The Venue: Fuel—the sports bar on Washington Street in Pioneer Square where Sounders fans rally to get hammered before, during, and after every home match—has had karaoke on Wednesday nights for more than four years.
I first walked in around 10:15 p.m. Song binders were placed at tables throughout the bar, and I could hear singing from the room where the stage was, but next to no one was there. Since I was taking the next day off from work, I decided to come back later to allow time for the night to pick up. When I returned at 11:30, a few people had arrived, but they still hadn't built a rotation.
The Setup: The main floor has three sections. The bar is at one end, the stage is at the other, and there's a TV area in between. The second floor is located toward the back, and it looks down on the stage.
The KJ station is a designated sound booth halfway up a stairway that leads to the top floor. There are high ceilings and a true elevated stage. The huge projector screen that takes up the entire wall above the stage serves as the main lyrics screen and backdrop for every performance. From the stage, there are two lyrics monitors on the walls to the right, one to the left, and one straight ahead. There isn't much of a production between singers, but the overall sound is loud and well-balanced.
The Performances: The first half-hour, three dudes in their late 20s were trading off songs. No one else was watching, so they were pretty much just goofing around, trying stuff out. This guy Danny did a pretty good rendition of Snoop Dogg's "Gin and Juice," and his buddy Kyle came through with an equally decent "Forgot About Dre" by Eminem.
Things began to pick up around midnight when "Super Dave" got into the mix. His first number was "Lust for Life" by Iggy Pop. Shortly after him I turned in my first slip, and then six other new singers joined in to round out what would eventually be a nine-singer rotation.
Two singers that night had real skills. Danny was the best male vocalist, consistently delivering his numbers in tune and with enthusiasm. And Mia hands down was the house ringer and best performer. Her rendition of Erykah Badu's "Apple Tree" made everyone else's stuff look like child's play.
The KJ: Danny is the main host, and has been there for more than a year. He was training Kyle to be his future backup that night. Kyle did a fine job announcing the singers before and after their numbers. Before I turned in my first request, he checked in on me to make sure I was going to sing. Busting people's balls to sing is a very necessary duty for any host to perform on a slow night. Danny hung out on the floor below Kyle and acted as the cheering section for every singer.
The Book: Their catalog was well-organized and easy to skim through, and contained both artist and song-title lists. It's dated January '09, but they've constantly been adding new content. There's a reminder on every cover to ask for a song if it's not in the book.
The Audience: Only a few people were hanging out in the stage area. A table of four was sitting in the section I was in, but everyone else was hanging out at the bar, not paying much attention to the show. When Kyle got his ass kicked by Yes' "Long Distance Runaround," it came to me this would be the perfect night to sing stuff I would never try on a busy night. It took me less than a second to figure out I wanted to sing "Angel" by Aerosmith. Kyle took it down a full key for me, but it was still way out of my range. I was on my tippy-toes straining to reach the notes, but the crowd still ended up loving it. I got high-fives and a great round of applause as I made my way back to my table. It made me realize that even when I suck I'm pretty good, so I should try to suck more often.