ROUND ROCK — For the longest time, I’ve wanted to go check out Rockey’s Piano Bar in downtown Round Rock. It’s really not that far to drive from Fort Hood (about 50 minutes), and the area is a little more chill and laid back than Austin’s big-city night life.

Fortunately, I recruited some friends and we went to investigate what this piano bar had to offer. Sure, we got there later than we expected, but there was no cover to get inside and the performers looked like they were about to start the set. Prices were also pretty favorable for a piano bar, so there’s no reason to worry about breaking the bank.

Since the venue was smaller than other piano bars I have frequented, there were no tables available to sit (because the place was packed – even before 10 p.m.). So, it might be better to make a reservation if you want to sit down or if big crowds annoy you.

When they started playing, it was obvious why the place filled up so fast. As the stereotypical piano bar fanatic, I joked several times before arriving that they better play Queen. Naturally, after the piano guy asked the audience to make requests, I rushed to the bar and filled out a form. To be fair, it wasn’t my first rodeo, so I expected to have to wait 30 minutes to an hour before hearing my request (if at all). Nope, three minutes later, the dude said “Usually, I wait til later to play this but two people have already requested it.” So as he encouraged everyone to sing along, and he played the piano version rendition of “Bohemian Rhapsody” to thunderous applause.

Throughout the night, the performers reminded us that singing and participating was highly encouraged. They poked fun at a few people on their birthday (pretty standard stuff at these sorts of shows) and they always seemed energetic, laid-back and having a good time up there on stage.

Later in the night, our group filled out another request “Piano Man” by Billy Joel. Again, I found myself astounded, when minutes after turning in my suggestion, they played it. Despite how many people showed up, I had both songs played in minutes. Sure, it might be the popularity of the song selection, the fact that the piano guy wanted to play them or just good luck, but it seems you don’t have to wait forever to hear something you want at this place.

As the evening continued, more people packed in, but one of my friends needed some air. Instead of leaving him outside, we decided to move to another spot, the Brass Tap.

I suggest this place as a spot to start the night (or a place to take a date) because it touts hundreds of beers to choose from. I haven’t visited the Brass Tap in a while, so I was surprised to find an enormous outdoor area. We didn’t have any trouble finding a place to sit or ordering anything. It’s similar to a Flying Saucer or Ginger Man, but you don’t have to fight for a seat or wait in a super long line to order something.

I do need to mention that downtown Round Rock offers free parking at the garage we parked at, which really helps when some of us have to drive from out of town. Sure, Austin is fun, but having to pay $10-20 every time I park wears on the wallet a bit. There are also plenty of other places to check out in Round Rock, but we really only had time for two because one of us had too much fun at the piano bar (it was me). I’ll definitely go back again and recommend Rockey’s to anyone who likes piano bars.