What are piano bars and why are they popular?
We’re all in the mood for a melody
The notion of the 'piano bar' gained traction around the US in the 1930s during the Great Depression, when hiring a single piano player was cheaper than a full band. The popularity of the humble piano bar made its way into the modern era, aboard cruise ships and eclectic haunts across the globe for those wanting an engaging and interactive musical experience.
Typically, many of the piano bars around Victoria feature an established pianist who may double as a singer, or they may have an accompanying vocalist. Visitors are seated around the piano, where they are often free to put requests in with the pianist directly on pen and paper.
With piano bars, says, Chalmer, “It’s not just 'entertain' me. It’s 'engage' me.”
Forget about life for a while
Starting the Piano Bar group after performing in resorts and cruise ships, Andy Pobjoy - Director and Pianist at the Piano Bar Group (pictured) - says “the ubiquitous ‘piano bar’ is a tried-and-true entertainment model.”
In Bendigo, Chalmer puts the popularity of piano bars down to a unique experience, where revellers can have a great time. “You come in here, you let your hair down, you have the time of your life. All your senses are engaged - your sight, your sound, your hearts, your memories - everything.”
It is a unique experience. There is something oddly refreshing about the sense of camaraderie one gets in a piano bar, particularly as we come out of the COVID-19 pandemic.
After two years of restrictions and being in and out of lockdowns, sitting in a bar singing along to tunes with no sense of pretention is somewhat of a release for many.
The modern piano bar is somewhat the middle-ground of the music scene, where the music isn't so loud that you can’t hear yourself think, but not a dull dinner in need of a background track, either. You can be an observer, a singer, a dancer, or a requester – the level of involvement is up to you, though some say it is hard not to get swept up in the clapping and singalongs.
“You can forget the world in here,” says Chalmer, “It’s escapism.”