by ERTEL GRAY
edited by ANDREW HICKS
“For every failed singer in this world, there is a karaoke DJ eating his weight in hot wings by dim light.”
The ancient Japanese art of karaoke has never really seemed to hit its zenith in America. Even today, every bar you go to has at least one karaoke night on its chalkboard schedule, nestled between $2 Pitcher Tuesday and Thirsty Thursday.
So what’s the appeal? For every Joe Average, maybe it’s the dream of wooing a lady friend with a mystical version of Peter Frampton‘s “Baby, I Love Your Way.” In reality, the alcohol involved always seems to transform Frampton’s ode to loving a female’s way into a horribly off-key, off-rhythm “‘OohbabeeILove…’ where am I? The damn screen’s moving too fast. Where’s Brenda at? Get up here, y’whore! ‘WannaTeeellYou…’”
Karaoke, at its crux, is basic good fun. No one’s there to judge your performance. Oh sure, that guy who just threw up on his shirt sorta looks like Simon Cowell, but remember: you’re wearing beer goggles. I lied about the “no one’s judging you” thing, actually. If you’re singing, you should be aware that I am judging you based on pitch, vocal range and choice of material. I am your own… personal… Cowell.
But you’re not going to win a recording contract and/or make millions with me. I’m judging you solely because I don’t want to make the same mistakes you do. Recently, I made plans to go out with a girl (yeah, I was surprised, too) who absolutely loves to sing. And apparently displays the same lack of shame that I do. A keeper? After tonight’s debacle? Right? (Right!) You’re bloody well right!
The place? Kristy’s, a semi-respectable, upscale* eatery where business men can loosen their ties, throw down a couple six-dollar PBRs and “be” that guy who tortured them in their formative years. They form their own cliques, give each other nicknames and pat each other on the back after a rousing rendition of ANY song. It would all be normal, boorish broski behavior, except that Ted From Accounting is high-fiving Trevor The Smelly IT Guy — spilling an $8 martini in the process — for his version of “Radar Love.” (“Drivin’ all night/Hands wet on the wheel,” for sure.)
RANDOM KARAOKE OBSERVATION: An old man with turquoise bolo tie, leather vest, cowboy boots and more denim than Billy Mays, just sang Alabama‘s “When We Make Love” to a group of drunken businessmen. This makes me question whether reality has somehow came untethered, and I’m projecting live versions of “Tim & Eric’s Awesome Show” onto this experience. Plus, I’ve always hated people who refer to sex as “making love.” That, to me, means “boring white people sex.” And it’s also why I’ve missed being invited to Bad Company‘s annual Christmas party for the past decade and a half.
DJ Dave — or Dave You Suck, as he’s known to many — was a bit narcissistic. After every four or five songs, he’d take a turn to perform his own signature tunes. I thought to myself, Damn dude, this ain’t about you and your talents! Plus, that half-eaten basket of chicken wings doesn’t help create the mysterious allure you’re going for when you sing “Time of the Season.”
I study DJ Dave like a zookeeper studies a captive animal. Clad in an Iron Maiden T-shirt, jeans and New Balance sneakers, Dave didn’t strike me as the DJ type. I examined his surroundings, saw how he reacted when a female was introduced into his habitat. Weird, sad and awkward.
RANDOM KARAOKE OBSERVATION: My lady companion decided to tackle Adam Sandler‘s “At a Medium Pace.” This is what I absolutely love about her. We go into a semi-respectable environment then white-trash the HELL out of it. The song starts off innocently enough, plus the shitty mics make the lyrics undiscernable, so most of the crowd there just thought she was singing some innocent sappy love song. Until she belted out the line about, “SEE THAT SHAMPOO BOTTLE? NOW STICK IT UP MY ASS!” I nearly wept with pride. I’m assuming that most of the other patrons thought we were one of those weird couples who posts ads on Craigslist or those weird, newspapery sex mags. And I absolutely adored that.
The night ended with a rousing rendition of “Earache My Eye” by Cheech and Chong, performed by myself, my date and another female patron. Nothing special about it, except that I think we did BETTER than Cheech and Chong! And that to me, is what karaoke is all about: people bonding over a love of song, an even greater love of alcohol and a sense that we can do any tune justice.
Just know that when it comes time to “Turn Me Loose,” hand me that dynamite stick and get the fuck off my stage. I’m about to blow shit up!
*Upscale meaning they have tablecloths. This is a HUGE upgrade from my normal watering holes, where the tables have rounded, gnawed-upon edges. Oh, an upscale place also has silverware. Can’t forget the silverware I kept rearranging, which was part of my master plan to be a minor inconvenience to the food-service industry.