September 17, 2007

Karaoke Underground

I've just returned from my ten year high school reunion back home. The entire event was disturbingly predictable. Bloated ex-football players I was too scared to talk to, eerie boob jobs swathed in expensive cocktail dresses and bad barbecue that left the entire group choking the bar. I drank as many diet Cokes as I could stomach then left, grateful the next reunion isn't for another 10 years.

There was a bright spot in the weekend. A small group of my friends went to a karaoke bar at the edge of the city. As a karaoke virgin, I was nervous. The bar was on a quiet street and the parking lot almost empty. Inside, there were only men. They sat quietly at picnic tables, facing the front of the room where a microphone and t.v. screen suggested a stage. The stink of alcohol was disguised by an even thicker stench of smoke and ashtrays. Our raucous group of 15 crowded the bar and dove into the binders of song choices.

My friend, Courtyne had recommended the bar. She and her husband had met here and were blind worshipers of the god of karaoke. She pointed out the other patrons and gave me brief biographical sketches. There was the group of long, haired, greasy toughs at the pool table. They were knights from Medival Times who came here periodically to shake off their thick coat of manliness. Another aging Latino named Luis sat alone wearing a powder blue polo shirt buttoned up to the neck. He was a pudgy regular who brought his own CD case of kareoke tracks and sang like an angel. A hipster in a fedora hat ran only performed Pearl Jam. I wondered if they resented my group's presence. We were the obvious outsiders, having way too much fun for our own good.

After one of Luis's songs, I approached him and gushed about how impressed I was at his kareoke genius. He gave thanked me with a huge smile. He asked me where my group was from and I told him we were from out of town. The disappointment was obvious on his soft face. "It's so nice to have people clap for us!" he said and shook my hand for a few seconds too long.

It was finally my turn at the mike. No vocal expert, I gave my enthusiastic all to "Don't Cry For Me, Argentina," in a soulful rendition that would make Madonna weep. As I howled into the microphone, I wondered if the solemn karaoke professionals in the front row resented my levity. Did they take offense at us young welps as we gaily performed Sir Mix-A-Lot's "Baby Got Back" and twirled our rumps for the crowd? Courtyne assured me they did not and that in karaoke nobody is judged. It seemed too good to be true.

In the wee hours of the morning, I found myself apologizing the d.j. as I handed her my next song selection, The Spice Girls, "If You Wanna Be My Lover." I hardly even knew the song and my performance was a study in pathetic. Luis gave me a sad smile and put his handly gently on his thick case of treasured CDs. This was not my world. As I fell behind on the ridiculous lyrics and my friends turned back to the bar, the shame that Diet Cokes can't hide washed over me. I promised myself I'd return. Better, stronger, faster. The one rule of karaoke is not to judge anyone - except yourself. And if you have to ask, then yes, you stink.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Was it that bad Sarah? I bet my post birth boobs would give them a run for thier money.... Im talken porn quality.... oh, and if the karaoke was fun try Sing Star... All of the singing fun, in your own livingroom!
hugs,
kibler

Michemily said...

Karaoke, my only karaoke experience had to do with a hamburger joint in Provo. It was exactly like what you described. Okay, not even close. It was a good way to celebrate my sister Amy's graduation.

Melissa said...

I've been approached by the US government about a secret operation they are working on... I can't tell you much except that involves my singing and torture...

Sarah said...

No, the reunion wasn't really so bad - but I left thinking it could have been a lot better. The poor guy who organized it spent most of the night looking for someone to volunteer to do the 20 year planning. The main thing that bugged me was that the d.j. played the music so loud that I couldn't have one normal conversation all night. In a group of a few hundred people who haven't seen each other in 10 years, talking should come before the music. I even asked him to turn it down but to no avail. When most of the group fled to the patio so we could talk, he piped the music out there.

I'm in somewhat of a bad mood today so it's probably best to ask me how things went a few days from now. The karaoke, however, is as advertised. I loved it!

AzĂșcar said...

The trick to karaoke is to know your audience.

If, for example, you are in a karaoke lounge in Mexico with a predominantly African-American crowd do not sing anything by the Dixie Chicks. The guy who picks Lou Rawls will have a much better response no matter how much life you put into "Goodbye Earl."

Summer said...

If I'm not a good singer, I don't want to know. I would be crushed. So I'll never do the karaoke thing!
;)

aubrey said...

i loved this post on two different levels. because for so long i've been trying to get my girlfriends together to do a karaoke night. i've never done it and would love to try. everyone is worried about embarassing themselves, but i keep telling them, it DOESN'T matter, we'll all be embarassed together. and then..on that other level..i've just had 'baby got back' in my head all day. thanks for letting me stop by!

Jessica G. said...

Oh the memories of off-key singing in a smoke-filled room while everyone downs more liquid courage before it's their turn! I skipped my 10 year reunion because I was actually kinda cute in high school. I didn't want to show my old classmates what two kids and a husband who spoils had done to me. :)

Farrah said...

I have decided you have to be really drunk to do karaoke or make sure everyone listening is really drunk. Since I don't drink, I wait until everyone is wasted to start my singing.

Marie said...

I've only done karaoke in a group, thankfully. I don't think my ego could take it any other way. My favorite experience watching karaoke was the wedding of my friend's brother. They're of Chinese ancestry, so you had all these old half-drunk Chinese uncles up there wailing. It was not to be forgotten.

I opted out of my 10-year reunion. I've kept in touch with most of the high school friends I care to. And I didn't have an awful high school experience, but it was a time I was glad to get behind me. Why do I need to revisit it?

Torchness said...

I've karaoked at Maple Point myself. How you can survive it without a drink I'll never know. It's fun, but that place is such a dive!

wynne said...

I'm impressed, Sarah. Me, I'm a karaoke virgin (and hope to stay that way), but if I had to sing something, I bet it would be something by the Spice Girls.

Sue said...

I've never done karaoke. I'd love to do it, since I'm a horrible show-off and one of those girls who can sing just well enough to have people say, "You have a nice voice," but not well enough to actually be successful at any type of professional singing type thingamajib. So karaoke would be fun. But nobody will go with me. Plbtttttt.... Losers.