The Cedar Rapids Piano Lounge

November 29, 2010


 

Let’s be honest: Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is not really where you’d expect to have a singular piano lounge experience.

The piano lounge, almost by definition, needs a big weary city outside its door, a few broken hearts slumping at the bar, a little bit of gayness.

Sure, post-deluge Cedar Rapids is plenty weary. Lots of buildings still stand empty after the Great Flood of 2008, foundations soggy, water mark now weathered. The old City Hall sits vacant on Mays Island (the Grant Wood stained glass window restored), while its business takes place in a wing of a shopping mall that has also seen better days.

And, sure, Iowa has that same-sex marriage thing going but it also has a really strong no fun populace that just kicked out three of the seven judges that legalized gay unions.

Could Cedar Rapids be weary enough to pull off a piano lounge? Could it reach for the necessary irony? Could it camp it up, even three judges down?

When we – wife, sisters-law and respective male partners – stumbled upon the generically monickered Cedar Rapids Piano Lounge, I confess it did not seem especially promising. 

But, oh my, it turned out to be a piano lounge experience like no other.

For starters, there wasn’t a Broadway or musical theater song to be heard all night. It was a shamelessly muscular piano lounge experience: More than two hours strong without a break, and nary a Streisand, Minnelli, Beyonce or Eartha Kitt reference all night.

Honest to god.

Credit Dueling Pianos: Jeff & Rhiannon, the headlining act, which runs a breathtaking all-request show that spanned totally expected pop standards like Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” to considerably less common lounge tunes like, say, Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” and Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.”

Other gems in the repertoire: Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer,” Meatloaf’s “Paradise by the Dashboard Light,” a crazy raucous version of Don McLean’s “
American Pie,” and The Beatles’ “Twist and Shout.” There was Queen and Fleetwood Mac and so much laughter.

It took us a while to get them to play Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Freebird” – they tossed us“Sweet Home Alabama” as conciliation – but we kept feeding the kitty and, under duress and with much protest, they surrendered.

“It’s a momentum killer,” Jeff Coleron protested. But he sang it.

And, frankly, those crazy Cedar Rapidians just joined in full throttle, never missing a beat, dancing until the wee wee hours.