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This week, Karaoke Jeff Roman visits Interbay's Boxcar Ale House in the wake of a highly critical self-evalutation.
It was all business crossing the Ballard Bridge to Magnolia's Boxcar Ale House last Saturday. I was recently sent video of me singing at the Luau Halloween party, and it was unbearable to watch. I had no idea I looked and sounded like that. Granted, I was smashed, but every moment of it was so horrific I just wanted to crawl under a rock.
But it was good to know what I needed to change up. I spent a couple sessions working out the kinks at my local spots, but needed to deliver a solid performance at a real karaoke lover's karaoke bar to get that winning feeling back again. Everything I'd heard about the Boxcar gave me the impression that it would be the right place to go.
I got there at eight, ordered a PBR, and hung at the bar to catch the regulars go nuts over Nebraska choking hard to Texas in the Big 12 football championship. A cool thing about the Boxcar is the bar area has enough separation from the back room to where anyone not into karaoke can just hang out there. After the game I moved it into the back room. They have a great elevated stage, and there was a group of people holding down a couple tables, with four other tables already reserved for another party. As a result, the place was effectively packed before anyone even arrived.
They have a very well-organized catalog with spiral binding and thick unlaminated paper that made it very easy to flip through the pages. I saw a couple songs in the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young section I'd never seen before - "Cowgirl in the Sand" and "Down by the River." I thought about doing "Cowgirl" for a second but bagged it, because Neil Young is tough to sing and picking a 10-minute song is a dick move no matter how good a you are.
By 8:45 the butterflies in my stomach were making the beers go down rough. The jukebox was on a good roll of 80's butt-rock, and it made me even more anxious to get it on. The table next to me was singing along, and I could tell the night was going to be filled by quality singers. More people kept joining their party and the reserved tables started filling in as well. I changed it up to tequila, and decided to stake my claim on Bruce for my lead-in number so no one else would choose him.
Easton, the KJ, set up shop right at nine. There were already a bunch of slips waiting for him at his station. They have a computerized setup with monitors throughout the room and a big projector screen on the side wall for the lyrics. Easton did a sound check and opened the night with a solid rendition of Buffalo Springfield's "For What it's Worth."
Pretty much all the tables had filled in by the time the first performer was called up. It is essential to get there early. Just as I figured, all the singers were quality. The problem was not all of them chose quality songs to sing. This dude did a "Sweet Transvestite" that was right on the money, but it just bugged the crap out of me. No offense to Rocky Horror fans, but that song is not easy on the ears. The same thing goes for the Grease people. Don't they know by now how annoying it is for everyone to hear "Summer Nights" and "You're the One That I Want" requested every time? Just once, someone please change it up and do the actual song, "Grease," by Frankie Valli. Now there's a good cut--and I've never heard anyone do it.
However, there were some awesome song choices. A guy decked out in Husky gear did a killer version of Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World." The best performance of the night was delivered by a big tatted-out guy named Elvis Christ and he sang "Sex Farm" by Spinal Tap. It was the perfect balance of funny and good - just like the actual band.
By the time I was called up I knew it would be hours before I got called up again. I sang "Tunnel of Love." It's a lesser known Boss song, but the perfect choice to get me off the schnide. It's a fast-moving ballad I sing from the heart, and I performed it without screaming, closing my eyes, or jerking my head and body around like an epileptic cat. I got high fives from the people shooting pool when I was done. It felt great. I wish someone had recorded that.