IF YOU’VE EVEN DIPPED A TOE IN THE WATERS OF PARK CITY’S LIVE MUSIC SCENE, CHANCES ARE YOU’VE ALREADY ENCOUNTERED THE UBER-TALENTED MIKE ROGERS. IF NOT, IT’S TIME TO GET WET.
Originally from the East Coast, Rogers studied music at Connecticut’s Wesleyan University and Berklee College of Music in Boston. A fortuitous meeting of Robert Redford in an elevator in New York City led to Rogers receiving an internship at Sundance in 1999. He’s been a fixture in Park City ever since, getting by at first by bartending, teaching at The Colby School, and playing in bands like Mudpuddle, a perennial Park City favorite.
Today, Rogers is a much-in-demand pianist who plays a ton of corporate events, private parties, and in bars and clubs. He also trains younger piano players, records his own mate-rial, books fellow musicians in bars and clubs, instructs at the National Ability Center, and in the winter, works as a Deer Valley ski patroller.
Rogers is well-known for his dueling pianos nights at venues like The Cabin in Park City and Salt Lake’s Tavernacle. He and his piano-playing counterpart “take all requests,” Rogers says. The way it works is “Whatever you want us to play, we will play. Hopefully you’ll tip us for it and the more you tip, the faster we’ll play your request,” he says with a chuckle. “If we’re playing a song you don’t like, then you have the right to tip one dollar more than the original requester and hit a gong, and we’ll stop playing that song and play yours instead.” Trust me, this is a lot of fun.
When asked which songs get requested most, the answer isn’t surprising: “‘Piano Man’ by Billy Joel, ‘Tiny Dancer,’ and lately, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’” says Rogers. He also really likes doing “mashups” during dueling pianos shows. “You’ll have, like, one request, a second request, and then a third. And I’ll say, ‘Yeah, I’ll do all three of them.’ And then I’ll smash them all together. Like I’ll take Phish, Johnny Cash, and James Taylor and smash them together into one tune–or maybe Prince, the Grateful Dead, and Alanis Morissette.”
Rogers converted an old RV into a “portable” recording studio that he can take on the road with him. This spring, he took his RV down to Jazz Fest in New Orleans. “It’s cool because I can lay down tracks and have street performers in New Orleans or Mexico or wherever I am jump in and record on the spot.” Rogers records a lot of “original stuff,” as he puts it. “I co-wrote a song and we ended up selling it to Coldplay,” he says, adding that “I don’t really know what they’re doing with it right now.”
In addition to recording music and selling songs, Rogers plays Ray Manzarek’s parts in a The Doors tribute band called Break on Through. For authenticity’s sake, he even purchased a vintage 1972 Fender Rhodes Piano Bass instrument of the type that Manzarek used on The Doors’ recordings.
Somehow after all of this, Rogers still has time for the dueling pianos performances he’s known for. You’d think the dueling pianos gigs might get tedious, but you’d be wrong. There are no set lists to follow or pre-planned routines. “Each night is a different night,” says Rogers. “It’s always fresh.”
Here’s a recommendation: Help Rogers keep it fresh by not requesting ‘Piano Man.’