Dueling piano bar

Now a double treat on Rock Road

WRITTEN BY JOE STUMPE

The entertainers have mastered a wide variety of musical styles.

The entertainers have mastered a wide variety of musical styles.

Go ahead and try to stump the dueling piano players at Ernie Biggs Piano Bar. They double dare you.

“They just specialize in a wide variety, from classics to stuff you think they couldn’t play on piano, like hip hop,” said Aaron Kenney, the club’s General Manager.

The combination of high-level musicianship and plenty of laughs has quickly made the club on Rock Road a hit with Wichita audiences. The success shouldn’t come as a surprise. Since the first Ernie Biggs was started by a Little Rock businessman in the Arkansas capital a decade ago, four more have been opened — in Springfield, Mo.; Branson; Kansas City and Wichita.

The latter seemed like a natural, since the city had been without a dueling piano bar.

“I think this was much needed,” Kenney said. “There wasn’t a place where you could go out and be entertained with a show and people telling jokes.”

Ernie Biggs stations three or four musicians at each of its locations. They perform there three weeks a month, then make a guest appearance at one of the other clubs the other weeks.

Based in Wichita are musical director Matt Kschinki and fellow pianist/singers Paul Bowen and Zach Spakowski. All are fluent on instruments like the guitar, drums and sax as well.


The Speakeasy Lounge has a small dance floor upstairs.

The Speakeasy Lounge has a small dance floor upstairs.

Most nights they show up with about 10 songs on their set list. The rest of the performance is given over to requests from the crowd (Advice: a nice tip will get your request played quicker!).

So what are the most-requested songs? Kenney thought a moment, then offered three: “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey, “Piano Man” by Billy Joel and “Sweet Child of Mine” by Guns N’ Roses.

The Rock Road location hasn’t been this hopping since it was the home of The Grape a decade ago. In fact, Kenney said it’s been so popular that some people believe you can only get in with a reservation. Those are recommended for the weekends, but Kenney said plenty of seats come open during the night.

There’s a patio where smoking is allowed, and Ernie Biggs also recently expanded into the south side of the building with a second bar called The Speakeasy Lounge. It’s a laid-back, two-level club with a DJ and small dance floor upstairs.

“We’ve got two totally different concepts going on,” Kenney said.

 
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