This week, Karaoke Jeff Roman heads to a strange land: Lynnwood, which is actually not so strange to him because he spent his high school years in nearby Brier.
The only thing I like better than regular karaoke is out-of-town karaoke. Of course, everything's more fun on vacation. I treat every activity like an adventure, as opposed to just another thing to do. Take hanging out at bars. for example. I could go to a different place every night if I wanted to, but outside of hitting karaoke spots, I see no reason to hang out anywhere else but the Luau. Granted the place is like home , but even when I do go to other places locally, I don't feel that same buzz I get when I'm out of town.
My recent karaoke moments "abroad" have been in New York City and Catonsville, Maryland, and I conquered both of those towns. I attacked the mic with an attitude and swagger that just doesn't exist within me when I'm at home. But since I'm not flying anywhere anytime soon, I've been thinking of other ways to capture that feeling.For the past three years, I've driven by this bar off Hwy 99 in Lynnwood named One Eyed Jacks whenever I'd visit my dad. It had a sign read karaoke so I've always wondered about the place. It's pretty deep north; you might as well call it Everett. I've vowed to never to drive with even a drop of alcohol in me in Snohomish County ever again (don't ask), so it would take me spending the night at my dad's to make it happen. Crashing at my dad's is no big deal, but waking up hungover there on a Saturday or (even worse) Sunday wouldn't be an ideal situation.
Last week, however, things lined up. On Tuesday, my dad and his wife left for the Philippines for three weeks, and KJ, Dangerous Dan from the Little Red Hen put a post on Facebook saying he'd be throwing a karaoke party at One Eyed Jacks that Friday night. As soon as I saw that, I booked myself for a one-night trip to Lynnwood to try and capture the excitement of vacation karaoke.
Immediately after work last Friday, I hit 405 northbound. I checked into the Roman T. Roman Inn (aka my dad's house) around 6:30. After pizza and a pay-per-view movie, I walked to the bar. I arrived around 8:45 and there were only about six people there. Any establishment that has next to no people in it will naturally have a depressing vibe; but when it's a dive bar, the creepy factor gets hiked up that much more.
I bellied up to the bar and ordered a High Life. There were a couple guys playing pool, one guy waiting to play, a dude and his girlfriend, and a lone guy at the end of the bar talkin' pull tabs. The place reminded me a lot of the Baranof. I took a look at the stage area and it did look pretty cool. They have an elevated stage in the back corner, a really good KJ station, and a lot tables.
Around nine, people to start filing in. The thing that struck me right away is how everyone seemed to know each other. The owner, Tom, went down the bar greeting and chatting with everyone as he was preparing for the night. It reminded me of my bar, and I missed all my buddies for a moment; so in that way, it did feel kind of feel like I was on vacation. I took my first shot to loosen up and mingle--and to remind myself I was there to get drunk.
At about 9:15, Dan and the actual host for that night, Tiger, arrived and started setting up shop. Tiger's a little bit older than me and he is the Pro's Pro of karaoke hosts. He's a great announcer, he's funny, he playfully flips shit to those who are asking for it, and he's got the best pipes of any KJ I've heard yet. His "Baba' O'Riley" sound check impressed me, not only because he set that song on fire, but he also gave direction to the sound guy to raise the levels where needed. I wish more KJ's would do that, because that immediately set my mind at ease.
The catalog was also impressive. Just a week ago, I thought to myself how nice it would be to see a book where they didn't have so many duplicates of songs--and that's exactly what this book was like. They also had two full pages of Filipino songs, so they are ready for whatever comes their way.
There were a couple announcements as they kicked the festivities off. The Karaoke News was there to review Tiger's performance, and they actually had drink specials: $1.50 High Life, $3 Vodka Red Bulls, and $5 Jager bombs. That said, I stuck to my rotation of Hornitos and beer.
The first singer of the night chose not to use the stage, and Tiger got on her case right away. (People don't realize how cool it is to have an elevated stage.) Dangerous Dan got called up shortly after the shy girl and after hearing Tiger's voice, I was really looking forward to hearing him sing. His voice, while filled with fun and energy, did not nail Billy Idol's "Eyes Without a Face" in the same way his colleague destroyed the Who song.
During Dan's song, a couple girls sat down at a table right in front of where I was sitting. One of them was a really cute brunette wearing tight jeans and a very revealing low-cut top. Her friend wasn't dressed as provocatively. It seemed like they were waiting for people to show up. I monitored the activity at their table for the rest of the night.
It took me awhile to get up. I wanted to sing something familiar and upbeat for my first number, and decided to give Tiger a request for "Lonely Ol' Night" by John Mellencamp. There were a lot of singers that night, so I was way down in the rotation. I didn't mind; I'd already settled in to a comfortable zone. This gal got called up and sang "Who's That Girl" by Madonna, which really translates well to karaoke.
Tiger announced a karaoke virgin was up next, and this dude picked a real toughy for his first-ever performance: "Here I Go Again" by Whitesnake. He did pretty well, but made the usual first time mistakes like singing too soft and fumbling some verses he didn't know. But like a quality KJ, Tiger rallied the crowd to get behind him, so I'm sure the guy felt really good after it was done.
The cute brunette with the rockin' body sang next, and she and Tiger bantered with one another before she went into her song. She just had this wild sassiness about her. Growing up in Brier and spending a ton of time at Alderwood Mall, I developed a flavor for Snohomish County chicks, but never had too much success with them. She was asked to stay onstage for the next song because it was a duet with a friend that just joined her table. He was a tall, handsome dude in a tracksuit. After their number they sat back down, and he sat across the table from her near her girlfriend. They were joined by another guy that sat on the same side of the table as her. It was clear this guy was definitely not her boyfriend. He had a square, nerdy, buttoned-up look about him. Seemed like a nice enough guy, but not the type of dude that could bag this wild minx.
At the far back corner there was a table of rockers. Unlike Seattle heshers, these dudes still had long hair, like back in their heyday. Tiger called up one of them to sing and he went by the name "Psycho." He wore a black, short-sleeved, button down shirt, cargo shorts and had a fun Bobcat Goldthwait energy going. He sang "Remanufacture" by Fear Factory. This was a type of metal that I have never ever heard in a karaoke bar before, and his voice was so rough and hard it made every performance for the rest of the night sound like Air Supply. Midway through his song, I was terrified to have to follow him. I watched the minx headbang to the song as the square dude smiled and tried to look comfortable.
Luckily, Tiger took a bit of time after Psycho's performance to let things cool down. I got up and changed my request, as Psycho hung with Tiger at the KJ station. I told him "there's no way I'm singing Mellencamp after that," and it made him laugh. Another fun thing Tiger did throughout the night was play SNL digital shorts (like "Dick in a Box") and other random funny clips. That is way more fun than playing Top 40 music between singers.
When my song was up I sang "Sherry Darling" by Springsteen, and I think the tequila started taking over because I couldn't keep up with the song and I was slurring a bit. It took awhile for me to get called up that first time, and I knew it would be even longer before I was called up again but I was in for the long haul at that point. I was actually looking forward to hearing what Psycho had in store next.
The cool dude from the hot chick's table sang "Never Gonna Give You Up" by Rick Astley as Psycho entertained everyone with a seductive dance. Psycho followed with a slightly mellower offering: "Dead Memories" by Slipknot. Man, he was good. I don't think I could ever get into this music for real, but it really feels right in a Lynnwood karaoke bar.
Around midnight it seemed like the ice had finally broken between the cutie and the square. He worked his way over one chair and was sitting right beside her. I was pretty loaded at this point. I looked to the pool table area at the other end of the bar and saw it was packed with people over there, too. I sang the Mellencamp song I passed up earlier and had a Tenacious D pick on deck.
Psycho greased Tiger six bucks to get in his last number, "Holy Wars" by Megadeath. You know, the one that has the part that goes, "They killed my wife and my baby, with hopes to enslave me." He made the night. I took one last look at the couple, and it seemed like it was going be the dude's lucky night.
It was already after one by the time I sang my last song, so I decided to call it a night. I went to the bathroom to relieve myself before my walk home. While in there, the cool dude came in and bought a few items from the adult vending machine, and I wondered for the rest of the weekend who ended up bagging that minx.