Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Adventures of a Teetotaler in a Bar on Karaoke night

Having left the Crescent City and headed back north, I find myself in Memphis, TN. I have been here many times before, but this visit feels wrong.

For one thing, my very dear friend Angela (Angie to me) Allen is not here, and she's normally here when I am, so that's distressing enough. However, this visit literally FEELS wrong. You see, I almost always visit here in the summer, so it's more than a little bizarre to find it's in the low 30s as I type this. Not that I can't hack the cold (I am from Ohio, after all), but I agree with my old friend Todd Pack, whom I am staying with, when he says "We need more degrees."

Todd has to work tonight at the P&H Cafe, watching the door. Actually, he's really supposed to watch for any underage people that come through the door rather than the door itself, but saying so simply requires too many syllables.

Not wanting to hang out by myself, I decide to follow Todd to the bar. This creates a unique problem for me.  For those handful of readers who don't know me well, I don't drink. Alcohol and my taste buds have been like the Hatfields and the McCoys for years. They just don't agree with each other. Plus, if you saw the rate at which I suck down Diet Cokes, you would shudder to think of what would happen if those were spiked.

So what does a non-drinker/writer/Net addict do in a bar? He blogs, natch. I'm told this is karaoke night, so things could get REALLY interesting.

9:30 PM - I see Angie is online and I IM her, trying to astound her with the fact I am in a bar. I forget that she remembers that Todd works in a bar, so I'm there quite a lot. I tell her, "Damn. So much for ruining my reputation."

10:08 PM - Dialogue I overhear:

"I went to a strip club. Not the most adult decision I ever made."

"What do you mean? You have to be an adult to get into a strip club."

10:18 PM - It seems kinda quiet in here for a Friday night. Not many people. Maybe they think there aren't enough degrees either.

10:30 PM - I wonder aloud when the karaoke is gonna start, cos I'm not finding much to write about, dammit. Todd tells me 11, but no one is showing up. His girlfriend Renee asks if I'm going to sing."  I reply, "I  don't want to start a stampede."

10:42 PM - The place is starting to fill up some. Maybe some blog-worthy inebriated karaoke will happen after all.  And maybe this post could actually avoid being like a dose of Nyquil, the coughing, aching, stuffy head, fever so you can be unconscious within 30 seconds and remain that way for 30 hours medicine.

11:21 PM - Karaoke still hasn't started and there are plenty o' people here now. These are definitely bar timekeepers.

11:22 PM -  I hear a "Check, check, 1, 2," the universal indicator for "There Will Be Singing."

11:24 PM -  I hear a backing track for Peter Gabriel's "Solsbury Hill." There are no hearts going boom boom boom, however, because no one is singing. Is this a test of the Karaoke Broadcast System?

11:28 PM - Now it's P. Gabriel's "Steam" with no singers. If "In Your Eyes" comes on and no one at least holds a boom box over their head, this is officially the lamest karaoke ever.

11:32 PM - Ah, NOW we're gettin' going. A girl is coming up to sing Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive." She's enjoying herself. Not half-bad, actually. Not really half-good either, but all in fun, right?

11:38 PM - Another girl attacks - well, crud, I dunno this tune. But she's definitely attacking it. In every sense of the word.

11:42 PM - Our next song is "Jolene," which is impossible to miss, since the name is repeated 76 times in the lyrics. The vocalist hits the Jolenes with gusto but garbles much of the rest.

11:46 PM - We have our first male singer, singing "The Ballad of Chasey Lain."  A Google search reveals this to be an ode to a porn star, near as I can tell. The challenge with this song is to fill in the dirty words blanked out on the screen.  What, you were expecting class?

11:50 PM - Another man sings Pat Benetar's "Hell is for Children." The guys are plainly  looking for excuses to cuss in front of an audience. I'm having fun imagining how this guy would fare with "Shadows of the Night." I'm also glad I'm not near him when he's shouting "hell."

11:55 PM - An older gal hits us with her vocal stylings on "Your Mama Don't Dance." It's fun to watch her just stand there during the long instrumental breaks. I think this would be more fun if you added  Rock Band/Guitar Hero instruments.

11:59 PM - "Me and Bobby McGee" is next, a song with lyrics about Louisiana.  How apropos for me! This girl is actually fairly good. She at least sings with some enthusiasm and can be heard above the robo band.

12:04 AM - I had to remember to type AM so as not to create the impression the karaoke was THAT long! Our host, having failed to rustle up a singer, takes the mic himself and performs Gordon Lightfoot's "If You Could Read My Mind." He could read mine if he reads this post.

12:09 AM - A cute girl makes like Dusty Springfield and sings "Son of a Preacher Man." She's actually kinda good.  And she amusingly plays along when the CD skips. But I can't think of this song anymore without hearing the phrase "Warm - warmer - disco."

12:14 AM - It's the Doors' "Light My Fire" - never mind the vocals - the awful Casio keyboard sound on that organ riff is going to give me nightmares!

12:19 AM - A duo wants me to want them ... by singing Cheap Trick. Didn't they, didn't they, didn't they see me cryin?

12:23 AM - "Magic Man" by Heart comes on, but all we get is someone who wants to be Ann Wilson. I still say we should have a Rock Band guitar so another girl can be Nancy.

12:30 AM - A guy sings (no, shouts) Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart," a song I never could stand. There are no f-bombs in the lyrics, but this guy puts 'em in there anyway.  Now I'm only falling apart indeed.

12:40 AM - Another shouter tries to sing Motley Crue's "Shout at the Devil." No, never mind, he's not a shouter. The only lyrics he knows are the title line.  More like Mumble at the Devil.

12:43 AM - It's Van Morrison's "Brown-Eyed  Girl," one of those songs I like but have heard so often, I wouldn't mind if I never heard it again. Kinda like "Hotel California."

It's 12:47 AM. Do you know where your children are?

12:48 AM -  Oh wow. A girl takes on the Beatles' "Oh!  Darling." (Yes, there's an exclamation point in the title. She better have some throat on her! Not a bad voice, actually, but THIS song HAS  to be screamed.  She sings it fairly straight but has fun with all the "woos" and such.  Needs more gusto. Yeah, it's a picky Beatle fan talkin.

12:53 AM - The older gal who sang before returns to sing "The Letter" by the Box Tops. She's apparently the DJ's mom. No wonder she gets to sing twice.

12:55 AM - It's all in the family, as the DJ takes another turn, but he doesn't sing "Those Were The Days." He sings "I've Got the Music in Me," which is pretty appropriate for a karaoke DJ, really.

1:06 AM - Our next singer announces he's "sufficiently drunk enough" to sing David Bowie's "Fame" (co-written by John Lennon, said the Beatle geek). Nah, he's not. He'd at least be amusing and try to sing all those "Fames" at different pitches if he were. He might have been funnier if he'd tried to sing the Irene Cara song.

1:13 AM - Another duo does ABBA's "Fernando." Wonder if this made the light bulb go on over Billy Crystal's head.

1:17 AM - Dig if you will the guy singing "When Does Cry." He says he's wasted - either that or he's really into acting the part since he's crawling on the stage. That's entertainment! Look for him on YouTube. I am later told this guy's name really is Prince. There was a girl crawling around with him too - the girl who sang "Jolene." Given half the chance, they'd try a karaoke version of "Darling Nikki," I bet.

1:22 AM - A guy is singing now, but I can't understand him and two people are blocking the screen with the lyrics. Suddenly I'm in the obstructed view section. I don't feel too deprived.

 1:30 AM - Still another duet selects the Counting Crows' "Mr. Jones." The only other song I can immediately think of that has "Sha la la" in the lyrics is the theme to Family Ties.

1:36 AM - This is ground control to Major Tom. This guy's actually trying to sing the song. What's wrong with him?

Later in the evening (morning?) afer I'd lost track of time:  Highlights include the best vocal of the evening, a spirited take on "Love is a Battlefield" by a girl who professed never to have done karaoke before. Maybe that's why she was actually good. One of the more warped performances was a duet of "You Oughta Know" - sung by two males who gender-switched the lyrics!

I'm gonna wrap this up with the best possible capper: A take on "Bohemian Rhapsody." Two people got up to sing, but the real performers were the patrons of the bar, most of whom joined in rather loudly. All that said, I still prefer the Muppets' version:

I've been at this for four hours-plus now. I've had enough, and I'll wager you have too.  But hey - it took a lot less time for you to read this than it did for me to write this! So in the spirit of the evening, I leave you with a lyric I know only too well:

Why why why why why why
Do you say
Goodbye, goodbye, bye bye bye bye
Oh no!

1 comment:

  1. As a former bartender, I might add that it is probably a blessing that you are a teetotaler. But as far a teetotalers, you have probably spent more time in bars than most. Thanks for sharing your story. If you had been drinking all that time, I'm sure the details would have been far more sketchy, or possibly far more embellished with abundant literary license.