This week, Karaoke Jeff Roman files his Wednesday morning karaoke report from Ozzie's, where he and some friends once put a Dumpster in the back of some asshole's truck.
For the longest time I've been hearing about the karaoke scene at Ozzie's (nee The Emerald Diner) in Queen Anne. People tell me it's the best in town. I sang there a bunch of times with my buddies in the 90's, but they had a very small operation back then. The bartender ran the KJ duties. She took the requests, changed out the discs, and the singers would hand the mic off to the next performer after their song was done.
My karaoke memories there are mostly bad ones. I delivered a lot of horrible performances. It's the place I learned I wasn't cut out to sing The Police, Queen, or George Michael. We stopped going because there wasn't much of a song selection and we kept getting into run-ins with the regulars. One night as things were winding down some jack-ass kept screaming for "Freebird" as people sang. My buddy, Riggins, told him if he didn't shut up he'd take him up to the roof, toss him off the side, and make him a free bird for real. We found the guy later in the alley passed out in his truck, so eight of us picked up a Dumpster and dropped it in the back to teach him a lesson. That's how most of our karaoke nights ended back then.
It had been about ten years since the last time I was there, and I invited some friends to meet up last Friday. I scooped my buddy Jason on the way and we got there at eight. We first tried the upstairs karaoke area, but it was reserved. It's more private up there with fewer seats for a shorter rotation, but we were able to secure a prime spot in the back corner against the window on the main floor.
The karaoke started at nine, so we had a lot of time to study the book. They have a huge song selection now, and their books are organized by either artist or song title. Week after week, searching through these huge catalogs made me realize how hard it is to find a song when you're not sure what you want to sing. There's just too much to sift through. Obviously, the preferred book when stumped is the one organized by artist, but I think KJs should take it one step further and organize by genre (Standards & Oldies, Classic Rock, 80's, Country, 90's & Today, Show tunes, etc.). That way, someone could search through the specific style they like without having to look through all the stuff they don't want. I wanted to lay off Springsteen for once, but found a song of his I'd never seen available called "I'm A Rocker." It's a dynamic cut from The River, and I thought it would be a great way to kick off the evening.
My other friends showed up around 8:30 and immediately started ordering shots. The rest of the tables began to fill in, and already, the place had more single girls than every other k-bar I've reviewed combined. The KJ showed up right before nine. She dressed hot and reminded me of Stevie Nicks back in the Rumors days, before her hair wasn't so out of control. She started things off with a song of her own, then called me up.
As soon as the music started I knew I was fucked. The mic volume was low, I had to scream to reach notes, and I didn't know the song as well as I thought I did. What made matters worse was the lyrics on the screen didn't keep up with the song, so I got totally lost in the second half of it. It was pretty embarrassing. My friend Cary was called up next and she did an amazing rendition of Little River Band's "Lady." Then Jason got up and sang Hall & Oates' "Sara Smile." I was completely humbled by both of them. They made it so look easy. They both have these singing voices that sound like prettier versions of their talking voices.
The rest of the performers that night were not very memorable. There was one guy in his forties dressed in acid-washed jeans and t-shirt attempting to sing Frank Sinatra, and it made me miss the good ol' days when people knew what singing that man's music was all about.
I thought my second offering would be better. I sang Tom Petty's "Jammin' Me," but once again, the mic was too low, I had to scream it, didn't really know the song, and the lyrics on the screen were ten seconds off. Nothing was clicking for me. Jason got up and sang Barry Manilow's "Mandy," and was so awesome he drew a group of girls to the stage to watch him perform. When his song was done he told me the lyrics were off for him, too. I took a close look at the monitor after that and the same thing happened with every song. That is totally unacceptable. For a place that claims to be the best karaoke spot in Seattle, they really need to fix that problem.
As Jason got another standing ovation for a killer rendition of Van Morrison's "And it Stoned Me," I realized how stubborn I was about my song choices. Ozzie's is not the place to do obscure songs if you want to get the crowd behind you. That's not what get's the people fired up. They want to hear catchy hits. I decided to do some Van Morrison of my own. The safe bet would have been to do "Brown Eyed Girl," but my stubbornness got in the way once again. I've sung that song a million times and do it really well, but it's such a karaoke cliché that I didn't want to lower myself to that level.
I decided to go with "Domino," and for the third time found myself in the same bind. I could barely hear myself in the mic, I screamed the lyrics like an asshole, and messed up the verses because of the screen glitch. I threw in the towel after that. Jason ruled that night.
Except for it being way busier, Ozzie's wasn't much different than what I remembered. My friends got drunk as I bombed one song after another--just like back in the day. I figured the schmuck factor would be a lot worse considering the amount of chicks, but it wasn't nearly as bad as I though it would be. Pitchers of beer are reasonably priced and they offer a $10 steak.
All told, I liked everything about that bar except for the karaoke. They need to get with the times and upgrade to computerized song selection--that sync issue is a symptom of old, run-down equipment. If they're going to claim to be the best karaoke bar in town ,they should back it up by having a set-up that is up to date. Until then the place won't even crack my top ten.