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Now playing, Robert Deason on the piano

Feb. 22, 2018 - , Robert Deason grew up in north suburban Gurnee and could see Six Flags Great America amusement park from his family's backyard, and boy has it been a wild ride for him playing piano.  Dating back to third-grade, when his mom won free piano lessons in a raffle and asked if he'd be interested in learning.

At that point, Deason's biggest motivation was, admittedly, his arch-nemesis.

"She was taking piano and always got to go up and play duets with our teacher during music.  Naturally, I wanted to show her up," Deason said, smiling.

Now 33 and living in Andersonville, Deason is a dueling pianist for Felix and Fingers Dueling Pianos, and has been with the company for more than five years.

"I was lucky to have a teacher (who) saw a lot of potential in me and pushed me to study music I was really passionate about," he said.  "I played a lot of pop, rock, and musical theatre growing up.  As I got older, I started to have more of an appreciation for classical music.

"I've always had a pretty decent ear for pop music, which comes in handy every time I play a show.  Knowing a ton of different styles makes playing dueling piano shows a lot more fun and exciting."

Deason, who has lived in Chicago for the past 12 years, also plays alto, tenor, and baritone saxophone, is a percussionist, and recently picked up a ukulele on a trip to Hawaii.

He has been a dueling pianist for 10 years, first answering an ad looking for dueling piano players at a bar in the suburbs.  "My best friend and I sat down for about four hours, and worked on about 10 songs that we could audition with.  On our first night, I don't think we played a single song that we had rehearsed.  We just went with the flow of the audience and had a blast.  From that point on, I was hooked."

Deason now duels every Thursday night at Roscoe's Tavern in Boystown, and has been part of a weekly show there for about three years.  Roscoe's, he said, "is absolutely one of my favorite places to play.  Our fans are amazing and Roscoe's has the most incredible employees.  I'm always excited to go to work there."

Deason said his favorite part about dueling pianos is the ability to defy an audience's expectations.  "We can literally play every style of music," he said.  "Over the course of a three-hour show, you hear everything from Elton John to Kardi B.  That's what makes what we do so exciting – no show is ever the same as the last."

The most challenging part is, obvious – when someone requests a song that Deason has literally never even heard of, which, he admitted, does happen from time to time.  "If I'm able, I try and listen to a clip on Spotify, and replicating a portion of it, to the best of my ability," he said.  "It's always challenging, but those moments can be the most successful parts of a show."

Deason added, "My motto always is, 'If I can hum it, I can play it ...or at least part of it.'    If I've truly never heard a song before, I'll try and do a different song by that artist."

Deason's strong-suit is '90s music.  Third Eye Blind is one of his favorite bands to cover.

"I find myself doing a lot of female pop songs, along with a decent amount of rap and R&B thrown in," he said.

At The Bar With ...Robert Deason

Recent Mash-up of note:  A combination of 'Don't Stop Believing' by Journey and 'Flawless' by Beyoncé.  "It was literally one of the most amazing on-stage experiences I've ever had."

Life at the piano:  "I'm lucky enough to make a career as a full-time musician.  Getting to travel across the country doing what I love is an incredible feeling, and I'm insanely grateful to have so many opportunities to make music for people."

Improving as a piano player:  "I've learned to let go and not worry about playing everything perfectly.  Being vulnerable in front of a room full of people is scary, but it's one of the things that makes our show so incredible.  If you screw up, the audience is right there with you to laugh about it and move on to the next song."

Cheers:  He drinks vodka soda with a splash of cranberry.

Favorite Chicago Restaurant: Arami

Favorite TV show:  "I'm a huge Netflix binger.  I just started a series called 'Dark' and can't stop."

Favorite musical group: The Beatles

Favorite concert ever attended:  "My mom took me to see The Beach Boys when I was 7 or 8, and John Stamos come out as a guest musician.  The first concert I went to on my own was, Jimmy Eat World, when I was in high school."

One Celebrity You'd Like To Meet: Sara Bareilles

Dream Vacation Destination: Greece or Thailand

Pizza Toppings:  "Anything and everything.  I'm the least picky eater you'll ever meet."

(Complete this sentence):  I'm Better Than Most ... "At remembering random quotes from movies and TV shows."

(Complete this sentence): Even my close friends will be surprised to learn ... "Sometimes, when I'm cooking at home, I'll talk to the camera like I'm on The Food Network.  It's so lame.  I even cut to commercials.  True story."

Boxers or Briefs:  "Briefs!  I do so much bouncing around on the piano that I need to keep everything locked down."

Boystown's outdoor Frost Fest is back this weekend, Feb. 24 and 25
Feb. 22, 2018 - , The Northalsted Business Alliance is bringing back Frost Fest, a winter celebration of craft beer, spirits and cider, this weekend in Boystown.

Back for a fourth year, the Frost Fest Craft Beer Festival will host local brewers in a 6,000-square-foot heated tent at Halsted and Brompton (3514 N. Halsted). The line-up of craft brews includes 3 Floyds, 18th Street, Anchor, Begyle, Half Acre, Maplewood, Pipeworks, Revolution, Virtue Cider and more.

The two-day festival will also feature music by DJ X-Tasy, a rainbow light show, ice sculpture carving and sponsor giveaways.

Organizers have added a new charity component with $1 of every ticket sale going to Hope for the Day, which works to achieve proactive suicide prevention by offering outreach and mental health education through self-expression platforms.

Each session is $35 ($40 at the door if available) and includes 10 tickets for beer tastings. Tickets are available for purchase at www.frostfestchicago.com.

Frost Fest is organized by the Northalsted Business Alliance, the same group behind Chicago Pride Fest and Northalsted Market Days.

Sponsors include Yelp Chicago, Green Mountain Energy Company, Fitness Formula Clubs Halsted Street, Getaround, Passanante's Home Food Service, Men's Room Chicago and Knecht Chiropractic.

Frost Fest 2017 Photos: Gallery One | Gallery Two 

Chicagoans unite to rally and march for gun reform, Feb. 18
Feb. 18, 2018 - , Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, Women's March Chicago, and Indivisible Chicago will lead a rally and march from Federal Plaza to Trump Tower on Sunday, Feb. 18, declaring that the time for "thoughts and prayers" is long past and the time for action is now.

"We demand our lawmakers do more to end this gun violence crisis in our city and our country. We deserve to live in a country where children live free from gun violence, in their schools, in their homes, and in their communities," the organizations said in a news release.

Thousands are expected to gather at Federal Plaza, 219 S. Dearborn, for a 1 p.m. rally before marching to Daley Plaza, 50 W. Washington, for a moment of reflection for lives lost. Then at 2 p.m. the march will head east on Randolph to Trump Tower.

A brief program at Federal Plaza will include a call to action for gun reform. Speaker lineup includes: Jason Saini, Initiated Facebook event for the March; Brenna O'Brien, Chicago Lead, Moms Demand Action; Jaquie Algee, Women's March Chicago and SEIU; Jen Diamantos, Science Teacher, Illinois Education Association; and Lauren Tucker, Indivisible Chicago.

Social media hashtags for the event are: #GunReformNow, #March4GunReform, #ThrowThemOut

Twitter: @MomsDemand, @IndivisibleChi, @WomensMarchChi

Facebook event: www.facebook.com/events/149626219069392

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