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HSJ Institute Times ASNE H.S.J. Institute at UT-Austin Austin, TX
Issue Date: Wednesday, June 13, 2012 Issue: 2012 UT ASNE Reynolds Institute Last Update: Monday, July 02, 2012
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Reports from the UT ASNE Reynolds High School Journalism Institute

At-a-glance

Allen Fisher entertains the crowd with his creativity and sense of humor at Pete's Dueling Piano Bar on Sixth Street in Austin, Texas. - Angel Hill
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Shaking his head in disbelief at the song request, veteran performer Allen Fisher, belted out Carlie Rae Jepsen’s teen hit, “Call Me Maybe.”  A song Fisher only knows because of his three daughters.

“We tried to think of a pop song that would be really funny to see two older guys sing,” teacher Chelsea Gist said.  “It was a hoot.  He played a couple other songs before ours, and we kept asking him to sing it.

Gist, Angel Hill, Janelle Eastridge and Jess Curry were looking for somewhere to go after dinner at the Iron Cactus. The ladies were ready for some entertainment, and the musicians at Pete’s fascinated the party.  Hill, from Branford in North Florida, said she had never experienced anything like Pete’s Dueling Piano Bar on Sixth Street.

“We just walked by and found it,” Hill said.  “Bars at home are just bars.  There’s no action or live entertainment.  The whole purpose of Pete’s is to watch the guys playing the piano.  People keep their backs to the bar instead of facing it.”

Pete’s Dueling Piano bar opened in 1992 as Pete’s Peanut Bar & Piano Emporium.  After six years, additional pianos and musicians were added to the nightly performances to up the entertainment ante.  Now there are five venues: three more in Texas and one in Florida, on the opposite end of the state from Hill.

The Austin pianists entertained with songs from various genres, from classic rock to rap, and even donned big sunglasses to play Elton John’s song “Bennie and the Jets.” Some patrons danced on the stage to “YMCA," "I'm a Little Teapot" and "Too Sexy."

Melodies were not a problem for veteran musicians, like Fisher but sometimes the lyrics were.  Fisher warned the crowd that if he didn’t know all of the lyrics he would make them up as he went. Despite, or maybe because of the improvisation, Diesel Brawand, the bar manager and second in command at Pete’s, said that any time Fisher plays is a good time.

“He is a bit of awesome,” he said.

The night was more special for Eastridge because it was her birthday.

"Both the entertainers were really engaging.  It was clean entertainment, too," she said.  "It felt nice to be able to spend time with people I didn't know super-well but still made me feel special on my birthday."


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