Sunday, November 23, 2014


Belly Up

Blue Moon Dueling Piano Bar: not your average live show

8/20/2014

The men and women on stage at Blue Moon know more songs than seems possible, and they add a touch of personality to the classics.

The men and women on stage at Blue Moon know more songs than seems possible, and they add a touch of personality to the classics.

One piano is good. Two pianos are better. But two pianos, a drum set, maybe a guitar and definitely some comedic relief in the form of parodies and improvised songs? Now you’ve got something.

That’s what Blue Moon Dueling Piano Bar and Restaurant has to offer its customers. On weekend nights, it’s often packed full with parties and groups singing along to classics like “Piano Man” and college fight songs.

It’s just as much about the audience as it is the entertainers: Customers get the chance to make song requests (Tip: the more money you give, the better the chance it’ll get played) and donate to the tip jar to hear the fight song of Iowa, Iowa State, UNI or any other college in attendance — most nights are sad for Nebraska fans, though. Those contests can get a bit rowdy but never get old.

Rotating between different musicians skilled in piano, singing and percussion every week, you’ll get to hear a variety of styles and specialties. Their combined knowledge of music is impressive, and even when they get a request they don’t know how to play, they’ll make it work somehow — often through the use of a tablet or smartphone sitting atop the piano showing the music or lyrics. There’s something you won’t find at a regular concert.

Des Moines Finest

Bachelorette parties tend to make a showing seemingly every week at Blue Moon to share the signature drink — several brightly colored straws poking out of a fishbowl full of blue cocktail. The brides are also known to get up on stage to sing a song or be sung to by one of the players. And just because she’s getting married doesn’t stop the guys behind the keys from making their songs as dirty as they possibly can — a fun show for the average bar-goer but perhaps don’t bring your mother. It can get a bit vulgar at times.

And, since “dueling” is right there in the name, you know there is going to be some back and forth between artists. There are two or three rotating each night, and they always do a great job of making a show: Arguing about who has the most money for a particular song or discussing which request is worse and should be thrown out altogether.

Blue Moon is a great place for parties and heavy drinking, a fact that can be attributed to the loud, sometimes overbearing music and strong mixed drinks. It’s probably not a first choice for couples because talking — or should we say yelling? — isn’t always conducive to the atmosphere, but groups like it because they can sing and dance with each other or just sit and watch the show.

Weekends are the busiest, thanks to the entertainment, but cover is only charged on Saturdays after 6 p.m. You can enjoy the same musicians for free on Thursday and Friday nights, but expect a smaller crowd. On Saturdays it’s not unusual to stand for a while until a table opens up, which isn’t uncomfortable since there’s quite a bit of open space near the bars and a balcony level above one side. CV

5485 Mills Civic Pkwy., West Des Moines
Tuesday-Wednesday: 4 p.m. to midnight, no cover
Thursday-Friday: 4 p.m. to 2 a.m., no cover
Saturday: 4 p.m. to 2 a.m., $5 cover starting at 6 p.m.
Closed Sunday and Monday
Trivia Tuesdays
All night happy hour on Wednesdays
Live music every Thursday, Friday and Saturday

Upper Iowa