A little bit louder now

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December 6, 2004 // UPDATED 4:49 pm - April 25, 2007
By: Ellen P. Gabler
Ellen P. Gabler

Pianists duke it out and get the crowd into the act

What's better than a bar, more fun than the movies and won't remind you of gathering 'round Aunt Helga's piano for a holiday sing-along? The Shout! House.

The newest late-night haunt in Block E brings in top-notch musicians, who drag the audience into their antics to create a truly unique Downtown funfest as they square off on dueling pianos.

What's hot

Flat out, this place is fun.

Shout! House pianists put on a serious show and play all those songs you love to belt out in the shower. As a result, this place builds up the kind of communal frenzy normally reserved for big-time Target Center concerts. And with just a $5 cover, you'll probably leave happier than you would after a three-hour show with Mr. or Ms. Pop Star across the street.

Described by Shout! House spokesperson and vice president Joe Woods as "human jukeboxes," the rotating cast of dueling pianists leads an interactive show that never slows down.

These guys know the music and lyrics to between 300 and 500 songs, Wood said, hopping easily from Elvis and Madonna to Tim McGraw and Vanilla Ice.

"It's like every song is my favorite song," commented one patron, Michael, 24.

The "jukeboxes" are, of course, programmed to take requests, but your song pulls more weight if there's some green behind it. So if you're not jiving to pianist Michael's rendition of "Girls Just Wanna' Have Fun," flash a few bucks and shout out your request. Cconsider yourself warned, however, you'll most likely start a bidding war and get the crowd all riled up.

Besides its talented musicians and perfect mix of music, The Shout! House offers a unique opportunity for completely different groups of people to show up at the same party.

"My girlfriends and I come here, and my parents come here, too -- they're in their 50s," explained Joann, a Shout! House waitress. "Everyone kind of melts together."

What's not

Beware: it's pricey to throw 'em back at Shout! House.

Domestic beers are $4.50 a piece; mixed drinks, $6.50. Yeah, it's Downtown, but even the high falutin' ultra lounges don't charge that much for a simple brew. You can't even bank on liquid economies of scale -- they don't serve pitchers here.

Also, there are times you might feel a little bit like you're back in 6th-grade music class. No, you don't have to listen to a choir of squeaky recorders, but the "cheese" factor occasionally rises slightly during mandated choreographed sing-alongs.

If you bring enough money to buy the pricey booze though, singing "Jeremiah was a bullfrog" with a hundred of your newest friends isn't so bad.

The scene

The place is packed by 9:30 most weekend nights, so come early to make sure you get a seat. There's plenty of room to stand around the perimeter of the bar, however, and with huge mirrors behind each piano player, everyone gets a chance to see those fingers fly.

There's no dance floor but don't despair -- people basically bust it up all over Shout! House.

With two bars, you won't have a hard time getting a drink. And if you're sitting at a table, Shout! House staff will jump to refill your drink when there's just a few sips left.

Another major perk: you won't smell like a bar at the end of the night, Shout! House is already smoke-free.

The crowd

If your primary goal is to "get lucky," Shout! House might not be for you.

Sure, there are plenty of nice, good lookin' people, but most are here with friends, families or coworkers. Instead of a sea of gyrating singles, you get a real mix here, and that's what makes it cool.

One patron, Debbie, 37, put it best: "There's young, there's old; you've got the hoity toities, and you've got the girl with the beer spilled on her shirt."

Drinks and hours

The Shout! House offers an exceptionally strong happy hour (but not during prime dueling piano time, of course). Monday-Friday, 5-7 p.m. it's $1 domestic drafts and hot dogs, $2 well drinks and $5 Martinis. Tuesdays, 8 p.m.-midnight, there's $2 drinks specials. Wednesdays are for winos: $3 a glass along with $3 Cosmos, taps and Jacks.

For snacking, there's pizza (a popular item), hot dogs and popcorn, all reasonably priced.

The verdict

Expose yourself early to this vat of fun. Your friends will love you, your parents will feel like they're young and cool, and you'll all want to go back for more.