Tuesday, August 4, 2015

BIO - "Jack of All Trades (Master of None)"


Written by Mike O'Cull.

Piano player and singer, recording artist, nightclub owner, Gold Coast icon, island-hopping bar star, ninja warrior, and matador STEVE KOUBA (a.k.a. Savory La Fontaine, his 80s glam rock alter ego) is the type of wild-eyed creative archetype that this country used to breed in bunches. In today’s world of plastic heroes and paper tigers, Kouba looms large over a creative body of work that reaches around the globe, blending tight modern rock style and sensibility with the piano bar tradition. He owns the title ‘Jack Of All Trades (Master Of None)’ and keeps it on full lockdown, using the power of The Song, in all of its forms, to propel him forward in life. He tours. He records. He lives. He loves. He is The Most Interesting Man At The Piano. 

Kouba has logged more than 15 years as a piano man in Chicago’s Gold Coast. His first downtown gig was at the old Jay’s, on the corner of Walton and State, where he was set up on a piano "so dilapidated it barely passed for furniture,’ Steve recalls.   'You had to work the sustain pedal via its plywood lever in the guts of the piano with your entire leg, accessed through a hole kicked in the frame by some desperate player before I came along.”  He was an ongoing attraction at the original Underground Wonder Bar, where he held down the legendary Sunday and Monday graveyard shifts (1-4 AM) for years, performing radio rock on a grand piano for Gold Coast nocturnals.The Wonder Bar was where Kouba truly found his magic and mode as a player in the piano game. From there, he began playing all manner of clubs, piano bars, and high-end steakhouses. He can still be seen at the Zebra Lounge  (http://www.1350northlakeshore.com/a-low-key-piano-bar-might-become-your-favorite-night-spot/) - The Zebra,  an iconic club that holds the 3rd oldest liquor license in the city,  has been voted Best Piano Bar in Chicago. Steve even represented The Zebra on reality television on the truTV series Barmageddon in 2015. In 2014, Kouba became part owner of the new  Zebra Lounge in Memphis, TN, and the bar quickly became popular with lovers of brilliant live music and local service industry personnel. He is also a partner in Chicago Dueling Pianos, a rock and sing-along dueling piano act and booking agency based in Chicago. ( http://www.chicagoduelingpianos.com ). He’s performed dueling pianos regularly over the last decade at Sluggers World Class Sports Bar and Dueling Pianos, across from Wrigley Field.  

Too big for the Lower 48 to contain, Kouba has taken his act to many piano bars in The Carribean. He has played in St. Maarten (at the renowned Red Piano), Barbados (Lexi’s Piano Bar), and is now playing return engagements at Sopranos on the island of Aruba. He also performs regular tours on Norwegian Cruise Lines as part of a franchised Dueling Pianos act (Howl At the Moon).  Kouba performed on the maiden, trans-atlantic voyages of three consecutive Norwegian cruise ship inaugurations: The Epic, 2010 (Miami, Barcelona), The Breakaway, 2013 (New York City), and The Getaway 2014 (Miami).  All three of these ships were ranked in the Top Ten of The 14 Most Popular Cruise Ships of ’14: by Cruise Critic.http://www.cruisecritic.com/articles.cfm?ID=1689

Chicago music fans also have seen Kouba plying his trade in both the original music and theater scenes. He has appeared, written, and/or recorded with many important Chicago artists including Michael McDermott, Tony Rogers (The Good), and Mic One, as well as having performed with a diverse line-up of popular Chicago bands including The Convulsions, Quantum Leep, Tripping Billies, Duke Street Kings and many others. He also releases his own alternative rock singer/songwriter original material at incredibly irregular intervals. His first solo record was Consanguinuity, in 2000 and his most recent effort was the Prodigal Son EP, released in 2014. His entire discography can be found at  https://www.facebook.com/notes/steve-kouba/steve-koubas-recording-discography/10150183436770304?pnref=lhc.  His most recent mastered recordings can be heard on Bandcamp at  http://www.stevekouba.bandcamp.com. 

Steve made his first appearance on the Chicago theater scene when he wrote the musical score to Steven Dietz’s “Trust,” which ran at Chicago’s Atheneum Theatre in 2000. Reviews were glowing: http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/trust/Content?oid=908415  The second time was as sidekick to Tony Rogers in his highly successful “Pop Psychology: The Modern Relationship Seminar Musical” which debuted in 2002.  http://iliketonyrogers.com/2003/07/28/pop-psychology/ Tony Rogers is a frequent artistic collaborator, and Steve has played a supporting role in recording and performing on stage with Tony many times, even taking part in Rogers’ music video  “You Wanna Get In the Back Seat?,”  which was filmed entirely in the front seat of Steve’s 1973 Pontiac LeMans.   https://vimeo.com/30211034  Kouba also performed on the version of Tony Rogers “Great” that was used as the soundtrack to Purina's viral Great Dog video commercial that ran nation-wide in 2012.

Then, there’s Savory. For the uninitiated, Steve Kouba is the proud owner of an alter ego, one Savory La Fontaine, a pompous, androgynous, and certainly delusional 80’s glam rock star from the Chicago cover band Quantum Leep, perhaps the first and arguably the most loved 80’s cover band in Chicago.  Created as an 80’s-era response to the famous Afrodisiacs (70’s disco), the band took on a life of it’s own, as did Steve’s character within it, becoming true performance art and a permanent part of his swaggering oevre. Quantum Leep played clubs, private events and summer festivals, and headlined Chicago's House of Blues five times, which may be a record for an all-cover band.  

With a 20 year history performing behind a piano and keyboard, Steve Kouba has become one of Chicago’s most recognizable entertainers. From piano bars and intimate venues to rock stages, festival crowds, cruise ships and Caribbean piano bars, he navigates an ever-changing world of creative entertainment on a journey that is taking him around the planet and back again. He is a solid performer with the ability to make a crowd listen and laugh in any venue, public or private. He’s a self-described ‘piano-man-bar-star-vagabond-fuck-up-with-a -recording-habit' who is continuing to speed up and spread his word with each unforgettable show.

~ Mike O'Cull 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Partnering in a new venture ~ The Zebra Lounge.  Memphis!!!
Opening in October!


Get ready to earn your stripes, Memphis! The Zebra Lounge is coming to Midtown this fall. This piano bar has become an icon in Chicago over the last 85 years, attracting regulars and newcomers alike, with current owner Michael Vaughn taking the reins in 2009. Impressed with the uniqueness of Memphis, and inspired by the undeniable local talent, Vaughn is teaming up with partners Steven Kouba and Tamara Goldstein to make a second Zebra home on Overton Square. Hoping to recreate the intimacy and simple elegance of the Chicago location, the Zebra team invites you to relax, have a few cocktails, and enjoy your favorite tunes. This “unique watering hole” will feature local musicians 7 nights a week, ready to get your toes tapping to any request you can imagine. Keep checking in for updates on the opening.  ~ Nikki Thump

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Monday, February 24, 2014

Steve Kouba and Troy Neihard hit the road to western Illinois this weekend. Catch us at Eilerts in Freeport on Friday the 28th, and at the I.V Super Bowl in Peru on Saturday Night, March 1. Always great shows and great crowds!!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


Valentine's Day "Tunnel of Love" Bruce Springsteen Tribute Concert with Michael McDermott!!
9PM, MAYNE STAGE AUDITORIUM, Rogers Park, Chicago, IL.  

I'll be playing keyboards with The Duke Street Kings as we recreate all the greatest tracks from Bruce's E Street Band.  Come on out for a great time!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

POST-CONCERT SHOW!

PEARL JAM "Live at Wrigley Field", POST-PERFORMANCE, 10PM, Sluggers World Class Sports Bar and Dueling Pianos, across from Wrigley Field!  Steve Kouba and Adam Nelson perform at the pianos, all-request, post Pearl Jam at Wrigley Field, Friday, July 19, 2013.  Tickets $5 at door.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Received much love from Green Bay this past weekend. Thanks to Mike Anduzzi and his entire crew for making us feel welcome - we had a blast and I know the crowds did too! — with Troy Neihardt and Steve Kouba.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

"I'm Your Man"


NEW RELEASE!  

"I'm Your Man".  Yes I am.  I hope you enjoy this newest release from my upcoming album.  It's got a warm summer pulse, a fun lyric and that quirky Kouba imperfection.  Slap on headphones or pump up the volume, and download it to your MP3 collection!  This song features bad ass bass by Mark Beringer, killer drumming by Vance Okraczewski, and master mixing by Scottish McMillian.  Stay tuned for new and different recordings throughout summer, and as always, thank you for listening.



"I'm Your Man"

~ Steve Kouba


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

PIANO BARBARIANS podcast interview!

Click on the icon below to hear my interview from the island of Barbados.  Steve Savage of "Piano Barbarians" and I sat down to talk about Caribbean touring, dueling pianos, original music, the "piano man" life, and much more.  You can stream the interview or download it for listening at a later time.


Thank you for tuning in!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Barbados Blog # 3


Almost home, only two more shows to go, and how the time has flown except for a few deadbeat nights at the piano bar.  But whatever happens there, I'm still in Barbados, a truly wonderful place.  Today, thanks to Barbados, I had no less than four amazing experiences.  Standing in George Washington's bedroom at Washington House, where the Father of Our Nation stayed as a 19-year old.  Then, swimming with giant green sea turtles, so close as to touch.  Then, snorkeling and diving over a sunken ship!  Sunk in 1919, the WWI French tug Berwyn was scuttled by it's own crew and now lies in just 20 feet of water.  Finally, and though you won't believe me, I swear it's true... I found treasure at the bottom of the ocean.  Yes, Barbados treasure, just sitting there on the sea floor!



Or floating, just above it.  A ten dollar bill, Barbados, drowned, about 18 feet down.  It was fresh and must have been dropped by a snorkeler earlier in the day.  Could I get it?  That's a long way down, and I'm not good at diving.  But it was one of those moments, you just have to do it.  So, big breath, kick it down, down, down, oh boy...  I pretty much ran out of air by time I grabbed the currency.  I flailed myself back to the surface and hyperventilated for the next minute, clutching that $10 bill!  Count me among those who have retrieved treasure from the ocean's floor!  A dream come true!

Barbados has so many charms like this.  The fruit!  I thought I didn't really like fruit, until I tasted the local produce.  The best pineapple I've ever tasted, and awesome mangos and papayas.  The bananas are fresh and sweet, picked locally.  I gorge on tangerines every other day.

The breeze here is constant, the rains frequent, the tree frogs always sing at night.  I've gotten buzzed by a few bats, but no monkeys have come my way.

Only two more shows to go.  Anything could happen, but I hope the room fills up with listeners and party-ers.  Makin' music, makin' show, it's the only thing I really know!




~ Steve

Friday, March 23, 2012

Barbados 2012 Blog #2

Sweet Home Chicago.  How easy it is to start to miss!  Too many good friends, too much great music, and so much to look forward to.  Will be home soon, and will be droppin' tracks to make you say 'word'.  

Barbados -  Gorgeous.  Tropical, lush, fun.  My adventures are few and simple.  The shows have been rocking, no doubt. Fun club, good people, true fans.  The great sound system and good piano has helped me, over the course of almost 20 straight shows, bump up both my piano playing and singing one more incremental level.  (It's a journey of a million steps!)  These shows wring me out a bit.  They are long, high energy, there is alcohol... There is alcohol, constantly, because the British don't tip... they buy you drinks.  They are all incredibly nice and appreciative, but they simply do not part with their money is the same way that Americans do.  Let's face it, only an American will throw 40 bucks down to hear his school fight song.  But these Brits are tight!  The flaming liberal in me traces it all the way back to colonialism.  The British have never come to Barbados to transfer wealth to the populace, theirs is more of an inverse relationship.  

All of it meaning, for me, that tips have been so absolutely dismal that I cannot see ever returning to Barbados to perform!  35 bucks a night all goes away immediately, mostly to the the three Bajans that I've come to realize, I have been supporting.  It's true, I am supporting three locals.  One, the Shoeshine Man, who is old and so kind and has I think, a brain injury.  He sold me a "diamond" bracelet, and asked me for a loan days later.  No problem Shoeshine Man.  Then there's Yosh, my valet.  He has expenses.  And, the bartender who flips me some weed.  

I've snorkeled the same reef, a ten-minute swim away from my hotel, about 5 times now, delighting in every aspect; the moray eels and sea snakes, large schools of beautiful neon black and Blue Tang fish, and literally near a hundred fish species darting all around the coral.  I've looked up the names.... Chubs, Grunts, Wrasse.  Porkfish, Damselfish, and Schoolmasters.  Snapper, grouper, even jellies!  I saw a gorgeous Trumpetfish, and the best, a beautiful two-foot long Spotted Trunkfish (photo).  No sea turtles yet, so I will try out some new environments this week.  Stoked!  I love the breathing, the swimming, occasionally diving, constantly exploring.  


Took the famous Yellow Bus to Bridgetown.  You pay $2 Barbados (=$1 US) for a full ride, and I mean ride.  Careening down the island road and holding on for dear life, the windows are all open, as loud caribbean radio music pumps over the speakers, it's nice to feel alive.  This was Sunday, and all the shops in Bridgetown were closed.  So I hit the ramshackles, drank rum with a one eyed septegenarian Bajan street vender, ate a deliciously fatty pork cutter sandwich, and hit a beach for a beer and surf, while a local version of the Jesse White Tumblers entertained in the sand.  The return to Holetown, for my show, again on a Yellow Bus but packed to the very rafters.  I was the only white man, thank Christ.  

Have a lunch date tomorrow with the sexy local ornithologist.  She is from France, here to study the mating habits of the native Zenaida Dove.  I've got a single dove living above the air conditioner on my patio, it sends out every evening long hooting mating calls, amplified by the box shape cement angles of the patio.  He's (?) got a nice little nest up there.  I wanna see that dove meet a lovely little lovey-dovey.  Don't you?

Steve

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Barbados blog #1

Barbados is paradise.  Though it has rained often since my arrival, and the sun has yet to really break through after eleven days, everything is still beautiful and very tropical.

I've played ten shows already, only seventeen more to go.  People really appreciate my show, it feels good.  I'm playing the piano as well as I ever have and the voice, after a rough start, has strengthened right up.  Lots of Brits, many Canadians, some Americans and on good nights, some native Bajans.  I play 4 to 5 sets a night, six nights a week, it's work but I'm rocking ass every night so everything has been great.  

My digs are just diggity.  They've put me up in a room; actually, a hotel multi-level with five rooms if you include the study.  And an open patio.  And a bar.  It's very, very nice.  I stay at the Coral Reef Club where the grounds are a Caribbean wonderland of cultivation and horticulture, with winding pathways to the beach and the most marvelous palms and plants I've ever seen.  The flora is so beautiful.  

And the fauna is delightful.  Outside my doorstep, the little birds, attracted by my 9-grain bread crumbs:  Sparrows, doves, little shifty crow-like blackbirds, and some sort of aggressive jay.  The hummingbirds flit all around collecting nectar from the flowers.  A huge flock of white storks, numbering about five hundred, nesting in the very old trees along the ocean tributaries edges.  Have seen no sea birds yet, though I've been to the ocean twice for snorkeling.  Not much to tell yet there, I always arrive at the beach late as the swells are coming in and the ocean sand is storming.  Ocean currents are so awesome and beautiful, and swimming in them is pure life.

Saw some large black, yellow and red catepillars, a giant frog, and one dog.  Have yet to see a monkey or a sea turtle.

Best meal so far, sushi at the Lexy Piano Bar, half price for the players!  Still expensive though, food and restaurant prices are through the roof, as are the taxi fares.  I spend everything I make.  I've stocked my kitchen with fresh fruit, boxes of muesli, and some sardines and mustard, and a loaf of amazing bread, with the 9 grains, for the birds.

The Bajan girls here are dark and beautiful and stylish and sleek.  If only there weren't so many equally good-looking men, I might have a snowball's chance in Barbados.  

Tonight is the last show of the week before my night off.  I'm going to play my ass off.  This week, island exploration, some reef snorkeling, some good native meals.  Deep sea fishing?  Touring and shopping.  Surfing?  The strip club!  Come on, you know I wouldn't let you down.  

~ Steve




Tuesday, February 28, 2012

From the Caribbean Sea, Feb. 2012.

"I'm the King of the World!"

Of course, I was at the stern of the ship, not the bow, leaning against the rail alone and high above, watching the churning maelstrom of Atlantic seawater trail forever into the evening's horizon, the sun already set below the waterline but its radiance lingering in every shade of pink, rose and purple that reflected from the cirrus cumuli of cloud cover that floated over the ocean.  Who says I can't be The King from the back of the boat?  I like this metaphor; Leonardo can have his masthead, and I will claim the rear.  My reign as the Ruler of Hindsight remains, at least for tonight, unchallenged!

I suppose it's easy to be prone to such delusions, when your mind and body are tired yet invigorated; your psyche lifted by the company of good friends and good people. I've performed twelve shows, all to rousing expressions of joy from the passengers who ventured into our darkened theater on this cruise liner, my brilliant piano partners making it all so easy.  I re-explored an island or two and had no adventures of any sort other than the cruise itself.  I took ill for a night a broke a fever.  I ate bucket loads of salmon and salad.  I got some sun but kept my cool.  

Swirling waters.  Waves of black and shades of light all retreat from me, gone forever, to exist forever.  Hindsight.  I know exactly how I got here, in every way.  If I could only see where I'm going.  I can't, but I discern it, sense it, hope for it.  I need my friends and my dad and family and I need music and...

I imagine jumping - diving, though I do not dive - into the great boiling, receding waters fourteen decks below me.  I imagine losing my balance and falling, the rail giving way...  I imagine being pushed from behind.  I see myself bobbing and fighting, flailing and screaming against dark waves, as the ship pulls away without me.  I become afraid; I feel the horror of life leaving me behind, with nothing but complete loneliness and despair for company in the darkening night, the chilling water.  I hear myself, in my mind, say to the vast emptiness what I want to be my last words, when I accept that I will die...  "Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you."  

I turn around, shaken, and retreat back into the ship.  I don't stay morbid for more than a few heartbeats.  I return to myself, to the warmth, to my place in the world, and I am ok now, tonight.  Tomorrow.  I'll be King of the World, again, soon enough.  

Monday, January 2, 2012

2nd release from upcoming album released as FREE DOWNLOAD! Click cover art below!

The second release from the upcoming Steve Kouba album, Ricochet has finally been recorded and mixed in its final form. A song about the unimaginable trajectories that life takes as we careen through it and against it, Ricochet features a guest appearance by Jordan Taggart of Taggart Transcontinental.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

FREE DOWNLOAD of the first single from upcoming album! Click on image below!

"Fake It 'til You Make It", which will kick off my new album to be released in 2012, is a song about the joy and pain of being a rock and roll piano man. It employs the superb musicianship of Chicago's own Mike O'Cull (guitars), Adam Johnson (bass), and Derek Crawford (drums). It was recorded (in part) at Uptown Recording, and was mixed and mastered by Scottish McMillan. Cover photo by Troy Neihardt.
Fake It 'til You Make It ~ FREE DOWNLOAD!

Monday, October 24, 2011

80's Halloween Night With Savory La Fontaine! Zebra Lounge, Monday Oct. 31, 9:30 - close

From the desk of Savory La Fontaine.

My dearest fans,

Dying on stage was the easy part. The come-back will be a bit trickier. My death by poisoning at last year's show will always be remembered by me as the most remarkable event of my life. 

As I lay, dead, across the keys of the grand piano, my body was, unfortunately, molested, and perturbed. But my spirit? It soared to another realm! I felt myself being lifted by cherubs through clouds of music and laughter. I was brought to a beautiful field where I saw a great, blinding light. I ran to the light with all my heart, but I tripped on my scarf and fell into His arms. Him! Freddie Mercury! He sang to me! "Savory... You're my best friend." I cried with great joy. 

With Freddie were John Lennon and Ronnie James Dio! Dio clawed out for me, but John grabbed me by the lapels, slapped me across the face, kissed me on my forehead, and told me he was my biggest fan. And then, he leaned over and whispered something in my ear that I shall never forget. And just like that, they were gone.

I awoke backstage to find my valet, Percy, performing sacred druidic rites on my naked body. I rose, wiped away the pure truffle oil, and dressed. I reveled for a moment in my experience, my death, my new life, and then headed for the stage door. Percy stopped me and suggested that I had just died a horrific death by poisoning, and that perhaps I should just "chill out a bit". But I knew that I had been given a second chance at fulfilling my purpose on earth. The reason for my very existence was beyond that stage door.

"Savory", John Lennon told me... 

"Your fans are waiting."

HALLOWEEN SHOW, Monday, Oct. 31, 2011.  Zebra Lounge, two shows, 9:30 and 11:30, arrive anytime. 80's music, bar-type seating. 

~ Savory La Fontaine.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Tony Rogers newest music video! Starring Steve Kouba('s car)!


SEE THE DEBUT PERFORMANCE OF "SYCAMORE" by TONY ROGERS.
This Friday, September 30, 2011, 9 p.m., Martyr's, Chicago.


Directed by Michael Starcevich. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Performing w/ Tony Rogers! Friday Oct. 1 at Martyrs

Playing piano for Tony Rogers, with members of The Good, 
performing his album "Sycamore".
FRIDAY, SEPT. 30 at MARTYRS, 8:30 p.m.  
Two extra-ordinary sets of music!


Seeing Tony play live these days is about as easy as finding discarded unders in his garbage, trust me I have looked every day for the past ten years. But on FRIDAY SEPT 30, 2011, he is playing the Sycamore album in its entirety at Martyrs in Chicago, and then, he says, a whole bunch of other Tony stuff. The show starts at 8:30 and according to Tony, you definitely don't want to be late. He's promising a bunch of cameo appearances, and special surprises, and knowing him LIKE I KNOW HIM, I'm sure it will be a night to remember!

Trust me, buy advance tickets. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

MORE EMBARRASSING QUANTUM LEEP FOOTAGE RELEASED!

From the desk of Savory La Fontaine.

This is turning into a nightmare.  My deranged stalker has released footage of The Leep at its absolute worst.  Drunkedness, carnality and abandoned musicianship are all on display in this early promo video. Blackmail has never hurt this badly before.  My god, what could possibly be next?  Thank god we're broken up, I'd hate to be liable for any of this public image disaster. Yesterday's indiscretions have become today's trip to the free clinic.  I'm calling my lawyer.   

video

With public stain,

Savory La Fontaine

Friday, June 17, 2011

Listen to "Sycamore", the new album by Tony Rogers.

I had the honor of playing piano on Tony Roger's outstanding new album, "Sycamore". If you're in the mood for new and meaningful music, please check it out. The music is a companion piece to an unpublished novel by Tammy Letherer Rogers called "Climbing the Sycamore". Every song has wonderful mood and meaning. Be prepared to really listen!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

SUPPRESSED QUANTUM LEEP FOOTAGE RESURFACES!

From the desk of Savory La Fontaine.

Dear Fans of Quantum Leep,

The past will always come back to haunt you.  No matter how far away you go, or feel, your world can turn upside down at any moment.  Your history, at any time, can decide to jump up and f*#% you with full intention.

Last week for instance, I got a phone call.  A deranged fan from days of old has threatened me with the release of incriminating footage.  He claims that unless I, Savory, agree to his terms, he will release suppressed, lost, and heretofore unseen footage of Quantum Leep, myself, and every member of the band.

When I refused his nefarious bargain, he sent me the following opening salvo - video, of an embarrassing and amateurish profile of The Leep, concocted by a local fly-by-night TV station.   The chess game begun, I choose to release this video of my own accord, as a preemptive strike against the media frenzy certain to ensue.

video

I remain,

~ Savory La Fontaine

Saturday, April 9, 2011

NEW RECORDING ~ "Savory La Fontaine"

The reports of Savory La Fontaine's death appear to have been greatly exaggerated.  Savory has recorded a new song which some are already calling his autobiographical masterpiece.  This song, cleverly titled "Savory La Fontaine", was first heard at His Deliciousness's comeback attempt on Halloween night in 2010 and is not meant for public release.  It was recorded with only piano, in demo form at his castle in Romania. 


Savory in better days.