Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Stop me before I sing again...

Last night I karaoked.

Three times, to be exact.

A friend of mine had called earlier in the day and said she was getting a group together to go out for a night of karaoke next week. It had been awhile since I had grabbed a microphone and channeled my inner rock star, so I figured that a solo practice run might be a good idea. Of course, “good idea” turned out to be a relative term.

Here’s a helpful tip from Karaoke 101: Before you begin to project your electronically amplified voice across a bar filled with a crowd of strangers, you should probably be somewhat familiar with the notes and actual words of the song that you will be performing ahead of time.

I had heard “Hands Down” by Dashboard Confessional during the morning commute into work, and it had been in my head all day. Once I got home I downloaded the song and ran through it a couple of times while I made dinner. I thought it sounded okay in my kitchen (the best acoustic spot in my house), but apparently they must have used a different kind of tile or something to cover the walls of the place that I’d be singing in later that night...

My name got called by the DJ within 5 minutes after arriving at the bar and telling him my selection. Things got off to a decent start, but as the notes began to climb higher towards the end of the song, my vocal cords showed a sudden stubborn reluctance to follow along in spots. Helpful Karaoke hint #2: Allow at least 10 minutes after your first drink of Southern Comfort to fully take effect before operating heavy karaoke machinery.

I returned to my seat and seriously considered wiping my prints from the bar and making a quick getaway from the scene, but when the two whitest girls on the planet got up to sing Kanye West’s “Gold Digger,” I decided to hang around for a little bit longer. In hindsight, I had sounded fine, but it’s always strange to hear how your voice sounds from outside of yourself.

I redeemed myself somewhat about an hour later when I sang Simple Plan’s “Welcome to My Life.” Actually, my redemption came courtesy of ‘Billy’, the guy who immediately preceded me. He looked like Michael Douglas’ older, seedier cousin, with his slicked-back hair, too tight muscle shirt, pleather pants, and a weird orange complexion from some fake tanning product. I thought that the DJ might have cued up the wrong track when the first few measures of U2’s “Pride (In the Name of Love)" began to play, but Billy dove right in.

He certainly had an interesting delivery to his performance, turning his back almost completely to the audience and hunching forward to read the words as they appeared on the 10-inch monitor next to the DJ’s table. Unfortunately the speakers projected every tortured note back towards us in perfect surround sound. I know that U2 is a very socially-conscious group advocating world-wide peace and charity, but they are also Irish after all. I have no doubt that had they been present in the bar, the Edge would have thrown Billy into a headlock while Bono rained blows down upon him until the desecration ended. I’m sure that the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. would have looked down in approval as well.

There were actually several very talented singers who took the stage throughout the evening. The best song of the night belonged to two women who brought the house down with “Take Me or Leave Me” from ‘Rent.’ And two college kids got plenty of intentional laughs with their full-throttle performance of Bon Jovi’s “Shot Through the Heart.” Another girl did a beautiful job singing Eva Cassidy’s version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

Mindful of the saying that bad things tend to happen in 3’s, I decided to press my luck and go for one more song before last call. By that point I had completely wound down from my day and was just caught up in the fun of singing again after such a long time away. “Black” by Pearl Jam was my third choice, and out of the corner of my eye I noticed several heads around the bar begin to nod along as I sang. Even Billy got back up again later on to sing a not completely cringe-inducing version of Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon.”

All in all, it was definitely a worthwhile night, for no other reason than to have a vocal tune-up before going out with my friends next week. And in the end I realized that no one goes there to hear pitch-perfect singing, but just to let loose for a couple of hours and have fun. It felt good to get up and sing before a crowd again. I’m thinking that it might not be so long next time until I do it again.

“Ladies and gentlemen, TJ has left the building...”

Thank you very much.