Karaoke machines don't scare Richie Fauno.
The veteran pianist, who has played for three decades at Villa Nova in Newport Beach and recently took on another gig at La Brique Steak House in Huntington Beach, provides accompaniment the old-fashioned way. Fauno invites customers to name a tune — given his repertoire of hundreds of songs, there's a good chance he knows it — and then plays and sings backing vocals behind them.
As far as Fauno is concerned, his craft isn't the low-tech equivalent of singing "You Oughta Know" into a microphone at the local sports bar. It's art on a higher level.
"When people have to depend on a screen in front of them, they can't express themselves as well as they could," the Costa Mesa resident said. "They have to really feel the lyrics."
From 8 p.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays, Fauno settles behind the shiny black grand piano in the corner of La Brique. He's quick to admit that he doesn't have expertise in every musical genre — punk or hip-hop, for example — but ask for a favorite Sinatra ballad, jazz standard or "Phantom of the Opera" melody, and he may not even have to check his sheet music.