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Just a month ago, Chez Cirque Dueling Pianos opened in the Landmark project in Greenwood Village. Now Wild Ivories, another dueling piano bar, is slated to open Friday, June 4, in the former Buca di Beppo space at 1400 Market Street. Caz Bzdek, who's performed at Sing Sing and the Reef Dueling Piano Club in Boulder, partnered on the project with Jon Sherman and Jeff Puszykowski, also veterans of Sing Sing, the Rock Bottom-owned venue at 1735 19th Street. "What's great is that we're not corporately owned," Bzdek says. "That's one of the big things. We have the freedom to do it the way a piano player would, an entertainer rather than a corporate Rock Bottom. So that's huge."
During their time at Sing Sing, the future partners would ask doormen what customers talked about when they were leaving the club. While sometimes they'd complain about the excess number of bachelorettes, the doormen said, they also often asked where they could go dancing. "The problem with the Sing Sing location is that it was a destination situation and there's nothing really around there to walk to, and they want to dance," Bzdek says.
With Wild Ivories, he solved that problem in advance by creating Juke, a 5,500-square-foot space in the basement that will have dueling DJs on Fridays and Saturdays. "What we're trying to do is give something that's different," Bzdek says. "For instance, the silliness of Proof of the Pudding or the old Polly Esther's feel. You can request anything. You can go down there and get Def Leppard all the way to Young MC. You can do new hip-hop, too." But instead of DJs trying to beat-match and having it be all about the DJ, he adds, it's about what the crowd wants.
Bzdek plans to put live bands — jazz, blues and possibly reggae — in Juke the other five nights of the week, and possibly host a local talent search once a month.
Upstairs at Wild Ivories, which is also 5,500 square feet, there will be dueling pianos seven nights a week, as well as live music at lunch and happy hour. For Bzdek, Sherman and Puszykowski, who've been dueling pianists for more than a decade, finding a strong stable of young, hip players was critical. "I like to start with skill," Bzdek says. "You have to know how to play piano and you have to know how to sing. That's key for me. In addition, the interactiveness is a big deal, to be comfortable up there. Always when I teach and train these guys, I tell them, 'Just play like you're playing in the living room for your family or your best friends.'
"We're not trying to be prima donnas," he continues. "We just want people to have a great time and let go and have fun. The third contingent is just to be very funny. We love the comedy. It's a tough world we live in, and some laughing is good. Some rogue humor is great. A lot of interactive skills are key for them, too."
While Wild Ivories and Juke open to the public on June 4, they're offering a sneak preview of the venue starting at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, June 2. It's a benefit for the National Sports Center for the Disabled, and tickets, $35 in advance and $40 at the door, get you two drinks and free food all night.
Club scout: There's lots of action on Market Street these days. Five blocks from Wild Ivories, the Wisconsin-based Brothers Bar & Grill chain is slated to open a Denver link in the former Real World house/Theörie location at 1920 Market on Thursday, May 27. Also on May 27, Oak Tavern and 24K (both at 1414 Market) are hosting the All White Everything party, an official salute to summer that includes a fashion showcase and live photo shoot with Denver's top models, a best-dressed-in-white contest and music, by DJ Ryan Slick and Ali Pierre. A block away, at Suite Two Hundred (1427 Larimer Street), Nik Richie, the man behind TheDirty.com, hosts a Memorial Day weekend kickoff on Friday, May 28; on Sunday, May 30, Slacker and Steve from Alice 105.9 will host their Annual White Party at the club with three players from the Colorado Rapids.