In just a few years, Seth Sikes has gone from New York piano bar favorite to fully realized internet sensation. His videos, which largely take place on Fire Island, became popular during the COVID-19 lockdown. They gave people a bit of humorous reprieve in an otherwise trying time.
Seth has a genuine love for the singers and songs he parodies, from Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli to Barbara Streisand. He somehow manages to make show tunes even gayer.
This week we were able to meet with Seth and talk about his favorite places and what he’s been up to. He is a very busy bee. On top of three upcoming tours in Provincetown, Sitges, and New York City, he also has a new video coming out. And the setting is, of course, Fire Island.
The video is a parody of the Theme from San Francisco as sung by Judy Garland. In addition to witty lyrics, Seth managed to get some stunning views of the area. Check out the video and the interview below:
Can you tell our readers a little bit about your upcoming tours in Provincetown, Sitges, and New York City?
“Yes, exactly! The next one is going to be in Sitges. I’ve never been there before. I was originally going just for fun with a friend. Someone told me that I should do a show there.
“There’s a cabaret space there called El Piano, I think. So, I reached out to them and said I’m a singer, I’m going to be in town, here are some of my videos, do you want me to do a show? So, I’m going there for fun, but I’m also going to do a show.
“And the one after that is in P-town. Those two shows are going to be a show called Broadway babies. It’s a mixture of all the Broadway ladies.
“The next one is here (in NYC) at 54 Below. I don’t know if you know about it, but it’s a nightclub. It’s kind of a fancy, old-fashioned nightclub. It’s in the basement of what was Studio54. Apparently, it was the back room where Liza and all of the other stars would go—and now it’s a fancy nightclub. So, I’m doing a Barbara Streisand tribute. It’s my first one, with a seven-piece band. I’m very excited about it, but very scared because it’s the first one.
“I’m also doing a show there for New Year, but I don’t know yet what kind of show that’s going to be.”
Do you have any spots that you’ve scoped out to shoot more videos? I know Sitges has excellent beaches.
“Not yet. My friend sort of organized it, and I don’t even know where we’re staying, my flight. I just know that I’m performing.”
I love your new video: the parody of the Theme from San Francisco. Other than being an obvious ode to Fire Island and Judy Garland, what inspired you to make it?
“Well, first of all, it’s a great song. And it’s fun to sing! I don’t sing anything contemporary. I don’t sound good doing it. And a lot of my followers who love me are older gay men who love these ladies. It’s a song about a town and it’s a song about Fire Island.”
Fire Island is such a special place with a unique history. Was making it the setting of your videos calculated, or was it a happy accident?
“Very happy accident. During the pandemic, I was in here for like six weeks without seeing anybody. And, at the end of May, a friend of mine who has a house on Fire Island was like come out to the beach. So, I went out to the beach. And he said just stay for the summer—he didn’t want anybody coming in and out. So, I had a free room on fire Island.
“But I didn’t have anywhere to perform. I’m a singer and I wanted to sing. So, I was like “what if I—I want to make a silly video.” And so, I got on the camera and I used Garage Band. But I wanted it to be funny and uplifting—so I made it about the pandemic. So, it was a very happy accident.
“I was really surprised by how much attention it got, and it really changed everything for me, because even though people in the cabaret world in New York knew who I was as a singer, those videos were so popular that I suddenly started getting invited out to sing at Puerta Vallarta, P-town, London. It changed everything. It’s a very happy accident.”
As a bonafide professional of the island, is there any advice you would give to someone visiting, and are there any must-visit spots?
“The underwear party on Friday Nights (at the Ice Palace) is the main event that you don’t want to miss if you want to go out. You probably know this: there’s the Pines and there’s Cherry Grove. And between those, there’s the Meat Rack, where all the cruising happens. The Meat Rack is a very beautiful path that you go through, and the actual official name of the path is the Judy Garland Memorial Parkway. Isn’t that amazing?
“And then, you can’t miss Low Tea. Low Tea is every day from about 5:30 pm to 8 pm. So you go to Low Tea. And after everybody goes to Pool Tea, and if you still want to be out after Pool Tea, everyone goes upstairs to Sip·n·Twirl.
“But if you want to drink before Tea, then you have to drink at home or at the beach. One of the cool things about Fire Island is that there are only like two restaurants. There’s a pizza place and they just opened a taco stand, and you can get sandwiches at the supermarket—unless you got to Cherry Grove where there are like three restaurants.
“And because I’ve been so lucky to be out there these past two summers, I get to experience the weekdays when it is the most quiet, beautiful, relaxing.
“I have a day job and I work from home, so I usually work from the deck, and I’ll sneak to the beach and lie on the sand sometimes. Fire Island is great for debauchery, but it’s also great for serenity. One of the reasons why I love going to Fire Island is to read. It’s the most beautiful beach, and you’re just there with a bottle of wine and a great book. And that’s what I like to do with my free time during the day.”
You’ve taken two very gay things—fire island and Judy Garland—and created something wildly popular but also appropriate and touching. How has your project evolved over time?
“I have been obsessed with Judy since I was a little boy. And I went to school for acting and thought I wanted to be in musicals, but I’m not a very good actor. I gave up performing. I worked on the other side of theater as a director and most often as an associate director—on Broadway, off-Broadway, etc.
“It was at piano bars—I’m a big piano bar queen—I was missing singing, and I was finding myself at the piano bar four to five nights per week until four in the morning singing these old Judy Garland songs. I got up and started singing them in the bars, and I thought, “Wow this is the type of music I can really sing.” And the room would just stop. The room would go quiet. And I thought, “Maybe I am a good singer. Maybe I should be singing.”
“I decided to write a show about my childhood obsession with Judy, and sing her songs, and weave the story together. And I’m going to do it with a band. And a friend of mine agreed to back it. It was supposed to be a one-night-only stunt for all my friends.
“But the venue asked me back, and people started talking about it, and it just kept growing. And all of a sudden, one day I said, “Seth, you’re a singer now!” I was amazed and I loved every second of it, of course.”
Seth, you’ve mentioned before that you grew up going to piano bar Marie’s Crisis, then the Townhouse where they played the music you felt connected with. What are your favorite spots now?
“The main piano bar is the Townhouse. Sadly, Rick Unterberg who was the pianist and star of the Townhouse passed because of Covid. The places that have the old-fashioned tunes are the Townhouse and the Monster.
“The Monster bar is this really weird bar on a corner of Greenwich Village. They have kind of an older clientele, and it’s kind of a dive piano bar. But, they have a baby grand and a keyboard. It’s kind of cool because they have classy pianists who play old show tunes, but the music from the dance floor below it is booming over it! So, it’s a weird combination of things, but Monster’s kind of my go-to now.
“Marie’s Crisis is unfortunately always packed and full of tourists. I sort of hate saying this, but it’s not the gay piano bar that it used to be. It’s very much a tourist bar.”
You’re a big hit at nightclubs and of course, you love piano bars. What are some of your current favorite cities and—more importantly—venues that you can share with our readers?
“Good piano bars are hard to find—and when I say piano bars, I mean the kind that I like. I’ve only found a few around the world. One is in Puerto Vallarta—it’s one of the places where I sing. It’s called Incanto. And there’s a place there called Garbo. In San Francisco, there’s Martuni’s.
“I love London. There’s not really one in London, but I love London anyway. The boys in London like to party. I always end up sleeping until three in the afternoon when I’m there.”
Check out Seth’s website to keep updated as to where he’ll be performing next.