And sometimes you close your eyes
And see the place where you used to live
~The Killers~For another after-work-travel in So Cal try an evening at The Derby in Mission Viejo. It qualifies as a pseudo-trip in a few ways. As advertised on its website, its bread is baked using New York water, so in a way you are getting a taste of the Big Apple. Its deli sandwiches are made from cold cuts imported from Italy, so you can get a piece of the European Boot. If you go on a Tuesday you can benefit from obtaining portions of two foreign nations at once: Ireland [because every Tuesday is "Irish Tuesday" featuring $3 Schmidick's Irish beer & "authentic" Irish decor - i.e. lepricon hats and a large Irish flag] and Mexico [Tuesday also offers $2 Coronas and $1 tacos].
The main draw to The Derby, however, is the dueling piano bar show. The basic set up is two pianists facing each other who alternate playing songs requested by customers. Once you are seated, your waiter comes by to drop off request cards. I was impressed by the breadth of their repertoire, everything from Disney songs to hip-hop-adapted-to-piano accompaniment [of course they did have the aid of MacBooks to find lyrics and music, but still]. Some of the songs even are accented by video clips like the Chip & Dale audition SNL skit or the orange mocha frappuccino scene from Zoolander. And the crowd gets exponentially more into the whole experience as the evening hour, a number of Coronas drunk, increases. If you come around 8:30pm you'll just see most people singing along reservedly and toe-tapping but a few hours later will have a good majority out of their seats dancing with strangers or even performing a rave-like-swirling light show with flashlights. Its an entertaining outing for people watching alone.
Our crew attended to celebrate a birthday. And you may be thinking to yourself that this sounds like a perfect place to celebrate a birthday...but be ware. Although it may appear to be an ideal night of entertainment for a birthday, a portion of it will come at the birthday boy/girl's expense. The pianists will recognize and "celebrate" your day of birth in a way that may just destroy those among us who shutter at public attention [ah-hem]...it wasn't even directed at me and I was anxious the moment they called our birthday friend to the piano to acknowledge him without even knowing what they were to do to him. As for the details of how they commemorate the completion of another year of life...that will remain something you will have to discover by attending a piano-dueling evening. Curiosity may convince you to go, no?
The larger of a group you go with the better...although you will certainly make friends if you go solo or in a smaller group. There is something about singing along to well-loved and well-known songs that inspires instant kinship. But, if you go with enough friends to chip in some doe, you can take a stab at some mic time. For $20 you can get yourself, or force a friend, to sing to the pianists accompaniment in leiu of the weathered dueling piano man. Our group readily did so for a voice among us...a somewhat willing victim. Now I am sure for some, hearing a karaoking friend may be more enjoyable for a laugh at them than enjoyable for listening to them. For us, however, it was the latter and was additionally one of those memories you place in a time capsule to pull out when you need a reminder of a carefree time when you were young. He's good, as in "could-steal-the-show-from-the-piano-man" good, which equated to augmented enjoyment of forcing a friend to display his talent.
So for a potentially scarring birthday outing, to enjoy the under-celebrated talent of a friend, to unwind from a day of the 9-to-5 with some familiar tunes, and to get a taste of vacation, The Derby is your fix.