On Valentine's weekend, I went with my girlfriend to her home island of Bainbridge. We drank for a few hours in Winslow, and as she lay passed out in the car at 11 p.m., I was able to slip into Isla Bonita to sing a few songs.
About 25 people were there, all regulars. It's a long, brightly lit Mexican lounge with the bar on the left and a row of tables to the right. Singers perform in the middle of the room between the bar and pool-table areas.
The setup is very old-school. There is no computerized song library, no light show, no musical interludes between performers. The KJ that night was just a guy calling up singers and changing out discs, and the older crowd sang mostly '80s pop and classic rock. In other words, my kind of place.
All the songbooks were spoken for, but I had a good idea what I wanted to sing. The guy at the table next to me saw me eyeing his book, and told the gal sitting with him to guard it with her life as he went up to sing Garth Brooks' "Friends in Low Places." He was a bearded dude named David who looked to be around my age and had a pretty good voice. I wanted to demonstrate to him specifically how good my skills were.
Somehow the idea came to me to sing "Glory Days" by Bruce Springsteen. Those familiar with this column know the Boss is my musical messiah. This was my first attempt at one of his most popular hits, and it ended up working out very nicely. The microphone was kind of old and the sound was pretty hollow, but it didn't matter—I had everyone completely dialed in to my performance.
When I returned to my table, David congratulated me on the successful number and we ended up friends. He told me he'd just started getting into Springsteen. I proceeded to map out an album-by-album game plan for him. We each sang a couple more times that next half-hour. I did some Bob Seger and America, and he sang a pretty great rendition of "Sympathy for the Devil."
There was a good, attentive crowd in that night, but the rotation never cracked more than five singers. Just before midnight, the KJ went through all the singers, and had to rally people to get more requests up. David told me that the other place in town that offered karaoke (on Saturday nights), the 122 Bar, was much busier than Isla, but the dance-club atmosphere was a bit too much for his taste. I ended up checking it out with a bunch of friends the next day, and will compare that experience to this one next week.