Battle of the… PIANOS?

 In San Francisco

This is a story of pianos, TALK San Francisco, and British pubs.  Go figure! Welcome to The Swingin’ Door, a two-story British pub with tasty ales, IPAs, lagers, and an even tastier history!

Welcome to The Swingin’ Door, a two-story British pub with tasty ales, IPAs, lagers, pianos, and an even tastier history!

The Swingin’ Door is located in the heart of San Mateo (south of San Francisco on the Caltrain).  England’s flag is painted on the front of the building to let customers know it is a true British pub!

Established in 1955, The Swingin’ Door has played host to famous politicians, athletes, actors and musicians (i.e. Ronald Reagan, Willie Shoemaker, Bing Crosby, Kingston Trio) throughout the decades.  Darts tournaments were initiated 1963 and a dance floor became the standard in 1956.



A Night of Dueling Pianos

Its popularity has remained constant for those in the know in the Bay Area; being selected as the ‘Best Watering Hole’ and the location for ‘Best Live Entertainment’ for years running.  But you can’t win an award for ‘Best Live Entertainment’ without live entertainment!  If you head to The Swingin’ Door on a Friday or Saturday night, you are in for a real treat!  On the first floor, you can grab the microphone and sing a tune to the live band karaoke.  Or, climb the stairs to the second floor for a show unlike any other:  bring on the Dueling Pianos!



Even cartoon ducks duel


What is ‘Dueling Pianos’?  Well, a dueling piano bar sets up two pianos facing each other on stage; both are equipped with a microphone and a piano player.  The piano players take turns playing songs and singing, sometimes accompanying the other or interrupting as they please.  But it’s the audience that guides the show!


Ken and Aki enjoying the Pianos


The piano players play requests made by the people watching.  If you want a song played, you write down the name and take it to one of pianists with money.  The piano player will then turn it into a piano version, usually putting a fun spin on the music and lyrics.  At the beginning of the night, requests go for one dollar, but as the evening progresses, so does the price!  By the end of the night, you may be paying as much as $5 a song to hear your request over someone else’s!  Don’t like a song being played?  Pay more than the person who chose the song, and the pianists will change to whatever you want to hear… and so the battle commences!


Ken and Lacey


TALK at NDNU students, staff and friends headed to The Swingin’ Door to experience the Dueling Pianos Bar firsthand last Friday night!  And, boy did we have a good time!  The students’ song choices were lauded by the piano players:  Aki requested ‘An Englishman in New York’ by Sting and Ken requested ‘Lately’ by Stevie Wonder.  We all marveled at the way Lady Gaga’s ‘Bad Romance’ sounded to a piano and loved their rendition of ‘Billie Jean’ by Michael Jackson, complete with Michael’s signature high-pitched “Aheeeee-heeeeeee!”

The piano players amped up the performance with jokes and birthday serenades.  They got me onstage to compete in a dance-off and made Ken sit on top of the piano while singing him a birthday tune (even though it was nowhere near his birthday)!  Be warned that most of the content is best-suited for adults – which explains why it’s a Dueling Pianos BAR!


Happy Birthday, Ken!


All in all, we all had a great time… well, except Gretchen whose $5 went wasted on a request for ‘Modern Major General’ which never got played.  Better luck next time, Gretchen!


Sooo sad!


Lacey Long is the School Director and PDSO.  Lacey enjoys teaching students American slang; she loves singing in the car during student trips (even though her voice is terrible) and she thinks EVERYTHING can be funny.  Contact her at

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