When we drove out of Cincinnati, I saw a sign for something called a ‘duelling piano bar’ which I thought sounded hilarious, and I took a photo of it. Little did I know that duelling piano bars are a thing that are in lots of places. I was promised two things on this road trip, and one was that they would take me to a Walmart and show me what horror was, and one was that we’d have a night out at a duelling piano bar.
In Asheville, North Carolina, we stayed in a ridiculous suite with a giant two person (or potentially six person probably) bathroom, which is because you can get amazing deals when you’re travelling in the middle of the week. I was super excited about the shower, but in the end it was basically just a really big shower and not overly exciting.
We went to some beer garden and played giant jenga again, which also seems to be a thing, and we wrote Aelyrian slurs on the jenga blocks. It’s still endlessly funny to me that people in North Carolina are playing giant jenga and reading elvish insults. Michelle and my character’s are in the same elvish noble house, the once extended Al’lende clan. I was one of the many black sheep, while Michelle was the strict grandma. We wrote ‘House Al’lende RUNS this empire’ and laughed like only giant nerds on a giant nerd roadtrip playing giant jenga can laugh.
By the time we got to the duelling piano bar, I was well-beered and ready for whatever the hell a duelling piano bar was. Two men sat on a stage, with pianos facing each other, and one was singing. People in the crowd sang along. It turned out that you gave them suggestions along with some money for songs to sing, and then they sang them. I’m not sure exactly where the duel came into it, except that perhaps they were competing for tips?
One of the piano players was a vaguely ex-military looking guy with a buzzcut and a big gut and giant pouchy eyes, and he really led the night in the banter. A lot of the time he teased people into singing or made off-colour jokes. The other guy was handsome and had a jaunty show-tunes voice and he sometimes made jokes about boobs, but when he did, he stared blankly into the distance like he was dead inside.
It was a stupidly fun night. My friends requested Land Down Under in honour of me, and we started getting insane about requesting songs. A lot of songs about North Carolina were sung that I’d never heard before, so I just bopped my head along like an idiot in case I was singled out for not being enthusiastic enough.
And then some people in a wedding party were invited onto the stage after a song was requested for them. The military piano guy made them play a game where they sang a song and touched each other in different places when he sang, which heads up, basically meant he sang the word ‘boobs’ a million times, and it was excruciatingly uncomfortable. Then the future husband guy, who was wearing a polo shirt and cargo pants and had a mean, bored look, started trying to ‘join in’ on the fun and rib his future wife, which meant he kept saying things like ‘I’m not marrying her for her smarts’ and ‘she can’t do math, but she looks good’ and it was just the worst thing.
Sometime preceding this, Lyndsay, who can drink more than the rest of us combined, had tipped into slightly boisterous tipsy, and had ordered shots of something sweet and gross for everyone and started heckling the misogynist husband bro.
‘Boooooo’ she yelled, while everyone clapped and cheered.
‘You can do better!’ she yelled to the lady.
‘It’s not too late’.
It was clear the lady was pissed as well, an eventually she left the stage. Later on, we would see the dude leave the women’s bathrooms with a smirk on his face and it was just the grossest thing in the world.