Local dueling pianos company makes memories
By TARAH THORNE - email@example.com
BARRINGTON – Mike Potts is searching – for the perfect name.
“We need stage names,” said Potts, co-creator of Felix and Fingers Dueling Pianos and Jazz Duo.
Felix and Fingers began as a jazz duo in November 2010 when Potts and Dave Radford, who both graduated from Crystal Lake-based high schools, found themselves showcasing their musical talents at The Baker House in Lake Geneva once a week.
But that was not enough.
“Jazz will always be where our heart is,” Potts said. “But we’ve become much more than that.”
Felix and Fingers is now a high-energy, interactive, all-request based show, designed to get audiences singing, dancing and having a good time. The company – which doesn’t have a brick-and-mortar location – specializes in weddings, corporate events and fundraisers.
Mike Potts recently moved to the Barrington area from Crystal Lake with his fiancée, and has since booked events within the community. Felix and Fingers has made an appearance at L’Eiffel Bistrot & Creperie in the Arboretum of South Barrington, performed on a flatbed truck in Barrington’s Fourth of July parade and entertained wine enthusiasts at Uncork Barrington.
“If we aren’t booked on a Friday and Saturday, we’re doing something wrong,” Potts said.
The company has grown to include six to eight pianists on any given weekend. This has allowed Felix and Fingers to acquire a national presence, sending employees as far as Minnesota or Tennessee for performances.
Sometimes the Felix and Fingers piano duo will play with a musical guest whom they name “Freddy.” This guest typically sings or plays drums. Potts, the original “Fingers,” often brings his saxophone along for shows and Radford, the original “Felix,” has been known to bring his guitar.
Both Potts and Radford come from musical backgrounds. Potts began playing the piano at age 4. He toured 45 countries and worked alongside international artists during his few years spent as a cruise ship performer.
“Every night was a different show,” Potts said. “I learned from the visiting artists. They all had very different performance approaches. Some would do improv and others would tell the same joke repeatedly. It was nice to get a backstage perspective.”
Radford was one of the youngest contestants on Season Five of “American Idol.” At just 17, he was a Top 10 male finalist on the show.
“I learned to adapt and go with the flow in high-pressure situations,” Radford said. “I can look back and think about what I would have done differently.”
Now, both musicians run Felix and Fingers full time while Potts teaches piano lessons online through Skype and Radford keeps up with his band, The Gray Havens. A typical Felix and Fingers dueling piano gig lasts three hours, yet keeping up with the paperwork is the most time-consuming aspect of the company.
“Booking the shows is a full-time job, easily,” Potts said.
Radford added that “weekends are jarring,” as many shows require one to three hours of travel time.
Interestingly, the duo has found that their favorite part of performing is not necessary their music. Felix and Fingers is a cover band.
“We found ourselves listening to music we don’t want to all the time,” said Potts. “Taylor Swift ... Justin Bieber ... right now it’s all about ‘Suit and Tie’ or ‘Mirrors’ [by Justin Timberlake].”
And sometimes they take on a wedding-disaster-prevention role.
“We like to make all of the events a success, even in non-musical ways,” Radford said. “We will lend last-minute help with extension cords or sound equipment. If the food is late, we play until it arrives and keep people happy.”
At the end of the day, Potts and Radford measure their success by their audience’s mood.
“We try to find everyone’s niche genre of music,” Radford said. “Each song is a test to see what that specific group really likes.”
Potts said he enjoys connecting with people.
“Weddings are something people will remember for their rest of their lives,” he said, “and we were there.”