While walking through the Gaslamp Quarter of San Diego, I heard a musical commotion coming from somewhere in the distance. Following the sound of the music and accompanying cheers led me to doors of The Shout House, an establishment that advertises itself as a 'Duelling Piano Bar'. It was too busy to go into at that time but I made a mental note to visit before I left the city. The next day I got talking to an Australian girl at the breakfast table in the hostel where I was staying, and we arranged to meet that evening to check it out. Despite being a Monday night the place was packed and all the tables in front of the bar had been booked, but we managed to find a little spot at the back with a good view over the stage.

Sitting at back to back pianos, the performers on stage started with a lively rendition of Crocodile Rock which they followed with a string of well-known hits. The process involved members of the audience putting a slip of paper with their song request on top of the piano, along with their tip ($5, $10, $20 etc.). The bigger the tip, the more likely the artist will play your request. If the song wasn't getting a great reception, there were also instances when they offered to stop playing - as long as someone was willing to pay them a higher tip than the person who requested the tune. It was all in good nature, of course. There were four pianists available on the night, with two playing and then swapping to give the others a break. Each musician brought a different style to the performances and audience members were occasionally singled out to join in with the singing or to get up on stage to dance.

Despite the elements of humour and the jokey atmosphere, it was clear to see that the musicians are extremely talented professionals. The ability to play a huge range of crowd-pleasing tunes on demand was impressive, as was their occasional switch between instruments including drums and guitar. Although all pianists put on a great performance, the crowd favourites were undoubtedly James and Missy whose musicianship - and banter - was top class!

The Shout! House can be found at: 655 Fourth Ave, San Diego.