Low Key to Bring Dueling Pianos Back to Mill Avenue in Tempe

The entrance to RCK CTY
The entrance to RCK CTY
Benjamin Leatherman

Fans of the old Big Bang in Tempe, lend us your ears. In fact, if you've been mourning the loss of the beloved Mill Avenue basement bar and its dueling pianos, you'd should cheer up and get ready to rock out once more.

That's because RCK CTY, the glitzy nightclub that replaced The Big Bang last year, is closing and will once again host rowdy and raucous sing-alongs and dueling pianos when it reopens as Low Key next week.

According to co-owner Austin Walter, the spot will start operating under its new name on Thursday, February 19, and will immediately begin hosting a pair of piano players performing rock and pop hits four nights a week.

Walter says that they decided to bring dueling pianos back to the joint due to popularity and demand.

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"It's crazy how many people come into the bar on a daily basis when we're open or call or e-mail or whatever asking about the pianos, so people still thought we still had them," he says. "I've been talking it over with all the musicians and the staff here and we really thought it was a good idea to bring 'em back and to make it more of a piano bar again."

Walter also admits that the fact that RCK CTY wasn't getting the response they'd hoped for was another factor in the decision. When RCK CTY opened in October, Walter told us that he'd envisioned the club would host a series of live music events in addition to DJ sessions on the weekends. Those plans never really came to fruition, however, save for a few performances by local bands and musicians, and RCK CTY became more of a nightclub.

And since both Tempe and Scottsdale are already glutted with such spots, Walter says it was hard to compete.

"Long story short, when we transitioned with RCK CTY last year, we wanted to do more live music and things but it just didn't happen and, really, it became entirely a nightclub," Walter says. "And its just hard to compete with the other [Tempe clubs] like El Hefe and the Gringo Star and really all of Scottsdale area with all of the new [clubs] popping up."

So the staff and ownership decided to bring back what worked.

"With The Big Bang being open for 12 years and people knowing about it, it makes financial sense to just do it better than it was done before, or at least attempt to do it better," Walter says.

He adds that Low Key will be a "modern twist on the whole concept of a piano bar" and will feature many of the same musicians and pianists that performed at Big Bang, including Mike "Mikey C." Clement, Colin Freestone, Michael Clavijo (a.k.a The King of Mill), Julie Simpson, and Daniel Krass.

Walter says that dueling pianos will be featured Wednesday through Sunday up until the end of Spring Training. After that, performances will be on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays only with the possibility of more night being added in the future. Low Key will also possibly host a Tuesday night open jam and live karaoke on Wednesdays and Sundays.

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