe and hilarity.

The first night we played in Kingsport, TN at a big convention center where Irwin Tools was having a corporate party for some of its employees. We set up early, hauling all 1000 pounds (or however many) of gear into an elevator and wheeling it batch by batch into the room, which was overhung with drapes and curtained over every wall, giving an aura of “swag.” We entertained ourselves before the show by playing on the provided racing video games and table soccer. The show itself was a great time, as we entertained some partying Irwiners whilst being served a series of martinis and mixed drinks.

Next on the docket was a resort in Aurora, IN. Only about four hours away, this stop was called Deerborne Resort and was the bearer of mostly elderly patronage, although our audience’s average age was no impediment to their level of enjoyment. They were a lovely audience, laughing and clapping to the best of their ability despite their complete lack of rhythm. My lovely lady friend from Cincinnati, Taylor, appeared with her cohort Rachel and I met them for drinks afterwards at a classy joint called “The Pirate’s Den” where the Punching Ball Machine was a popular attraction and where we each consumed a shot with vodka, some bright green liquid and a splash of Sprite.

Finally, after a seven-hour drive West on some major American interstate, we rolled into Rock Island, IL, road-beaten and covered with sweat. To our delight, we were greeted by some shiny-eyed college students from the Augustana College Student Activities board who wanted nothing more than to help us unload our gear and supply the sound. Happily assisted by some five our seven bright students and set up in about one hour’s time, we were overjoyed to find a green room with fresh fruit, vegetables, and cheese, crackers, and pepperoni awaiting us, as well as menus to some local restaurants. After showers in the rec building and dinner, which they ordered for us, we began the show for between 210 and 290 Augustana college freshmen. Never before had I played a show for a more empathetic and enthusiastic audience, much less one of this magnitude. Their clapping was metronomic, their sing-alongs angelic, and their enthusiasm unrivaled. At one point I realized that a participating student was actually clapping before me.

The weekend was easily one of the most fun, educational, and profitable experiences I’ve had as a musician to date. As we enjoyed our continental brunch and dip in the pool at Best Western Plus the following morning, we prepared to get back in the van and shoot homeward. These three events were only the beginning, and Brandon, Jason, and me were all eager to discuss and create the next level for our show.

As usual, there is more to come…

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