Tickled Ivory

Ted Manderfeld and David Eichholz will bring their unique act to the Paramount Theatre on Feb. 6. Photo provided

Ted Manderfeld and David Eichholz will bring their unique act to the Paramount Theatre on Feb. 6. Photo provided

To David Eichholz, the audience is just as important in a Deuces Wild! Dueling Piano performance as he and his musical partner, Ted Manderfeld.

“The audience is half the show,” Eichholz said.

After all, the two pride themselves in reading and interacting with an audience and playing what it wants to hear. As Deuces Wild! Dueling Piano prepare to play shows at the Paramount Theatre at 2 p.m and 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 6, Manderfeld and Eichholz have a message for music fans: They’re not your average dueling pianos group.

 A tale of two shows

It will be a tale of two shows at Austin’s Paramount Theatre on Feb. 6.

Manderfeld and Eichholz will perform their main Deuces Wild! Dueling Piano show at 7:30 p.m.; tickets are $18 in advance or $23 at the door.

The duo’s website describes the show as a “choose your own adventure variety act” and Manderfeld said even he rarely knows what to expect, adding they do a lot of improvisation and often take requests.

“We like to play songs that the majority of people know,” Eichholz said.

DuelingPianosPWith comedy mixed with the music, Manderfeld described their show by telling people to imagine if Billy Joel and Dane Cook had a baby, Elton John came to visit as the godfather, Adam Sandler was an uncle and Macklemore was their wacky neighbor.

Manderfeld described it as a fast-paced, interactive sing-along-party show.

“You can still bring grandma, but it’s going to be very high energy,” he said.

Dueling pianos are a prime mix of entertainment to Eichholz: There’s comedy without having to listen intently to a standup routine, there’s music but people aren’t likely to get bored, as there’s a variety.

“It’s just a perfect mix of all of it,” he said

Deuces Wild! Dueling Pianos isn’t what most expect from a piano performance. Rather than Bach and Beethoven, the duo plays a wide variety like Billy Joel and Elton John to Sir Mix-a-lot and Macklemore to Led Zeppelin and Motley Crue, largely depending on the audience.

“Maybe we’ll even pepper something in from the golden age — the 80s,” Manderfeld joked.

In the group’s first show of the day, a 2 p.m. performance called “What A Wonderful World,” the piano duo will put on a show centered on the true golden age hits from the 1940s and 1960s. The Paramount is trying something new with a Thursday matinee targeted for senior citizens. Tickets for the matinee are $15.

The early show will feature classics like “You Are My Sunshine,” “Goodnight Irene” and “In the Mood,” along with even a few polka and gospel songs.

Though the duo performs the senior show far less often, the two enjoy that audience.

“We love playing for them the most,” Eichholz said.

Eichholz described the evening show as a sprint, while the senior show is a stroll. A big reason is the audience’s attention span: “An audience has ADD now,” Eichholz noted. The seniors are more apt to enjoy full songs, while younger audiences tend to get bored quickly.

“The seniors audiences have the best attention span,” Eichholz said.

Though the duo is primarily a piano group, the two will add in other instruments. Eichholz is a multi instrumentalist, playing “basically anything that makes noise.” During the show in Austin, he’ll play piano guitar and saxophone, and Manderfeld will step back from the keys to play harmonica and ukulele for a few songs.

The two promise an upbeat show where people aren’t going to sit pat. They promised a good time and had a simple message for people who haven’t heard them: “If you haven’t seen Dave and I, come give us a chance,” Manderfeld said.

 A piano partnership

According to Manderfeld, the two have played more than 1,500 shows and traveled more than half a million miles in their 11 years performing together.

“We’ve been road warriors for a long time,” he said.

Eichholz has played music since he was a teenager. He was in a metal/hair band in the 1980s playing AC/DC, Guns N’ Roses and Van Halen, and at the same time he was playing polka and country tunes with another act in bars.

“It was great,” he said. “Talk about never being bored with what you’re doing.”

David Eichholz started in dueling piano groups at Ltl Ditty’s at the Mall of America. He was playing with another band at the time and described himself as acting wild with no shoes and a mask on stage. A group from Ltl Ditty’s started coming to watch him and asked him if he’d be interested in joining the dueling pianos show.

He wasn’t interested at first, but warmed up to the idea of a steady paycheck to keep his music career going without as much travel.

Eichholz started adding elements into the dueling pianos show, and he and another musician started Deuces Wild! Dueling Pianos and later left the mall gig.

Eichholz said Deuces Wild is different than most other dueling pianos acts at piano bars, where the performers are often machine-like, relying on books to just take requests.

Eichholz and Manderfeld thrive on interacting with the audience, and they’ll even stop a song to playfully point out if someone starts texting during the performance.

“We walk on the stage, we’re engaging the audience,” Eichholz said.

In jest, Manderfeld claimed he and Eichholz met in a prison knitting circle. But in reality, Eichholz was performing the show with another partner who left the group. Manderfeld, who was just out of college and working at a call center booking airline tickets, left his job to audition for the group.

“Glad I chose the path I did,” he said.

Eichholz admitted Manderfeld’s approach to winning the role was tenacious, describing him as a pit bull tugging on the end of a toy until he won the gig.

Manderfeld knew he wanted to be a performer from around age 16, when he ran across his dad’s LP collection. His father had been a deejay in college.

Deuces Wild! Dueling Pianos

When: 7:30 p.m.

Where: Paramount Theatre, 125 Fourth Ave. NE

Tickets: $18 in advance,

$23 at the door

 What a Wonderful World

When: 2 p.m.

Where: Paramount Theatre, 125 Fourth Ave. NE

Tickets: $15

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